Learn why Giordano Bruno denied the Trinity, his theories about cosmology, and what took this great thinker to the holy fire.
Burnt at the stake in1600 under the accusation of heresy, Giordano Bruno was a philosopher, theologist, astronomer, mathematician and writer whose theories were deeply influenced by Hermeticism. Ahead of his time, Bruno defended the plurality of the worlds, arguing that the solar system was just one amongst many others and that there could be life on other planets.
Despite the adoption of the heliocentric model (or the theory that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the opposite as the Church believed), what took this great thinker to the holy fire was the fact that he denied the Trinity and defended a form of pantheism as well as the concept of transmigration of the soul, also known as reincarnation.
Influence of Hermeticism in Giordano Bruno’s Philosophy
The hermetic philosophy derives from the teachings attributed to Hermes Trimegistus, a deity that combines aspects of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thot. Such writings can be found in the Corpus Hermeticum and the Emerald Tablets, which reveal the wisdom of the ancient knowledge regarding the cycles of the universe, the many levels of consciousness and the existence of multiple incarnations as a way to polish the soul.
Scholars agree that the revival of Hermeticism during the middle ages along with the Neoplatonic movement impacted the structure of the medieval philosophy, allowing Europe to abandon the dogmatism of the dark ages and move towards the Renaissance. Giordano Bruno and Marsilio Ficino (who translated the Corpus Hermeticum and taught Plato’s Philosophy) were two important thinkers who had a special role in this whole process of transition from the middle ages to Renaissance.
Cosmology and Pantheism
Giordano Bruno, in accordance with the hermetic teachings, defended an infinite universe in which all planets revolved around a sun in their own solar systems and that all these planets were also inhabited and subjected to the same universal laws. The plurality of the worlds would emerge from a primordial matter, which, being infinite, organized itself in a way to accommodate all the solar systems that would come into existence, and, all these innumerable worlds were not only a part of the primordial matter but were also inherent to the infinitude of the Cosmos.
So, from this perspective, there is nothing which is not a part of the universe, and therefore, a part of this primordial matter that shapes itself in the form of many different worlds and things. In other words, everything is a particle of God. God, then, does not exist outside the universe, He is the universe itself.
As a result of Bruno’s claims about Creator and creature being one thing, he was labeled as a Pantheist, attracting enemies from the clergy.
Giordano Bruno and the Denial of the Trinity
Christian Theology defended the idea that God exists as three entities – father, son and holy ghost – and that the three of them constitute only one God. Jesus then, would be one of three manifestations of God, the son, and therefore, Jesus would be God. Giordano Bruno defended that the Trinity was three facets (the three logos) of one God, but God wouldn’t exclusively be in these three figures because God is in everything and everywhere, since everything is part of the primordial matter.
Jesus, according to Bruno, did not have a physical body but an illusory body which would be a tool for the universe (God) to communicate its laws and guide people towards unity. Since Giordano Bruno argued that there are many inhabited worlds, that would mean that Jesus couldn’t be God himself, as Earth would be only one amongst many other worlds with no special role in the universe. So it did not make sense to have God’s “presence” only in one planet, unless, of course, Jesus’ body was not a physical body.
The Death of Giordano Bruno
Needless to say, Giordano Bruno’s theories contradicted all the Catholic teachings and he was accused of blasphemy, heresy and docetism. During his trial, Bruno said to the accusers: “In pronouncing my sentence, your fear is greater than mine in hearing it.” He had his tongue pierced with iron spikes and his jaw clamped with a gag. He was burnt at the stake in Campo dei Fiori in February 19, 1600, just after his body was dragged naked through the streets of Rome.
In 1889, a statue of Giordano Bruno was inaugurated in Campo dei Fiori as a homage to this great thinker. The Pope Leo XIII was so annoyed with the inauguration that he spent the whole day fasting at the feet of the statue of Saint Peter and, in 1930, the accuser of Giordano Bruno, the cardinal Robert Bellarmino, was canonized by Pope Pius XI, becoming a saint and a doctor of the Church.