J. Lewis McIntyre, Giordano Bruno (London: Macmillan 1903)

[Source: J. Lewis McIntyre, Giordano Bruno (London: Macmillan 1903), 365pp.; Add. Notes, pp.357-59; Index, pp.361-65 [2 copies available at Internet Archive: 1. copy at UC Berkeley - online [lost link]; 2. copy at University of Toronto Library - online. There is also a partial copy of the Kessinger digital reprint - online]

    On related pages ...
  • I[sabella] Frith, Life of Giordano Bruno the Nolan [English and Foreign Philosophical Library; Vol. XXXI] (London: Trübner 1887), xii, 395pp. [as attached].
  • John Owen, The Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance [2nd edn.] (NY: S. Sonnenschein & Co.; London: Macmillan 1893), xix, 419pp, xxxcvi, 8° [as attached].
  • Dorothea Waley Singer, Giordano Bruno, His Life and Thought (NY: Schuman 1950), xi, 389pp. ill. [as attached].
See also Joyce’s review of McIntyre, in the RICORSO Library > Irish Classics > James Joyce - as attached. Note that Joyce retained a copy of this book in his Trieste Library [see Richard Ellmann, The Consciousness of Joyce (London: Faber & Faber 1977), Appendix, and James Joyce Online website > Trieste Library Catalogue - link.

McIntyre is a Anderson Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen. In quoting the Bestia, he cites Paulo Lagarde, Le opere italiane di Giordano Bruno ristampate da Paolo de Lagarde [Dieterichsche Universitatsbuchhandlung], [2 vols.] (Gottinga [Göttingen]: Lüder Horstmann 1888). [See Bruno Bibliography - attached.]

The sentences which Joyce echoed in his review of this work for the Daily Express (30 Oct. 1903) are underlined below.

Part I Life of Bruno 1
Part II Philosophy of Bruno 119
 I. Sources of the Philosophy 121
 II.Foundation of Knowledge 153
 III.The Infinite Universe - the Mirror of God 180
 IV.Nature of the Living Worlds 203
 V.The Last and Least of Things: Atoms and Soul Monads223
 VI.The Practical Philosophy of Bruno 252
 VII.The Higher Life 177
 VIII.Positive Religion and the Religion of Philosophy 294
 IX.Bruno in the History of Philosophy323

Index [incls.:] Coincidence of all things in One, 172, 176; of contraries, 176, 179, 209; verifications of, 177-79.

Lists “Writers in English on Bruno”: Owen, Sceptics of the Italian Renaissance (1893, p.244-342); Daniel Brinton and Thomas Davidson, Giordano Bruno, Philosopher and Martyr: Two Addresses (Philadelphia 1890); Plumptre, Studies of Little-known Subjects (1898, pp.61-127); Whitaker, Essays and Notices (1895; rep. from Mind, April 1884 & July 1887); “Giordano Bruno in England”, in Quarterly Review (Oct. 1902); R. Adamson, The Development of Modern Philosophy (1903, vol. 2, pp.23-44.) (p.xiv.)

Note: There is no index reference to Coleridge in McIntyre’s study and no citation of him among English writers on Bruno - nor for Walter Pater. Note however the use of marginal titles which anticipates the typographical method of Finnegans Wake’s “Nightlessons” chapter.


This volume attempts to do justice to a philosopher who has hardly received in England the consideration he deserves. Apart from The Life of Giordano Bruno by I. Frith (Mrs. Oppenheim), in the English and Foreign Philosophical Library, 1887, there is no complete work in our language upon the poet, teacher, and martyr of Nola, while his philosophy has been treated only in occasional articles and review. Yet he is recognised by the more liberal-minded among the Italians as the greatest and most daring thinker their country has produced. [vii]

Martyrs to the Inquisition in Nola incl. Pomponio Algerio, who died in Bruno’s lifetime and ‘whose fate foreshadowed his own’. [4]

counter reformation [9]

McIntyre remarks that Polihimnio in the Causa - a true pedant - is thought to have suggested Polonius in Hamlet [p.106].


[Bruno’s epitaph:] The fear of death was no part of his philosophy; what we call death, it teaches, is a mere change of state, of “accidents” - no real substance, such as the human spirit is, can ever die. One of the highest values of his philosophy he thought to be this, that it freed man from the fear of death, “which is worse than death itself”. Strikingly apposite to his own fate is a passage from Ovid [Metem. XV] that he quotes:

O genus attonitum gelidae formidine mortis
Quid Styga, quid tenebras, et nomina vana timetis,
Materiam vatem, falsique piacula mundi?
Corpore sive rogus flammâ, seu tabe vetustas
Abstulerit, male posse pati no ulla putetis;
Morte carent animae; semperque priore relictâ;
Sede, novis domibus habitantque vivuntque receptae.

See translations and notes, infra.

Bruno himself lived within the sphere of which he writes in the Spaccio: “surrounded by the impregnable wall of true philosophical contemplation, where the peacefulness of life stands fortified and on high, where truth is open, where the necessity of the Eternity of all substantial things is clear, where nought is to be feared but to be deprived of human perfection and justice.” His finest epitaph is to be found in his own words, “I have fought: that is much - victory is in the hands of fate. Be that as it may with me, this at least future ages will not deny of me, be the victor who may, - that I did not fear to die, yielded to none of my fellows in constancy, and preferred a spirited death to a cowardly life.”’ (p.99.)


“The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast”, Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, 1584, was dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney. In form an allegorical, satirical prose poem, it [39] is in fact an introduction to a new ethical system. A repentant Jupiter resolves to drive out the numerous beasts that occupy his heavenly firmament the constellations and to replace them by the virtues, with Truth as their crown. He calls a council of the gods to consider this plan, and in the discussion that follows numberless topics are touched upon the history of religions, the contrast between natural and positive religion, and the fundamental forms of morality. The Spaccio is, however, preparatory to a future work, in which moral philosophy shall be treated “by the inner light which the divine intellectual sun has irradiated into my soul,” says Bruno [Lasg., 427]; in it, and other dialogues, the whole structure of the philosophy is to be completed, of which the Bestia is merely a tentative sketch. [Ibid., 408] Jupiter represents the human spirit; and the constellations, the Bear, the Scorpion, etc., are the vices of the age, which are to be driven out by Bruno’s hierarchy of virtues. The work, which is rich in both moral and religious suggestion, was early regarded as an attack on the Pope or the Church, the supposed “Triumphant Beast.” Gaspar Schopp, for example, writes to that effect after witnessing Bruno’s death. It is really an attack upon all religions of mere credulity as opposed to religions of truth and of deeds.

The “Cabal” (Cabala del Cavallo Pegaseo, con l’Aggiunta del’ Asino Cillenico) was published in 1585. [Parigi is on the title page.] It is dedicated to an imaginary Bishop of Casamarciano, who represents the spirit of backwardness, ignorant simplicity, and was not a real person, as some biographers supposed. It is a still more biting, a merciless satire on Asinity (i.e. ignorance, credulity, and unenquiring faith in religion). In a later work [4 Op. Lat. ii. 3, 237] there is a remark on the Asinus Cillenicus, [40] “the image and figure of the animal are well known, many have written on it, we among the rest, in a particular fashion; but as it displeased the vulgar, and failed to please the wise, for its sinister meaning, the work was suppressed.” Whether this refers to the whole Cabala, or to the last part of it, is not known.

