Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought

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a. Introduction: Early Years (1548-76)

THE author of the work here translated was despised and miserable during almost the whole of his tempestuous life course. Unsuccessful in human relations, devoid of social tact or worldly wisdom, unpractical to an almost insane degree, he yet played a crucial part in the reshaping of European thought that began in the sixteenth and took form in the subsequent century. It was particularly in England that his thought developed, and perhaps it was through the Englishman, William Gilbert, that news of him reached his countryman Galileo.

We will endeavour to enter the thought of this fearless and exasperating personality as he rises to heights of mystic exaltation in the apprehension of an infinite universe, a Unity informed by immanent Mind, embracing every individual soul and manifested throughout Nature, animate and inanimate. With him we shall recognize that, in the search for an interpretation of existence, the senses, fallible though they be, are indispensable instruments, and that their evidence, always subjected to the interpretation of reason, is itself a revelation. He follows unflinchingly the implications of his vision of infinity, as he bids us mark that in an infinite universe we can have but a relative grasp of time or place, insisting that all events, including human acts, are not solely the result of external force, but rather the expression of the interaction of the natures inherent in each part -- partial impressions of the Mind informing the whole. Our own limitations wilt always deflect our own view of the particular, yet will yield an apprehension of beauty, of symmetry, of Mind without end. For him, man (like all natural objects) is not merely a part of Nature but a part which, like all the other parts, is essential for the integration of the whole.

Bruno sets forth the essential element in the faith of the new age, the attitude that will accept no preconceived idea concerning any part of the infinite universe. Thereby he opened up a new approach to the interpretation of Nature and with it a new ethic and a new philosophy. Yet to regard him as a forerunner of the scientific age would be to misconceive his contribution, both by reading into it something that is not there and by omitting something that is there. His real philosophic contribution was his realization and pursuit of universal relativity deriving from an infinite single universe.

Bruno, the fallible, foolish, blundering mortal, stumbles along his course, oblivious to much that would have been obvious to a mind less set on a vision that is afar, credulous of diverse forms of "natural magic" that we now reject, and that cooler minds even then rejected, throwing out with feverish activity devices to assist man to compass and to marshal knowledge and to retain it in memory. Capable of hero worship, he sometimes chooses heroes who would have been strangely out of touch with him, as for example that saintly and mystical, muddled and truculent Franciscan, Raymond Lull, on whose worst works he wasted many years. Bruno was compact of contradictions and we have to consider rather his achievement than his weakness.

Filippo Bruno was the son of Juano Bruno, [1] "man of arms" of Nola in the Campania (Frontispiece) and of his wife Fraulissa Savolino. "Born in 1548, so my people tell me." [2] he informed the Holy Office at Venice. Nola is a town of great antiquity (Fig. 1). Its foundation has been ascribed to the eighth pre-Christian century [3] and it is mentioned by many ancient writers. There are Greek coins from Nola and a vague traditional Nolan friendship for the Greeks. The Emperor Augustus died at Nola and it was several times unsuccessfully besieged by Hannibal. Nola was one of the earliest bishoprics, and tradition alleges that St. Peter himself preached there. There still survive in Nola some ruins from early times, and much more was extant in Bruno's childhood. The town spreads over the Campania by the river Agno, within full view of Vesuvius. It has still some 10,000 inhabitants.

Bruno gives in his greatest Latin work, the De immenso, [4] a description of an episode in childhood, which made a deep impression on him. His home was in a hamlet just outside Nola, on the lower slopes of Cicada, a foot-hill of the Appenines some twenty miles east of Naples. [5] He tells with affectionate detail of the beauty and fertility of the land around, overlooked from afar by the seemingly stern bare steeps of Vesuvius. One day a suspicion of the deceptiveness of appearances dawned on the boy. Mount Cicada, he tells us, assured him that "brother Vesuvius" was no less beautiful and fertile. So, girding his loins, he climbed the opposite mountain. "Look now," said Brother Vesuvius, "look at Brother Cicada, dark and drear against the sky." The boy assured Vesuvius that such also was his appearance viewed from Cicada. "Thus did his parents [the two mountains] first teach the lad to doubt, and revealed to him how distance changes the face of things." So in after-life he interprets the experience and continues: "In whatever region of the globe I may be, I shall realize that both time and place are similarly distant from me." The incident gives the impression of an adventurous and happy child with a vivid imagination and a mind already active. We see too the germ of creative power and of philosophic insight as well as the element of whimsy. [6]

