Giordano Bruno: 16th Century UFOlogist?
- June 26, 2016
by Joan d’Arc
Filippo Bruno was born in Nola Italy in 1548. When he was 13 years old he entered school at the Monastery of Saint Domenico. Taking the name Giordano, he became a Dominican priest in 1565, but was forced to run away 11 years later due to his shockingly inappropriate ideas.
Author of countless obscure writings originally written in Italian or Latin, the Theosophists claim Giordano Bruno as their own mystic and martyr. The Rosicrucians credit Bruno with the revival of their Egyptian-based religion. In Bruno are seen the first hints of Freemasonry in England, with its Egyptian mysteries, its overt philanthropy – its “good works.” Bruno was a pioneer in the study of what is today called Semantics, and he is a character referred to as “The Nolan” in James Joyce’s complex tale, Finnegans Wake.
Modern environmentalists claim Bruno as the forerunner of the Gaian environmental movement. Gaia is the ancient name for the Earth, a being which is considered by “pagan” religions to be alive with universal intelligence. Bruno was a Pantheist. He believed all of nature to be alive with divine spirit, intelligence and consciousness. To Bruno, Nature is God, and God is Nature.
Bruno’s works revived the basic heliocentrism of early Greek philosophers, which seems to have begun with Aristarchus of Samos in approximately 260 BC. Even earlier, Pythagorus had taught in 580 B.C. that the earth was a sphere. Ptolemy too had taught that the earth was a sphere, but the earth was at the center of Ptolemy’s universe. Aristotle’s earth-centered cosmology became the accepted doctrine for hundreds of years in a tyranny of thought brutally enforced by the Catholic Church.
According to the Catholic Church, heliocentrism threatened the credibility of the Holy Scripture, which was believed to be the supreme authority in all matters, including science. There were no “novel interpretations of the Bible” allowed. The first sentence of the earth-centered Genesis tale tells us that, “In the beginning, God created the earth and the heavens.” According to the Holy Book, He put the earth there first and placed the other bodies in the skies for the benefit of mankind.
Bruno the Time Traveler
Bruno knitted into the fabric of his cosmic picture various systems of ancient knowledge. He merged into his system the pantheistic doctrines of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus and Persians and the essentially animistic physics of the 21st Century. Some have even considered Bruno a time traveler, since his ideas touched those of the ancient past as well as the distant future. For instance, Bruno foretold the “Many Worlds Theory” of quantum mechanics; the theory that the universe splits into many possible worlds as events unfold in time. He once reasoned as follows: “I can imagine an infinite number of worlds like the earth, with a Garden of Eden on each one. In all these Gardens of Eden, half the Adams and Eves will not eat the fruit of knowledge, but half will. But half of infinity is infinity, so an infinite number of worlds will fall from grace and there will be an infinite number of crucifixions. Therefore, either there is one unique Jesus who goes from one world to another, or there are an infinite number of Jesuses. Since a single Jesus visiting an infinite number of earths one at a time would take an infinite amount of time, there must be an infinite number of Jesuses. Therefore, God must create an infinite number of Christs.”
Needless to say, this idea did not go over too big with Church authorities when they got wind of it. Nonetheless, Bruno continued. In an extraordinary tide of information revelation, Bruno pulled the past and the future together as though it were the folds of an infinite curtain. As a physics web site explains, “The physical world of things is embedded in the infinite, embedded in a space filled with all the other possible worlds… We see a few of those other worlds in the probability waves of quantum mechanics.” Bruno intuited the conditions of such a world as “the coincidence in the One of both the possible and the real.”
