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CHolden: Giordano Bruno

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: CHolden: Giordano Bruno
Date: 21 Jul 1997 16:41:13 -0700

[both from Clay Holden ]


Loran wrote:

>>Perhaps I'm showing my youth here, but the name Giordana Bruno doesn't
>>ring a bell.  I'd be grateful if you could please fill me in on who this
>>person is. Thanks a million!

Others have already noted that Giordano Bruno was a Renaissance Italian
Hermetic philosopher, magician, teacher, scientist and heretic, who was
burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition on February 16, 1600,
after nine years of imprisonment and refusal to recant.

For the next two and a half centuries, the Church refused to admit that
they had done the deed, nor even that Bruno had ever existed.

He was trained in the Art of Memory by the Dominicans, and published a
number of valuable works on it, many of which suggested magical techniques
utilizing it which went well beyond the limits allowed by any branch of
the Church. He was first charged with heresy by the Neopolitan Inquisition
in 1576, and when he went to Rome was told that charges were pending
against him there as well. He spent most of the rest of his life as a
fugitive from injustice, and his last decade as a prisoner.

Among other things, he wrote in his _Cause, Principal and Unity_ ("Della
causa, principio ed uno", Book V, 1584):

 "We can assert with certitude that the universe is all center, or that
  the center of the universe is everywhere and the circumference nowhere."

  [translation by Anthony Kerrigan from "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal" by
  Jorge Luis Borges in _Labyrinths:Selected Stories & Other Writings_
  (1964 New Directions Paperbacks, ISBN 0-8112-0012-4).]

The full original statement reads as follows:

 "Dunque, l'individuo no e differente dal dividuo, il simplicissimo da
  l'infinito, il centro da la circonferenza. Perche dunque l'infinito e
  tutto quello che puo essere, e inmobile; perche in lui tutto e
  indifferente, e uno; e perche ha tutta la grandezza e perfezione che si
  possa oltre e oltre avere, e massimo ed ottimo immenso. Se il punto non
  differisce dal corpo, il centro da la circonferenza, il finito da
  l'infinito, il massimo dal minimo, sicuramente possiamo affirmare che
  l'universo e tutto centro, o che il centro de l'universo e per tutto, e
  che la circonferenza non e in parte alcuna per quanto e differente dal
  centro, o pur che la circonferenza e per tutto, ma il centro non si
  trova in quanto che e differente da quella..."

(Perhaps one of our Italian list members would care to translate?)

To my mind, this puts him the company of Hermes Trismegistus and Blaise
Pascal as one of the sources of thought that informs the second chapter
of Liber Al (whoever one considers the author of that work to be).

C.L.K. replied to Loran:

>Run to the bookstore and get
>Dame Francis Yates book
>_Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition_
>If you are a book collector, you'll be glad
>you did!

Agreed. An excellent place to start. Yates' works are a welcome resource
in any library.

Here are some additional Bruno bibliographical resources:

Studies of Bruno, currently available, or easily to be found used:

* Frances Yates has much additional material on Bruno in her _The Art
  of Memory_, published two years after _GB&tHT_, which is a valuable
  work in its own right for any student of the Western Magical Tradition.
  (1966 University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-95001-8)

  Her remaining essays on Bruno, most of which were originally published
  in the *Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes* from 1938 to
  1943 were published in _Lull & Bruno: Collected Essays Vol.I_.
  (1982 Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0-7100-0952-6 [v. I])

* Ioan P. Culiano's _Eros and Magic in the Renaissance_, in addition to
  giving the most insightful interpretation of Bruno's Opus, is also
  the only work I know of written about a gnostic martyr by a gnostic
  martyr (though neither are _yet acknowledged by the EGC as Gnostic
  Saints).  Includes material examining some of Bruno's untranslated
  Latin magickal works, and his sex-magickal theories. So good in so
  many ways, it cannot be too highly recommended. Also gives extensive
  consideration to other important sources such as Iohannes Trithemius,
  Pico Della Mirandola and Marcilio Ficino. Absolutely essential.
  (1987 University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-12316-2)

* Dorothea Waley Singer's _Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought_, though
  out of print, is worth looking for as a major biography of Bruno, and
  for her annotated translation of his _De l'Infinito Universo et Mondi_
  ("On the Infinite Universe and Worlds"), one of the cornerstones of his
  philosophical thought, and one of the primary reasons he was burned at
  the stake. (1950 Henry Schuman, Inc.)

* Hilary Gatti's _The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge_ examines Bruno's
  influence on English literature and scientific philosophy. Subtitled
  "Giordano Bruno in England", it studies his work with relation to the
  manuscripts in the library of the Duke of Northumberland, and the work
  of Christopher Marlowe (_Doctor Faustus_) and William Shakespeare.
  (1989 Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0-415-03207-5)

* John Bossy's _Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair_, which posits that
  Bruno worked as an intelligence agent for the British Secret Service to
  frustrate Catholic attempts to overthrow Elizabeth. Interesting, whether
  or not one accepts the author's conclusions, for its study of Bruno's
  travels, contacts, and political opinions. Also contains transcriptions
  and translations of much correspondence between "Henry Fagot" (who the
  author identifies as Bruno) and members of Elizabeth's court.
  (1991 Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-04993-5)

* I. Frith's _Life of Giordano Bruno the Nolan_ (1887 Ticknor & Co.,
  Boston) was the first notable biography of Bruno in English, and is
  still the most exhaustive, running well over 300 pp. It is supplemented
  with several interesting appendices, which identify the known works of
  Bruno, and his surviving manuscripts in several collections. Worth
  looking for in university libraries.