The “Enthusiasms of the Noble” (De gli heroici furori), 1585, dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, consists of sonnets, with prose illustrations, after the model of Dante’s Vita Nuova. Its theme is that of the Phaedrus and Symposium, the rising of the love for spiritual beauty out of that for sensible beauty, reaching its height in the divine furor an ecstatic unity with the divine life, in which all the miseries and misfortunes of the merely earthly life disappear. Many of the sonnets are of extreme beauty, although Brunnhofer goes too far when he speaks of them as surpassing Petrarca’s, except in smoothness of form, and as equalling Shakespeare’s. (p.41.)

Ftn.: Also Parigi. Translated in “The Heroic Enthusiasts,” an Ethical Poem, by L. Williams, London, 1887. (The Argument or Summary, and the Apology of Bruno, are omitted.) (p.41.)

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Part I - [sect.] XVIII: The Tribunal at Rome
This adept at coat-turning [Gaspar Schopp] sent from Rome a letter to Conrad Rittershausen, which was for long the sole authority for Bruno’s death, but was held byh Catholic writers on Bruno to be a forgery. In the face of solid argument and evidence forthcoming, Catholic reviewers even at the present day deny that Bruno was put to death. It is quite needless at this date to enter into the question of the authenticity of the letter, its assertion of Bruno’s punishment being the sole ground [92] on which it has ever been doubted. we learn form it that Bruno was publicly reported in Rome to have been burned as a Lutheran; and one of the aims of Schopp in writing - which he did on the very day of Bruno’s death - was to prove the falsity of this report. He had heard the sentence pronounced, and its damnatory clauses he gives as the following: - (1) Bruno’s early doubts concerning and ultimate denial of the Transubstantiation, and of the virgin conception; (2) the publication in London of the Bestia Trionfanti [sic], which was held to mean the Pope; (2) the “horrible absurdities” taught in his Latin writing, such as the infinite numer of worlds, the transmigration of souls, the lawfulness and utility of magic, the Holy Spirit descvribed as merely the soul of the world, the eternity of the world, Moses spoken of as an Egyptian working his miracles by magic - in which he excelled other Egyptians - and as having invented the decalogue, the Holy Scriptures as fable, the salvation of the devil, the Hebrewd alone descended from Adam and Eve, other peoples from the men created the previous day; Christ not God, but an illustrious magician, who deceived me, and on that account was properly hanged (impiccato) and not crucified; the prophets and the aposteles corrupt me, magicians, who were for the most part hanged. “In fine, I should never have done were I to pass in review all the monstrosities he has advanced, whether in his books or by word of mouth. In one word, there is not an error of the pagan philosophers or of our heretics, ancient or modern, that he did not sustain.” (pp.92-93.)

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Chapter XIX
It is not easy to characterise so complex a personality as Bruno undoubtedly was. The fiery passionate blood of the south ran in his veins, the joy of a strong-flow- ing life was in his heart and brain. A child of Nature, he was almost from the first, “cribbed, cabined, and confined” by the stone walls of the cloister, as his mind was hampered by the laws and dogmas of the Church. From Nature herself he drew his first lessons. While his fellows taught that Nature was a thing of evil, he learnt to love her, and to turn to her rather than to the authority of man for instruction. He believed also, as very few of his age did, in the power of human thought to penetrate the secret nature of things, to reach even to the deepest and highest reality, so far as that can be known by another than itself. Trusting to his own mind, to sense and reason, for his theory of the world, he found himself opposed in all essentials to the general thought of the time.

His purpose from the first was to use his own eyes, to discover truth for himself, and to hold fast whatever seemed to be right, irrespective of the opinions of others. “From the beginning I was convinced of the vanity of the cry which summons us to close or lower the eyes that were given to us open and upward-looking. “Seeing, I do not pretend not to see, nor fear to profess it openly; and as there is continual war between light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance, everywhere have I met with hatred, abuse, clamour, insult (ay, not without risk to my life) from the brute and stupid multitude; but guided by the hand of truth and the divine light, I have overcome it.” Not that he really formed his theory by induction from sense-data, or by deductive reasoning; it was rather an inspiration, or an intuition, springing from his temperament, to which optimism was as necessary as pessimism repellent; and there were numerous suggestions of it both in Bruno’s immediate predecessors, Copernicus and the rest, and in earlier thinkers. Bruno himself found it, as he thought, in the more ancient pre-Aristotelian philosophies. But, however obtained, this philosophy satisfied even his boundless enthusiasm, and it became the chief motive of his life to convince others of its truth, inspire them with the same enthusiasm, and endow them with the joyous freedom of life of which it seemed to him to be the source. His philosophy, in other words, became his religion, his inward religion, Catholicism remaining a mere habit, a set of formulae to which he was indifferent, to most of which he was willing to subscribe because he had not questioned them.

His perfect self-confidence and belief in the power of human reason (especially his own reason) to penetrate the mysteries of things, was accompanied by contempt for the argument from authority in philosophy, contempt for humility, submission, obedience in the speculative life. To believe with the many because they were many was the mark of a slave. Bruno, before Bacon, before Descartes, insisted on the need of [101] clearing the mind from all prejudices, all traditional beliefs that rested on authority alone, before attempting the pursuit of truth. (pp.100-102.)


His outward fortunes left Bruno indifferent; it was the opposition to his philosophy that embittered him, and excited the magnificent invectices scattered everywhere through his works. Of his own mission Bruno had the highest opinion: ‘The Nolan has set free the human mind, and its knowledge, that was shut up within the narrow prison-house of the atmosphere (the troubled air), whence it could only with difficulty, as through chinks, see the far distant stars; its wings were clipped, that it might not fly and pass through the veil of clouds, and see that which is really to be found there. [... But he in the eye of sense and reason, with the key of unwearied enquiry, as opened those prison-doors of the truth which man might open, laid bare nature that was covered over and veiled from light, [103] gven eyes to the moles, enlightened the blind, loosened the tongues of the mute, that could not and dare not express their inmost feelings.’ (Cena., Lag., 125, 12ff.) It was not to the many he spoke, however; there was little in his heart of that love for his fellowman that was so charming a trait in Spinoza, with all the latter’s desire for solitude, and under all his persecutions. [...] Distrust of the natural man he had imbibed along with the teachings of the Church, and doubt as to his capacity for receiving or understanding the truth. (pp.103-04.)

Bruno himself was not without that touch of vanity which led him, like others, to mass together quotations and phrases from Latin and even from Greek writers; to point an argument by forced analogies form classical mythology; to heap up references in support of his theories, to the Neoplatonists, to the mystics, to the Cabbalah, to the older Greek philosophers: these adornments were quite in the fashion of his time, and looked at in that light they add to, rather than detract from, the peculiar charm and spirit of his writings. The true pedant - such as Polihimnio in the Causa (who has been thought to have suggested Polonius in Hamlet) Mamphurio in the Candelaio, Prudentio in the Cena - is one that for style loves long words, learned phrases, irrespective of their context; who, under the pretence of accuray, delights in trifling, subtle distinctions, sows broadcast mythological or classical allusions without a hint of relevancy. [105] (p.104-06.)