As both Quantum Theory and Einstein’s Relativity now suggests, we live in a Many Worlds Universe, where all the moments of the past, the present, and future exist simultaneously as part of a single permanent existence. Oddly, Bruno the time traveler had this to say about God and Time: “The single thought, which is Thy Word, embraces all and each in itself, Thy single word cannot be manifold, opposite, changeable … In the eternity in which Thou thinkest, coincides all the after another of time, with the now of eternity. There is, therefore, no past nor future where future and past coincide with the present.” (McIntyre)
Giordano Bruno also prefigured the idea of the atom, and smaller still, a unit which was divisible by nothing else, a unit of thought, when he wrote: “an atom, beyond which we cannot in fact go, although to thought it may be still further divisible; so there is in every figure, in every kind of thing, a definite number of atoms.” (McIntyre) Today quantum physicists suggest that thought, the act of human attention, is the force that gives birth to possibilities in the world of matter. Scientist Harold McGowan proposed the “thoughtron” to be an atom tinier than any other and to be contained in all things. In his book The Thoughtron Theory of Life and Matter, McGowan proposed that the thoughtron, as the smallest elementary particle, would be the mental bridge between the thought world and formal reality. (McGowan)
Bruno looked toward mathematics and geometry for the true method of natural science, writing that “number is the natural and fruitful principle of the understanding’s activity; … number is the unfolding of understanding.” (McIntyre) Yet, Bruno also could not “conceive of a philosophy of nature, of number, of geometry, of a diagram, without infusing into these divine meanings.” His philosophy was never divorced from divinity. Although he refused dogmatic teachings and always pushed the envelope, he was truly a holy man.
A Historical Perspective
To put his life in historical perspective, in 1543, when Giordano Bruno was five years old, Nicholas Copernicus published his mathematical treatise (De Revolutionibus) which vindicated the Greek Pythagorus, who at around 580 B.C. argued that the earth was a sphere. Copernicus re-established the ancient Greek heliocentrism of Aristarchus of Samos by proving mathematically that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Yet, Bruno accused Copernicus of not fully understanding the meaning of his discovery; of being “only a mathematician.” Bruno’s divine intuition of the infinity of worlds picked up where Copernicus left off.
Bruno rejected the limits of the Copernican system, which posited a finite universe limited by a fixed sphere of stars just beyond the solar system. He argued that the sun was not actually the center of the universe, saying that if you were able to observe the sun from any of the other stars it would simply look like any other star. Bruno even speculated that the other worlds would be inhabited.
In 1588, Galileo Galilei began to teach Copernican theory at the University of Pisa. Much later, in 1609, Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter via a hand-made telescope. With the invention of the telescope by a Dutchman, Copernican theory ceased to be “esoteric.” Various visual proofs were discovered.
Still, Galileo was brought to Rome and interrogated by the Inquisition in 1615. He was forced to declare the Copernican system as scientifically false, and he was forced to promise to stop teaching it. Galileo ignored his promise, and returned to Florence and continued with his work, publishing sixteen years later, in 1632, his Dialogues on Great World Systems. He was called back to Rome by the Inquisition in 1633, and again forced to recant heliocentrism under threat of torture, this time being put under house arrest until his death in 1642. Galileo invited the Inquisitors to look through his telescope and see for themselves the moons of Jupiter which revolved around it, but they refused to do so. Heliocentrism was officially condemned over 20 years later, in 1664, when Pope Alexander VII banned all books which affirmed the motion of the earth.
Yet, almost a hundred years before this, there was Giordano Bruno. Bruno spoke in France and Germany and taught heliocentrism at Oxford, England, well before the 16th Century. Bruno and Galileo have much in common. Both were Italians, both espoused heliocentrism in the 1580s, although Bruno was teaching it a few years earlier, and both were an annoyance to the Inquisition authorities. However, Galileo does not mention Bruno because it was dangerous to even speak of such a heretic. Bruno was not a mathematician, and he was not an astronomer. He was a member of the Dominican clergy and he had the audacity to take his theories to the infinite fringes of thought. In 1584, at the age of 36, Bruno spoke before a group in London. He told them that space was filled with an infinite number of solar systems and that each had a central sun around which planets revolved. He taught that the planets shone by reflected light, but the suns were self-luminous bodies. He even spoke of sun-spots, which he had learned from Nicolas de Cusa, and the forward motion of our own solar system in space. In Bruno’s philosophy, nothing stood still-everything was in motion, from the smallest atom to the largest star system.
