The Ash Wednesday Supper [Reprint 2021 ed.] 9783112414965, 9783112414958

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The Ash Wednesday Supper [Reprint 2021 ed.]
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THE ASH W E D N E S D A Y SUPPER LA CENA DE LE C E N E R I Translated with an Introduction and Notes by STANLEY L. J A K I


ISBN: 90-279-7581-7 © 1975, Mouton & Co Jacket design by Gerard Zuidwijk Printed in Hungary



7 39

Prefatory Epistle First Dialogue Second Dialogue Third Dialogue - First Proposition of Nundinio - Of the Second Proposition of Nundinio (with Fig. 1-4) - The Third Proposition of Nundinio - The Fourth Proposition of Nundinio - The Fifth Proposition of Nundinio (with Fig. 5-6) Fourth Dialogue (with Fig. 7) Fifth Dialogue (with Fig. 8-9)

43 51 73 93 93 94 Ill 113 117 125 145




The present translation was prompted by the 500th anniversary of Copernicus' birth. What could not be adequately done because of war conditions in 1943, the 400th anniversary of Copernicus' death and of the publication of his immortal book, has been implemented in a vast chain of lectures, symposiums, congresses and publications. The target of these scholarly activities has not been Copernicus alone, for he is far more than an outstanding individual. He and his book soon turned into a tide which some tried to stem while others wanted to rise on it to entirely new heights. Of these the most volcanic was Giordano Bruno, the first to take a stand on behalf of Copernicus with an entire book, La Cena de le Ceneri, or The Ash Wednesday Supper. When published in London in 1584, Bruno's Cena, a small octavo book of 128 pages, must have appeared to its readers as the unexpected eruption of a volcano. During the four decades separating the publication of Copernicus' book from that of the Cena, only short allusions appeared here and there to the lengthy and scholarly claim of the Canon from Frauenburg that the earth moved around the sun.1 Discussion among the learned about Copernicus went on behind the scene with no one showing willingness to look in detail into the merits of a claim which appeared highly controversial. In an age which delighted in pondering paradoxes, the idea of the earth's motion soon gained the dubious distinction of being the most paradoxi-

1. A still-useful though somewhat dated account of the early spread of Copernicanism is the work by Dorothy Stimson, The Gradual Acceptance of the Copernicatl Theory of the Universe (Hanover, New Hampshire, 1917). 7

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cal of all paradoxes.2 When a century or so later, due largely to the work of Newton, the earth's motion began to be taken not as a paradox but a most natural aspect of man's undertanding of the physical world, the shock and surprise brought about by Copernicus still survived as a chief paradigm of major turnabouts. Witness Kant, the originator of the claim that scientists should formulate their theories not so much in accordance with the external world as with the categories of mind. To remind everybody of the drastic nature of such a realignment in reasoning, he called it the Copernican turn in philosophy.3 Something akin to a Copernican turn was initiated recently in the evaluation of Bruno. With the publication about ten years ago of Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances A. Yates4 there came to light a massive evidence about the real mainspring of the volcano that Bruno wanted to become. Yates also disclosed that her own view of Bruno had undergone, over the span of several decades of intensive study, a change which has all the characteristics of a Copernican turn. It was prompted, interestingly enough, by her delving into the contents of the Cena.s Its author originally loomed large on her mental horizon as the embodiment of an enlightened and heroic stand in defense of a reason unfettered by traditionalist obscurantism. As she gained an increasingly deeper grasp of the message of the work, the man usually celebrated as the hero of reason began to appear a grave puzzle. 2. See, for instance, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, first published in 1621, in the critical edition by A. R. Shilleto (London, George Beel and Sons, 1903), vol. II, pp. 63-65, or 'An Anatomie of the World. The First Anniversary',

in the Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne, edited by J. Hayward (Lon-

don, Nonesuch Press, 1949), p. 202. During the second half of the sixteenth century the Paradossi by Ortensio Landi, first published in 1543, went through half a dozen editions. 3. Kant did this in the Preface to the second edition (1787) of his Kritik der reinen Vernunft, a work which when first published in 1781 signaled a radical change in Kant's mental orientation.

4. Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago, Uni-

versity of Chicago Press, 1964). The importance of this book for an understanding of the Renaissance, and especially of the intellectual aspirations of many a scientist, philosopher and theologian during the sixteenth century, cannot be emphasized enough. 5. This might have been the reason for her abandoning the plan of translating the Cena into English, a project of Yates mentioned by Dorothea Waley Singer

in her Giordano Bruno. His Life and Thought, with Annotated Translation of his Work On the Infinite

Universe and Worlds (New York, Henry Schuman, 1950), p. 93.



From one side there beckoned almost irresistibly the popular image of Bruno, the bold challenger of Aristotle and of his medieval admirers, the fearless champion of the truth of science in general and of Copernicanism in particular, and, last but not least, the man ready to suffer martyrdom on behalf of a rational world view. From the other side there emerged a formidable array of evidence suggesting a mental physiognomy of Bruno wholly at variance with the accepted one. According to that evidence 'Bruno was an out-and-out magician, an "Egyptian" and Hermetist of the deepest dye, for whom the Copernican heliocentricity heralded the return of magical religion, . . . who defended earth-movement with Hermetic arguments concerning the magical life in all nature, whose aim was to achieve Hermetic gnosis, to reflect the world in the mens by magical means, including the stamping of magic images of the stars on memory, and so to become a great Magus and miracle-working religious leader'.6 In that supremely if not pathetically pretentious campaign, the Cena represented the grand opening. Other works of Bruno give a more complete picture of one or a few of his particular traits. He was a soaring poet, an exalted mystic, an ardent pantheist, an instinctive Catholic, a born philosopher, a wizard of mnemotechnics, a vitriolic critic, an amateur scientist, a muddled dreamer, a secretive cabbalist, a dabbler in magic, a flamboyant reformer and an amorous rogue. Most of these traits appear together in the Cena, which is also the most expressive document of the curious ways in which Copernicus' doctrine began to prevail. Contrary to the cliché accounts, the rise of Copernicanism was not simply the ascendency of advanced intellects over intellectual backwards. The latter were not without acumen, and the former had their share of obscurantist notions. Such a mixture is a piece with the general pattern of advance in science, though the Cena is unique even in this respect. In the long history of science there was hardly another notable case in which a worthy cause had been promoted in a more repulsive manner. It is difficult to imagine that the very first book written in support of Copernicanism had gained to it any converts. Yates herself was compelled to write that 'Copernicus might have well bought up and destroyed all copies of the Cena had he been alive'. 7 6. Y a t e s , Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, p. ix, 7. Ibid., p. 297,


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Instead, Bruno was destroyed in a macabre vindication of basic Christian beliefs. In a deeper sense, Bruno had been acting on his own destruction from his first step toward the arcane heights of knowledge. That step took Felipe Bruno, son of a soldier, from the little town of Nola, near Naples, to the University of Naples, and from there shortly afterwards to Naples' famed Dominican monastery, where the remains of Thomas Aquinas are buried. In 1565 at the age of sixteen he embraced, by taking the name Giordano (Iordanus), the status of a religious. He was to become a Dominican priest, a calling which, in view of his mental and emotional constitution, he should have absolutely avoided. The step was to set at odds with almost everything the man who clearly was at odds with himself. There was certainly no major need to swap university with convent for developing his striking talent for mnemotechnics. But since for Bruno it was a technique of a mystically superior knowledge, the step made some sense in view of his unquestionably mystical inclinations. Before long it began to dawn on him that his enterprise had serious limitations within the Catholic and Christian framework based on the emphatic assertion of a revelation not to be had through man's sole powers, mystical or not. One wonders what Bruno's feelings must have been when, in 1571, a year before his ordination to the priesthood, he was called to Rome to teach the ars memoriae to none other than Pope Pius V, a chief architect of the implementation of the decrees of the Council of Trent. The Pope, himself a Dominican, now had a Dominican teacher who had already been hiding in his cell books which soon were to cast on him the suspicion of being a heretic. Five years later, in 1576, Bruno fled both investigations and convent life. Many years later he claimed, to vindicate his orthodoxy, that he was interested in heretical writings only 'out of curiosity'.8 His curiosity differed from usual patterns though not entirely from the intellectual proclivities of his times. His wanderings were not as peculiar as they might appear at first sight. He made his first major stopover in Noli, in Genovese territory, to instruct children in grammar and to teach astronomy to a group of noblemen. He did the latter in the usual manner of commenting on Sacrobosco's De sphaera, a thirteenth-century summary of the rudi8. From Bruno's statement before the Venetian Inquisition. See Vincenzo Spampanato, Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno (Florence, Leo S, Olschki Editore, 1933), p. 106.



ments of astronomy. Bruno, never a friend of mathematics and geometry, must have felt at home with a descriptive type of astronomical instruction which he repeatedly gave during the early years of his lengthy peregrinations. From Noli he went to Milan, where he again donned for a while the Dominican habit. His next step was Chambery, arriving there in the late fall of 1578 and finding shelter with the Dominicans. With the advent of spring he planned to go further into France but was warned (wrongly) that there he would meet with hostility. So he turned toward Geneva, the hospice - so Bruno thought - of all fugitives, dissenters and heretics. He was in for a rude shock. The Geneva of Antoine de La Faye, Calvin's successor, was no place for heterodoxy. Bruno found that out all too soon. Since auditing some courses at the university did not entitle him to take an official, public stand against La Faye's rigid scholasticism, he vented his violent disagreement in a booklet (or broadsheet) printed surreptitiously. Both author and printer were promptly arrested. The latter was released on claiming that he had been misled by Bruno, who was sentenced to be burnt at the stake unless he repented and unless he secured the destruction of each and every copy of the 'scandalous' booklet. Repent he did, and the booklet did indeed turn into a nonentity. The affair was closed with Bruno's solemn abjuration before the plenary session of the Consistorium in August 1579. Bruno left Geneva behind with understandable haste. By September he was already in Lyons, and in a few more weeks he passed through Avignon and Montpellier on his way to Toulouse, a town famed for its old university and for its age-old sympathy for heretical causes. Bruno could not have been treated better in Toulouse. There at the university professors were elected by students, and the strange new arrival was soon a popular choice. An eager game, Bruno quickly went through the formalities of getting his doctorate in theology, a prerequisite for occupying a chair. For the first time in his life, at the age of thirty-three, Bruno was a full-fledged member of the academic world. His lecture notes on the De sphaera of Sacrobosco and on Aristotle's De anima were probably printed, but no copies survived. Nor was Bruno to last long in Toulouse. The specter of political troubles, but more likely his own ambitions, persuaded him to go to Paris, where he arrived at the end of the summer of 1581. As a former professor of the university of Toulouse, Bruno could


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easily arrange for giving a series of thirty public lectures on thirty divine attributes 'to make himself known', as he later put it.9 He certainly succeeded, though hardly because of his theology. The number thirty corroborates other indications that his lectures served to give a taste of his prowess in mnemotechnics and of something much more significant. One of those whose interest became deeply aroused was the king, Henri III. Revealingly, he wanted to learn from Bruno whether his wizardry in the art of memory contained also the clues to some recondite, or rather magical, knowledge. The king could not have inquired from a more appropriate source. Encouraged by the atmosphere of royal favor, Bruno felt that the propitious moment had at long last arrived for him to reveal something of his most cherished convictions. In 1582, he published in quick succession two books in clear evidence that many years of preparation had now been brought to fruition. The De umbris idearum ('On the Shadows of Ideas') and the Cantus circaeus ('The Circaean Song') dealt, to a superficial reader at least (and how many of them had overlooked their substance until Yates came along), with mnemotechnics, but in fact they were thinly disguised proclamations of a salvation to be gained through Hermetic magic. Bruno was not, of course, the first to couple mnemotechnics and magical knowledge. From the time of Ficino it has been customary to present mnemotechnics as the logical way of imprinting on the mind a world picture expressed in this or that kind of symbolism. Though the symbols could be Christian, secular or simply pagan, the procedure itself smacked of Platonic apriorism and often enough of an effort to achieve identification with a deity no different from the cosmos itself. In the case of Bruno, the symbolism came, and in exceedingly heavy doses, from the pseudo-Egyptian lore of Hermes Trismegistus, a third-century Neoplatonic corpus of mystical vagaries presented as divine revelations given to Hermes, the three-times-great priest of ancient Egypt. The true character of these writings was convincingly exposed by Isaac Casaubon in 1614,10 long after Bruno's death on the 9. Ibid., p. 84. 10. In the introductory part of his massive reply to the Annates ecclesiastici of Cesare Baronius, chief church historian of the Counter Reformation. In his often uncritical way Baronius claimed that Hermes Trismegistus was one of the pagan prophets heralding the birth of Christ. It was in this connection that Casaubon exploded the myth of Hermes Trismegistus in his De rebus sacris et ecclesia-



pyre, but one wonders if Bruno would have yielded to the evidence in view of his unremitting dedication to pantheism permeated with magic. In his first two books published in Paris he made little effort to conceal that salvation was to be worked out for the whole of mankind in that pantheistic, magic framework of which he was, so he believed, the chief prophet and high priest. He was to implement this mission with an enormous expenditure of energy and with a grandiose though dreamy strategy. The former meant an outpouring of books and much travel; the latter concerned the conquest of the main centers of learning with a subsequent enlistment of the aid of leading monarchs and ultimately even of the Pope. The first salvo of the campaign was the play, Candelaio, a lampooning of the academic world filled with pedants, that is, scholars interested not in ideas but only in details of grammar and style. Then came the opportunity to go to England in the coterie of Marquis Mauvissière, the French ambassador. A protégé of Henri III, Bruno must have seen the journey in his own politico-religious perspective, but it is a matter of conjecture whether he was given some covert political mission by the King. Bruno's religious perspectives were noted, however. The English ambassador in Paris felt impelled to alert the court in London about the impending arrival of 'Doctor Iordano Bruno Nolano,... whose religion I cannot commend'.11 In all likelihood more was there implied than Bruno's standing as a fugitive monk. Arriving in England in the late spring of 1583, Bruno found lodging in the residence of Mauvissière in London. The latter's good will toward Bruno unquestionably helped him to find his way to Oxford, most likely in connection with the academic exercises offered in honor of the Polish prince, Albert Laski, visiting there in June. Bruno could have hardly mismanaged more effectively a golden opportunity to promote the cause of Copernicus and his own reputation, if such indeed was his intention. He was not a man to argue calmly. The result was a bitter clash with the Oxonian 'pedants'. Worse even, he talked not so much about Copernicus as about Hermetic religion, and one sticis exercitationes XVI ad cardinalis Baronii prolegomena in Annates & primam eorum partem de Domini nostri Iesu Christi nativitate, vita, passione, assumtione (London, ex officina Nortoniana a p u d l . Billium, 1614), pp. 70ff. For further details, see Yates, op. cit., pp. 398-431. 11. Calendar of State Papers, Foreign, January-June 1583, p. 214. Quoted in Yates, op. cit., p. 204.