But Bruno's birthplace must have yielded another and yet stronger impression which helps to explain a certain strain in his character -- the passion for elaborate and unrestrained symbolism. We refer to the annual celebration at Nola to which is attached the name of Bishop Paulinus (circ. 353-431) who is alleged [7] not only to have sold all his possessions to redeem Nolans from slavery to the Vandals in North Africa, but also himself to have gone into slavery in place of the son of a Nolan widow. The story relates that at length, moved by the generosity of Paulinus, the Vandals gave their freedom both to him and to all the Nolans in captivity with him. They are said to have arrived home on 26th June, now the day sacred to Paulinus. [8] On this day, which recalls at once the midsummer season, there were held at Nola until quite recent times, in the name of Paulinus, the strangest celebrations. [9] Perhaps the festival survives today. Every year, the nine Guilds of Nola brought forth in procession the nine pagodas, five stories high, taller than the tallest houses, whose construction had occupied six months. None might peep behind the canvas-covered scaffolding that enveloped the three outer sides of the slowly rising towers, nor behind the greenery that admitted the workers on the fourth side. At length, on the morning of the Feast, each edifice of cardboard and lathes with its innumerable figures and paintings was revealed to the delighted populace. Young folk took their place on the lowest floor of each tower, and behind them the musicians. Above were the serried rows of strange figures, paladins, cherubs, genii, saints and warriors, painted in brilliant colours, while the whole was surmounted by the figure of a saint on either a gold cupola or a carved lotus blossom. [10] Those who have stood by these towers have seen in them reminiscences of Indian art. But even stranger than the towers themselves was the ceremony which was next enacted. Each tower was hoisted on the shoulders of thirty stalwart young citizens and was carried in procession to the Cathedral square, where a dance took place in which the towers approached and receded, were made to bow to one another and to carry out elaborate figures of the dance. Meanwhile, before each tower in turn, a mime was executed by three youths, and around them and the tower there danced a circle of some twenty young men of Nola. During the procession, the populace, reinforced by merry-makers from all the surrounding Campania, shouting, singing, screaming, surged down the decorated streets and purchased from the numerous booths lining them. While the dance took place in the Cathedral square, a devout congregation within the Cathedral partook of the Sacrament. After this service, there was a procession round the city of clergy, led by their bishop and followed by the shouting populace. [11]

What bizarre images must have been graved on the mind of the Nolan child who witnessed this celebration in successive June months? The answer as regards at least one child is given by the overwhelming prolixity of images that pursue one another through the pages of Bruno when he is writing in his native language. Above all in the Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast we shall be bewildered by the successive figures; and the exhausting elaboration of his similes in all the Italian works may well be not unconnected with his recollections of the annual Feast of St. Paulinus of Nola. We have found no direct reference to the Feast in Bruno's writings. Reference to early childhood acquaintances in Nola have, however, been traced in some of his Italian works. [12]

It is not unlikely that in early youth, Bruno had contact with the poet Luigi Tansillo (1510-1568), who was sprung from a Nolan family. Tansillo appears as a character in Bruno's play, The Torch-Bearer, and in the Heroic Frenzies, and his poems are quoted by Bruno -- not always with acknowledgement. [13] Tansillo's lyrics have great beauty and it may be surmised that they exercised influence on Bruno. The favourite humanist theme of man's mastery of his destiny is echoed in the verses of Tansillo that inspired Bruno's lines attached to his Dedication of the work here translated. [14]

Perhaps Tansillo introduced the lad to the writings of an earlier and more famous poet whom Bruno quotes also in the present work, Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), whose Orlando Furioso had immense success both in his own lifetime and in the next generation. This epic is in the succession of broad Italian tales in which must be placed also Bruno's Torch-Bearer.