Remarkably, Bruno was espousing these beliefs at a time when the flat motionless earth was the sole concern of a personal God and Father, who certainly had no other children anywhere else. The Father gave to His children the gift of the earth, the Garden of Eden, around which he placed for their sole pleasure the Sun, the moon and stars. These points of light were far from being understood by Europeans to be universes of their own-solar systems perhaps inhabited by other intelligent beings like ourselves. Bruno’s universe was infinite and included an indefinite number of worlds each consisting of a sun and several planets. In Bruno’s philosophy, the earth was a small insignificant body in an infinite universe. Coming from this point of view, there was nothing special about this “special creation.”
This radical view was a heretical idea; yet Bruno shouted it, sometimes sitting near the door of the meeting hall so he could run from the crowd if he had to. Bruno made a public appearance in May of 1586 in the Library of the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris. Bruno sat his assistant, Jean Hennequin, in the “great chair,” while Bruno himself sat in a little chair near the door to the garden. Bruno apparently took this precaution in case he needed to leave hastily. And as it turned out, he did. Bruno’s assistant provided the following introduction to the lecture:
“We have been imprisoned in a dark dungeon, whence only distantly could we see the far off stars. But now we are released. We know that there is one heaven, a vast ethereal region in which move those flaming bodies which announce to us the glory and majesty of God. This moves us to contemplate the infinite cause of the infinite effect; we see that the divinity is not far distant, but is within us, for its centre is everywhere, as close to dwellers in other worlds as it is to us. Hence we should follow not foolish authorities but the regulated sense and the illuminated intellect.” (Yates)
When Bruno’s speech was over, he called for anyone in the audience to defend Aristotle. When no one did, he left and was followed by several students. The students grabbed him and demanded he retract his insults to Aristotle. Bruno escaped on the condition that he would show up and do so the next day-but he left town and never returned.
Bruno spoke of both the diversity of life and the sameness of life. He referred to diversity and difference as aspects of one and the same substance: “the coincidence of contraries.” He noted, “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.” (McIntyre)
In his dialogue, The Ash Wednesday Supper, Bruno praised Copernican theory, yet went far beyond Copernicus himself in his intuition of the infinity of the universe. He identified the matter in the earth with the matter of the planets and stars, and wrote of the possibility that “such living beings inhabit them as inhabit the earth”; he wrote that the earth and stars themselves are “living organisms”; he wrote that “there are not seven planets or wandering stars only, but innumerable such, for every world, whether of the sun-type or of the earth-type, is in motion, its motion proceeding from the spirit within it.” (McIntyre)
In his work, Cause, Principle, and Unity, written in 1584, Bruno wrote of “the spirituality of all causation; the eternity of matter; its divinity as the potentiality of all life; its realization in the universe as a “formed” thing; the infinite whole and the innumerable parts, as different aspects of the same: … diversity and difference as aspects of one and the same substance …” (McIntyre) Bruno’s dialogues were said by many of his peers to be “worthy of Plato.” In this work, Bruno stated the following:
“This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death-dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature-from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the universe, and the observer is always at the center of things.”
As he rightly argued, the sun was not the center of the whole shebang, and wasn’t even the only sun, but was simply the center of one particular part of the world. How did Bruno know this? Intuition of infinity… He imagined it!
In 1584, Bruno wrote The Infinite Universe and its Worlds, which “contained a masterly array of reasons, physical and metaphysical, for the belief that the universe is infinite, and is full of innumerable worlds of living creatures.” (McIntyre) Bruno wrote: “Innumerable suns exist; innumerable earths revolve around these suns…. Living beings inhabit these worlds.” The basic theme of Bruno’s Spaccio, also written in the year 1584, is “the glorification of the magical religion of the Egyptians.” Bruno believed their worship was really the worship of “God in things.” Bruno wrote in Spaccio, “for diverse living things represent divine spirits and powers, which, beyond the absolute being which they have, obtain a being communicated to all things according to their capacity and measure. Whence God as a whole is in all things.”