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Chapter XXI
[Header: His Creed]
Bruno was far from being what we should now Religion, call a Rationalist; he felt that cold reason, merely human logic alone, could not fathom the deepest nature of things, which was God, but that this deepest nature of things was apart from conditions of time and space. Whatever occurred under these conditions, whatever fell within the actual world, he claimed for sense and reason, i.e. as a subject of natural explanation, as accessible in all its aspects to human knowledge. There are thus two very distinct sides to Bruno’s philosophical character: on the one side he is a fore-runner of modern science, in his love of nature as a whole, in his desire to understand it, in his application of purely “empirical” methods to its analysis. To this side belong his rejection of the orthodox dogmas concerning the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, and the rest, his theory of an evolution of man, his idea of a natural history of religions, his entire rejection of authority however high as an argument for or against a theory or view of nature. His own religious creed was simple, and he believed it to be the essence of what was true in all the jarring sects that had separated man from man, nation from nation, and race from race “the law of love which springs not from the evil genius of any one race, but from God the father of all, and is in harmony with universal nature, which teaches a general love of man, that we should love our enemies even, should not remain [109] like brutes or barbarians, but be transformed into the likeness of Him who makes His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and pours the rain of His mercies upon the just and the unjust. This is the religion above controversy or dispute, which I observe from the belief of my own mind, and from the custom of my fatherland and my race.” (Art. Adv. Math. Epist. Ded. (i. 3. 4). On the other side, he had inherited the mysticism of the Neoplatonist school, or at least it called out a responsive echo from his mind so soon as he came under its influence. He was full of enthusiasm, as we shall find, for the divine - in things, in us, in the world, in the universe - a “God-intoxicated man” far more strikingly than the impassive Spinoza. It was because the Copernican theory fitted into his mystical thought of the One, as an identity of the infinitely small, the point, and the infinitely great, the broad, deep, immeasurable universe, that it appeared to him an inspiration of genius. [My underline; see note.] Therefore he defended it, extended it further than its originator dared extend it, and finally died for it and for all that it meant to him. His belief in natural magic belongs again to this side, or rather to the influence of the one side of his nature upon the other; owing to their essential unity in God, natural things have sympathies with one another and with human life, so that a change in one thing a stone, a tree may indirectly cause a corresponding change in another, a human being. It was characteristic of him that he sought to give to these beliefs which, be it remembered, were universal in his time a rational basis, a connection with his thought-system as a whole. The two sides or standpoints are never far apart in Bruno: it is often impossible to say to which a [110] given theory or mood should be attributed, but in his earlier life the mystical, in his later the naturalistic, or rationalist standpoint may be said to have predominated. It is with the more metaphysical attitude that a certain vein of optimism in Bruno’s philosophy is connected, the familiar conception of evil, natural or moral, as necessary for the good of the whole, like the discords by which a harmony is heightened. No absolute evil, for the consistent Neoplatonist, can possibly exist in a world which flows from the divine and is an outpouring of His nature. But Bruno had little or nothing of the practical optimist in his own character; whatever he thought to be evil, he fought against with all his might; a victim of intolerance, he had himself no toleration for some points of view those, namely, which he felt might weaken the bonds of civil society and of human brotherhood. “Such evil teachers” he writes in the Sigillus (ii. 2. 182), “succeeding time, and a world wise overlate in its own ill condition, will exterminate as the tares, canker-worms, locust plagues of their age [note] nay, as scorpions and vipers.” Bruno saw only too clearly the evils of the world, and of his age, from the greatest of which tyranny over the soul, and suppression of mental liberty he suffered in his own person; and his life, as we have seen, was spent in a ceaseless, and for the time unavailing, struggle against them. But he never lost his faith in the ultimate victory of his own philosophy, based as it was upon his faith in the essential goodness, justice, and truth of the eternal source of things. As all things flow from, so all things tend to return to God. Philosophy goes further than to teach merely that pain and evil are not absolute facts, not grounded in the nature of things; it also frees the believer from the [111] burden they impose: “the practical test of a perfect philosophy is, when one by the height of his speculation is so far withdrawn from bodily things as hardly to feel pain. And there is greater virtue, as we believe, in one who has come to such a point as not to feel pain at all than in another who feels it but resists. He who is more deeply moved by the thought of some other thing does not feel the pangs of death.” (Sig. ii. 2. 192.)

(pp.109-12.) [End Part I.]

Note - Joyce writes: ‘It is not Spinoza, it is Bruno, that is the god-intoxicated man.’ (“The Bruno Philosphy”, review of J. Lewis McIntyre, Giordano Bruno, in Dublin Daily Express, 30 Oct 1903; Critical Writings, ed. Ellmann & Mason [1959], NY: Viking Press 1965, p.134.)

[Cf. Joyce’s comparison of the Roman priests to a ‘plague of locusts’, in Stephen Hero.]


For Bruno, as the order of nature was throughout the same in kind, constituted of similar elements, so the [133] order of thought or knowledge was one in kind, from its lowest phase in sense, to its highest in the divine ecstasy. In the Heroici Furori (as again in the posthumous De Vinculis in generi) the Platonic doctrine of the ascent to the ecstatic vision and love of divine beauty, from sense-perception and the material feeling for sensible beauty, is the essential topic throughout: and in both Bruno is largely indebted for his symbolism to the Neoplatonist mystics. (pp.133-34.)

[On Averroes:] For Averroes, Bruno had the highest respect: he constantly speaks of his as “the most subtle and weighty of the Perpatetics”. [136] “Averroes, though an Arab and ignorant of Greek (!), is more at home in the Perpatetic doctrine than any Greek I have read: and he would have understood it better, had he not been so devoted to his deity Aristotle.&148; (Causa, Lag. 274, and Op. Lat. i. 2. 421.)

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[McIntyre quotes Bruno:]

“The universe is one, infinite, immovable. One is the absolute possibility, one the reality. One the form or soul, one matter or body. One the thing, one the ens. One the greatest and best, which can not be comprised, and therefore can neither be ended nor limited, and even so is infinite and unlimited, and consequently immovable. It does not move locally, for there is no place outside of itself, to which it might transport itself (for it is the all). Of it is no generation, for there is no other existence which it can desire or expect, for it has all existence. Of it is no corruption, for there is no other thing to which it can change; it is everything. It cannot grow less or greater, for it is infinite; it cannot be added to, and it cannot be subtracted from, for the infinite has no proportional parts. It cannot be subject to mutation in any quality whatever, nor is there anything contrary to, or diverse from it, which may alter it, for in it all things are in harmony.” (2 Lag. 277.)] In it height is not greater than length or depth; hence by a kind of simile it may be called a sphere. It has no parts, for a part of the infinite must be infinite, and if it is infinite it concurs in one with the whole; hence the universe is one, infinite, [172] without parts. Within it there is not part greater and part less, for one part, however great, has no greater proportion to the infinite than another, however small; and therefore, in infinite duration, there is no difference between the hour and the day, between the day and the year, between the year and the century, between the century and the moment; for moments and hours are not more in number than centuries, and those bear no less proportion to eternity than these. Similarly, in the immeasurable, the foot is not different from the yard, the yard from the mile, for in proportion to immensity, the mile is not nearer than the foot. Infinite hours are not more than infinite centuries, infinite feet are not of greater number than infinite miles. (1. Lag 278. 4.) Thus Bruno frankly draws the conclusion, which is inherent in all pantheistic thought, that in the infinite all things are indifferent; there are no proportional parts thereof - in it one is not greater nor better than another: “In comparison, similitude, union, identity with the infinite, one does not approach nearer by being a man than by being an ant, by being a star than by being a man. In the infinite these things are indifferent, and what I say holds of all other things or particular existences. Now if all these particular things in the infinite are not one and another, are not different, are not species, it necessarily follows that they are not number (i.e., not distinct - the universe is again immovable, unchangeable one. If in it act does not differ from potency, then point, line, superficies and body do not differ in it (for each is potency of the other - a line by motion may become a surface, a surface a body). In the infinite, then, point does not differ from body; since the point is potency of the body, it does not [Marginalia: Indifference of all things Infinite; 173] differ froom body, where potency and act are one and the same thing. If point does not differ from body, centre from circumference, finite from infinite, the greatest from the least, then the universe, as we have said, is all centre, or the centre of the universe is everywhere but the centre is nowhere.” Thus, not only are the particular existences indifferent in the infinite: they have also in it no true reality, i.e. their existence is a purely relative one. (pp.172-74.)