Bruno was sent for education to Naples. He was certainly an avid student and he described himself as pursuing in Naples "humanity, logic and dialectic." He attended at the Studium Generale the public lectures of Vincenze Colle of Sarno, and he studied privately with Teofilo de Vairano of the Augustinian monastery in Naples. Vairano subsequently taught in several colleges and was tutor to the son of Prince Marco Antonio Colonna. No work by him has come down to us.

In 1565 Filippo, then only seventeen years old, made the gravest mistake of a career that was uniformly unfortunate. He entered the Dominican monastery of San Domenico in Naples. [15] He was given the monastic name of Giordano [16] and after the usual year of probation he took the first vows. In the course of his training he passed through other monasteries of the Order, and at his trial, he stated to the Venetian Inquisition that he had sung his first Mass at the Convent of San Bartolomeo in the city of Campagna. [17] A revolting picture of the monastic life is given in his play The Torch-Bearer.

Bruno's studies in the monastery seem to have been fairly wide. [18] He had, naturally, the usual course of scholastic philosophy based on the works of St. Thomas whom he always held in great reverence. [19] In the convent libraries, too, Bruno no doubt laid the foundation of his intimate knowledge not only of many of the works of Aristotle (with the exception of the biological works, which he does not cite) but also of the literature of Aristotelian commentary, including those Arabic and Hebrew writers whose works had been translated into Latin. Here too he would certainly find Virgil and some other classical writers. Among classical writers cited by him are, besides pre-Socratic philosophers (of course at second hand), Cicero, Virgil, Lucan, Seneca and Ovid. In the monastic libraries Bruno may have made his first acquaintance with the works of Raymond Lull. Euclid may well have been found on the shelves, and also Ptolemy. He must have read some astronomy, as he was teaching the subject at Noli in 1576.

He often cites the Timaeus as well as Neo-Platonic writers. The general character of his knowledge suggests that while well-grounded in mediaeval Aristotelian philosophy, he regarded Platonic thought as somewhat an innovation, though it was the staple of the Italian humanists of his day. [20] Some Renaissance influence had, however, entered his monastery where a striking series of curious mythological reliefs, representing celestial bodies, may still be seen. Mythological imagery is a conspicuous element in Bruno's ethical works. This use of myth was of course a Renaissance habit, but no doubt the early impression on his mind at Nola and at Naples helped to mould the form of Bruno's later writings. Not only are whole works of Bruno permeated by classical mythology, but in true Renaissance style, mythological imagery is introduced even, for example, into his expression of gratitude to the University of Wittenberg. We know also from his statements at his trial that during his monastic period Bruno managed to read such modern authors as Erasmus who led him to examine the new religion.

In the monastery, Bruno must have been distinguished as of outstanding ability. Of his actual life there, however, we have record of only one incident of importance. In or about 1571, when he was but twenty-three, he had already made his mark to such an extent that he was summoned to Rome by the saintly Dominican Pope Pius V (d. 1572) and his Inquisitor fidei Cardinal Rebiba (1504-1577). It was his system of mnemonics that he was invited to expound to His Holiness. He mentions, however, several times that the Pope accepted the dedication to him of his (lost) work On the Ark of Noah. [21] But as with so many of his contacts, the interview at the Vatican came to nothing. [22]

The next stage in Bruno's career was inevitable. His tempestuous personality, fed to a fever with omnivorous reading, could not fail to lead him into trouble with the monastic authorities. It was indeed remarkable that the crisis was delayed for eleven years. He admitted to the Venice Inquisitors that proceedings were twice taken against him in the Naples convent "first for having cast away certain images of the Saints and retained only a Crucifix, thus coming under suspicion of despising the images of the saints. And another time for having ... recommended a novice who was reading the Istoria delle sette allegrezze [The Tale of the Seven Joys] in verse that he should throw this away and read some other work such as the Lives of the Holy Fathers." [23] His repudiation of intellectual restraint is constantly expressed and might be regarded as the theme of his life.