Bruno the UFOlogist?
Taken as a whole, Bruno’s various sentiments sound uncannily similar to a quote in the August 2001 issue of New Age magazine attributed to Harvard psychiatrist/UFOlogist John Mack that, “We are spiritual beings connected with other life forms and the cosmos in a profound way, and the cosmos itself contains a numinous intelligence. It’s not just dead matter and energy.”
Mack has also stated: “With the help of the abduction phenomenon we will have discovered a new picture of the universe in which psyche and world manifest and evolve together according to principles we have not yet fathomed.” He has referred to the alien abduction phenomenon as “a kind of spiritual outreach program from the cosmos for the spiritually impaired.”
Mack suggests: “We need to transcend the separateness that disconnects us from nature. If we could transcend this division, we might then explore, enjoy, and travel ecstatically, lovingly, materially and non-materially, among the unique particularities of our own being, our own natures within the cosmos, experiencing at the same time an essential unity and sacredness of creation.” (http://www.peer-mack.org/)
We might consider that this division-the excision or removal of God from Nature, as a power working from some lofty plain above Nature-is perhaps the cause of our spiritual impairment. We can look to the many blasphemies of Giordano Bruno to reunite our lost souls with the sacredness of all creation.
Bruno’s sentiments also reverberate in the words of UFO-tracker Steven M. Greer, who, in his book Extraterrestrial Contact, suggests that our “concepts of God, creation, life and religious meaning will evolve in the direction of accommodating the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and this will cause an increasing ‘universalization’ of God.”
We must realize that this universalization of God is just what turned the attention of the Roman Inquisition toward Giordano Bruno’s heretical ideas four hundred years ago. Greer looks to a future where we will see God as “an infinite Creator whose glory is not confined to the Earth.” This is an idea whose time has still not yet come four hundred years after the first Universalist loudly proclaimed that there might be intelligent life out there in other worlds similar to our own. Greer’s universalism is evident when he writes, “Regardless of planet, star system or galaxy of origin, and no matter how diverse, ETs are essentially intelligent, conscious, sentient beings. We are, essentially, one. On this basis, we may speak of one people inhabiting one universe.” Greer explains, “the simple thread of conscious intelligence which runs through all peoples elegantly weaves our unity. This essential unity is not subject to the trials of diversity, for it is pure, immutable and fundamental to the existence of intelligent life itself.” Or, in Giordano Bruno’s words, “diversity and difference are aspects of one and the same substance… the same principle of life.” That substance or principle is Universal Consciousness, the First Cause, or God. The problem is we are so used to thinking of God as an old guy with a beard that we cannot fathom this idea of universal consciousness.
The development of this attitude of “universality based in consciousness,” Greer argues, is necessary for peace and unity to develop among peoples of the earth, and to assure peaceful interactions between earth humans and other intelligent life in the universe. The endless diversity which our astounding universe may hold must be met with what Greer calls “the calmness of universal consciousness.” Now, in the 21st Century, we stand poised to take that same message one step further and over the great divide. If Greer is right, we are ready to meet our cousins, the once imaginary cousins of Giordano Bruno.
Whether we like it or not, the good old earth is heading toward a paradigm shift. Gaia has spoken her mind. She has seen enough bloodshed, enough toxic destruction, enough reckless waste of resources that should have been bountiful enough for all her children. Strangely, the message from Mother Earth is coming in from a mysterious source-so-called ETs-distant cousins we never knew we had. There is an undeniable power behind this paradigm shift that may emanate from beyond earth, and it’s coming whether we like it or not.