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of the 'pedants' soon discovered that lengthy sections in Bruno's diction were sheer plagiarism. Bruno saw the whole affair in a totally different light. His was an absolute conviction that he alone was right and all others wrong. In his eyes the 'pedants' of Oxford were the epitome of rude manners and of dark ignorance and now all this was to be put on record. It was in that sense that his Oxford debate was recalled and indirectly re-enacted in the Cena. When published sometime in the spring of 1584, the Cena created a furor for some of its incidental though lengthy details. The English, who sheltered so many religious and political refugees from the Continent, could hardly be as rude as Bruno portrayed them. Nor could the conditions in London be so much worse than in Paris or in any large city of Italy. No echo followed Bruno's principal though covert claim that the Copernican world picture, with the sun in its center, was a stepping stone toward the cosmos of Hermes Trismegistus, a mystical sun-kingdom of infinite extension, with a cyclic process of birth, growth, decay and rebirth throbbing through it for eternity. The Oxonian 'pedants' might have opposed Copernicus for the wrong reasons, but from Bruno they could have hardly learned an informative and balanced exposition of the Copernican system. Both Copernicus and science were badly shortchanged in the Cena. The fiasco which Bruno, as a debater, experienced in Oxford might have prompted him to channel his energies toward publishing further books as the only viable route for his apostolate. On the heels of the Cena came the De I'infinito universo e mondi (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds12J, a work presented by Bruno's modern admirers as the bold, programmatic proclamation of the infinity of the universe and the anticipation of the world view on which Newton's physics and astronomy put the hallowed seal. Unquestionably, Bruno's universe is infinite, but not in the sense in which Newton's definition of rectilinear inertia demanded a three-dimensional infinity for the universe. With Bruno, the source of any and all motion in the universe is strictly animistic, a point in which he is more Aristotelian than the Stagirite himself. Thus, Bruno's book, which could have become a landmark in the history of science, turned into a badly misused opportunity. A massive, systematic rebuttal of Aristotle's arguments on behalf of the finiteness of the world, and a systematic presentation of scientific 12. English translation by D.W. Singer, see note 5 above.



and philosophical considerations recommending the idea of an infinite universe, such was the great project that had not been tackled before. Still, it was one thing to discredit Aristotle and another to argue convincingly the case of an infinite universe with careful attention to its difficulties in the context of the science of the day. Unfortunately, the book looked more like a repetitious conceptual morass than a disciplined chain of arguments. The relatively few valuable dicta in it harked back to the emphatic assertion of an indefinitely large world in Nicolas of Cusa's work, De docta ignorantia (Of Learned Ignorance13), one of Bruno's main reputable sources. The mentally clear atmosphere of that work failed, however, to carry over into Bruno's discourse. In that sense Bruno also betrayed Lucretius, whose De rerum natura (On the Nature of Thingsu) was quoted by Bruno repeatedly. Lucretius' soulless atoms, subject to perennial random collisions in infinite emptiness, could not be to the liking of Bruno, for whom the infinite world was an infinite congeries of animated bodies (stars, planets) standing for deity itself, which physically filled everything. The real message of Bruno's De I'infinito is the eternal, mystic transformation of everything through cyclic returns, while the universe as a whole remains the same in its principal constituent parts, the stars and the planets. Bruno then had to expound in detail on the relation between the whole and the parts. This task was still carried out by him in the same year of 1584 in his De la causa, principio e uno (On Cause, Principle and Unity15). The relation in question was, in Bruno's rendering, a pantheistic union with Hermetic overtones. For if Bruno delved into a philosophical topic, he did so only for turning philosophy into an ancilla theologiae, into a handmaid of his own Hermetic theology. Its ultimate triumph was the topic of the Spaccio de la bestia trionfante (The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast16), Bruno's fourth book published in 1584. By the beast he meant the powers of any and all kinds of 13. See note 16 to the Third Dialogue. 14. See note 30 to the Thitd Dialogue. 15. English translation with an introduction and notes by Jack Lindsay under the title, Five Dialogues by Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity (New York, International Publishers, 1962). An earlier translation is by Sidney Greenberg in his The Infinite in Giordano Bruno with a Translation of his Dialogue concerning the Cause, Principle and One (New York, King's Crown Press, 1950). 16. English translation by A.D. Imerti (New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 1964).


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error, which were to be overcome by the only true religion, the one revealed through Hermes Trismegistus. The pages of the Spaccio are filled with lengthy portrayals of the age-old Egyptian religion, of which Judaism, Platonism and Christianity were but degenerate distillations; so at least Bruno contended. Apart from the Egyptian lore, as a vehicle of truth, the triumph of Hermetism was to be brought about by heavy reliance on such arcane techniques as astrology, magic and cabbala. The use of the latter in furthering the sacred cause of Hermetism was outlined by Bruno in labyrinthine details in the Cabala del cavallo Pegaseo, Bruno's first publication in 1585, and his fifth in England. In that work Bruno also put on record, in no ambivalent terms, his faith in the transmigration of souls. It was a piece with his animistic pantheism, which he wanted to live as a form of gnosis with the intensity of a mystic. The evidence of this is Bruno's collection of poems celebrating love, De gl' heroici furori (The Heroic Enthusiast17), also written and printed in 1585. It is a spiritual itinerary of one aspiring to the position of chief Hermetic Magus through four degrees of furors, or frenzies. Those four furors are the furor of poetry, of religion, of prophecy and of love. It is in the last one that man becomes the great miracle as understood by Hermes Trismegistus, for all the 'furors' of Bruno are ultimately of Hermetic provenance. One should not overlook the fact that not a few lines of these love poems are a studied flattery of England's sovereign, Elizabeth, who was also the object of generous accolades in the Cena and in the Causa. Bruno indeed kept dreaming seriously about coralling leading political powers into his reform plans to bring about a new age. Whatever the effectiveness of his political overtures, Bruno's days in England were numbered. When in October 1585 Mauvissi&re was recalled to Paris, Bruno was in his retinue. Since Mauvissifere's recall was due to the sinking fortunes of Henri III, Bruno began to look to Henri de Navarre as the rising sun on Europe's political horizon. The two most important books of Bruno, published during his second stay in Paris, were dedicated to Piero del Bene, an agent of Henri de Navarre. They are significant both to the student of Bruno and to the student of the history of science for the reason that Bruno gave in them 17. Such is the title of the English translation by L. Williams (London, George Redway, 1887). *Of Heroic Frenzies' would be a more literal translation.



further astonishing evidence, if it still was needed, that his mind and scientific thinking had little in common. One of the two books owed its origin to Bruno's chancing upon Fabrizio Mordente's book on a new compass, published in Paris in 1585. Mordente's compass, a possible anticipation of Galileo's proportional compass, intrigued Bruno to the extent that he very quickly, and even more willfully, turned out a Latin translation of the Italian original amplifying it with four dialogues. Once it was printed, Mordente bought up and destroyed practically all copies of Bruno's arbitrary venture. No wonder. Bruno, in his self-styled capacity of chief Hermetic Magus declared in the translation that he alone could explain the real significance of Mordente's invention. What Bruno said had nothing to do with science, theoretical or experimental. It was fully geared to the cause of Hermetic magic. The incident was an astonishing replay of Bruno's claim about Copernicus in the Cena. There, too, Bruno's Hermetic religion was put forward, though in a somewhat covert manner, as the sole explanation of a major feat in science. The other evidence which Bruno gave during his second stay in Paris about his anti-scientific bent of mind was his Figuratio aristotelici phjsici auditus, or explanation of Aristotle's Physics. One wonders what Aristotle might have done with the copies of a book in which fifteen basic concepts of his physics were analyzed in terms of such symbols as Minerva, Fate, Fortune, Juno, Cupid, Cupid's arms and so forth. The diagram, a motley combination of odd geometrical figures, which summed up Bruno's rendering of Aristotle's Physics, had an unmistakable resemblance to the representation of the houses of a horoscope within a square. The book was a far cry from Aristotle's striving at logical clarity and consistency. It carried the animistic strand of Aristotle's world view into the realm of a most obscurantist symbolism. It never dawned on Bruno that it made no sense to reassert Aristotle's animism while making virulent attacks on him in other respects. But attacking Aristotle was then the quickest way to stir up the academic world which Bruno always wanted to conquer. In 1586, he published a list of 120 theses directed against Aristotle, and the academic world of Paris was indeed aroused. This gave Bruno the opportunity to challenge all the 'royal lecturers' to a debate at the Collège de Cambrai on May 28th and 29th. Like the debate in Oxford,


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this too was a fiasco for Bruno, who did not dare to show up for the second day. It certainly helped him to cut short his stay in Paris. The other reasons for this were the ascendency of the Catholic League and Bruno's failure to have his ecclesiastical status normalized by the Pope through the mediation of the nuncio in Paris. He kept to the end his hope that the Catholic Church, as the most universal body, might one day be gained over to his Hermetic dispensation. The only open terrain now for Bruno's Hermetic apostolate was the academic world of Germany. Unable to find employment in Mainz and in Wiesbaden, he proceeded to Marburg only to have his academic standing there abruptly ended by expulsion on July 25th, 1586. His fortunes were better in Wittenberg, due to the presence of his compatriot, Alberico Gentilis, a well-known jurist. Through his help Bruno obtained an invitation to lecture on Aristotle's Organon, and before long he was well ensconced in the university circles. He taught and published extensively on memory and symbolism, and his Hermetic doctrine struck deep chords in a Lutheran ambience well known for its odd mixture of Scholasticism and German mysticism. The latter, much akin to pantheism and to pananimism, was the perfect soil for the seeds of Bruno's message. This was put on record in two books to serve, as their titles read, as lamps. One was De lampade combinatoria lulliana ('On the Combinatory Lullian Lamp'), the other De progressu et lampade venatoria logicorum ('On the Progress and on the Hunting Lamp of the Logicians'). Even sharper light was cast on Bruno's preoccupations in Wittenberg by the ~L,ampas triginta statuarum ('The Lamp of Thirty Statues') published only later. This work of Bruno revealed more of his Hermetic vision than two minor works of his which carried in their titles the phrases 'thirty shadows' and 'thirty seals'. The 'lamp works', while titillating the phantasy of many a Lutheran in Wittenberg, could only arouse the suspicion of the more rationalistic Calvanist party which suddenly gained the upper hand. Bruno had to depart in early 1588, but, before doing so, he delivered a celebrated address at the university on wisdom and light in an infinite universe of an infinite number of worlds. His syncretistic associations of Christian and pagan notions of wisdom were as expressive as was his list and panegyrics of Germans who played a notable part in building the temple of universal, that is, Hermetic wisdom. (In Germany, Rosicrucianism was soon to gain its first followers among Lutherans.)



There are, indeed, indications that Bruno left behind in Wittenberg a nascent sect called 'Giordanians'. Bruno went from Wittenberg to Prague, obviously to attract the interest of the deeply obscurantist Rudolph II, who surrounded himself with a plethora of alchemists and astrologers. Bruno went about his task by publishing a book, Articuli adversus mathematicos ('Articles against Mathematicians'), full of the strangest combinations of diagrams of floral, animal and geometrical design. The blocks of these diagrams were most likely carved by him, and they fully reflect the all-consuming, arcane preoccupations of a Magus devoted not to the science but to the mysticism of geometry and mathematics. Although in the preface of the work Bruno made enough references to Rudolph as the possible instrument to arrange for the universal triumph of Hermetism, the latter was moved only to the point of rewarding Bruno with a purse, not with a position. From Prague he journeyed to Helmstedt, matriculating at the Julian University in mid-January of 1589. His address to the university, arranged through the good will of Heinrich Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, showed Bruno's keen sense of the quick turn of political fortunes. With the Spanish Armada destroyed, with Henri III assassinated, with the still-protestant Henri de Navarre clinching victory, the star of protestant power seemed to be reaching its zenith. So now Bruno presented his great theme, the celestial, Hermetic reform of all, with a distinctly anti-papal twist. The body Catholic, he seemed to feel, was no longer needed to make his plans a universal reality. At any rate, Bruno was eager to point out to Heinrich Julius, a Duke and a (nominally Catholic) bishop, that priestly and kingly powers were one in the golden days of Hermes Trismegistus. In Helmstedt Bruno completed long Latin poems on which he had been working for several years. One of them, a truly massive opus, De immenso, innumerabilibus et infigurabilibus ('On the Immense, Innumerable and Infigurable'), was written with an eye on Lucretius, though the message is not the latter's purely mechanistic world of atoms, but the universe of Hermes Trismegistus steeped in magic. Again, only those who read but the titles of the De monade numero et figura ('On the Monad, Number and Figure') and of the De triplici minimo et mensura ('On the Threefold Minimum and Measure') would claim confidently that Bruno was a herald of infinitesimal calculus and of atomism. Most readers of these works, and there were only a few


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of them, failed to hear the ring of Hermetism in such and similar remarks of Bruno that the triangle was raised to heaven by Mercury and that it was not without cosmic reasons that the sybil of Delphi had her raptures while sitting on a tripod. Yet, such and similar dicta were still far more comprehensible than were Bruno's alleged insights into mathematics. As to the De monade, it is permeated among other things by necromancy and by the art of conjuring demons. The only modern and appreciative study of the De triplici hardly carries conviction.18 The true character of the De triplici and the De monade was better summed up in that almost three-century old, enormously learned and vast compendium of Italian literature by Girolamo Tiraboschi, who gave a dispassionate account of Bruno's literary productivity. It was in connection with these two books that he felt impelled to remark: 'He who is a lover of order, precision, and clarity would look in vain for them in Bruno's works.' 19 To have these works printed Bruno went, in the spring of 1590, from Helmstedt to Frankfurt, where he stayed, apart from a few months' visit in Zurich, until September of the next year. In Zurich, or rather in the nearby Elgg, he was the house-guest of an alchemist, Johann Hainzell. There he wrote his De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione ('On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas'), which holds together in one bizarre texture images from astrology, mythology, poetry and geometry. The aim of this stupefying systematization was to teach the art of composing talismanic or magic images, to be used as devices of mental concentration so that one might acquire Hermetic spiritual power to implement the universal mystical transformation of all in one. Typically, about the same time Bruno published his work on magical techniques, De magia. It was in such a state of mind, obsessed with his illusory clues to a higher power and animated more than ever with his sense of mission, that Bruno received from a Venetian nobleman, Zuan Mocenigo, an invitation to stay with him in Venice. The invitation was transmitted by Giovanni Battista Ciotto, a Venetian bookseller and a frequent 18. Ksenija Atanasijevic, The Metaphysical and Geometrical Doctrine of Bruno as given in his Work De triplici minimo, translated into English from the French original [1923] by George Vid Tomasevich (St. Louis, Miss., Warren H. Green Inc., 1972). 19. Girolamo Tiraboschi, Storia della letteratura italiana (new edition, Florence, presso Molini, Landi, 1805-13), Vol. VII (Part II), pp. 472-73.