The final event was precipitated by a report that Bruno defended the Arian heresy. (Indeed he states in his works and repeated at his Venice trial his conviction that Arius had been "misunderstood.") We can well believe that plenty of tales of Bruno's strange views and behaviour were current among the conventual brethren. He managed somehow to get to Rome to the headquarters of his Order, but there he learned that a formidable indictment was being prepared against him in Naples, based on the discovery of an indiscreet attempt to conceal certain writings of Erasmus in the convent privy. Bruno determined to flee. [24] Most unwisely, he shed his monastic habit and thus debarred himself from hope of reconciliation with his superiors.

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b. First Years of Wandering (1576-81) (See Fig. 13)

Bruno had led eleven years of monastic life when in 1576 his wandering career began its homeless course. He had but sixteen years before the prison doors would close upon him. During that time, between the ages of twenty-eight and forty-four, he produced his voluminous works. Halfway through this active course he had a brilliant period of illumination. It was the year 1584 passed in London.

Bruno's first sojourn was at the tiny port of Noli in Genoese territory. Perhaps the name, reminiscent of home, appealed to him. He spent only some four months there, occupied in teaching "the Sphere," i.e., astronomy, to "certain gentlemen" and instructing small boys in grammar. His impatience and his highly involved symbolic and allusive mode of expression must have made him a superlatively bad instructor of children, and it is no wonder that his pedagogic career was brief. Yet to groups of youth, avid for the new learning, he never failed to appeal as he passed from town to town. Always he was encouraged; always his difficult temperament led him into trouble and he was passed onward.

Bruno's wanderings next took him up the coast to Savona, but eight miles away. His stay there was brief, and he went to Turin whence he turned eastward, followed the long course of the Po and came to Venice. He was not yet regarded as excommunicate, for (according to his own testimony at the Venice trial), he received in Venice permission from the Dominican Remigio Nannini Fiorentino to publish a work -- now lost -- On the Signs of the Times. [25] We know little of his movements at Venice except that he lodged close to the square of St. Mark in the centre of the town.

From Venice he turned back to Padua where he fell in with some fellow Dominicans who persuaded him to assume again the Friar's habit. They befriended the wanderer, but none pressed him to prolong his stay. Perhaps they feared contact with the strangely attractive, yet dangerous creature. Following the northern route back through Brescia, Bruno came to Bergamo where he resumed the monastic habit. He perhaps visited Milan, and then leaving Italy he crossed the Alps by the Mont Cenis pass, and came to Chambéry. He describes his hospitable reception there by the Dominican Convent, but again he received no encouragement to remain, and he journeyed on to Lyons.

Bruno's next movements are obscure. In 1579 he reached Geneva. Here again he received kindness, not unduly pressed, this time from the Marchese de Vico of Naples. This nobleman was accustomed to render help to Italian refugees who drifted to Geneva by reason of their adherence to the Calvinist faith. Bruno described at his Venice trial, more than twelve years later, how the Marquis had interrogated him and had received the reply, "I did not intend to adopt the religion of the city. I desired to stay there only that I might live at liberty and in security." Bruno was in his incurable mental detachment in fact completely indifferent to the quarrels between Catholic and Protestant, regarding them as irrelevant to the high philosophic problems that occupied his mind to the exclusion of all worldly wisdom and even of the commonest prudence.

Bruno admitted that the Marquis persuaded him finally to renounce his habit and that he presented him with a new outfit. [26] The question has sometimes been raised as to whether Bruno became a Protestant, but it is intrinsically most unlikely that he accepted membership in Calvin's communion. We may be sure, however, that he was eager to hear and consider for himself expositions of the faith that had commanded the sympathy of Erasmus whose writings had been the subject of his forbidden study in the Naples convent.

Bruno was no more prepared to exercise tact or reticence toward academic than toward ecclesiastical authority. It was in May 1579 that he inscribed his name in the Rector's Book of Geneva University, and in August we find him publishing a violent attack on Antoine de la Faye, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University, a close friend of the rector, and a learned translator of the Bible. Bruno felt it incumbent on him to expose at the earliest possible moment twenty errors in a single lecture of this influential professor.