We must realize that this universality is still a radical idea, almost as radical an idea as it was in Bruno’s time. Greer’s universality really shines through in his statement that, “We must look to our inner reality to find our oneness with other intelligent life in the universe … for there is one universe inhabited by one people, and we are they.” (Extraterrestrial Contact, 19)]
Last time I spoke here, I quoted Vatican official, Monsignor Corrado Balducci. As Balducci stated in an interview with Zecharia Sitchin:
“That life may exist on other planets is certainly possible… The Bible does not rule out that possibility. On the basis of scripture and on the basis of our knowledge of God’s omnipotence, His wisdom being limitless, we must affirm that life on other planets is possible… credible and even probable.”
It’s interesting to see that a Vatican spokesman has publicly made such a radical statement. We must wonder how and why this has come about. Novel interpretations of the Bible, once considered punishable by torture on the rack, are now coming at us from all directions, including the Vatican. The Vatican has come close to apologizing for Galileo’s hardships, but not Bruno’s. It is unlikely that the Vatican will be quoting from Giordano Bruno’s books anytime soon.
Scientific discoveries have always caused trouble for dogmatic Church teachings. In Bruno’s time, astronomy was a threat to the teachings of the Church. Two hundred years later, geology challenged the Holy Book’s credibility, and it was maintained by Christians that Satan, the Father of all Lies, must have placed fossils there to deceive mankind. A hundred years ago, evolutionary biology threatened the Genesis account of special creation. Now, many fundamentalist Christians believe that UFO’s in the skies are piloted by Satan’s “fallen angels.”
Many Christians still cannot concede that there could be human beings stationed anywhere else in God’s creation. One Christian author writing recently in Paranoia summed up the crux of this earth-centered theological dilemma when she wrote, “If doubt can be cast on the first sentence in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible, then the whole book is up for grabs.” (Wallace, Paranoia, Issue 27) It’s interesting that we still haven’t gotten over that hump.
We should not fail to appreciate that the belief in life on other planets was once dangerously heretical, a belief that present day UFOlogists assume as a bottom line. Not that Harvard University didn’t try to excommunicate John Mack, the heretic. They certainly tried. But baby steps are still steps and slow progress is still progress. We may even think of Giordano Bruno, therefore, as the first speculative UFOlogist.
Another idea which Bruno wrote about continues to be frowned upon by the Western world and mainstream religions: that is, the concept of the reincarnation of the soul through various life cycles.
Giordano Bruno brought back from ages past the Pythagorian and Platonic doctrines of the Law of Karma and the Law of Reincarnation: that every act brings its appropriate reward or punishment in another life, and that each individual determines for itself by its actions its transition into another body. In his Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante, published in 1584, Bruno described the condition of a soul who had misused its opportunities on Earth, saying that such a soul would be “… relegated back to another body, and should not expect to be entrusted with the administration of a better dwelling if it had conducted itself badly in the conduct of a previous one.” (Great Theosophists) Although it seems a fate worse even than the Christian version of Hell-that we should continually need to repeat various incarnations until we get it right-the idea was heretical because in essence Bruno was charging that there was no Hell! Bruno’s belief was that there was a spark of the divine in human beings and that we are in charge of our own fate. Bruno’s ideas were nothing short of pantheistic: that “the Infinite has nothing which is external to Itself,” that all living matter contains a spark of the divine.
The Art of Memory
Toward the end of Bruno’s life, he was hired by an Italian named Mocenigo to teach him certain skills of mnemonics (memory), an art for which Bruno was well known having written several books on the subject, including The Art of Memory, The Shadows of Ideas, and Incantations of Circe. Bruno had earlier fled Italy so that he could be as far away from the Inquisition authorities as possible, publishing his books while in England, France and Germany. But he missed his homeland, and when he was invited back to Italy by this man, he walked right into the trap. As one scholar writes, “People like Giordano Bruno are immunized from a sense of danger by their sense of mission, and a state of euphoria bordering on insanity.” (Yates)
Bruno’s Art of Memory was a “magical psychology.” Bruno’s complex magical memory system consisted of “wheels” on which groups of letters, symbols and images corresponded to the physical contents of the terrestrial world, representing the whole sum of human knowledge accumulated through the centuries. It is presumed by scholars who have studied these diagrams that the person who committed this system to memory “rose above time and reflected the whole universe of nature and of man in his mind.”