visitor at the famed book fairs in Frankfurt, who sold books of Bruno to Mocenigo. With astonishing speed Bruno showed up in August 1591 in Venice, wholly unmindful of dangers, to teach Mocenigo the secret channels through memory to higher powers. It was not until the next March that Bruno took up lodging in Mocenigo's house. Before that he spent three months in Padua, the university town of Venice. Bruno's prompt departure for Italy had then to be motivated by reasons pointing far beyond Mocenigo. One was the triumph of Henri de Navarre in whom Bruno saw the symbol of religious liberalism. The other was the strange success of Francisco Patrizi with Pope Clement VIII, to whom Patrizi dedicated a book containing a translation of parts of the Hermetic corpus. Patrizi, who urged that the Hermetic doctrine be taught everywhere in the Church, 'even in the Jesuit schools', was called to Rome, where a chair of philosophy was assigned to him. 20 For a wholly self-centered dreamer, as Bruno was, this appeared as a reliable straw in the wind, and he wanted to lose no time in making his move. It was to be the dedication to the Pope of a book of his, De vinculis in genere ('On Links in General'). The links in question were the magical links for harnessing arcane spiritual and emotional energies with allusions to links deriving from sexual attraction. Still remained the carrying out of Bruno's obligation to teach Mocenigo the secrets of mnemotechnical magic. Since neither Bruno nor other Hermetic philosophers possessed secret powers, Mocenigo could not learn from his house-guest what he really wanted. But Bruno most likely told his host about his grandiose reform plans in terms of Hermetism and about his hopes of gaining the favor of the Pope by dedicating the book on 'links' to him. The book was still to be printed, and Bruno wanted to have it done in Frankfurt. Mocenigo protested against his planned departure, then threatened, and finally acted by locking Bruno in his room and by denouncing him as a heretic. O n May 26, Bruno was officially incarcerated in the prisons of the Venetian Inquisition. More than seventy of the ninety pages of the records of Bruno's 20. The book in question is the Nova de tmiversis philosophia

(Ferrara, 1591;

second edition, Venice, 1593). Later Patrizi became suspect of heresy and lost his chair. For further details, see Yates, op. cit., pp. 345—46.


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Venetian trial 21 contain valuable information about Bruno's own thinking. Of those some seventy pages, fifteen are filled with the statements of Mocenigo, Ciotto, and of Jacobus Brictanus, a bookseller from Antwerp visiting in Venice. All three were unanimous in describing him as a person convinced of his absolute superiority. Bruno's own replies to various questions of his investigators, covering some fifty pages, are characterized by his efforts to tone down as much as possible the true aspects of his own views and plans. His explanation of the intent of the Cena is a perfect illustration of this: 'I have composed a book, entitled L,a cena delle cenere [sic], which is divided into five dialogues, which [in turn] treat about the motion of the earth; and because I have conducted that disputation in England, during a dinner which took place on Ash Wednesday, with some physicians, in the home of the ambassador of France, where I stayed, I have given it the title La cena delle cenere [sic] and dedicated it to the same ambassador. And there are possibly some errors in that book, but I cannot now recall [the details] exactly; and in that book my sole intention consisted in poking fun at those physicians and at their opinion concerning that topic [of the motion of the earth].' 22 If indeed such was the case then there was one more powerful reason that scientists should ignore the Cena from the moment it appeared. Bruno was equally solicitous to put his view on the infinitely numerous worlds in a theologically favorable light by describing it as a Pythagorean notion. As to his dicta on the eternity of the world, he claimed a close parallel to exist between his and Aquinas' views on the question! 23 In all, cosmological topics took up only three pages. The overriding interest of Bruno's interrogators lay in such points as Bruno's beliefs about the dogma of Trinity, of Incarnation and of free will, questions that had close relevance to Bruno's pantheistic convictions. His inquisitors were also much interested in points that related to dogmatic differences between Rome and the Reformers. For all his indifference in these matters, Bruno professed full loyalty to the Catholic position, though not without refraining from some covertly sarcastic remarks. The records of his interrogations in Rome, that dragged on with interruptions for seven years, must have been extensive. They now 21. See Spampanato, Documenti delta vita di Giordano Bruno, pp. 59-149. 22. Ibid., p. 121. 23. Ibid., p. 94.



exist only in a summary24 which is about twice as long as the minutes from Venice. From what Bruno's fellow prisoners deposited about him it seems that in private conversation Bruno kept his air of superiority and defiance. Before his judges he tried once more to present his career, thoughts and convictions in the best possible light from the viewpoint of Catholic dogma. Again, cosmology was treated briefly 25 and with reference to its possible connection with pantheism. Bruno was asked to elaborate at great length on his views on Moses, Cain and Abel, the prophets, the invocation of saints, the recitation of the breviary, and similar topics that had absolutely nothing to do with cosmology. The topics about which he was really investigated concerned Trinity, Christ and the human soul. The pantheism of Bruno's cosmology can explain only in part the interest of his investigators in the matter. They were also motivated by an increasingly rigid theological preoccupation which soon was to get carried away by its eagerness to have orthodoxy neatly protected from every angle. Its protagonists foundered in the Galileo case by ignoring not so much the evidence of the telescope as the voice of some great Church Fathers, Augustine in particular. In Bruno's case the crucial issue was pantheism, with cosmology merely thrown in for good measure. If Bruno had to change heart, it concerned not science but religion. As to science he should have changed not his heart but his mind. By the time he was ready to repent the Venetian Inquisition was losing its jurisdiction over him. Although the Venetian Senate first flatly refused Rome's request to extradite Bruno, political expediency soon brought about a complete reversal. Bruno himself was eager to go to Rome. With no sense of reality, he still believed that he could make the biggest coup by gaining over the Pope to the cause of Hermetic reform. On February 27, 1593, he began a seven-year long stay in the jail of the Inquisition in Rome. Possibly, though not certainly, Bruno was tortured at times. Around August 1599 he showed signs of repentance, but shortly afterwards he grew staunchly defiant. This settled the matter in an age in which the burning of a heretic was deemed to redound to the glory of God. The age was still to come when millions were to be devoured in in24. They were found and published by Angelo Cardinal Mercati under the title II sommario delprocesso diGiordano Bruno (Studii e Testi, 101; Citta del Vaticano, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1942). 25. Ibid., pp. 79-85.


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human factories, or to be exterminated for the purity of a race, or to be annihilated on behalf of a classless society. Bruno ate his last supper on earth as the setting sun brought to a close the 16th of February 1600, that year's Ash Wednesday. The following day he passed into eternity moments after he retorted to the clergy around him with the words: 'Possibly, you are passing judgment on me with a greater fear than I am accepting it.' This last utterance of his might as well have been taken from one of the defiant pages of The Ash Wednesday Supper. Coincidences are powerful sources for symbolic interpretations. It is, indeed, hard to resist a glimpse for some symbolic meaning in the tragic finale on an Ash Wednesday of a dramatic career on which the curtain rose with an account of an Ash-Wednesday supper. The work in question, now given here for the first time in English, should show that Bruno's efforts were doomed to failure from the start. He certainly lacked personal qualities to champion a worthy cause, or any cause. In particular, he was tragically mistaken about science. For him science was the wave of the future only inasmuch as it served the cause of Hermetism, a synthesis of occultism, magic, cabbala, necromancy and weird mysticism. Of Bruno's principal talents, one, his outstanding memory, might have served him well for cultivating science, though an encyclopedic memory is not the most important ingredient in the making of a scientist. Another outstanding quality of his shows him a potential great master of Italian prose (his Latin remained too close to the idiom of the Schoolmen), a superb painter with words, but supremely careless about syntax and punctuation. In the sections dealing with science, the sloppiness of his prose only compounds the problems of his foggy thinking. Throughout the work, he was far more intent on personalities than on impersonal presentation. He was also possessed of astonishing energy and of a visionary faith, both indispensable in a great, creative scientist, but in Bruno's case these qualities were not harnessed in the cause of science. The title page of the Cena is worth noting not only for its overt intimation of Bruno's fondness for number mystic. The absence of the printer's name and of the place of printing tells the clandestine manner in which the book was brought out. The move was rather inept, as



the name of the printer, John Charlewood, was soon an open secret. It was only some time afterwards that he gained a rightful standing in the stationers' guild of London. Charlewood was also the 'anonymous' printer of the De l'infinito and of De la causa, printed, if their title pages are to be believed, in Venice. The printing of the Cena must have been a very hasty affair. The work has an unduly large share of printing errors, to say nothing of last-minute changes and of many careless phrasings. A good number of these were well-nigh impossible to interpret until the appearance, in 1955, of a critical edition of the text through the extensive researches of Giovanni Aquilecchia. 26 His edition, on which this translation is based, is distinguished by a clarification of the numerous grammatical and stylistic peculiarities and obscurities of the text, and also by an explanation of the mythological and literary allusions of which Bruno's style is replete. Fortunately, no thorough familiarity with these details is needed to gain a sufficiently clear picture of Bruno's 'scientific' message. In Aquilecchia's lengthy introduction to the critical edition, Bruno is presented within an outlook on the Renaissance, as the dawn of reason, science and style. The true picture of the Renaissance is far more complex, and so is Bruno's image as a Renaissance man. One trait constituting that fuller image of the Renaissance is a pronounced subjectivism, also a chief feature of Bruno's own personal physiognomy. In fact, the Cena opens with a poem, which is a sarcastic needling of Bruno's opponents, the academic pedants. It is again this subjective venom, mixed with an air of superiority and secretive allusions, that vibrates through the Prefatory Epistle. A substantial part of it is a summary by Bruno of the five Dialogues comprising 26. Giordano Bruno, La Cena de le Ceneri, a cura di Giovanni Aquilecchia (Torino, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1955). This edition is the basis for the often free translation of the Cena into German by Ferdinand Fellmann with an Introduction by Hans Blumenberg (Giordano Bruno, Das Aschermittmchsmahl, Frankfurt am Main, Insel Verlag, 1969) and of the translation by Emile Namer into French of the Cena's 'scientifically relevant' passages comprising about one-fourth of the whole work (Giordano Bruno, La Cena de le Ceneri - Le banquet des cendres, Paris, Gauthier-Villars, 1965). Although Namer mentions Yates' work in his bibliography, his introduction to and commentaries on the Cena wholly ignore Yates' all-important findings and conclusions. The introduction and notes to the foregoing German translation also present Bruno in the cliché fashion as an outstanding champion of science. An older German translation of the Cena, published in 1904, was based on the often unreliable and obscure texts of the editions of the Italian works of Bruno by A. Wagner (1830) and P. Lagarde (1888).


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the work. The name of Copernicus occurs only twice, in suggestive evidence that Copernicus was merely a vehicle for Bruno to publicize his Hermetic world view and his own exalted role in it. Bruno's claim that the Dialogues contain no idle words will hardly carry conviction with attentive readers. They will be weary of Bruno's defense of the harsh words he is to mete out to his opponents. In view of what has already been said about Bruno's persistent though naive political schemings, it will be difficult to miss the real intent of Bruno's bombastic accolade of Henri III, which brings to a close the Prefatory Epistle. Of the four interlocutors of the Dialogues, Theophil (God-loving) is Bruno's spokesman. He was wont to designate himself with that name or with its variation, Philotheo, as a sort of pseudonym, some time before he reached England. It is Philotheo who speaks in Bruno's name in the De l'infinite and Theophil does the same in the De la causa. Bruno's choice of the name might have had some connection with his remembrance of a Father Teofilo de Vairano, an Augustinian monk, who taught him logic in Naples before he joined the Dominicans. The second interlocutor, Smith, stands for the type of educated layman ready to learn and to listen, but it is not certain that he is identical with a certain Master John Smith, who became Bruno's friend. Prudenzio, in turn, plays the part of the academic pedant, hardened against anything which departs, from traditional tenets. The name might have been taken from the leading character of a play on pedants by Francis Belo written in 1538. The fourth interlocutor, Frulla, is Smith's literate assistant, ready to enliven the conversation with biting remarks, a role which Bruno certainly enjoyed creating. The First Dialogue opens with the introduction of Doctors Nundinio and Torquato, two scholars from Oxford, symbolic representatives of Bruno's antagonists, the academic pedants. The strange twosome gives rise to the 'celebration of the binary number', followed by some darts at pedantic grammarians. Then comes the first reference to the topic of the discussion, Copernicus' doctrine of the motion of the earth. The declaration is immediately made that the Nolan (as Theophil always refers to Bruno) is not merely a follower of Copernicus, but relies above all on his own mental eyes. In the remainder of the book this theme is repeatedly developed into the assertion that the Nolan is practically unique in seeing the deeper and universal truth. This sweeping intellectual self-confidence is, of course, a deriv-



ative of Bruno's sense of mission as the supreme prophet of Hermetism. The subsequent panegyric on Copernicus is probably the most beautiful and inspired part of the book. Its clear and elevated atmosphere turns into an affectation of humility as Theophil emphasizes the Nolan's merits. There follow veiled allusions to the Hermetic heavens, which the Nolan alone can throw wide open. It is at that point that the Oxonian doctors break in and charge the Nolan with madness. The reply is a short review of the history of astronomy, taken from Copernicus' book, to illustrate the point that time is not in favor of the ancients but of the moderns, since the latter have access to far more data than the former. Furthermore, the 'new' philosophy is described as inherited from ancient students of Hermetism, and followers of it are characterized as embodiments of all conceivable virtues. The First Dialogue comes to a conclusion with a reflection on the possible modes of getting hold of the truth, and here again the tone exudes egotism, suggesting that truth can only be had through the Nolan. It is on this self-conscious tone that the report on the Nolan is continued the next day as the Second Dialogue gets under way. It is now disclosed that the meeting of the Nolan with the Oxonian doctors is an outgrowth of his acquaintance with Sir Fulke Greville, who (as Theophil reports it) is now pressing the Nolan to give his explanation of the motion of the earth before a distinguished audience. The Nolan remarks, with some haughty petulance, that his answers must be tailored to the mental preparation of the listeners but that he would not miss an opportunity to further the cause of truth. The invitation is then extended to meet again in Greville's house in eight more days, that is, on Ash Wednesday. It is already the evening of that day when at long last John Florio, a well-known Italian expatriate, and his friend, Mathew Gwinne, arrive at the Nolan's residence to accompany him to Greville's house. The journey almost immediately provides an opportunity for Bruno to give an overworked portrayal of the unsafety of transportation in London, both on the Thames River and on the streets. Bruno is now in his element as a painter of dark boatsmen, of endless mud pools and of the uncivility of all the lower classes. Once in print, Bruno's highly sarcastic and unjust account of life and conditions in London created quite a resentment among his hosts. He found good traits only in some very select Englishmen in the very high ranks. Bruno heaps extravagant encomiums on Queen