The result was as might have been expected. Both Bruno and his printer were promptly arrested. The printer pleaded that he had been "misled by the monk" and was sentenced to a small fine. Bruno apologized, but was consigned for further trial to the theological Consistory. Here he considered himself called to argue again the merits of the discussion. He protested that the ministers of the Geneva Church were mere pedagogues and that his own writings had been totally misunderstood. Such pleading, equally unwise and disingenuous, naturally counteracted any grace that he might have won by his apology. Yet at the end of the month, he was petitioning at Geneva for the reversal of a sentence of deprival of the right of participation in the Sacrament. The reversal was granted, but Geneva was no longer a secure resting-place for him.

He now turned his face toward France. He decided to try Lyons, the great book centre where he might hope to find some sort of literary employment. But he was unable to gain a livelihood there and he passed on -- probably following the Rhone valley down to Avignon and then turning west through Montpellier -- until at length he reached Toulouse. [27] Here for some eighteen months Bruno found congenial occupation. As in Noli, he was at first engaged to lecture to a group of scholars on "the Sphere" and other philosophical matters.

France was at this period in the throes of the religious wars, and Toulouse, a stronghold of Protestantism, had been the scene of grim struggles culminating in 1572 in a minor St. Bartholomew following on the Paris massacre. But in 1580-81, the years of Bruno's visit, the university achieved a respite of comparative calm, and the usual regulation that the holder of a university post must participate in the Sacrament was not in force. Thus Bruno was under no special disability when a vacancy arose for a teacher of philosophy. The teachers at Toulouse were chosen by the students. Bruno must have speedily gained some popularity among them for, having hastily acquired his doctorate in theology, he was forthwith elected. [28]

Among his philosophical lectures at Toulouse was a course on the De anima of Aristotle, on which he wrote a book. Neither this nor a volume on mnemonics perhaps produced there has come down to us. [29] The subject of artificial memory was one of special interest at the time, and it had been stimulated by the recent publication in Paris of two works of Raymond Lull (1578); Bruno wasted a great part of his energy and of his active career on this barren topic. But the Civil Wars again advanced toward Toulouse and Bruno was forced to resume his wanderings.

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c. First Visit to Paris (1581-83) [30]

This time he journeyed to Paris, and at once made a bid for notice with a course of thirty lectures, each on one of the thirty divine attributes as treated by St. Thomas. Here he had an immediate success, the greatest granted him in the academic field, and one less ephemeral than in his other sojourns. The repute of his teaching and especially of his powers of memorization reached even King Henry III.

The Sovereign (so Bruno stated in Venice) sent for him to enquire whether his marvellous memory was natural or was achieved by magical art. Henry was in fact less interested in this distinction than in becoming master of the remarkable memory that he believed to be the source of the Italian's power. This search for power and knowledge by occult means (a theme set out for example in Goethe's Faust) was a real impelling force at that time when the nature of the scientific process was only very vaguely appreciated. It represents a naïf stage in the slow passage of the human mind toward an experimental standpoint. All evidence shows that Bruno had a most tenacious memory. Was his capacity directly provided and his knowledge communicated by the Evil One? Or were his power and knowledge derived from the intervention of kindly spirits? Or were they after all attained through those scarcely understood but harmless processes which we now call scientific? Was it a case of Black Magic, White Magic or Natural Magic? These were normal questions of the time. There was among Bruno's contemporaries some scepticism as to both the safety and the legitimacy of any of these aids, and no clear knowledge as to their frontiers. There was then, as indeed there is now, every gradation between a search for magical intervention and a frank acceptance of natural law. Some of the faith in magic was transmuted to belief in a vaguely apprehended system, a system which, it was thought, would enormously enhance human power and which partook of the nature of harmless or natural magic. [31] Sometimes the judicial examination of one charged with magical practices was in fact an attempt of the judge to gain for himself that power-bringing knowledge that the prisoner was thought to be concealing. The hope of a short cut to mastery over nature is quite in keeping with the attitude of the age.

This desire of the great to sap the source of his knowledge, this belief in a supernatural access to knowledge and power was, as we shall see, destined in the end to ruin Bruno. On this occasion, however, all went well. Bruno not only satisfied His Majesty but was permitted to dedicate to him the first of his surviving publications, On the Shadows of Ideas. [32] The first part of the work propounds the Platonic Ideas as the realities of which human beings and all material phenomena are but shadows. Bruno cites his favourite sources, the Wisdom literature and obscurer Greek writers, pre-Socratics and Neo-Platonists. He proceeds to his system of mnemonics as Shadows of Ideas.