Bruno’s memory wheel was a “Hermetic secret,” since it was the “gnostic reflection of the universe in the mind.” Bruno believed that when, in the mind, one conformed symbols and images to celestial forms, which corresponded to the figures of the zodiac, and when one held these images all at once in the mind, one would arrive from “the confused polarity of things at the underlying unity.” In essence, one would become “like God.”
Mocenigo got the idea that Bruno could teach him something more, something along the lines of sorcery. When Bruno denied knowing anything about such things, Mocenigo became angry about the money he had paid Bruno and turned him in to the Venetian tribunal.
Mocenigo accused Bruno before the tribunal of teaching the existence of a boundless universe filled with a countless number of solar systems. He accused Bruno of saying the Earth was not the center of the universe, but rather a planet which revolved around the Sun. Bruno was also accused of: “teaching the doctrine of Reincarnation; of denying the actual transubstantiation of bread into the flesh of Christ; of refusing to accept the three persons of the Trinity; and of rejecting the virgin birth of Christ.” (Great Theosophists)
Bruno seems to have explained himself pretty well to the state authorities of Venice, who kept him for many months and were not at first keen on turning him over to the Inquisition body in Rome. Bruno’s argument seems to be that his ideas were based in philosophical discourse and therefore should be protected; he argued that he was at all times speaking as a philosopher and not as a priest. But eventually the counsel at Venice, wishing to keep the peace with the Church, turned The Nolan over to them. Thus began Giordano’s 7-year prison ordeal at the hands of the Roman Inquisition.
The exact charges that were brought against Bruno by the Catholic Church authorities are unknown, since it is claimed that the records have been lost. Nor is it known why he was kept so long in their prison: It was the usual circumstance to house and harass a heretic for no longer than a year, most of the time discarding the poor victim’s remains after just a few horrific months. But for some unknown reason, Giordano Bruno was tortured and interrogated for seven long years. Was it for his animistic belief that the spirit world invaded all of nature? Was it for his insistence on a reform of Catholicism to the “natural religion” of the Egyptians? Was it for his belief in the heretical concept of reincarnation? Was it for his unshakable belief in the divinity of the human spirit? Was it for their belief that he was a magician? A Catholic web site called New Advent makes the following claim:
“Bruno was not condemned for his defense of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved.”
The Catholic web site describes Bruno’s system of thought as “an incoherent materialistic pantheism.”
Bruno refused to retract his beliefs. On February 17, 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in the center of Rome, with a nail driven through his tongue-the customary treatment of all unrepentant heretics so they could not continue to insult the sensitive ears of the Inquisition. Giordano Bruno stood for “the Dignity of Man”; of “liberty, tolerance, the right to stand up in any country and say what he thought, disregarding all ideological barriers.” (Yates) Bruno dared to imagine many potential brave new worlds-like the one where we are now free to look out at the stars and wonder out loud if there is any life upon them. Where I can stand here and say what I have said this evening, and not have to stand over there, near the door, ready to make a run for it.á
This talk was delivered before MUFON Rhode Island on November 16, 2001.
New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03016a.htm
“Great Theosophists: Giordano Bruno” (on-line essay), http://www.wisdomworld.org/setting/bruno.html
Greer, Steven, M.D., Extraterrestrial Contact: The Evidence and Implications.
MacGowan, Harold, The Thoughtron Theory of Life and Matter.
McIntyre, J. Lewis, Giordano Bruno: Mystic Martyr, Kessinger, Montana, 1903, www.hiddenmysteries.com.
Yates, Frances, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, University of Chicago, 1964.
See also: http://www.pagesz.net/~stevek/intellect/bruno.html.