* Ramon G. Mendoza, PhD.'s _The Acentric Labyrinth: Giordano Bruno's
  Prelude to Contemporary Cosmology_ is the latest entry I am aware of.
  In it, Mendoza argues that Bruno as the true founder of contemporary
  cosmology. To quote briefly from the author's introduction:

   "It generally escapes the notice of most contemporary historians of
    science that it was Giordano Bruno who, for the first time in the
    history of thought, both Western and Oriental, clearly and explicitly
    formulated precisely these three fundamental metaphysical assumptions
    of contemporary cosmology: the unity of the universe, its uniformity,
    homogeneity and isotropy, and the universal validity and applicability
    of its laws."

  Mendoza refutes much of the material written on Bruno by Yates, and
  utterly discounts Bossy's detective story. Notably, he is the second
  Jesuit to write a biography of Bruno (the first being Gatti).
  (1995 Element Books, Inc., ISBN 1-85230-640-8)


Also, works by Bruno available in English and currently in print :

* _The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast_ ("Spaccio de la bestia
  trionfante" 1584), translated and introduced by Arthur D. Imerti,
  is an excellent starting place. Readily available in paperback for
  under $10 in better bookstores, it is the work named specifically at
  Bruno's final trial by the church tribunal that ordered him burned.
  One of Bruno's Italian dialogues, the flyleaf describes it (in part):

   "Allegorically, the "triumphant beast" signifies the multifarious
    vices that have triumphed over man and society. Bruno's work is cast
    in the form of dialogues which recount the deliberations of the Greek
    gods who have assembled to banish from the heavens the constellations
    that remind them of their evil deeds. Guided by these deliberations,
    Jove commands that the moral virtues be elevated to the places of
    Ursa, Gemini, Perseus, Hercules, and other constellations, thereby
    establishing the premises upon which he will criticize not only the
    Greek religion, but also, anachronistically, all of the Judaeo-
    Christian religions. The crisis facing Jove, the aging father of the
    gods, is symbolic of the crisis in the life of Renaissance man,
    profoundly disturbed by new religious, philosophical, and scientific

  (In reprint 1992 by the University of Nebraska, ISBN 0-8032-6104-7)

* _The Ash Wednesday Supper_ ("La Cena de le ceneri" 1584), translated
  and edited by Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner, is another of
  Bruno's Italian dialogues, and considered by many to be the one of
  his finest. Again quoting from the flyleaf:

   "Arguing for the physical reality of the infinite universe with no
    centre, Bruno sought to prove that each man is every man, that
    conflict would be resolved if all men accepted the unifying potential
    of his hermetic religion. Using this radical cosmology, Bruno sought
    to heal the secular and religious wounds of sixteenth-century Europe."

* _On the Composition Of Images, Signs & Ideas_ ("De Imaginum, Signorum &
  Ideorum Compositione" 1591), translated by Charles Doria, Edited and
  Annotated by Dick Higgins, is the final work published by Bruno in his
  lifetime, and it is in many ways his crowning achievement. Quoting (once
  again) from the Introduction:

   "...the careful reader _must _not skip the "Dedicatory Epistle" which
    begins the work, since there Bruno describes what he is setting out to
    do, namely to present idea, imagination, analogy, figure, arrangement
    and notation, the universe of God and the world of nature and _reason,
    so that one may understand precisely how and why analogs among things
    reflect and imitate divine action. In this way, he will reach a more
    developed state of knowledge and enlightenment.
   "_De Imaginum... Compositione_ itself is divided into three books. The
    first presents philosophical reasons and underpinnings, the second
    provides a vision of the Olympian deities, and the third assembles a
    methodology of mnemonics, games and ludibria, and diagrams..."

  The book itself is a work of art, from the outer wrapper, which is silk-
  screened onto clear latex, to the reproductions in the text of both the
  original illustrations from the 1591 edition and the 1879 _Iordani Brvni
  Nolani Opera Latina Conscripta_. It is expensive ($39.95), but worth it.
  (1991 Willis, Locker & Owens, ISBN 0-930279-18-2)


Lastly, two connected works of fiction in which Bruno plays a significant
role (along with John Dee and Edward Kelley) are John Crowley's excellent
_Aegypt_ (1987) and _Love & Sleep_ (1994). In particular, the scene where
Bruno looks up at the night sky and realizes that there is _no circle of
fixed stars is memorable. Highly recommended.

There are several other of Bruno's works available either in used book
stores or in better libraries (e.g. another translation of his _Ash
Wednesday Supper_ and at least two translations of his _De gli eroici
furori_ ("The Heroic Frenzies") and a number of other biographical and
philosophical studies, but this is only intended to provide some starting
places. Excellent bibliographies can be found in several of the above.


A quick follow-up...

>* _The Ash Wednesday Supper_ ("La Cena de le ceneri" 1584), translated
>  and edited by Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner[...]

Sorry, forgot the bibliographical data on this:

 1995 University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-7469-3

Also, to view some of Bruno's work online, direct your favorite browser
to Joseph Peterson's web-site:

where he reprints Bruno's _De Umbris Idearum_ ("The Shadow of Ideas"
1582) in Latin, with the original illustrations.

Also, he is in the process of reprinting Paolo Eugene Memmo, Jr.'s 1964
English translation of Bruno's 1585 _De gli eroici furori_ ("The Heroic

Good reading,

93 93/93


                                 Clay Holden
                                     ( - )
                   ( + )
                        "Super caelestes roretis aquae:  __:__
                         Et terra fructum dabit suum."     |
                                  -John Dee              /^|^\


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