The mnemonic methods of Bruno are in fact based on the system of Raymond Lull. The mastery of Lull's ridiculous and elaborate "systems" would appear to the modern mind as a proof rather than a cause of exceptional memory. But the royal patron was delighted with what seem to us mere childish devices. It was impossible to appoint Bruno to the Sorbonne where his appearance would have been forbidden by ecclesiastical authority, but a place was found for him by the King at the Collège de France, refounded some twenty-three years earlier by Francis II.

There followed for the wanderer a period of peace. The royal patronage no doubt facilitated publication of his works, of which three more appeared while he was in Paris. Among his Paris hearers, at least one became a faithful disciple. This was a young Czech nobleman, John â Nostitz. The mnemonic system of Bruno was as yet inextricably mingled with his philosophy that was at last taking shape. In 1615, thirty-three years after the delivery of the lectures and fifteen years after Bruno's death, the impressions of â Nostitz concerning his teacher were published in a small octavo volume printed at Brieg in Silesia, bearing a title which may be rendered: The Atrtifice According to Aristotle, Lull and Ramus Set Forth by John â Nostitz, Genuine Disciple of Jordanus Brunus, and Enlarged by Conrad Berg. The book is lost, and we know of it only from its entry in a sales catalogue [33] of books in which is printed an extract from the Preface of â Nostitz describing the impression created by Bruno and by his Lullian views and works in Paris in 1582.

Bruno's second published volume The Song of Circe, deals with "that practice of Memory which [the author] terms Judicial." [34] It again had exalted patronage, and is dedicated to Henry of Valois, Duke of Angoulême. [35] The Dedication is signed by one Jean Regnault, Councillor to the Duke, who sponsors both the work and Jordanus himself, stating that the author has entrusted him with the completion of the work. He writes that Giordano has "subsequently" completed another work on Memory dedicated to the King himself. Moreover, Regnault introduced Bruno to his friend the Venetian Ambassador to the French King, John Moro, to whom is dedicated yet another Lullian volume, The Compendious Building and Completion of the Lullian Art. [36] In the title of both these works, Bruno prefixes to his name the title Philotheus which reappears in several of his works published in London. [37]

Further works on mnemonics and Lullian logic were followed by the play The Torch-Bearer by Bruno the Nolan, Graduate of No Academy, Called the Nuisance. This may well have been his nickname and it is not unlike him to quote it, for he did not number humour among his qualities, though he had a fund of vituperative eloquence which almost took its place. On the frontispiece appears for the first time that phrase "In tristicia hilaris in hilaritate tristis" ("Joyful in grief, in gaiety sad"), which appears at intervals in Bruno's later works. The title Candelaio (The Torch-Bearer) suggests, in the Italian idiom of the day, the outspokenness which we should regard as obscenity pervading the work. This was a commonplace of the period, but is worth notice since it is associated in the play with characters who have been identified with Bruno's convent life. The work betrays Bruno's almost frantic detestation of hypocrisy and quackery in morals as in learning, and the beginnings of his formulation of a new ethic and a new philosophy:

  This is a kind of fabric in which warp and woof are one: he who can, will understand.... You must imagine yourselves in the most royal city of Naples near the Nile Square. [38] ... Contemplating the action and speech with the mind of a Heraclitus or a Democritus, you will find cause to laugh, or rather to weep? [39]

There are three principal themes woven into this comedy: the love of Bonifacio, the alchemy of Bartolomeo and the pedantry of Mamphurio.... We present the savourless and laggard lover, the niggardly miser, the foolish pedant. The laggard is not without stupidity and foolishness; the miser similarly is savourless and foolish; while the fool is no less niggardly and savourless than he is foolish. [40]

