In this decayed hole among the mountains,
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain ( T.S. Eliot. The Wasteland )
Heliocentric or Self-centric or nonsense-tric. Would you baptise , hear confession or give absolution to an extra-terrestrial? Giordano Bruno and the making of a heretic.A gnostic heretic, the heresy of pantheism and so on. Heresy is a big word: A catch all for all manner of crimes and misdemeanors both explicit and implied. For eight years Church authorities searched for a reason not to burn this quarrelsome, opinionated, and altogether brilliant troublemaker. In the end he left them no choice. Though; mysteriously the Church accidentally misplaced his file, and though the rumour was death for “speculative heresy” there can be no definitive answer. The system of Bruno is part of a complex theoretical expression of Humanism, and his thought was to have a great influence on modern philosophy.
…”Much of the ‘hysteria’ surrounding gnostic ‘heresy’ was a quintessentially male hysteria, expressing the need of an exaggeratedly masculine ego to distance itself from its fleshly psychical womb – the inwardly sensed body. The ‘Fear of the Lord’ was his fear of this womb. This male hysteria found its modern expression in Freud studies of female hysteria – the birth of psychoanalysis. Yet psychoanalysis and psychologism are but the last-ditch defences of a dying agnosticism. For, what all psychoanalytic and ‘psychodynamic’ interpretations of gnostic mythology fail to recognise is that the latter was not merely an expression of the ‘depth psychology’ of the human soul. Instead what the gnostics sought was a veritable Psychology of The Depth – sensing in the human soul the echo of a divine ‘psychodynamics’ with its source in the unfathomable womb of creation itself.”… ( Peter Wilberg )
Bruno was born five years after Copernicus died. He had bequeathed an intoxicating idea to the generation that was to follow him. We hear a lot in our own day about the expanding universe. We have learned to accept it as something big. The thought of the Infinity of the Universe was one of the great stimulating ideas of the Renaissance. It was no longer a 15th Century God’s backyard. And it suddenly became too vast to be ruled over by a 15th Century God. Bruno tried to imagine a god whose majesty should dignify the majesty of the stars.And all of this refinement went through the refiners’ fire — that the world might be made safe from the despotism of the ecclesiastic 16th Century Savage. He suffered a cruel death and achieved a unique martyr’s fame. He has become the Church’s most difficult alibi. She can explain away the case of Galileo with suave condescension. Bruno sticks in her throat.
“The general opinion is not always the perfect truth…” Giordano Bruno is still quoted. Such remarks produced expensive, bitter consequences: On 17th of February 1600 he publicly was burnt at the stake after eight years of torture and dungeon detention. Today the Piazza Campo dei Fiori where this statue stands has become a monument to free thinking; adjacent to the statue, is the “Fahrenheit 451″ As the Spanish physicist Beatriz Gato-Rivera wrote, Bruno “claimed that the sun was only one star among the many thousands, and therrefore, like the sun, many other stars also have planets around them and living beings inhabiting them.” Gato-Rivera goes on to note that to “appreciate the genius of Bruno one has to take into account that he lived at a time when more than 99% of the intellectuals believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe, and a few others, like Copernicus and Galileo, believed that it was the Sun, instead, at the center of the Universe, and the stars being some bright heavenly bodies of an unknown nature.”
It is easy to get an impression of the reputation which Bruno had created by the year 1582 in the minds of the clerical authorities of southern Europe. He had written of an infinite universe which had left no room for that greater infinite conception which is called God. He could not conceive that God and nature could be separate and distinct entities as taught by Genesis, as taught by the Church and as even taught by Aristotle. He preached a philosophy which made the mysteries of the virginity of Mary, of the crucifixion and the mass, meaningless. He was so naive that he could not think of his own mental pictures as being really heresies. He thought of the Bible as a book which only the ignorant could take literally. The Church’s methods were, to sayleast, unfortunate, and it encouraged ignorance from the instinct of self-preservation.
After an initial thirty-six charges of heresy against him, he began his tour on the vagabond and pariah lecture circuit. The lecture, like the many books he wrote during those years, were amalgams of wildly disparate elements. On the one hand there was a poetic fervor, a sense of mission, a desire to share his own exultation with his audience. On the other there was an unbridled penchant for verbal abuse, a frantic contempt for the supporters of Aristotle. He seldom knew when to stop. Once, in a fit of pique he told an audience that Aristotle had probably been reincarnated as a pig.
His belief in the existence of UFO’s and aliens may have also contributed to the case against him.The Church has always had an unusual attitude towards the phenomenon, one that generally relies on the fire and brimstone approach of “mending our ways” to avoid a destructive encounter. ” The other, less known aspect, is the doctrinal crisis of the Church. Three years ago, I was interviewed by Canadian TV. I said: “Yes, the Madonna of the Third Secret of Fatima says this, but no-one has noticed that she first says that it will happen if mankind doesn’t mend its ways.”. So its all conditioned by this previous remark. But I am optimistic. We, as people, can influence the realization of a prophecy, change the date and the intensity of the prophesied events and mitigate them. The renewal of spirituality in the young is a good omen. I mean to say, spirituality based on the rules of the Church.”