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Elizabeth and on her close advisers, Robert Dudley, Francis Walsingham and Philip Sidney. No science is mentioned during the curious journey which all of a sudden brings the Nolan and his companions to Greville's house. The Third Dialogue is the longest section of the work and consists of Theophil's account of the Nolan's reply to five points (propositions) made by Nundinio. The various points are hardly selected to present the anti-Copernican position at its strongest. In fact, from the very start, the Oxonian doctors play the part of rude and ignorant schoolmasters. Bruno is clearly unaware of the ineffectiveness of trying to prove too much too easily. He also seems to be insensitive to the possible rebounding of his own tactics. Thus, he parries Nundinio's first point or query - does the Nolan understand Latin? - with some supercilious remarks on the ignorance of most Englishmen of foreign languages, although he himself failed to master the rudiments of English. The second point of Nundinio is the claim that Copernicus merely proposed the motion of the earth as a hypothesis. In a sharp disclaimer, Bruno points out that such an interpretation is based on the mistake of taking the introductory letter to Copernicus' work as something written by Copernicus himself. Bruno's arguments against the authenticity of that letter are brief. He spends more space and time on questioning the truth of an argument contained in that letter whose author is identified by Bruno simply as a fool and a beast. The argument concerns the measure of the variation in Venus' apparent brightness, but Bruno fails to notice that it poses a problem both in the heliocentric and in the geocentric ordering of planets. The essence of Bruno's reply as reported by Theophil is based on the difference in which the human eye reacts to a luminous and to an opaque body. The visual size of the former, especially when very distant, does not change with distance, and Bruno illustrates the point with the appearance of a lantern from distant coastal lands. He then transfers this point to the appearance of the whole earth from a very great distance. The diagram [1] he adds as illustration lacks clarity, and even more so is the case with the next diagram [2] which is supposed to bring out the fact that the sun is much larger than the earth. The digression to refute some ancients, who claimed that the sun was exactly as big as it looked, shows Bruno's eagerness to appear very learned, as does his next point, also illustrated by a diagram [3], that a light source can illuminate more than half of a distant, spherical, opaque body.



Enmeshed in this complex proposition, Bruno adds now another, equally faulty diagram [4], accompanied by further laborious 'explanation'. Finally, Bruno observes with Nicolas of Cusa that, visually, the bright parts 'prevail' over the opaque parts of distant bodies such as the innumerable stars and earths. Clearly, Bruno's implicit inference is that the 'study of optics' leaves no room for forging an argument against Copernicus' theory from the apparently insufficient variations in Venus' brightness. The foregoing reference to innumerable worlds is followed by an amplification on it, as Theophil reports Bruno's reply to the third point made by Nundinio, who claims that the earth cannot move because it occupies the center of the universe. Speaking through Theophil, Bruno flatly states that he is not to be bogged down in a spherical universe, be it geocentric or heliocentric. His world is an infinite universe which is without confines and center, and in which the position of bodies is determined only by their relation to one another. From a short reference to the ranting and raving of Torquato, the discourse proceeds to Nundinio's fourth proposition, which is a request that the debate turn to the properties of the ethereal material composing the planets and the stars. In reply, Bruno asserts that other celestial bodies differ from the earth no more than do big and small animals of one species from one another. This reference to animals is worth noting because it serves as an overture to Bruno's description of the universe of stars and planets as an infinite congeries of basically identical living entities thriving in an interaction of grossly animistic and vitalistic affinities. The remark that the similarity of all cosmic bodies had already been proposed in Lucian's fable entitled Vera historia is brushed aside by Bruno as wholly inconsequential. With an air of victory, Bruno now presses Nundinio to make a further point. T h e fifth proposition of Nundinio concerns the dynamical consequences of the earth's rotation on bodies on its surface. Bruno's reply, curiously enough, is a paraphrasis of Aristotle's dicta in the Meteorologica on clouds, exhalations, mountains and the 'bowels' of the earth. Bruno becomes Aristotelian even in the manner in which he once more tries to prove too much and fills the gaps of factual information with phantasies. Thus, he gives a long-winded 'explanation' of how the whole horizon can be seen by people living in the 'bowels' of the earth. The diagram [5] to illustrate all this is as incomplete and inconclusive as the previous ones, And even more so


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is the next diagram [6] which purports to help understand the fact that due to the rotation of the earth, a stone thrown upward should not hit the earth again at a point to the west from the original starting place of the throw. The Dialogue comes to a close with Bruno's struggle with the notion of 'impressed force', an implicit anticipation of inertial motion. The Fourth Dialogue opens the next day with a straightforward reference to the Scriptures, the 'true cause' of opposition to the Copernican doctrine. Bruno's answer, as reported by Theophil, is that the biblical revelation aims at improving people's morals and not at giving them philosophical demonstrations. Furthermore, since the instruction of people had to be tailored to their commonsense perception, Moses had to speak of two big and many small luminaries in the sky. But Bruno is not to rest content with positing such sound principles. In a patent inconsistency, he turns to the Book of Job and takes certain (allegorical) passages of it as evidences that the Scriptures contain the (physical) truth about the celestial regions. The truth is, of course, the Brunian truth, which, unlike the contradictory interpretations of the Bible by so many religious sects and philosophical schools, favors the true religion which Bruno, in a good Hermetic strategy, leaves undefined. At this point the narration turns to the irate and fulminating Torquato, who brings up the relation between the earth's motion and the variation of Mars' brightness. Bruno dismisses the topic as well as he brushes aside the request that technicalities about planetary motions be discussed. Instead, he describes the infinite universe as the infinite product of an infinite cause and the motion of the earth as a most convenient feature of the cosmos. Once more, Bruno is decried a madman trying to get away from the real issues. Bruno is not slow in repaying in kind. He depicts the English academic scene as a body of uncouth ignoramuses, with a pointed reference to his own mistreatment by the Oxonian doctors in connection with the visit of Prince Laski. At this point, the meeting seems to break up, while Bruno preaches a small homily on intellectual humility and exhorts his opponents to be disciples of that Aristotle who avidly searched for truth. Bursting with anger, Torquato throws at Bruno the question: Where is the perigee of the sun's orbit? In reply, he receives only ridicule. So finally a long sheet is produced by Bruno's opponents, who draw the diagram of the Ptolemaic and Copernican ordering of planets. The diagram [7] of-



fered by Bruno is at long last correct, but it does not match his words about the place which is assigned by Torquato to the earth. Oblivious also of the fact that he himself misread Copernicus, Bruno deplores his opponents' ignorance of philosophy and of 'real mathematics', that is, physics. The promise that an explantion of the world by physics, or natural causes, shall be provided the next day brings the Fourth Dialogue to an end. The closing, or Fifth Dialogue, begins with a look at the sea of stars. Bruno (Theophil) almost immediately tackles a point of 'real mathematics'. It concerns the appearance of the celestial vault, which suggests that all stars are fixed at the same distance. The diagram [8] once more reflects poor planning. At any rate, Bruno merely shows that the apparent closeness of two stars might be due to their falling on almost the same line of sight. He seems to derive much conviction about infinite depths from the etymology of the word ethera, which he interprets as runners, that is, bodies dashing through infinite space. From this, it is but one step to speaking of each of those 'runners' in a vitalistic vein, and once more Bruno is in his animistic world view. He sets great store by the mutual interaction between bodies in every sense and pokes fun at those who, for instance, attribute the various degrees of heat to the higher and lower incidence of the sun's rays. He derides 'games with geometry' and wants verification 'by nature'. N o wonder that he is speaking as a full-blooded Aristotelian, but with far less consistency and clarity than Aristotle, about gravity and levity, fire and water, cold and heat. He even repeats Aristotle's absurdities on comets. He is wholly Aristotelian in claiming a purpose for every physical process. He fully endorses the doctrine of eternal transformations and returns, a doctrine very dear to Aristotle, as far as the sublunary world is concerned. In essence Bruno even retains the Aristotelian tenet of the incorruptibility of the heavens, as he claims that transformations affect only the various parts of celestial bodies but not their totalities. He finds approval for this view in a dictum of Plato and praises Aristotle for positing in the Meteorologica the perennial transformation on earth of every form into all other forms. To Aristotle's examples of the slow geological changes in the Nile valley and elsewhere, Bruno adds his own 'proofs' of vast changes in climate. He thinks that the growing of grapes (though very sour ones) in England is an evidence that the climate there had warmed up since the old Roman days.

The Ash Wednesday Supper No less sour are the final fruits of Bruno's speculations. He castigates Aristotle for speaking half the truth about the true cause of those perennial transformations. Aristotle was in a sense forced, according to Bruno, to posit as the cause not the circular motion of the sun, but rather confusedly, though 'prophetically', the sun and circular motion. With the motion of the earth established, the true cause is now apparent. And here Bruno begins the concluding and also the most self-defeating and stupefying pages of his book. He assigns four, most likely for cabbalistic reasons, exactly four motions to the earth and indicates how each contributes to those major continental, climatic and geological transformations which the earth and all other earths and stars perennially undergo. Bruno now cites minutely exact values from Ptolemy and from Copernicus for the daily advance of the sun along the zodiac. They contribute nothing to his final effort to show, and with a most obscure diagram [9], that all four motions are actually the four aspects of one single motion. Possibly, he wished to provide a cryptic illustration of his pantheistic theme that all are really but one. Although Prudenzio sighs about the ever increasing number of theories, Bruno (speaking through Theophil to the end) feels satisfied that the speculative task of the Cena has indeed been accomplished. The last word is given to Prudenzio, a convert to the Brunian truth. He praises Bruno and deplores Nundinio and Torquato. His final advice to them is that if they are unable to say something worthwhile, they should at least observe silence.

What really came to be enveloped in silence was the Cena, together with other items of Bruno's big literary output. Bruno's works even failed to derive immediate propaganda value from being put on the Index in 1603. The Cena was not to be printed again for another twoand-a-half centuries. If Hermetism, magic and occultism presented a danger to orthodoxy in the early 1600s, it was not so much Bruno, but Fludd who was watched and battled, as can be seen in Mersenne's spirited literary campaign against atheists, skeptics, libertins, and especially against Fludd, the 'evil magician'. Had Bruno been an effective and constructive factor in the scientific movement of the decades immediately following his death, the correspondence of Mersenne, who served as the clearing house of scientific information for some thirty years, would now show a clear indication of this. All the avail-



able evidence suggests that men of science (philosophers and men of letters as they could be at the same time) did not relish the frustrating work of searching for a few fortunate phrases in Bruno's writings. Those phrases were so embedded in a jungle of anti-scientific and anti-rational discourse as to discourage any curiosity and effort to locate them. The situation is well illustrated by Galileo's attitude toward Kepler's writings, which had an ample share, in addition to most valuable scientific material, of animistic, mystical and cabbalistic lore. This was so repugnant to Galileo that he refused to delve, for instance, into Kepler's epoch-making book on the motion of Mars, where the elliptic orbit of planets was clearly and amply demonstrated. The scientific value in Bruno's books was infinitesimal compared with that in the work of Kepler, who had already been dead for a dozen years when he was effectively discovered for science by the young genius, Horrocks. Thus, Bruno could at best be given a cursory mention. As a rule, he was ignored as science was coming of age. Only Bruno's latter-day admirers could ever claim that Bruno's thought aided the experimental component of the scientific movement during the first half of the seventeenth century. Close to the scene, Francis Bacon felt very differently about Bruno. In the opening section of his Historia naturalis et experimentalis (1622), a work which was to implement Bacon's ambitious philosophy of scientific research, Bruno was cited among those philosophers who sought knowledge not through the observation of the facts of nature but through concocting fables about them. 2 ' Characteristically enough, Kepler, a man with strongly cabbalistic, mystical and metaphysical inclinations, was the only notable figure of seventeenth-century science who keenly reacted, and for theological reasons, to Bruno's cosmological speculations. Kepler turned away with an almost morbid revulsion from the idea of an infinite universe, which, he felt, pre-empted any prospect of a purposeful existence.28 He did not judge matters too badly as far as Bruno's dicta were concerned. One of the foundations of Kepler's proofs of a finite universe, the estimate of the angular width of first-magnitude stars, was quickly demolished with the coming of the telescope which was to become 27. See The Works of Francis Bacon, edited by J. Spedding, R.L. Ellis and D.D. Heath (London, Longman & Co., 1859), vol. II, p. 13. 28. De stella nova in pede serpentarii (1604), in Gesammelte Werke, edited by W. vou Dyck and M. Caspar (Munich, C.H. Beck, 1938-), vol. I, p. 253.


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the most powerful single factor in forcing the transition from a spherical cosmos to an immense, if not infinite, realm of stars. The transition was not sudden, as can be seen in Galileo's tolerance for the idea of confining all stars within a very wide spherical shell.29 Galileo never referred to Bruno, although there is a possibility that in writing his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems he might have taken a cue or two from the Cena. If there is a telling though unwitting parallel between these two works, it concerns the concluding Dialogue in both. Bruno's 'four motions' of the earth are as absurd and self-defeating as is Galileo's lengthy contention that the daily and seasonal tides evidence the earth's daily and annual motions.Descartes' 'immense' universe, with his emphasis on geometry and mechanics, should appear worlds removed from Bruno's Hermetic and animistic infinity. The literary sources that served pre-Cartesian seventeenthcentury scientists and philosophers on the idea of an infinite world were Lucretius and Nicolas of Cusa, to both of whom Bruno himself owed whatever scientific clarity was salvaged amidst his Hermetic and animistic utterances. None of these sources was needed any longer after Descartes articulated his own version of a practically infinite universe in which there were, in a genuinely mechanistic fashion, only matter and motion, with no room left for Brunian animism. No wonder that the only seventeenth-century attempt to relate Descartes to Bruno rested on the unscholarly motivation to discredit Cartesianism.30 Bruno's influence should appear equally meager, for those at least who refuse to see evidence where there is none or little at all, when one turns to the topic of the inhabitability of any and all parts of the universe. Belief in denizens on other planets and beyond was motivated by the principle of plenitude long before Bruno, and such remained the situation long after him. The only tangible influence Bruno exerted in this respect was farcical. The Man in the Moone, or a Discourse of a Voyage hither by Domingo Gonzales, the Speedy Messenger was written by a former Oxford man, Francis Godwin, bishop of 29. As suggested by various passages of his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. See translation by Stillman Drake (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1962), pp. 319, 326 and 382. 30. As can be seen in the Censura philosopbiae Cartesianae by P.D. Huet, bishop of Avranches, first published in 1689 (fourth revised edition, Paris, apud Joannem Anisson, 1694), pp. 256-57. The short passage is part of a chapter entitled: 'Although he hardly contributed anything new'.



