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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Bruno, Giordano

(1548-1600). Noted Italian monk, philosopher, mathematician and occultist. Baptized Filippo, Bruno was born in Nola, Italy. After being educated in a number of religious schools he became a Dominican friar and adopted the name Giordano. While in the Neapolitan convent of San Domenico Maggiore in 1565 he began to express theological doubts which resulted in his being strongly criticized by his superiors. He took holy orders, but it seems that he was unable to conform to dogma and soon, in 1576, had to flee to Rome. In Rome poor luck pursued him in that he became involved in a case of murder and had to again fly to Liguria. No reliable details of this episode have emerged. After wandering for some time he arrived at Geneva where he abandoned his monkish habit and earned a living proofreading.

In 1579 Bruno became a Calvinist, but seemed unable to exercise discretion since he published a pamphlet against a Professor Antione de la Faye which landed him in prison. Forced to retract his criticism of the Professor, Bruno was released from prison and eventually ended up in Paris where he enjoyed the protection of King Henry III. Bruno, in 1583, went to England where he maintained his reputation for disputation by causing a furor at Oxford University with a lecture on the immortality of the soul.

In 1585 Bruno was in Paris and there he published Figuratio Aristotelici physici auditus (Figures that had been heard in Aristotle’s Physics). Because he criticized Aristotle, who was accorded total credibility by French academics, Bruno was forced to leave France. He spent some time in Wittenberg but when the Calvinist party came to power there he felt that discretion was the better part of valor and moved yet again. Eventually he went to Venice where he was denounced to the Inquisition and after seven years in prison was burned at the stake on February 17, 1600.

Bruno was spoken highly of by Helena P. BLAVATSKY, one of the founders of the Theosophical Society. The second President of the Theosophical Society, Annie BESANT, also claimed to be a reincarnation of Bruno.

In his Latin poem De minimo (The Very Small) Bruno put forward the view that Nature’s infinite variety denies the possibility of purely mundane origins. In De immenso (The Very Large) he supported the theory of cosmic monism, namely, that there is only one “kind” of fundamental thing in the universe, no matter if it be material, mental or abstract. This was in flat contradiction to the firmly held academic beliefs at the time which were based on the teachings of Aristotle, such as the existence of a multiplicity of fundamental “forms.”

In addition to the works mentioned above, his major woks include De la causa, principio et uno (1585; tr. The Infinite in Giordano Bruno, 1950) and De l’infinitouniverso et mondi (1584; tr. On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, 1950, 1968).

P.S.H.

 

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