The most obvious charge against Bruno was his assertion of an immanent God, a “soul of the universe” ; a concept of the deity which made the trinity seem superfluous. Also, humankind no longer needed elaborate rituals, the intervention of priests and the structure of organized religion. In his concept of an inner God, Bruno saw the basis for a universal non-dogmatic faith that would replace the outmoded creeds and solve the pointless quarrels that were decimating Europe.
…”Much of my compassion is given to women, those innocent women who are accused of being witches. I’ve come to know the system inside out by now. It targets spinsters and widows, especially those with estate. Their neighbors are encouraged to report them as witches – some doctrine of “Love thy neighbors” in the name of Christ. They would be arrested, hideously tortured until they confess to be witches, burnt alive at the stake, and their estates confiscated. How do you think the church has become to filthy rich? With what money do you think a dungeon like this is built, and the salaries of the entire Inquisition industry is paid? Yes, it is an entire industry unto itself, one developed through the more than two centuries of this most evil institution since it began in the 14th Century, comprising the full time inquisitors, the transcript scribes, the moral police, the professional torturers, the torture instrument designers and makers, the builders of torture chambers, the bribers of neighbors… Hundreds of thousands of women have been burnt at the stake thus far; some estimates go into the millions. One has to access the vault of the Vatican to obtain the accurate figures – the number of people tortured and burnt, the amount of monetary and real estate intake, the amount paid out. The only certainty is that the Church pays no taxes, but enriches itself further with tithe.” ( Matteo D’Amico )
….”Men burnt at the stake are far fewer, but their fate is no less horrid, though their causes of arrest – the beginning of the end – is not monetary. They are the heretics, who somehow challenge the authority of the Church in some way. Theirs is a public display of the Church’s absolute power over all forms and manners of dissent, open expression of doubt in its dogma and doctrine, question, disagreement, argument, challenge, innovative thought, quest for change. These men, myself included, are to serve as the medium through which the Church exercises its reign of terror over the masses, especially the intelligentia. My spiritual mentor, Nicholas Copernicus, author of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), which propounds the Helio-Centric model of the Solar System (versus the Earth-centered model as upheld by the Church), upon which some of my own teaching is based, would not even dare to have his book published until his death in 1543 – five years prior to my birth.”… ( Matteo D’Amico )
After eight long years in prison, Bruno’s final refusal to recant was duly reported to the pope and the decree , a death warrant ,was signed and duly submitted. In the excitement of the jubilee year the execution was soon forgotten. As always, the Holy Father tried to do what was right, confident that history would one day include him among the great vicars of his Church. How could he know that the ideas of that miserable heretic who had burned to death in the Campo dei Fiori, and of his mentor Copernicus, would destroy the world in whaich all that piety, all that kissing of pilgrims’ feet , was taken seriously. How could he know that when future generations remembered the reign of Clement VIII it would be for what he had done to a wicked, blaspheming friar whose name he would perhaps have been hard put to remember.
ADDENDUM: ( Barry S. Schwabsky review of Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose )
…At the moral and political level William’s methodological openness and pluralism correspond to a spirit of tolerance and skepticism which is nevertheless pessimistic about the possibility of achieving a just social order. Any ordered social entity, William reasons, has a center and a periphery, and this produces an antagonism which is mutually corrupting.
Saint Francis realized this, and his first decision was to go out and live among the lepers. The people of God cannot be changed until the outcasts are restored to its body Francis didn’t succeed, and I say it with great bitterness. To recover the outcasts he had to act within the church, to act within the church he had to obtain the recognition of his rule, from which an order would emerge, and this order, as it emerged, would recompose the image of a circle, at whose margin the outcasts would remain.
The outcasts, the “lepers,” are always ripe for heretical movements. But what matters in their heresies is not the doctrinal content for which the Church condemns them; the marginal are ready to hear any doctrine as long as it promises that those at the center, the privileged, the powerful, will be punished. Therefore, “every battle against heresy wants only this: to keep the leper as he is.” William denies that the heresies have any progressive impetus; they merely exacerbate the division they seek to overcome, but at the same time he affirms the reactionary and hypocritical nature of the effort to put them down. He has no solution of his own to offer, but he does possess a lucid awareness of the problem and of the fact that no solution offers itself yet. Certainly he is aware that his own vague faith in science and democracy does not suffice. William’s attitude is a compound of pessimism and hope, skepticism and perseverance. It is the kind of attitude that makes it possible to survive historic disappointments without cynicism.