Chester, possibly under the influence of Bruno's visit in Oxford but not published until five years after Godwin's death in 1633.31 The most notable seventeenth-century works on inhabitants on the moon and other planets written by Wilkins (1638), Cyrano de Bergerac (1655), Borei (1657), Fontenelle (1686) and Huygens (1698) have, with the exception of Huygens' Cosmotheoros, no reference to Bruno. The only area where Bruno's influence permits documenting in seventeenth-century publications, is theater. Various scenes of his Candelaio were utilized in almost a dozen plays of Molière, a circumstance which was probably known only to Molière until modern Brunian scholars painstakingly unveiled the evidence. Long before that it had been claimed that Bruno influenced Spinoza. Since the latter was a pantheist, one should not wonder that parallelisms may occur, as pantheism has its own stereotyped vocabulary. Yet, one should not forget that Spinoza was inspired by and steeped in Euclid's geometry, a subject which had no appeal to Bruno. This was curiously ignored in the first thematic discussion of Bruno's career, ideas and influence, the article 'Brunus' in Pierre Bayle's famed Dictionnaire historique et critique, first published in 1697. The extremely dim view which Bayle took of Bruno was certainly not motivated by any possible fear of reprisals for giving, say, an enthusiastic estimate of him. In fact, nothing would have been more natural for a professor of history at Rotterdam than taking aim at Rome by extolling Bruno. But Bayle knew how to avoid weapons that could only hurt their users. He clearly spoke his own rationalist dismay with his very first remark on Bruno's ideas: 'His principal doctrines are a thousand times more obscure than all the most incomprehensible dicta ever uttered by the followers of Thomas Aquinas or John Duns Scotus.'32Inviewof the rationalists' contempt for Scholasticism the remark could not have been more devastating. Bayle was a forerunner of the rationalist deism of the Enlightenment and of its main scribes, the Encyclopedists, who were anything but eager to make ammunition of Bruno. Curiously, it was a Jesuit, Noel Regnault, who made cursory references to Bruno in a book on 31. See the modern edition with introduction and notes by Grant McColley, 'The Man in the Moone and Nuncius Inanimatusin Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, 19, October 1937. 32. See the edition of 1820 (Paris, Desoer), vol. IV, p. 176.


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the ancient, classical origins of modern, that is, Cartesian physics. 33 Bruno's cultural resurrection began with the rise of German Romanticism and Idealism, both of which had a distinctly pantheistic component. One of Schelling's most characteristic works, published in 1802, has the title, Bruno: oder über das göttliche und natürliche Prinzip der Dinge. Ein Gespräch (Bruno: or a Dialogue on the divine and natural principle of things). There Schelling instructs through Bruno three other interlocutors on the origination of all things from the Absolute and offers on the nature of celestial bodies views that closely resemble certain passages in the Cena. With Schelling Idealism issued in Naturphilosophie in which the approach to the physical world was based on that organismic and pantheistic concept of nature which dominates Bruno's thinking. Goethe, who showed marked sympathy for Bruno's pantheistic world view, felt, however, impelled to note that finding the valuable elements in Bruno's writings was almost as much beyond human strength as was extracting minute quantities of gold and silver from a huge pile of worthless ore.34 This remark of Goethe sets forth concisely the whole Brunian issue of cultural and especially of scientific history. Nothing of this was ever intimated, let alone admitted, by those leaders of late-nineteenth-century rationalism and materialism who chose Bruno as their hallowed symbol. Most twentieth-century histories of science, and in particular the introductions to the English 33. L'origine ancienne de la physique nouvelle où l'on voit dans des entretiens par lettres ce que la physique nouvelle a de commun avec l'ancienne. Le degré de perfection de la physique nouvelle sur l'ancienne. Les moyens qui ont amené la physique à ce point de perfection (Paris, Jacques Clousier, 1734). The three references are in Letter XIV in which Regnault claimed that 'Eudoxus shows the rudiments of Descartes' hypothesis and even of his method' (vol. II, p. 104). Regnault quoted only one and minor work of Bruno, his Acrotismus, or a defense of his propositions submitted against the Peripatetics (in Paris, printed in Wittenberg, in 1588. According to Regnault's brief remarks Bruno 'refused to set limits to the realm of matter by giving an infinite extent to the universe' (p. 106), put the sun among the stars (p. 116) and made the stars turn around their center (p. 123). The incidental character of these remarks remains hidden in La cosmologie de Giordano Bruno (Paris, Hermann, 1962) by Henri-Paul Michel, who speaks (pp. 318-19) of Regnault's 'homage' to Bruno. Although two chapters in Michel's work are devoted to 'the soul of the world' and to the 'living universe', respectively, he fails to show the destructive influence of these notions on Bruno's cosmology. Michel's work, in which no treatment is given of the Hermetic character of Bruno's world view, comes to a close with an approving quote of Teilhard de Chardin's claim that 'all energy is of psychic character' (p. 333). 34. In an entry from 1812 in the Annalen. See Gedenkausgabe der Werke, Briefe und Gespräche (Zurich, Artemis Verlag, 1949), vol. XI, p. 857.



translations of Bruno's Italian works, follow that myopic trend. In one of these introductions one finds, for instance, the first scholarly probing into Bruno's engrossment with magic described as a product of Fascist mentality, 35 while in another introduction Mer senne is chastised for calling Bruno an atheist. 36 These remarks have not been made to take issue with personal beliefs and world views. They are offered to illustrate the need of producing an image of Bruno based on his own words, deeds and cultural context and not on retrospective preferences. Fulfilling that need would also help the emergence of a truer picture of a specific phase in the history of science, a field probably more affected by cliché categorizations than any other area of historical research. The conviction is still heavily entrenched that the progress of science is a straightforward advance of the forces of light over the redoubts of obscurantism. Only two decades ago, Herbert Butterfield could cause no small commotion by pointing out the heavily conservative components in Copernicus' discourse on the heliocentric ordering of planets. 37 A few years later Arthur Koestler made the whole intellectual world react by his forceful characterization of the early progress of modern science in terms of sleepwalking. 38 He might have been carried away, but he successfully reminded a wide audience of some real features of the historical record. One of these features is the extreme tortuousness of the advance of science. Of this no one has given more telling insights than Kepler, one of the 'sleepwalkers', and the only major scientist to have paid serious attention to some of Bruno's dicta. Kepler spoke of his own struggles through a seemingly endless labyrinth of trial and error. To read his self-revelations is reserved only to a few specially trained scholars. Quite different is the case when one turns to The Ash Wednesday Supper. Its compactness, its vibrating 35. Such is Lindsay's remark at the end of the introduction to his translation of the Causa (see note 15 above). He most likely had in mind the scholarly work of Antonio Corsano, II pensiero di Giordano Bruno nel suo svolgimento storico (Florence, Sansoni, 1940) in which a pioneering effort was made to disclose Bruno's heavy preoccupation with magic. 36. Mersenne does it and for very good reasons, in his 1L'impiété des deistes, athées et libertins de ce temps... (Paris, Pierre Bilaine, 1624). Exception was taken to this by D.W. Singer, op. cit. (see note 5 above), p. 193. 37. The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800 (London, Bell, 1949), Chapter II, 'The Conservatism of Copernicus'. 38. The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe (New York, Macmillan, 1959).


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atmosphere, its non-technical character make it easily that single work which most effectively might convey a major lesson of the history of science. For is it not the very purpose of celebrating great anniversaries to reinforce awareness of most important and most valid lessons?

A part of the lesson is the recognition of the fact that the clarity by which the scientific message can today be conveyed is also a product of a long evolution. The convoluted style of bygone centuries was hardly a factor in promoting clarity of thought. In the case of Bruno, this is a particularly noteworthy circumstance. His often careless, incomplete, hasty phrases are a constant hurdle for a translator intent on translating and not on recasting. Faithfulness to the original phrasing and meaning has been a fundamental aim in making this translation. Effort has also been made to retain as much as possible the original punctuation, which shows in many places inconsistency and even confusion. Brackets were used for words that had to be added for the sake of clarity. The same technique was used when Bruno's own words were supplemented with synonyms which Bruno could have very well used, if clarity had been a special concern with him. His style, in conformity with the tastes of his times, is full with mythological, poetical and Biblical allusions, which call for many notes to let the reader have a quick grasp of their meaning. Not a few of Bruno's dicta on scientific matters also required some comment so that their true place and value in the context of scientific history might be readily appraised. Due to the many defects in the black background of the diagrams in the original illustrations, some retouching was necessary to insure clarity. The illustrations are from the copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.


DESCRIBED IN FIVE DIALOGUES, THROUGH FOUR INTERLOCUTORS, WITH THREE CONSIDERATIONS, ON TWO SUBJECTS. To the unique refuge of the Muses, the Most Illustrious Michel de Castelnau, Seigneur de Mauvissiere, Concressault and Joinville, Chevalier of the Most Christian King's Order, and Councillor in his Privy Council, Captain of fifty men at arms, Governor and Captain of Saint Dizier, and Ambassador to the Most Serene Queen of England. The general intent is declared in the preface. 1584


Should my cynical teeth have pierced you through, Blame only yourself, you vicious canine; In vain you show me your stick and swagger, If you guard not against despising me. Since you have confronted me with injustice, I shall stretch and pull your skin all over; And should my body too fall to the ground, Your shame will be recorded in hard diamond. Go not naked to the beehive for honey, Bite not, if you know not the bread from stone, Walk not barefoot while disseminating thorns. Flies should not take lightly the cobwebs; If you are a mouse do not follow the toads, Flee the foxes, you, who are full of chicken's blood. And believe in the Gospel, Which proclaims with great conviction: From our fields will gather revenge all you Who cast around there the seeds of error.


PREFATORY EPISTLE WRITTEN TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND EXCELLENT SEIGNEUR DE MAUVISSlfiRE Chevalier of the King's Order, and Councillor in his Privy Council, Captain of fifty men at arms, Governor General of Saint Dizier, and Ambassador of France in England. Here I offer you, my Lord, not a nectarean repast of the Thunder-god1 for a majesty. Not a protoparental2 one for human desolation. Not that of Ahasuerus3 for a mystery. Not that of Lucullus4 for the rich. Not that of Lycaon5 for a sacrilege. Not that of Thiestes6 for a tragedy. Not that of Tantalus7 for begging. Not that of Plato for philosophizing. Not that of Diogenes for misery. Not that of a leech for a pittance. Not that of an archpriest of Pogliano8 for a farce. Not that of Bonifacio Candelaio9 for a comedy. But a repast so grand and small, so magisterial and schoolish, so sacrilegeous and religious, so cheerful and angry, so bitter and happy, so Florentine-lean and Bolognese-fat, so cynical and luxurious, so trifling and serious, so grave and clownish, so tragic and comical. Thus, I am convinced that you will have not a few opportunities to be heroic and dejected, teacher and student, believer and unbeliever, happy and sad, saturnine and jovial, facile 1. Jupiter. 2. Refers to Adam and Eve, the first parents. 3. Ahasuerus, one of the two Persian or Medean kings, who took Esther for wife. 4. Lucullus (c. 110 BC-c. 56 BC), Roman general, who earned fame with his luxurious meals. 5. Lycaon, mythological king of Arcadia, who in order to test the divinity of the disguised Zeus served him human flesh for a meal and was turned into a wolf by the irate god. 6. A reference to a mythological banquet at which Thiestes unwittingly ate the flesh of his own children killed by his brother, Atreus. 7. Tantalus, son of Zeus, was condemned to eternal hunger and thirst in the nether world. 8. Bruno refers to the poem, 'Capitolo del prete da Povigliano', by Francesco Berni (1497-1535). 9. Bonifacio plays the leading role in Bruno's play, Candelaio. For further details, see the Introduction. 43


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and ponderous, cringing and liberal, apish and dignified, a sophist with Aristotle, a philosopher with Pythagoras, smiling with Democritus, crying with Heraclitus. I dare say that after you have sniffed with the Peripatetics, eaten with the Pythagoreans, drunk with the Stoics, you still may suck with the one who, in showing his teeth, displayed such a friendly smile as to reach both his ears with his mouth. Therefore, as your bones are shaken and your marrow sapped, you will come on things that would distract a Saint [Giovanni] Colombini, founder of the Gesuati,10 would dazzle any merchant, would make the apes burst with laughter, and would break the silence of any graveyard. You would ask, what symposium, what repast is this? It is a supper. What supper? The supper of ashes. What does it say, this supper of ashes? Was perhaps such a meal served you before? Or might one perhaps utter here [the words] CINEREM TAMQUAM PANEM MANDUCABAM 1 1 [ I ate ashes like bread]? No. But it is a repast, taken after sunset, on the first day of Lent, called by our priests Ash Wednesday, and sometimes the day of MEMENTO.12 What is that repast, that meal about? It is not for the purpose of recalling the spirit and deeds of the most noble and distinguished Sir Fulke Greville, 13 in whose esteemed mansion the gathering took place. It is not about the distinguished costumes in which refined citizens were present as spectators and audience. It is rather about one's intent to see to what extent nature can produce two fantastic goblins,14 two dreams, two shadows and two four-day fevers; and while the historical sense is being sifted, tasted and masticated, there will be submitted propositions, some topographical, others geographical, some rational, others moral. Also speculations, some of which are metaphysical, others mathematical, others physical. 10. The reference is to the vow of chastity made by Colombini and his wife. He founded the lay order of Gesuati a few months before his death, in 1367. 11. A quotation from Psalm 101. 12. The first word in the prayer, Memento homo. . . (Remember man. . .), accompanying the imposition of ashes on the first day of Lent. 13. Sir Fulke Greville (1554-1628), a friend of Philip Sidney and of Francis Bacon, pursued a literary and political career, gaining ultimately a membership in the House of Lords. 14. The two Oxonian doctors, Nundinio and Torquato. Nundinio was perhaps a pun on John Underhill (see note 32 to the Fourth Dialogue), while Torquato might have represented George Turner (1569-1610), associated from 1584 on with the Royal College of Physicians,