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[Marginalia: Coincidence of Contraries]
The concluding portion of this dialogue and of the work is taken up with the doctrine of the Coincidence of Contraries, which derives from that of the unity and coincidence of all differences, and which, although it was undoubtedly contained in his own system, Bruno obtained directly from Nicholas of Cusa. It is an indirect proof, from the side of particular things themselves, of the identity of all in the One. The first [marginalia: “Signs”.] illustrations are geometrical. (Lag. 285. 35.) The straight line and the circle, or the straight line and the curve, are opposites; but in their elements, or their minima, they coincide, for, as Cusanus saw, there is no difference between the smallest possible arc and the smallest possible chord. Again, in the maximum there is no difference between the infinite circle and the straight line; the greater a circle is, the more nearly it approximates to straightness. ... as a line which is greater in magnitude than another approximates more nearly to straightness, so the greatest of all ought to be superlatively, more than all, straight, so that in the end the infinite straight line is an infinite circle. Thus the maximum and the minimum come together in one existence, as has already been proved, [176] and both in the maximum and in the minimum, contraries are one and indifferent.

[Marginalia: “Verifications”]
These geometrical illustrations are “signs” of the identity of contraries, those which follow are called by Bruno “verifications” (Lag. 288. 5.) the first of which is taken from the primary qualities of bodies. The element of heat, its “principle,” must be indivisible it cannot have differences within itself, and can be neither hot nor cold, therefore it is an identity of hot and cold.” One contrary is the ‘principle’ or starting-point of the other, and therefore transmutations are circular, because there is a substrate, principle, term, continuation and concurrence of both. So minimal warmth and minimal cold are the same. The movement towards cold takes its beginning from the limit of greatest heat (its “principle” in another sense). Thus not only do the two maxima sometimes concur in resistance, the two minima in concordance, but even the maximum and the minimum concur through the succession of transmutations. Doctors fear when one is in the best of health; it is in the height of happiness that the foreseeing are most timid. So also the “principle” of corruption and of generation is one and the same. The end of decay is the beginning of generation; corruption is nothing but a generation, generation a corruption. Love is hate, hate is love in the end; hatred of the unfitting is love of the fitting, the love of this the hatred of that. In substance and in root, therefore, love and hate, friendship and strife, are one and the same thing. Poison gives its own antidote, and the greatest poisons are the best medicines. There is but one potency of two contraries, because contraries are apprehended by one and the same sense, therefore belong to the same subject or substrate; where the principle (i.e. [177] the source, or faculty) of the knowledge of two objects is the same, the principle ( i.e. elementary form) of their existence is also one. (Examples are the curved and the plane, the concave and the convex, anger and patience, pride and humility, miserliness and liberality). In conclusion: “He who would know the greatest secrets ot nature, let him regard and contemplate the minima and maxima of contraries and opposites. Profound magic it is to know how to extract the contrary after having found the point of union.” Aristotle was striving towards it, but did not attain it, said Bruno; “remaining with his foot in the genus of opposition, he was so fettered that he could not descend to the species of contrariety. ... but wandered further from the goal at every step, as when he said that contraries could not co-exist at the same time in the same subject.” (Lag. 288, 289.) There is a naïve but at the same time a bold realism in this demand of Bruno’s that reality shall correspond even to the simpler unities of thought unities which after ail are mere limitations. It is only because we cannot distinguish in imagination between an infinite circle and a straight line that their identity in actual existence is postulated, and so the minimal chord and minimal arc coincide to our limited imagination only. Admittedly in the case of sense-qualities the argument is from oneness of faculty knowing to oneness of things known. These, however, are only, as we have said, “signs” and “verifications” of a metaphysical truth which is arrived at by other methods.

A corresponding passage in the De Minimo (Op. Lat. i. 3. 147. I.) explains more fully the coincidence of contraries in the minimum: “In the minimum, the simple, the monad, all opposites coincide, odd and even, many and few, finite and [178] infinite; therefore that which is minimum is also maximum, and any degree between these.” Besides the coincidence of contraries in God as the monad of monads, the examples are given of the indifference of all dimensions in the universe, and the ubiquity of its centre; the indifference of the radial directions from the centre of a particular sphere; the indifference of all points in the diurnal rotation of the earth, so that any point whatever is east, west, north, or south; the “ subjective” coincidence of concave and convex in the circle (“subjective” meaning “in the thing itself”); the coincidence of the acute and the obtuse angle in the inclination of one line to another; that of smallest arc and chord as of greatest arc and chord, “whence it follows that the infinite circle and the infinite straight line, also the infinite diameter, area, and centre are one and the same.” Lastly, we have the coincidence of swiftest motion with slowest, or with rest, “for the absolutely swift (swift, ‘simpliciter’, i.e. “in its highest possible manifestation, without any degree of the contrary, slowness) which moves from A to B, and from B to A, is at once in A, and in B, and in the whole orbit, therefore, it stands still.”

These coincidences are again of two kinds: some “subjective” in the modern sense, e.g. the coincidences of directions in the globe; any one may be taken as depth according to the spectator’s standpoint; others are “objective,” e.g. when in God the one and the many are said to coincide. According as the stress is laid on one or on the other, the theory may be regarded as either dualistic (as Cusanus’ really was) or as pantheistic. There is no doubt, however, that it was in the latter sense that Bruno held the coincidence of contraries. (pp.176-79.)

[Note Gareth Joseph Downes writes that Samuel Beckett derived his version of the theory of contraries in xxx (“Dante ... Bruno. Vico .. Joyce”, in Beckett, et al., Exagmination [... &c.], 1927) from pp.176-78 of McIntyre’s Bruno. See Downes, ‘The Heretical Auctoritas of Giordano Bruno: The Significance of the Brunonian Presence in James Joyce’s The Day of the Rabblement and Stephen Hero’, in Joyce Studies Annual, 14 (Summer 2003), pp.37-73.]