You will see, in mixed confusion, snatches of cutpurses, wiles of cheats, enterprises of rogues; also delicious repulsiveness [disgusti], bitter sweets, foolish decisions, mistaken faith and crippled hopes, niggard charities, judges noble and serious for other men's affairs with little ruth in their own; virile women, effeminate men and voices of craft and not of mercy so that he who believes most is most fooled -- and everywhere the love of gold. Hence proceed quartan fevers, spiritual cancers, light thoughts, ruling follies ... thrusting will, advancing knowledge, fruitful action, purposive industry. In fine you will see throughout naught secure, sufficiency of dealings and of vice, little beauty and nothing of good. I think I hear the persons of this play -- Heaven keep thee. [41]

Bruno's play mirrored not only his convent experiences but also his observations in the universities that he had visited. It cannot have been conducive to friendship with those academic "pedants" whom his irony flagellates. The publication of what might have been rather circulated in manuscript among his friends was the tactless act of a man devoid of the wisdom of human relationships.

None of Bruno's important philosophical works had yet appeared. Nevertheless, his Paris sojourn and especially French Platonism must have stimulated his thought. He must surely have heard discussion of the great French anti-Aristotelian Pierre de la Ramée who was a victim of the massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572). Bruno refers to him as "that arch pedant of a Frenchman who has brought his scholasticism to the liberal arts." [42] We may speculate whether Bruno's apostrophe of the Dual in Nature could nevertheless have been suggested by De la Ramée's emphasis on dichotomy in logic, or perhaps by the views of Telesio. [43]

A Platonist scholar who had occupied the Chair of Greek at the Collège de France and was surely still discussed in Paris at the time of Bruno's first sojourn there was Louis le Roy (d. 1577). He was known as a vitriolic critic as well as a prolific writer. Yet he is in the tradition of those Renaissance writers who pleaded for toleration and a sense of human brotherhood. As we shall see in considering the influence on Bruno of some other writers, this bias toward toleration of different schools of thought and even of different religion was connected with the philosophical view of the Coincidence of Contraries. [44] Le Roy published in 1570 an Exhortation en françois pour vivre en concorde et iouir du bien de la paix, dedicated to the King.

A considerable sensation was created by another work which le Roy dedicated to Henry III, the Douze livres de la vicissitude ou varieté des choses de l'univers et concurrence des armes et des lettres par les premieres et plus illustres nations du monde. [45] The first eleven books give a general philosophical survey of history. In book XII he expatiates on the necessity of preserving a record of the achievements of civilization lest all be lost in the current disasters and wars. "Faisons pour la posterité ce que l'antiquité a fait pour nous à fin que le scavoir ne se perde mais prenne de iour en iour accroissement." His thesis is that "everywhere contraries balance one another." He is thus very near to the Coincidence of Contraries. Another element in Bruno's philosophy, that which we shall call Cosmic Metabolism, is foreshadowed in this work of le Roy. Though accepting the Aristotelian Spheres, [46] he expounds that "It seemed unto Plato that the world was nourished by the consumption and decay of itself producing always new creatures from the old." He also emphasizes the relativity of our conventional description of positions, "upper," "lower," etc.

It is tempting to imagine that Bruno during his sojourn in Paris may have met Jean Bodin (1530-1596) who was also for a time befriended by Henry III, though he held the dangerous view that sovereignty is inalienable from and belongs to the people as a whole as distinguished from the governmental power which they delegate to their rulers. Already we may conceive there was discussion in Paris literary circles leading to the remarkable work which Bodin wrote in 1599 -- when Bruno was beyond its cheering message. The title is The Colloquy of Seven Men of various religions who each contribute to the formulation of an exalted philosophy. [47]

Doubtless discussion of such matters had its part in the formation of Bruno's philosophy. But whether on account of his play The Torch-Bearer or owing to the Civil War in France, Paris became uncomfortable for him. The time had come when his Catholic Majesty, like Bruno's other patrons, was readier to recommend him to others than to retain his services. Bruno turned his eyes across the Channel. That his reputation for dangerous views on matters spiritual had preceded him in England we learn in a side light from Sir Henry Cobham, the British Ambassador in Paris. He writes to Walsingham on 28th March, 1583:

  "Dr. Jordano Bruno Nolano, a professor in philosophy, intendeth to pass into England whose religion I cannot commend." [48] 

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