Thus, you shall see in the first dialogue two persons presented in plain view with the explanation of their names, if you can grasp it. Second, the scale of binary number will be celebrated in their honor. Third, the praiseworthy conditions of a rediscovered and repaired philosophy will be set forth. Fourth, it will be shown what great praises Copernicus deserves. Fifth, the fruits of the Nolan [Brunian] philosophy will be presented, with the difference between this and the other modes of philosophizing. THEME OF THE SECOND DIALOGUE

You will first see in the second dialogue the original reason for the meal. Second, a description of the steps and moves that shall be judged by all as being more poetical and perhaps symbolic than historical. Third, as if one were to lapse confusedly into a moral topography where one is looking with lynx's eyes (without closing them too much) hither and thither, at thing after thing while making one's way; in addition to watching the big objects, the small ones, even a pebble or a bit of gravel, should not be taken lightly, so it seems to me, lest one should stumble. And in this one does exactly as a painter 15 for whom it is not enough to make a simple drawing of the story; he must fill the canvas and conform to nature with artistry; he depicts for you stones, mountains, trees, springs, rivers, hills; and makes you see here a royal palace, there a forest, farther a stretch of the sky, in that corner a part of the rising sun, and now and again a bird, a pig, a stag, a donkey, a horse; while it is enough to show only the head of this, the horn of that, the hind quarters of another, the ears of this, the entire description of that, this with merely a gesture and mien, which that and another do not possess; so that one would with greater satisfaction wonder, guess, and spin a story (as they would say) about the picture. It is with such a mind that you should read and consider what I want to say. Finally, one concludes that happy dialogue with the arrival at the house, with being graciously received, and ceremoniously seated at table. 15. The analogy is worth noting in view of Bruno's great aptitude for painting with words broad and detailed scenes.


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You will see the third dialogue divided (according to the number of the propositions of Doctor Nundinio 36 ) into five parts. Of these the first is about the necessity of one and the other language. The second explains the intention of Copernicus, and gives the solution of a most important problem about the celestial phenomena. It shows the futility of studies in perspective and optics to determine the size of luminous bodies, and offers about this a new, well-defined, and most certain doctrine. The third shows the kind of composition of celestial bodies, and declares the mass of the universe to be infinite, and that one looks in vain for the center or circumference of the universe, as if it were one of the particular bodies. The fourth affirms that our world, called the terrestrial globe, is identical as far as material composition goes with the other worlds, the bodies of other stars; and that it is childish to have believed or to believe otherwise. Also that they [those celestial bodies] are so many intelligent animals, and that there live and strive on them many and innumerable simple and composite individuals to no less extent than we see these living and growing on the back of this [our globe]. The fifth, apropos of an argument submitted by Nundinio in the end, shows the great futility of the two great convictions with which, and with similar ones, Aristotle and others are blinded so as not to perceive the motion of the earth to be true and necessary. They are, indeed, so inhibited that they cannot believe this [the motion of the earth] to be possible. But once this is admitted, many secrets of nature, hitherto hidden, do unfold.


You have at the outset of the fourth dialogue the means to reply to all reasonings and to all theological importunings; and [the means] to show that this philosophy conforms with all true theology and deserves to be favored by true religion. For the rest, there comes to the fore one who knew neither how to dispute nor how to speak to the point, who by being the more impudent and arrogant, appeared 16. See note 1 4 above.


Prefatory Epistle

more learned to the more ignorant than did Doctor Nundinio. But you see that all the presses of the world would not be enough to extract one drop of juice from his dicta to carry the matter with a question to Smith, or with an answer to Theophil. But here one is subject to the boastings of Prudenzio and to the nonsense of Frulla. It certainly pains me that you happen to be in that section.


The fifth dialogue is attached (I swear) for no other reason than to prevent our supper from being concluded in so sterile a manner. First, there is presented the most convenient arrangement of bodies in the ethereal region, showing that what is called the eighth sphere, the firmament of the fixed stars, is not in fact a firmament, so that those bodies that are seen there through their brightness should be equidistant from the center; but rather, that many [stars] may appear close to one another, though they are, both in depth and width, farther away from one another than they are from the sun and the earth. Second, that there are not only seven wandering bodies [planets], just because we have recognized only seven as such; rather, there are for the very same reason innumerable others, that the true philosophers of old called, not without good reason, aethera}1 which means runners, because they are bodies which truly move, and not imaginary spheres. Third, that such motion proceeds necessarily from an internal principle as if from its own nature and soul; with such truth many dreams are dissipated both about the active influence of the moon on waters and other kinds of fluids, and about other natural things that seem to have their principle of motion from an outside cause. Fourth, a stance is taken against those doubts that proceed by most stupid reasoning from the gravity and levity of bodies; and it is proved that all natural motion approaches a circular one, either about its own or about some other center. Fifth, it is shown how necessary it is that this earth and other similar bodies should move not with one but with several different motions. And that those bodies should consist of neither more nor less than the four simple [elements], these being united in one compound. And it is stated what these motions of the 17. See note 13 to the Fifth D i a l o g u e .


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earth are. Finally, it is promised to supplement with other dialogues that which seems to be lacking in the completeness of this philosophy. And one concludes with an oath of Prudenzio. Remain astonished over the fact that things so great are expedited with such brevity and sufficiency. But have no doubt even if on occasion you see less grave propositions which may seem to come justly under the strict censure of Cato:18 for these Catos are very blind and idiotic, if they cannot discover that which is hidden inside these Silene statues.19 And if you meet so many and diverse propositions tied together so that they cannot appear as one science, but rather now a dialogue, now a tragedy, now poetry, now oratory, where one now praises, now vituperates, where one demonstrates and instructs, where one is given now physics, now mathematics, now ethics, now logic, or in conclusion, that there is no branch of science of which a shred would not be there, then, keep in mind, gentlemen, that the dialogue is historical, in which not a thing is proposed without some reason, as along come the occasions, the moves, the steps, the encounters, the gestures, the emotions, the statements, the arguments, the rebuttals, the propositions and counterproposals, submitting all to the rigorous judgement of the four [interlocutors]. Consider also that no unnecessary word is there: for things of no small importance in each part are to be harvested and unearthed, and perhaps more there where less appear. Concerning that which appears on the surface, those who prompted us to make this dialogue, and perhaps a satire and comedy, should be more circumspect when they evaluate people with the rod [used] for measuring wool, and when they weigh souls on the metal scales of a balance. Those who will be spectators or readers, and see how others fare, will quickly reflect and learn from the discomfiture of others. Those who are hit and wounded will perhaps open their eyes, and seeing their poverty, nudity [and] indignity, will, if not out of love, at least out of shame, correct and cover themselves, if they do not wish to confess. 18. Marcus Porcius Cato, or Cato of Utica (95 BC - 45 BC), Roman statesman, proverbial embodiment of honesty and incorruptibility, but also a self-righteous censor of everything improper. 19. Silenus was the oldest of satyrs. In his Symposium (215b) Plato speaks of Silene statues, or statuettes of satyrs that could be opened down the middle. Inside, they contained figurines of the gods. In Renaissance times the adjective Silene was used of small, apothecarian containers with figures of satyrs painted on them.

Prefatory "Epistle


If it appears to you that our Theophil and Frulla hit some too heavily and severely on their backs, consider, gentlemen, that these animals do not have such tender skin; if the blows were twice a hundred times heavier, they still would not consider it an offense, and would rather think that they were caressingly slapped by a damsel. Hopefully, you will not judge me worthy of reprehension, because we wanted to establish such grave and valuable propositions on the inept facts and valueless grounds offered by these doctors. For I am sure, you know the difference between taking a thing for foundation and just for occasion. The foundations should, in truth, be proportional to the grandeur, condition and nobility of the edifice. But the occasions can be of all sorts [and] through all kinds of effects: for small and sordid things can be the seeds of great and excellent things. Jesting and stupidities can provoke great counsels, judgments and inventions; it is easily evident that errors and misdeeds have often led to the finest rules of justice and of goodness. If in a picture the colors do not seem to correspond perfectly to life, and the contours do not seem wholly proper, you should know that the defect came from the fact that the painter could not examine the picture from distances and positions which masters of art are wont to take, because the stand or the canvas was too close to his face or to his eyes, so that he could not make even a small step backward or move away from one or the other corner without fear of making the plunge the son of Troy's defender20 made. So whatever it is, take this picture where you find those two, those hundred, those thousand, those all [details], and recall that it is not meant to inform you about something you already know, nor to pour water into the rapid stream of your judgment and ingenuity, but because I know that though we learn things much better in life, we do not, as a rule, disdain their portrayals and representations. Also, I am sure that your generous soul will fix its mental gaze at the grateful emotions by which the gift is given, rather than at the gift offered by the hand. This work is offered to you who are closer to our Nolan and show yourselves more benevolent and gracious toward him. Therefore, you are all the more worthy of our respect in this land where merchants, with no conscience and faith, easily become like Croesus,21 and where 20. The allusion is to Astianatos, tossed from the walls of Troy by the victorious Greeks. 21. Fabulously rich Lydian king of the sixth century BC.


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the virtuous with no penny become without difficulty like a Diogenes. This work is dedicated to you who have received the Nolan with so much munificence and generosity under your roof and at the more eminent part of your house; so that if this land would produce, instead of a thousand grim giants, as many Alexander the Greats, you would see more than five hundred [of these] come to pay homage to this Diogenes, who through the favor of stars has only you to deprive him of sunlight, when (to make him no poorer than that cynical rascal [Diogenes]) you send some direct or reflected ray into that cave with which you are familiar. This work is dedicated to you who represent in this Britannia the Highness of the so magnanimous, so great, and so powerful King 22 who from the most generous heart of Europe makes the farthest corners of the world resound with the voice of his fame. He, when trembling with anger as a lion in a deep cave, casts fright and deadly fear on the other powerful predators of these forests; and when he retires and takes rest, he sends out such a blaze from a liberal and kindly soul, which enkindles the neighboring tropics, warms the icy Great Bear, and dissipates the rigor of the arctic desert which revolves under the eternal custody of the fiery Bootes. VALE.

22. Henri III. For further details, see the Introduction.



Interlocutors [Smith Theophil, philosopher Prudenzio, pedant Frulla [SMI.] Speak they1 Latin well? Yes. THE. SMI. Honest men? Yes. THE. SMI. Of good reputation? THE. Yes. SMI. Learned? THE. Competently enough. SMI. Well bred, courteous, polite? THE. In a rather mediocre degree. SMI. Doctors? THE. Yes, my master; yes, my father; yes, my lady; yes, by all means; I believe, from Oxford. SMI. Qualified? THE. Why not? Men of distinction, of long [academic] robes, dressed in velvet, one of them with two golden chains shining round his neck, and the other, with that precious hand (which contained twelve rings on two fingers), seemed (by God) to be a very rich jeweller, who almost carved out your eyes and heart as he gesticulated. SMI. Did they show a knowledge of Greek? 1. Nundinio and Torquato. 51


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THE. And of beer too, e^iamdio [by God]. PRU. Drop that e^iamdio, as it is an obsolete and antiquated expression. FRU. Quiet, master, he is not talking to you. SMI. What did they look like? THE. One looked like the stableman of the giantess and [of] the ogre, the other like the deputy of the goddess of [good] reputation. SMI. Were there two of them? THE. If this is not a mysterious number! PRU. Ut essent dm testes [That there should be two witnesses]. FRU. What do you mean by that testes? PRU. Examiner witnesses of the Nolan sufficiency, at me hercle [but by Hercules] why did you tell Theophil that the binary number is mysterious? THE. Because two are the first coordinations [categories] as Pythagoras says, finite and infinite, curved and straight, right and left, and so forth. Two are the kinds of numbers, even and odd, of which one is male, the other female. Two are the Cupids, superior and divine, inferior and vulgar. Two are the acts of life, cognition and affection. Two are the objects of these, the true and the good. Two are the kinds of motion, straight, by which bodies tend toward [their] conservation, and circular, by which they are conserved. Two are the essential principles of things, the matter and the form. Two [are] the specific differences of substances, rare and dense, simple and mixed. Two [are the] primary opposite and active principles, the hot and the cold. Two [are the] first parents of natural things, the sun and the earth. FRU. In conformity with the set of those aforesaid twos, I will make another scale of binaries. The beasts entered the arc by twos. They left it in twos. Two are the leaders of the choir of celestial signs, Aries and Taurus.2 Two are the kinds of No/ite fieri3 [do not be], the horse and the mule. Two are the animals [created] to the image and similitude of man, the ape on earth and the owl in the sky. Two are the false and [still] revered Florentine relics in this country, the teeth

2. These two constellations occupy the first two houses of the zodiac at the vernal equinox. 3. See Psalm 31: 9: ' D o not be without understanding like the horse and the mule.'

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of Sassetto,4 and the beard of Petruccio. 5 Two are the animals of which the prophet said that they have more intelligence than the people of Israel, the ox because it knows its owner, and the ass because it knows how to find the manger of its master. 6 Two were the mysterious riding animals of our Redeemer, the donkey and the asscolt, 7 which signify his old Hebrew and his new Gentile believer. Two are the names derived from these, Asino and Pullione, 8 which were the formal addresses of Augustus' secretary.9 Two are the kinds of donkeys, domestic and wild. Two are the pyramids in which there should be inscribed and dedicated to eternity the names of those two and of other similar doctors: the right ear of the horse of Sileno, and the left ear of the antagonist of the gods of vegetable gardens.10 PRU. Optime indolis ingeniutn, enumeratio minime contemnenda [A marvel of the finest origin, the list is hardly to be frowned upon]. FRU. I take pride, my master Prudenzio, because you approve of my discourse, as you are more prudent than prudence itself, for you are prudence masculini generis [of male gender]. PRU. Neque id sine lepore et gratia [Not even that without a rabbit and thanks]. But now isthaec mittamus encomia. Sedeamus quia, ut ait Veripateticorum princeps, sedendo et quiescendo sapimus [let us offer these encomiums. Let us sit down because, as the prince of Peripatetics says, by sitting and resting we grow learned]: and so we shall carry on until sunset with our tetralogue over the success of the conversation of the Nolan with Doctor Torquato and with Doctor Nundinio. FRU. I would like to know what you mean by this tetralogue. PRU. I said tetralogue, id est quatuorum sermo [that is the talk of four], just as dialogue means duorurn sermo [the talk of two] and so forth, such as pentalogue, heptalogue and others which are abusively called dia4. Tommaso di Vincenzio Sassetto, a famed Tuscan mercenary, who after serving as Captain in France, volunteered his services to the Queen of England. 5. Ubaldini Petruccio, another Tuscan soldier of fortune, who went to England in 1545 and later turned into a writer of sorts. The irony in Bruno's remark had to be felt all the more strongly as both Sassetto and Petruccio were still alive when

Bruno published the Cena.