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[Marginalia: Aristotle on the plurality of worlds.]
The arguments of Aristotle against the plurality of are in the seventh book set out one by one, and worlds. controverted from Bruno’s own standpoint, at times with great fulness and subtlety. It would be unprofitable to enter far into this debate, where the advantage lay so obviously on one side. We have already seen that Bruno was able to lay his finger upon the weak spot in Aristotle’s system, the definitions of space and [197] time. There is no absolute norm of time, said Bruno, whether arithmetical, geometrical, or physical; for in this kind we cannot fix a minimum, and least of all on Peripatetic principles; there is always a less than any given period of time, hence we cannot lay down any true measure of time, i.e. all time is relative to the individual. In any case the daily movement (of the outermost sphere, as Aristotle thought, but in fact) of the earth, is not really circular. There are as many moving agents as there are stars, as there are souls, or deities. (1 Cf. Op. Lat. i. 2. p.259.) But “if we must assume some one presiding over the infinite number of agents, we must ascend above all or descend down to the centre of all, to the absolute being, present above all and within all ... more intimate to all things than each is to itself, not more distant from one than from another, for it is equally the nearest to all.” (p.260; On Time cf. Acrot., Arts. 38-40.) Several of the arguments of Aristotle were drawn from abstract [marginalia: Perfection.] conceptions of unity and perfection, and evidently raised interesting problems for the time of Bruno. They are, briefly, that a plurality of worlds would be irrational, since no reason could be given for one number rather than another, that it is more in accordance with the perfection of the monad, that all reality should be massed together in one world, that the economy of nature does not admit of the multiplication of goods, that the passive capacity (matter) is not equal to the active power (the form}, that the perfect is by its very nature unique. Bruno answers that there is no definite, but an infinite, number of worlds, and that if the former were the case no reason could be put forward why there should be only one, which in Bruno’s sense of world is no doubt true. As to the monad, the true monad is that which [198] embraces all number or plurality in itself. “We are not compelled to define a number, we who say that there is an infinite number of worlds; there no distinction exists of odd or even, since these are differences of number, not of the innumerable. Nor can I think there have ever been philosophers who, in positing several worlds, did not posit them also as infinite: for would not reason, which demands something further beyond this sensible world, so also outside of and beyond whatever number of worlds is assumed, assume again another and another?” (Op. Lat. i. 2. p.274.)

[Marginalia: One life in all worlds.]
That there are more worlds than one is due to the presence everywhere throughout space of the same principle of life, which everywhere has the same effect; just as within one of these worlds, the earth, we find different species of the same animal of man, for example which cannot be descended from the same parentage. There are “men of different colours, cave-men, mountain-pygmies, the guardians of minerals, the giants of the South,” each of which races must have been produced independently in its own place. And finally, although it is true that nothing can be added to the perfect, why may not the perfect be multiplicable? Though the perfect man is one, nature may produce several within the same species. “Everywhere is one soul, one spirit of the world, wholly in the whole and in every part of it, as we find in our lesser world also. This soul ... (should the kind of place and of element not conflict) produces all things everywhere; so that for the generation of some even time is not required. ... The infinite universe, and it only under God, is perfect. Nothing finite is so good that it could not be better; whatever may be better has some [199] degree of evil and defect, as what is not absolutely bright is not without some signs of obscurity. ... Therefore the perfect, absolutely and in itself, is one, infinite, which cannot be greater or better, and than which nothing can be greater or better. This is one, everywhere, the only God, universal nature, of which nothing can be a perfect image or reflection, but the infinite. Everything finite therefore is imperfect, every sensible world is imperfect, as good and evil, matter and form, light and darkness, joy and sadness concur in it, and all things everywhere are in alteration and movement; but all of them, in the infinite, are as in unity, truth, and goodness, and in this aspect the infinite is rightly called the universe.” (Op. Lat. i. 2. p. 307.) In the infinite, as we have learned from the Causa, all contraries are one. The universe is perfect, not because of its quantity, but because it contains all other things in it. (Ibid., p.309ff.) Within the limits of their kind small causes can produce small effects with some perfection; much more effective is that immeasurable and more general cause, of which nothing stands in the way. It is a harmony of the many in one, the only corporeal image of the divine mind. The finite, however, is imperfect only when taken apart from the whole to which it belongs, i.e. evil and defect are appearances only. Although in nature not all things are of their best, and more species than one produce monstrosities, yet we may not find fault with the great building of the mighty architect, for even the small, weak, and diminutive contributes its part to the nobility of the whole. Is a picture most beautiful when it is blazoned all over with gold and purple? Does it not shine out best from a dull background? Can there be any part which, in its order [200] and place within the whole body, is not good, and the best in the end and in the whole? A harmony in music is better the greater the variety within it of length, accent, pause, and the like. (Ibid., p.311.)

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The perfect may be either (1) “the perfect absolutely, or (2) the perfect in its kind.” The former again is twofold, according as it is (1) “that which is wholly in the whole and in every part, or (2) that which is wholly in the whole but not in the part.” Of these the one is divinity, the intellect of the universe, absolute goodness and truth, the other the immeasurable corporeal reflection of the divine. As within the universe there are many things perfect in their kind, which it combines in its unity, containing in itself the perfection of all, it may in a second sense be called the absolutely perfect. For no one world singly, nor system of worlds, nor any number of systems, can be brought into comparison with God, except indirectly, through the immeasurable wisdom, power, and goodness.” Nothing is absolutely imperfect or evil, for the highest nature exists in a certain sense in the meanest and lowest, as on the palette of a painter colours are thought little of which presently, unfolded into the scheme of the picture, shall seem to be, along with the painter himself, of chief importance.” (p.312. Cf. Florentine’s Telesio, p.85. On Perfection, and the Perfection of the Universe, cf. Bruno’s Acrot., Arts. 17 and 51.) Moral evil, itself, as we shall find, has no reality for Bruno’s pantheism. Justice and goodness, not existing as abstract entities, have their only ground in the divine will, i.e. in the course of nature. (Cf. Spinoza.) On the other hand, it is not in the part, the detail, the trivial or minute existence, that the divine will is most adequately declared, but in the whole, its plan and its law. “What [201] is best and most glorious, most beseeming the goodness of His nature, is to be attributed to His will. It is impious to seek this in the blood of insects, in the mummied corpse, in the foam of the epileptic, under the shaking feet of murderers, or in the melancholy mysteries of vile necromancers; (Allusions to practices of the Black Art.) it must be sought rather in the inviolable, intemerate law of nature, in the religion of a mind directed duly by that law, in the splendour of the sun, in the beauty of the things which are brought forth from this our parent, after His true image, as expressed bodily in the beauty of those innumerable living things, which, in the immeasurable sweep of the one heaven, shine and live, have sense and intelligence, and sing praises to the One, the highest and best.” (Op. Lat. i. 2. p. 316.)

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The chief virtue of the New Testament, in his eyes, was its preaching of “the Gospel law of mutual love,” which the tyranny of [297] Rome had violated. The religion to which he gave his adherence was that which raised the dead, healed the sick, gave to the poor; not the contrary form to which the Inquisition had brought the Church in Catholic lands.

Chapter VIII: Positive Religions and the Religion of Philosophy
What Bruno rejected in Christianity was the whole [295] mass of doctrine which suggested a miraculous or supernatural interference with the order of nature, for the benefit either of a particular person, or of a particular race. That is the nerve, for example, of his satire upon the popular idea of Providence in the Spaccio [Lag., 452, 3ff.] (pp.295-96.)