6. See Is. 1:3. 7. See Zach. 9:9. 8. From asina and pullus, Latin equivalents of donkey and ass-colt. See Mat. 21:6-7. 9. A garbled reference to Caius Asinius Pollio (c. 76 BC-AD c. 5), Roman historian, but not a secretary to Augustus. 10. The horse of Silenus, the oldest of satyrs, was a donkey and so was the antagonist of the goddess in question.


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logues as some say diversorum logi [the talk of various people], but it is not likely that the Greek inventors of this name had that first syllable 'di', pro capite illius latinae dictionis 'diversum' [at the head of that Latin word 'diversum']. SMI. I beg you, my Lord Master, let us leave these rigors of grammar and come to our subject matter. PRU. O seclum [O heavens], you hardly seem to take into account good literature. How could we make a good tetralogue if we did not know what that expression, tetralogue, signifies, and, quod peius est [what is worse], should we think that it is a dialogue? [And] non ne a difinitione et a nominis explicatione exordiendum [should we not begin with the definition and explication of the name], as our Arpinate11 teaches it? THE. YOU, Mister Prudenzio, are too prudent; let us leave, I beg you, these discourses in grammar, and take count [of the fact] that this reasoning of ours is a dialogue: for four persons as we may be, we shall be two in functioning, namely, to propose and to reply, to reason and to listen. Or to make a start and to report the business from its beginning, come O Muses, and inspire me. I am not talking to you who speak in puffed up and haughty verse in Helicon, 12 for I doubt that you might not pity me in the end, when after having made such a long and tiresome pilgrimage, traversed such perilous seas, tasted such tough customs, there comes the need to go barefoot and one soon returns home naked, because there is no fish for the Lombards. 13 I allow that you are not only strangers, but are also of that race of which a poet said: There was never a Greek clean of malice.14 Moreover, I cannot fall in love with something which I do not see. Others, others are those who have captivated my soul. To you others do I address myself, you gracious, gentle, soft, tender, young, beautiful, delicate beings, blond tresses, white cheeks, rosy faces, delicious lips, divine eyes, breasts of enamel, hearts of diamond; with your help 11. A reference to a dictum in the De officiis of Cicero, who hailed from Arpinum. 12. A mountain in southern Greece, regarded as the home of the Muses. 13. A play on the word Lombardi which also could mean crayfish. The meaning of the phrase is that nothing is to be gained. 14. The quote is a Brunian fusion or confusion of two lines in the Morgante of the Renaissance poet, Luigi Pulci (1432-84).

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so many thoughts I put together in my mind, so many affections I collect in my soul, so many passions I generate in my life, so many tears I shed from my eyes, so many sighs I emit from my chest, and so many flames I spark from my heart; to you O Muses of England I address myself, inspire me, help me, scold me, enkindle me, prompt me, make me flow, and turn me into sweet juices, and make me resemble not a small, delicate, formal, short, succinct epigram, but an ample and copious vein of long prose, flowing grand and bubbling; and let my currents go forth not as from a narrow pen, but as from a wide canal. And you, my Mnemosine [goddess of memory], hidden under thirty seals, and closeted inside the gloomy prisons of the shadows of ideas, sing a little in my ears. A few days past two [emissaries]15 came to the Nolan on behalf of a royal equerry16 letting him know how much he longed to converse with him so that he could understand his Copernicus and other paradoxes of the new philosophy. To which the Nolan replied that he does not see either with the eyes of Copernicus, nor with those of Ptolemy, but with his own as far as judgment and conclusions are concerned. True, [he acknowledged that] in regard to observations he owed much to these and other industrious mathematicians who, from time to time, successively adding light to light, have established sufficient principles that enable us to make [our own] judgment, which can form itself only after long periods of study. He added that those are in fact like the interpreters who translate words from one language to another, but then there are others who fathom the meanings and not the words themselves. The former are like those peasants who report the trends and patterns of a skirmish to a distant captain; they themselves do not understand the steps, the reasons and the art by which they became victorious; but this is understood by the one who has the experience and better judgement in military matters. Thus, to the Theban Manto who saw but did not understand, Tiresias, the blind but divine interpreter said: Much of the truth escapes the one deprived of vision, But whither my country, whither Phoebus calls me, I shall follow; 15. John Florio and Mathew Gwinne. For further details see the Introduction, 16, Sir Fulke Greville. See also note 13 to the Prefatory Epistle,


The Ash Wednesday Supper While guiding, my child, your blind parent, Reveal the portents of the sacrifice f o r divining the future. 1 7

Similarly with us; f o r h o w could w e make a judgement if the many and diverse verifications of the appearances [motions] of the higher and lower celestial bodies had not been clarified and placed before the eyes of reason? [This would] certainly not [be possible]. Nevertheless, after having rendered our debts to those distributors of gifts which came f r o m the first, infinitely omnipotent light, and having praised the studies of those generous spirits, w e shall amply recognize that w e should open our eyes at what they observed and saw, and should not give our consent to what they conceived, meant, and set forth. SMI. Please, let me know, what is your opinion of Copernicus? THE. He was possessed of a grave, elaborate, careful, and mature mind; a man w h o was not inferior, except by succession of place and time, to any astronomer w h o had been before him; a man w h o in regard to natural judgment was far superior to Ptolemy, 1 8 Hipparchus, 19 Eudoxus, 2 0 and all the others w h o walked in the footsteps of 17. The quote is from Seneca's Oedipus, lines 295-96 and 301-02. Manto was the daughter of the blind seer, Tiresias. See also Seneca's Tragedies with an English translation by Frank Justus Miller, vol. I. (Loeb Classical Library, London, William Heinemann, 1927), pp. 451-53. 18. Claudius Ptolemaeus (fl. 140), the foremost astronomer of classical antiquity, and also a renowned mathematician, geographer and astrologer. In his Almagest he offered a vast synthesis of geometrical methods for the prediction of planetary motions within a geocentric framework. The Almagest remained the authoritative textbook on astronomy for some time after Copernicus. 19. Hipparchus (fl. 2nd century BC), an astronomer from the island of Rhodes, is credited with the discovery of the precession of equinoxes, the eccentricity of the sun's (apparent) orbit, and some of the inequalities in the moon's motion. These achievements of Hipparchus, together with his catalogue of 850 stars and with his systematic application of trigonometrical methods in astronomical computations, were an invaluable help to Ptolemy. 20. Eudoxus of Cnidus (408P-355? BC), Greek astronomer, who started his studies with Plato, and spent the concluding part of his life in Cnidus, by the observatory which he constructed there. He is credited with the first computation of the length of the solar year. It suggested a calendar reform, enacted centuries later by Julius Caesar, who ordered the observance of leap-years. Most importantly, Eudoxus seems to have been the first major proponent of the explanation of planetary motions in terms of concentric circles. This method later yielded to modifications with the introduction of such auxiliary devices as eccentrics, extants, deferents and epicycles, to increase the exactness of predictions. But by the same token there resulted an extreme complication of circles, which Copernicus tried to overcome, though in vain, with his heliocentric ordering of the very same devices. Needless to say, the Copernican system had extremely important advantages of its own,

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these; a man who had to liberate himself from some false presuppositions of the common and commonly accepted philosophy, or perhaps I should say, blindness. But for all that he did not move too much beyond them; being more intent on the study of mathematics than of nature,21 he was not able to go deep enough and penetrate beyond the point of removing from the way the stumps of inconvenient and vain principles, so as to resolve completely the difficult objections, and to free both himself and others from so many vain investigations, and to set attention firmly on things constant and certain. For all that, who can fully praise the great mind of that German,22 who with little concern for the foolish multitude, stood solidly against the torrent of the opposite persuasion? And though deprived of effective reasons, he seized those rejected and rusty fragments which he could have from the hands of antiquity, and repolished, matched and cemented them to such an extent with his more mathematical than physical discourse, that there arose the argument once ridiculed, rejected and vilified, 23 but now respected, appreciated and possessed of greater likelihood than its contrary, and certainly more convenient and useful for theory and for computational purposes. Thus this German, though he did not have sufficient means to become able not only to thwart, but also to fight, to vanquish, and to suppress sufficiently the falsehood, 24 had nevertheless firmly made his stand to decide it in his soul 21. This criticism of Copernicus strikes the keynote of Bruno's scientific posture. Disdainful of mathematics to a very high degree, he claims supreme expertise in 'physical astronomy', about which he rightly notes that it is of overriding importance for a real explanation of the physical universe. But his version of physical astronomy or his explanation of the motion of the earth and of other celestial bodies bogs down in gross animism (to say nothing of his Hermetism), which vitiates much of the forcefulness of his assertion of the infinity of the universe. 22. This is not the only identification of Copernicus as a German in the early literature, a point which gave rise to much chauvinistic controversy, and which shall be kept alive by all those unable to see long past situations in proper historical context. 23. The reference might be also to Ptolemy's ridiculing Aristarchus for his advocacy of the earth's motion, in addition to the derision which greeted from several corners the publication of Copernicus' work. 24. The falsehood is the closed, spherical world, with the earth resting immobile at its center. While Bruno reproaches Copernicus for having retained the sphere of the fixed stars, he fails to realize that he is even more Aristotelian than Copernicus in explaining the physics of the motion of the earth. It is also to be noted that Bruno's high praises of Copernicus serve as a convenient backdrop to bring out more forcefully his own supereminent greatness,


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and to confess it most openly, so that in the end one had of necessity to conclude that this globe moved with respect to the universe; rather than that it should be possible that the universality of so many innumerable bodies, of which many are known to be more magnificent and grand, should acknowledge this [globe of ours] as their center and the base of their gyrations and influences, in an insult to nature and to reason which with most evident motions loudly declare the contrary. Who will, therefore, be so nasty and discourteous toward the work of that man as to forget both what he has done and his very being, destined by the gods to be that dawn which was to precede the rising of the sun of the ancient and true philosophy, buried for so many centuries in the dark caverns of blind, malicious, arrogant and envious ignorance, and to remember him by what he could not do, and to put him among the number of the herdlike crowd which moves, follows and rushes on by lending ear to a brutish and ignoble persuasion, rather than to count him among those who with a happy genius could rise and elevate themselves under the most reliable guidance of the eye of divine intelligence? Now, what shall I say of the Nolan? Would it perhaps be improper that I should praise him, just because he is as close to me as I am to myself? But he who would reproach me for that would certainly not be a reasonable man, since speaking well of oneself is at times not only fitting, but also necessary, as the terse and learned Tansillo put it: Though a man who aspires to fame and honor Should not speak much about himself, Because the tongue, where the heart fears or loves, Is not in a position to speak trustworthily: Yet, to become the herald of one's own fame Is fitting on a few occasions; namely, When one speaks for any of two reasons: To escape unjust blame, or to help someone else.25 Still if one is so supercilious as not to wish for any reason to be subject to his own praise, not even to the appearance of it, he should realize that the praise of one's self cannot at times be kept apart from one's actual and reported achievements. Who would reproach Apel25. The quotation is from the Vendemmiatore (strophe X X I X ) , an epic poem by Luigi Tansillo (1510-1568), one of the favorite poets of Bruno, who cites with

preference authors of the cinquecento.

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les26 because in presenting his work he tells whoever wants to know that it is his product? Who would blame Phidias 27 if he replied to someone asking about the author of that magnificent sculpture that he is the one? Now that you may understand the present business and its importance, I will submit a conclusion which will prove the point to you very rapidly, easily, and very clearly: if the ancient Typhon was to be praised for having found the first boat and for having crossed the sea with the Argonauts: Too daring the man who in a frail vessel First ventured through the treacherous seas; Viewing from behind the familiar shoreline, Entrusted his soul to the fickle winds; 28 if in our times Columbus is to be celebrated for being the one about whom it had been foretold long ago: there will come an age In the far-off years, when the Ocean Shall unloose the bonds of things, And a big land shall emerge, while Tiphys [Tethys] Will disclose new realms, and Thule Shall no longer be the limit of dryland, 29 then what is to be done about the one who found again the way to scale the skies, to make a tour of the spheres, of the planets, and leave behind the convex surface of the firmament? The Typhons 30 have found the way of disturbing the peace of others, of violating the patron spirits of homesteads, of confusing that which provident nature keeps separate, by doubling the defects of man through commerce, by adding vice to vice from one generation to another, by propagating with violence new follies, and by planting unheard —of stupidities 26. Apelles (fl. 330 BC), the most celebrated painter of classical antiquity. 27. Phidias (c. 500-c. 432 BC), one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. 28. The quotation is from the Medea (lines 201-04) of Seneca. See also note 17 above. In Greek mythology Typhon was Gaea's fierce and monstrous son, and the father of such monsters as Cerberus, Hydra, the Sphinx and the Chimera. 29. Again the Medea (lines 375-79) is quoted. Tethys, instead of Tiphys, was the daughter o f Gaea and the wife o f the sea-god, Oceanus. Thule was the name given in classical times to the northernmost parts of Europe. 30. Typhons, that is, the monstrous descendants of Typhon. The subsequent lines have a prophetic ring about the actual and potential misuse of technical inventions.