[Page heading:] The Bible’s Teaching
With great boldness Bruno drew from his conception of the Infinite the consequences that there can be no action of the finite upon the infinite, no change or effect in God produced through man. A practical corrollary of this was the argumnt for freedom or thought. The virtue of Judgement, in the Spaccio, has entrusted to it the defence of the true law, and the removal of unjust or false laws, dictated by enmity to the peace and happiness of the human commonwealth. It shall kindle and fan the appetite for glory in the human breast as the only sure stimulus for inciting men to the heroic deeds that increase, maintain, or strengthen republics. But it shall not pay heed to what men imagine or think, provided their words and deeds do not corrupt the peace of the realm. Deeds are its only concern, and it has to judge the tree, not by the fineness, but by the goodness of its fruits. [...] Gods would not be gods if they were either pleased or displeased, grieved or delighted, by what men did or thought; they would be more needy than men, would be as dependent on men as men are on themselves or utility and profit. [McIntyre ftn. - cf. Lucretius ii, 646: ‘Omnis enim per se divum natura necessest, &c.’] The gods are beyong all passion: they have active anger and pleasure only, not passive. [298] Therefore they do not threaten punishment or promise reward for good or evil that results in them, but for that committed on peoples and in the human socierties which they foster by their divine laws and statues since human laws do not suffice. The gods do not seek the reverence, fear, love, worship, or respect of men, for any other end or utility than that of men themselves. Glory cannot be added to the gods from without; they have made their laws not to receive glory but to communicate glory to men. The sole sphere of justice is the moral actions of men with regard to other men; inward sins are sins only so far as they have outward effect, and inward justice is not justice without outward practice. (pp.298-99.)

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Bruno was therefore a Rationalist only in a limited sense: while he claimed for the philosopher entire freedom of interpretation of religious dogmas or legends, the interpretation was to be governed not by the facts of ordinary knowledge, but by the mystical in- tuition of divine truth, given, in inspired moments, to the heroic soul. There were two types of rationalism in mediaeval philosophy - that of Averroes, which sought to supplant the positive religions by a religion of philosophy, and that of Scotus Erigena, which aimed at upholding popular faiths while allowing the philosopher freedom of thought in interpreting the doctrines these faiths involved. Bruno’s rationalism is clearly of the second type, although personally he disliked all prevailing religions for the reasons already given. [My underline; see note] All positive religions expressed for him one and the same truth, some more, some less adequately, that the supreme end of human activity is the union of the soul with God, whereby it becomes one with God and is raised above the sphere of sense and reason, above nature, out of the ordinary cycle of human life and human death. That which of all others most nearly approached his ideal was the half-mythical religion of Egyptian the Egyptians, from whom indeed he believed the later Animism, religions, as well as the earlier philosophies, to have been inspired. The Egyptian worship of the gods in the form of living animals was symbolic of the truth that [305] God is in all things: “Animals and plants,” says Jupiter in the Spaccio, “are living effects of nature, and nature is nothing but God in things. Diverse things represent diverse deities, and diverse powers.” [Lag. 529ff.] God is in all things, but not fully expressed in each, “in some more, in some less excellently,” in some one divine attribute or power predominates, in some another. (p.305-06.) [See also ‘pantheistic’, infra.]

[Note: This passage is the true source of Joyce’s closing remark in his review of J. Lewis McIntyre’s Giordano Bruno (Dublin Daily Express, 30 Oct. 1903) that that Bruno’s ‘legend must seem the most honourable, more sanctified, and more ingenuous than that of Averroes or of Scotus Erigena.’ (Critical Writings of James Joyce, ed. Ellmann & Mason [1959], 1956, p.134). This is erroneously identified by the editors with p.110 of McIntyre’s work, with the remark: ‘McIntyre makes this comparison (p.110) without drawing so forceful a conclusion.’ (Note 3, Idem.)

[...] The Magi ascended by the same scale of nature to the highest divinity, by which that divinity itself descended to the least of things, in its self-communication. Their ceremonies were not vain imaginations, but living voices that reached the very ears of the gods. “These wise men knew God to be in things, divinity to be latent in nature, acting in and scintillating diversely from the diverse subjects, and making them participate in itself, as in its being, life, and intelligence.” [Spaccio, Lag., p.530.] (p.305-06.)

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Chap. IX: Bruno in the History of Philosophy
PERHAPS no philosopher of equal originality and strength has had so little apparent influence upon contemporary or later thought as Bruno. His name hardly occurs in any of the writers of his own or the following century; when it does occur, it is mentioned only that the author may make sufficiently clear the discrepancy between the actual or reputed views of Bruno and those of himself. Yet it is easy to underestimate the influence his writings and his personality exercised; neither in France, in England, nor in Germany could his prolonged stay have failed to rouse, in some at least of his hearers, sympathy with his lofty conception of the universe and of man’s destiny; through them Bruno’s books must have passed into the hands of many philosophers, both before and after they were placed on the Index Expurgatorius in 1603. A natural consequence of this public ban would be that Bruno was no longer quoted or referred to as an authority; but all thinkers of sceptical or liberal tendency would at least be eager to read his works when the opportunity offered itself. Owing to the great scarcity of the copies and their increasing costliness, this would become a chance less and less [323] frequent as time went on. Even so, however, one may trace how his ideas filtered through many minds and helped to determine the course of modern philosophy, of which Bruno has as high claims as either Bacon or Descartes to be named the founder. (pp.323-24; my underline - see note.)

Note - Joyce writes: ‘As an independent observer, Bruno, however, deserves high honour. More than Bacon or Descartes must be he considered the father of what is called modern philosophy.’ (“The Bruno Philosphy”, review of J. Lewis McIntyre, Giordano Bruno, in Dublin Daily Express, 30 Oct 1903; Critical Writings, ed. Ellmann & Mason [1959], NY: Viking Press 1965, p.133.)

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[Page header:] Descartes and Bruno
Of the philosophers who represent the main line of development of modern thought on the Continent in the seventeenth century, Descartes, Gassendi, Spinoza, Leibniz, there is not one who has not been accused of having borrowed his chief doctrines, without acknowledgment, from the Italian philosopher. Bishop Huet described Bruno as the antesignanus of the Cartesian philosophy, and pointed to the De Immenso et innumerabilibus as containing indications of almost all its ideas. The charge is of course absurd so far as Descartes’ characteristic philosophy is concerned the ideas by which he created a revolution in modern [334] thought. Bruno indeed begged men to throw over all prejudices, all traditional beliefs, before entering upon the study of nature: he agreed with Descartes therefore in rejecting wholly every authority but that of man’s own reason, in demanding complete freedom of thought, not only from outward, but also from inward, subjective fetters. Most nearly he approaches the “Cartesian doubt” in the preface to the Articuli adv. Mathematicos. “As to the liberal arts, so far from me is the custom or institution of believing masters or parents, or even the common sense which (by its own account) often and in many ways is proved to deceive us and lead us astray, that I never settle anything in philosophy rashly or without reason; but what is thought perfectly certain and evident, whenever and wherever it has been brought into controversy, is as doubtful to me as things that are thought too difficult of belief, or too absurd.” But this is still very far from the universal doubt of Descartes, doubt, not of this or that particular opinion or belief, but of all possible beliefs. Bruno’s aim was knowledge, to add to or correct the sum of general opinion as to the world as a whole, as to man’s relation to it and to God; Descartes’ was certainty, to find a basis from which a system of thought might be built up de novo, and from which at the same time a secure ground for morality and religion might be derived. The doubt was nothing without the certainty to which it led, the certainty of self-consciousness, which, as it has been said, is only the other side, the positive expression of the universal doubt itself. On the other hand, in the subsequent steps of the Cartesian philosophy, the arguments on the nature of God, and the relation of the infinite to the finite substances - many [335] touches suggest the influence of Bruno’s comprehensive attempt to combine a philosophical pantheism with a scientific atomism. It is unlikely that Descartes should have been ignorant of a writer well known to Mersenne and Huet. The former would have excused Bruno “had he been content to philosophise upon a point, an atom, or on unity, but because he attacked the Christian religion, it is reasonable to decry him as one of the most wicked men the earth has ever produced!” Certainly the fact that Descartes nowhere mentions the guilty philosopher is of no importance in deciding as to the influence of the latter upon him.

It was only natural that Gassendi’s critics should have placed him in a close relation to the Nolan. There is no improbability in the idea that Gassendi was attracted to the latter as an opponent of the Aristotelian philosophy, against which he himself had already written in his youth although no part of the work was published until 1624. Both also approached the reform of natural philosophy from the same standpoint, that of sense-experience, and both arrived at an atomic theory of the ultimate constitution of nature. Bruno, before Gassendi, had attempted to place the ethical teaching of Epicurus in a fairer light than popular prejudice allowed, but while Gassendi followed Epicurus in his atomism only too strictly, Bruno was much more independent, and advanced much nearer to the modern view. So in his general theory of the system of the world, [336] Gassendi stops half-way with the conception of a limited matter, but in an endless space, of a beginning for the world, but in an endless time, of a plurality of worlds with the earth as centre of our system: here also it is Bruno that is the more advanced, and the more daring thinker; yet, from the respect with which Gassendi writes of Copernicus, it is clear that his sympathies were with the new hypothesis. It may be added that although Gassendi rejected the notion of a world-soul, in the ordinary sense, as distinct from God, and that of souls of the individual worlds, or of stones, etc., yet he too was fain to explain the attraction of the magnet for the iron, of the earth for the stone, of atom for atom, by an influence passing from the one to the other, by which the one became aware of the other’s existence, and was impelled towards it, i.e. by a kind of sense, or feeling, a soul, which was at the same time the principle of movement.

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[Page header:] Spinoza and Bruno
It is, however, on the development of Spinoza’s thought that the most direct influence of Bruno can be shown. Sigwart and Avenarius have proved that in preparing the short treatise on “God, Man, and his Blessedness,” Spinoza must have had the Causa and Infinite of Bruno almost before his eyes. The treatise consists of several parts which are more or less independent of one another, and which represent tentative approaches towards the finished Ethics; but it differs from the Ethics in the far greater prominence of the mystical, Neoplatonist element. Pollock suggests that [337] it may have been his free-thinking teacher Dr. Van den Ende who introduced Spinoza to Bruno’s writings: there is no external evidence of the acquaintanceship, but that, it is needless to say, is of slight importance. Spinoza certainly read Italian, and he practised in other cases the same neglect of authorities, of whose substance he was making use: it was indeed the custom of the time there were few who followed Burton’s example.

There are certain general resemblances between the finished philosophies of the two authors, so far as Bruno can be said to have a finished philosophy. The first principle of both is the unity out of which all things spring, to which all return, and in which all have their true nature, or highest reality, a unity with which both identify nature and spirit alike, and which is for both God. God is accordingly beyond the reach of all human knowledge; determination is negation, limit, by which the infinite is untouched. All attributes in God are one only, or none; thought is one with extension, love with intelligence; yet in strictness God is neither thought nor extension, intelligence nor love, or he is these in another than our human meaning. So far as this central thought is concerned, it is Bruno that is the deeper thinker. In him the One is not a dead negation, in which real things are absorbed to the loss of all their reality and life, as it is with Spinoza: rather it is a living fountain, gushing forth in the infinite streams of living beings: the whole of nature is the expression of its own inward being. The One is in process; the whole, in which this process results, is a harmony every member of which has its own independent reality and worth, over against all others, as a manifestation of divinity. The life of the one is that of its members; all [338] are necessary to it, as it to them. Carrière indeed places Bruno above Spinoza as having found in the one a self-consciousness, a subject infinite in that it knows itself and all things in itself, preserving all things, as necessary to its external enjoyment and love; while Spinoza is still within the bonds of substance in God there is neither understanding nor will, in Him all difference vanishes, the modes are an illusion. So the Spinozistic parallelism between thought and matter finds its counterpart in Bruno, with whom all that is thought, all that is possible, is also real, or actual, i.e. has extended or material existence. It is true that this conception is much more precisely expressed in Spinoza, with his clean-cut distinction between the world of body and the world of mind or ideas, to which the possible belongs, but it was a distinction which he could not consistently uphold; on the other hand, the universal animism, the doctrine that to every material thing or event there corresponds a spiritual reality or process, which is only the other side of the parallelism of soul and body, is more clearly and vigorously defended by the earlier philosopher. The natural and the spiritual, matter and form, are not two principles, or elements which combine to produce a given result, or which harmonise with one another: they are one and the same thing, and their truth is their life, their soul, their thought. Bruno was in earnest with his animism, as his confident belief in magical correlations showed.

Note - Joyce writes: ‘In his attempt to reconcile the matter and form of the Scholastics - formidable names, which in his system as spirit and body retain little of their metaphysical character - Bruno hardily put forward a hypothesis, which is a curious anticipation of Spinoza.’ (“The Bruno Philosphy”, review of J. Lewis McIntyre, Giordano Bruno, in Dublin Daily Express, 30 Oct 1903; Critical Writings, ed. Ellmann & Mason [1959], NY: Viking Press 1965, p.133.)

From their principles both derived a conviction of the necessity and of the goodness of all things, but it [339] is Bruno rather than Spinoza who attempted to reconcile individual liberty with determinism in the universe as a whole, and individual moral responsibility with the necessary goodness of the all. The corresponding relativity of evil, the fallacy of “fortune” or “chance” (as anything but “uncertainty” of the finite mind), were already asserted by Bruno, and his ideas as to the relation between the religion of the Church, or the teaching of the Bible, and the investigations of science, are precisely those which Spinoza adopts. [...] (pp.335-40.)

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Bruno and Leibniz
[...] he [Leibniz] was acquainted with Bruno only by hearsay, as a reputed forerunner of Descartes; even as librarian of the Brunswick Library, although some of Bruno’s works were in his guardianship, he is not likely to have read them until his attention was called to them by their alleged resemblance to his own theory And then, as we learn from the letter to Lacroze (11th April 1708) [in Dutena, v. 492; also a letter of 1st May (p.493)], he hardly appreciated them at their true {346} value - “Mr. Toland has not spoken to me of the Specchio (i.e., Spaccio, an error that does not show much familiarity with Bruno) della Bestia trionfante of Giordano Bruno. I think I have seen the book at some time, and that it is against the Pope. I have two works of his on the Infinite, one in Latin, the other in Italian. The author is not wanting in genius, but it is not very profound (ne manque pas d’esprit, mais il n’est pas trop profond)”. Elsewhere he speaks of Bruno only as believing in “innumerable worlds” with Leucippius and Democritus, and as having been burnt, not, as he believes, on account of his book De Immenso, but for other opinions. [In Dutens, v. 385 (June 1712), and v. 369.] (pp.346-47.)

Notes [BS]

References to Thomas Aquinas
[With the Dominicans in Naples:] The cloister stood above Naples, amidst beautiful the gardens, and had been the home of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose gentle spirit had breathed within its walls. In its church, amid the masterpieces of Giovanni Merliano of Nola, “the Buonarotti of Naples”, stood the image of Christ which had spoken with the Angelic Doctor, and had approved his works. Long afterwards, at his trial, Bruno spoke of having the works of St. Thomas always by him, “continually reading, studying and re-studying them, and holding them dear.” (p.9.)

To Paris Bruno came about the close of 1581, and almost at once sprang into fame. A course of thirty lectures on “The thirty divine attributes” (as given by Thomas Aquinas) brought him the offer of an ordinary professorship, but this he could not take, being unable
to attend mass. However, his fame reached the ears of the king, Henry the Third, who summoned him to his presence, to know among other things “ whether the memory Bruno had, and the art of memory he professed, were natural or due to magic.” Bruno proved to him that a powerful memory was a natural product, and [17] dedicated to him a book on the Art of Memory. (pp.17-18.)

Heretic theologians, Melanchthon, Luther, Calvin and others, he condemned and despised, [79] and had read their books from curiosity merely, although there were others, as those of Raymond Lully, which he had kept by him because they treated of matters Aquinas, philosophical. Saint Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, he had always esteemed and loved as his own soul; had his writings always by him, read, studied, and pondered over them ; and had spoken of Aquinas in one of his works as “The Honour and Light of all the race of theologians, and of Peripatetics among philosophers.” When he had spoken of good works as necessary for salvation, he had in his mind not Catholicism, but “the reformed religion, which is in fact deformed in the extreme.” One by one Mocenigo’s charges were read, and denied, except that as to his contrasting the apostles method of spreading the Gospel with that of the Catholic Church, this charge he evaded. When the grossest of all, however, was read, alleging him to have said the apparent miracles of Christ and the apostles were due to the black art, and that he himself could equally well do them all he could not restrain himself; “raising both hands, and crying, What is this? Who has invented these devilries? I never said such a thing, it never entered my imagination; oh God! what is this? I would rather be dead than that such a thing should have been uttered by me!” His references to women he admitted an error, but they had been spoken in lightness amid company and during talk of things “otiose and mundane.” Threatened with extreme measures if he refused to confess his errors with respect to the Church, Bruno promised to make a greater effort to recall all he had said and done against the Christian and Catholic faith, protested the sincerity of all he said, and was left. [80] in peace for a time. This interview took place in the prison of the Inquisition. (pp.79-81.)

Of the Scholastics proper, from whom much at least of Bruno’s terminology is derived, two seem to have influenced him most strongly: Albert the Great, whose interest in natural science entitled him to a place in the temple of wisdom: “He had no equal in his time, and was far superior to Aristotle, whose school, in which he ranked according to the conditions of his age, was unworthy of him” [Op. Lat, i, I, 16; there are freq. references to the spurious writing attributed to him in Bruno’s De Magia Mathematica, &c.] and Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor, “honour and glory of all and every race of theologians and of Peripatetic philosophers.” [i. 2. 415.] Generally speaking, however, the Scholastic is to Bruno the pedant, the dabbler in words, as contrasted with the student of nature or of reality. (p.137.)

[See also Index - Aquinas, St. Thomas: 9, 80, 137]

Lines of Ovid cited in McIntyre, p.99 - as supra.


O genus attonitum gelidae formidine mortis
Quid Styga, quid tenebras, et nomina vana timetis,
Materiam vatem, falsique piacula mundi?
Corpore sive rogus flammâ, seu tabe vetustas
Abstulerit, male posse pati no ulla putetis;
Morte carent animae; semperque priore relictâ;
Sede, novis domibus habitantque vivuntque receptae.

[Ovid XV, ll.153-59; quoted by Bruno the Cena Cenari [Ash Wednesday Supper (1854)] - Dialogue 4.]

Trans. O race terrorisée par la crainte de la mort qui glace, pourquoi craignez-vous le Styx, et les ténèbres et des noms vides de sens, matière pour les poètes, épouvantails d’un monde inexistant? Les corps ne peuvent ressentir aucun mal, qu’ils soient détruits par la flamme du bûcher ou décomposés par le temps, sachez-le. Les âmes ne meurent pas; après avoir quitté un premier domicile, elles continuent à vivre, dans la nouvelle demeure qui les accueille. [See Translators’ Notes, infra.]

[Trad. et notes de A.-M. Boxus et J. Poucet, Bruxelles, 2009 -available at Biliotheca Classica Selecta: Folia Electronica - online.]

O race, frozen by terror of the fear of death, why do you fear the Styx and hell and all those empty names, the stuff of mere poets, spectres of a non-existent world? Know that the body which has been destroyed by flame or rotted with time can feel no ills. Souls do not die; having left one house they continue to live in the new home that welcomes them. [Trans. from the French, as above, by BS; see another trans, infra.]
  Translators’ Notes
Théories de Pythagore: Métempsychose et végétarisme (15, 143-175)

Pythagore, se disant inspiré par le dieu de Delphes, annonce de nouvelles révélations. Il voit les humains insensés en proie à la crainte de la mort et tente de les rassurer en leur enseignant d’abord que les âmes ne meurent pas. Ainsi lui-même avait été, à l’époque de la guerre de Troie, Euphorbe, un Argien: en effet, il a vu récemment dans le temple d’Héra à Argos un bouclier d’Euphorbe, que lui, Pythagore, avait reconnu pour l’avoir porté personnellement. (15, 143-164.)

Le souffle vital (ou âme), comme toute chose, ne meurt pas, mais se transforme, passant du corps qu’il animait à un autre corps (humain ou animal, quand ce corps cesse de vivre pour se transformer à son tour), sans disparaître. Raison suffisante pour rester végétarien, pour éviter de se souiller du sang d’un être qui pourrait être un parent. (15, 165-175.)


Note at l.157: Ici est abordée la théorie de la migration des âmes (ou métempsychose), qui en fait ne sera qu’effleurée. On ne peut certainement pas considérer les vers 160-164 comme une véritable «démonstration». Pythagore ne fait rien d’autre que présenter son propre cas en exemple.


Trans. of Ovid, XV, ll.143ff., by Orger, given in Theodore Pascal, Reincarnation: A Study in Human Evolution (1910), p.246.

O mortals! chill’d by dreams of icy death,
whom air-blown bubbles of a poet’s breath,
Darkness and Styx in error’s gulph have hurl’d,
with fabled terrors of a fabled world;
Think not, whene’er material forms expires,
Consumed by wasting age or funeral fire,
Aught else can die: souls, spurning death’s decay,
Freed from their old, their tenements of clay
Forthwith assume, and wake to life again.
Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
... All is change,
Nought perishes .... (Orger’s translation.)


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