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where none was, concluding in the end that the stronger is the wiser, by showing new studies, instruments, and skills to let people tyrannize and assassinate one another; because of such feats the time will come when those who have learned at their own expense, through the force of the vicissitude of things, will have the know-how and will be able to produce similar and even worse fruits of such pernicious inventions. Unsullied the ages our fathers saw, With every fraud banished afar. Then every man kept quietly to his own shores, And lived to old age on ancestral fields. Rich but with little: knowing no wealth Save what his home soil yielded. The world's realms safely separated before Were joined by ships of Thessalian timber. The deep sea itself was afflicted by wrecks, And, though formerly safely isolated, Now become a sharer of the fears of man.31 The Nolan, to achieve wholly opposite results, [has] set free the human spirit and cognition which was retained in the narrow prison of the turbulent [earthly] air, from where as if through some holes it could contemplate the most distant stars; its wings were cut lest it should fly and open the veil of these clouds, to see what is really there, and liberate itself of the chimeras of those who, though originating from the mud and caves of the earth, filled, as if they were Mercuries and Appollinos coming from heaven, the whole earth through many a swindle with endless folly, beastliness, and vice, as if with as much virtue, piety, and discipline, crushing that light which turned the souls of our ancestors divine and heroic, by approving and confirming the cloudy darkness of the sophists and jackasses. Thus the human mind, oppressed for a long time, and lamenting in her lucid intervals her abject condition, turns to the divine and benevolent mind which always whispers into its inner ears on such notes: Mistresse, who shall for me to heav'n fly, To bring again from thence my wandering wit. . . 3 2

31. From the Medea (lines 329-34). 32. From Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, X X X V : I, 1-2.

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Now here is he who has pierced the air, penetrated the sky, toured the realm of stars, traversed the boundaries of the world, dissipated the fictitious walls of the first, eighth, ninth, tenth spheres, and whatever else might have been attached to these by the devices of vain mathematicians and by the blind vision of popular philosophers. Thus aided by the fullness of sense and reason, he opened with the key of most industrious inquiry those enclosures of truth that can be opened to us at all, by presenting naked the shrouded and veiled nature; he gave eyes to moles, illumined the blind who cannot fix their eyes and admire their own images in so many mirrors which surround them from every side. He untied the tongue of the mute who do not know [how to] and did not dare to express their intricate sentiments. He restored strength to the lame who were unable to make that progress in spirit which the ignoble and dissolvable compound [body] cannot make. He provided them with no less a presence [vantage point] than if they were the very inhabitants of the sun, of the moon, and of other nomadic [wandering] stars [planets]. He showed how similar or dissimilar, greater or worse [smaller] are those bodies [stars, planets] which we see afar, compared with that [earth] which is right here and to which we are united. And he opened their eyes to see this deity, this mother of ours, which on her back feeds them and nourishes them after she has produced them from her bosom into which she always gathers them again — who is not to be considered a body without soul and life,33 let alone the trash of all bodily substances. In this way we know that, if we were on the moon or on other stars [planets], we would not be in a place much unlike this, and perhaps on an even worse [place], just as there may be other bodies as good and even better for their own sakes and for the happiness of their own animals [inhabitants]. Thus we know as many planets, as many stars, as many deities, which are those hundreds of thousands that assist in the service and contemplation of the first, universal and eternal efficient [cause]. Our mind is no longer imprisoned in the fetters of the imaginary movables and movers, eight, nine and ten.34 33. This animistic world view precedes a slightly veiled affirmation of pantheism. 34. The eight 'movers or movables' are the spheres carrying in the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic world picture the moon, the five planets, the sun and the fixed stars. The ninth is the quasi-spiritual empyrean sphere beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, and the tenth is the purely spiritual sphere acting for, or identical with, the Prime Mover, enclosing all.


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We know that there is but one heaven, an eternal, immense region, where these magnificent lights keep their proper distances for a commodious sharing in a perpetual life. These blazing bodies are those ambassadors that announce the excellence of God's glory and majesty. Thus we shall advance to the discovery of the infinite effect of the infinite cause, the true and living evidence of the infinite vigor. 3 5 And thus we possess the instruction to look not for the divinity away from us: if we have her nearby, we have her inside us, in fact more so than we are within ourselves. N o less so than is the case with the inhabitants of the other worlds who do not seek her in our vicinity, since they have her nearby and within themselves. Assuredly, the moon is no more a heaven for us than we are [a heaven] for the moon. Thus, what Tansillo said undoubtedly as a joke can be stated a certainly sound proposition: If you do not take the good which is near, H o w will you get that which is far away? T o deprecate your own, seems to me glaring folly, And so is to praise what is in the hand of another. You are like the one who gave up on himself While searching in vain for his own likeness; You are that hound that gave to the river from his mouth T h e piece which was longed for by his own shadow. Leave alone the shadow and embrace the truth, D o not exchange the present for the future. Though I do not despair of better days to come, T o live more happily and more securely I enjoy the present and hope about the future, Procuring thereby twice as much sweetness. 36 With this, one, though alone, is and will be able to win, and will be victorious in the end, and will triumph against the general ignorance; 35. A clear statement of Bruno's pantheism. As the immediately preceding and following lines show, it leads him to the assertion of an animistic uniformity, throughout infinity. This uniformity would imply the rejection of privileged parts (heavens) in the universe, as in a pantheistic entity all parts should be on equal footing, but Bruno gives a privileged status to all stars and planets. 36. Again the Vendemmiatore (strophes XVIII and XIX) is quoted, with some slight departures from the original.

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and there can be no doubt about this, provided the process of deciding [the truth] shall not lie with the multitude of blind and deaf witnesses, of acrimonious and vain words, but with the strength of controlled sentiment, which needs to have the last word: since, in fact, all the [celestial] orbs count not with the one who sees, and [on the other hand] no idiots can be served by a learned man. PRU.

Concerning goods and style, if former opulence is gone, See that you learn to live with what the present allows. Do not be a lonely detractor of people's judgment Lest you please nobody while despising the multitude. 37 THE. This is most prudently said in regard to communal life and regimen and in regard to the practice of courteous conversation, but not when it comes to knowing the truth and the rule of reflection, in connection with which the same sage states: Learn but from the learned, you yourself teach the ignorant. 38 Moreover, what you say holds true for the doctrine useful for the multitude, and is, therefore, like a counsel regarding the crowd, because this burden [of the new cosmology] cannot be placed on the shoulders of anyone except of those who can carry it, like the Nolan; or [of such] who can at least move it toward its target, as Copernicus was able to do, without incurring too great a difficulty. Furthermore, those who are in the possession of this truth should not share it with all kinds of people, if they do not wish to wash (as the saying goes) the head of a jackass, or if they do not wish to see what pigs are doing with pearls, and [if they do not wish] to collect such fruits of their study and labor, which is usually produced by brazen and silly ignorance, together with presumptuous impoliteness which is its perennial and faithful companion. We can be teachers only of such ignorant men, and we can be the light only of such blind persons, that are called handicapped not because of the inability of natural impotence, or by the absence of ability and self mastery, but solely because of inadvertence and inconsideration; which [latter case] 37. These four lines are from Disticha Catonis (III. 11 and II. 29), a collection of verse proverbs, made sometime during the first century AD. 38. Disticha Catonis, IV: 23.


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occurs through mere acts, and not through [innate] disposition. Of these some are so malicious and wicked that out of some lazy jealousy they become angry and resentful of him who seems to want to teach them, the learned and the doctors, as they are thought of and (what is worse) they think of themselves, and who dares to show that he knows something they do not know. Hence you see them boiling with rage and fury. FRU. And so it happened with these two barbarian doctors in question, one of whom not knowing more in the way of reply and argument, jumped to his feet in his wish to finish the dispute with a recourse to some dicta of Erasmus, or rather with his fists, shouting: What? Are you, indeed, not sailing toward Anticyra?39 — You, that finest of philosophers, who would not yield an inch either to Ptolemy or to the majesty [authority] of so many, so great philosophers and astronomers? Are you not seeking a knot in a bulrush? — and similar phrases, worthy to be broken on his back with those double rods (call them rather canes) with which stable boys tailor jackets for jackasses. THE. Let us forget these remarks for the time being. There are others who because of some credulous foolishness, fearful that seeing will undermine them, want to persevere obstinately in the darkness of what they once mistakenly learned. Then there are some others, the fortunate and well-born talents, on whom no honorable study is lost, who do not judge with temerity, keep their minds free and open for seeing, and are produced by the heavens if not as inventors at least as worthy examiners, investigators, judges, and witnesses of truth. It is from these that the Nolan gained, gains, and shall gain assent and love. These are those most noble minds that are able to hear him and to dispute with him. Still, in truth, nobody is qualified to contest him on these matters. Therefore, if due to lack of ability one cannot bring himself to actually agree with him, one should nevertheless subscribe at least to his many major and principal points, and one should admit that what he could not recognize as true is certainly most likely. 39. The quote is one of the 3000 classical proverbs in the Adagiorum (chil. I, cent. VIII, n. 52) of Erasmus. Its publication in 1508, established Erasmus as the foremost scholar of his times. The original appearance of the saying is in Horace who spoke of an insane Stoic seeking a cure through a heart-stimulating herb, hellebore, which grew in great abundance around Anticyra on the Gulf of Corinth, a place also mentioned in such connection by Pausanius.

First Dialogue


PRU. Be it as it may, I do not wish to part with the view of the ancients, for as the sage says, wisdom is with antiquity. 40 THE. And the sage adds that prudence is to be found in [a past of] many years. If you attend well to what you say, you will see that from your position there follows the very opposite of what you think. I want to say that we are older, and have greater age than our predecessors, and by this I mean that [information] which enters in certain judgments as in this topic of ours. The judgment of Eudoxus, 41 who lived only shortly after the rebirth of astronomy, if indeed it was not reborn in him, could not be so mature as the judgment of Calippus42 living [flourishing] thirty years after the death of Alexander the Great, who adding years to years could add observations to observations. For the same reason, Hipparchus43 had to know more than Calippus, for he saw [had a record of] the changes [in the motion of the planets] for at least 190 years after the death of Alexander. Menelaus, the Roman geometer,44 by seeing [having a record of] the changes in [celestial] motions 460 years after Alexander's death, had reason [to think] that he understood more than Hipparchus. Of those changes more could be seen [reviewed] by the Moslem Saracen45 1202 years after that. Almost in our times, Copernicus saw [knew] even more of those changes, being separated from Alexander's death by 1849 years. But some of those who have been closer to us did not become more judicious than those who had preceded them, and the multitude of our contemporaries has no more insight either; this happens because the former did not live and the latter do not [re-] live the years of others and (what is even worse) both the former and the latter lived as if dead through their own years. 40. The sage in question is Job. See the Book of Job, 12:12. 41. See note 20 above. Here Bruno quotes freely Copernicus' historical survey of astronomical observations (De revolutionibus orbium, lib. III. cap. 2). 42. Calippus of Cyzicus (fl. 340 BC), the leading astronomer of his times, to whom Aristotle ( M e t a p h y s i c s , 1073b) gives the sole credit of making improvements on Eudoxus' system of homocentric spheres by assigning several auxiliary spheres to each planet. 43. See note 19 above. 44. Menelaus (fl. 90 AD) made observations in Rome in 98 AD, hence his identification as a Roman geometer, although he was from Alexandria. His chief work is Spbaerica, with important sections on spherical trigonometry. 45. al-Battani (c. 858-C.929), the greatest astronomer of Islam. His astronomical treatise with tables (De scientia stellarum) was very influential until Copernicus' times.


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PRU. Say what you please, proceed anywhere to your high pleasure, I am a friend of antiquity, and concerning your opinions and paradoxes461 do not believe that so many and so wise remained ignorant, as you think and do other friends of novelties. THE. All right, Master Prudenzio, if this common opinion which is also yours is true inasmuch as it is antique, then it was certainly false when new. Before this philosophy which suits your brain existed, there had been the philosophy of the Chaldeans, of the Egyptians, of the followers of the Magi, of Orpheus, of Pythagoras,47 and of others of most ancient memory, all [those philosophies] conforming to our brain; against these [philosophies] first rebelled these heedless and vain logicians and mathematicians, as much the enemies of antiquity as they are strangers to truth. Let us therefore put aside this argument of the old and of the new, because clearly there is nothing new that cannot become old, and nothing old that has not been new, as was well noted by your Aristotle.48 FRU. If I do not speak out, I will certainly burst apart and crack up. You have said, 'your Aristotle' in talking to Master Prudenzio. Do you know how I mean that Aristotle is his own, id est [that is], he is a Peripatetic? (As a favor let us make this little digression in a way of parentheses) like of the two blind beggars at the door of the archbishopric of Naples one said that he was a Guelph,49 the other said he was a Ghibelline; and with that they began to hit one another so rudely with the sticks they carried that I do not know how the affair would have ended had they not been separated. But a gentleman came along and said to them: Come here, you and you idiot rascals; what is a Guelph, what is a Ghibelline? What does it mean to be a Guelph and what does it mean to be Ghibelline? In truth, one could not so much reply as to say a word. The other solved [the problem] by saying that Signor Pietro Costanzo, who is my master and to whom I wish well, is a Ghibelline. In the same way there are many Peripatetics who grow angry, excited and inflamed on behalf of Aristotle, want to defend the doctrine of Aristotle, wish to live and die for Aristotle, 46. The earth's motion was often referred to as a paradox in late Renaissance literature that contains numerous essays and books on 'paradoxes' or 'paradoxical philosophy'. See note 2 to the Introduction, p. 8. 47. The list is distinctly Hermetic. 48. See Aristotle's Physics: 253a. 49. Guelphs and Ghibellines were opposing political factions in Germany and in Italy during the late Middle Ages.

First Dialogue


who do not even understand what is meant by the titles of the books of Aristotle. If you wish that I should show you one [of these]: there he is, the one to whom you have said 'your Aristotle', and who at each turn pulls out for you [phrases like] A.ristoteles noster, Peripateticorum princeps, [our Aristotle, the Prince of Peripatetics], or Plato noster [our Plato] and ultra [so forth]. Pru. I do not really care to take into account what counts with you, and I have no use for your opinion. The. Please, do not interrupt our discourse any more. Smi. Go on, Signor Theophil. The. Remember, your Aristotle said that what holds true of the vicissitude of things is no less true of opinions and various happenings;50 thus to appraise the various philosophies by their antiquity is to try to decide whether the day or the night came first. Therefore, what should be considered above all is whether we are in the daylight, and whether the sun of truth is over our horizon, or over the horizon of our antipodal opponents [counterparts], whether we are in darkness or they, and finally, whether we, who give start to the revival of ancient philosophy, are in the morning to end the night, or in the evening to end the day? And this certainly should not be difficult to decide even if we evaluate but roughly the amount of fruit coming from one and the other kind of reflection. Now let us see the difference between those and these. The former are moderate in their way of life, expert in medicine, judicious in thinking, outstanding in divinations, marvelous in magic,51 cautious with superstitions, observant of laws, irreproachable in morality, divine in theology, heroic in all things. As is also shown by their prolonged life, less infirm bodies, lofty inventions, verified prognostications, by the substances transformed through their efforts, by these people's peaceful way of life, unbroken oaths, most honest procedures, familiarity with the good and protective spirits, and the traces (if they still last) of their marvelous prowess. These others, their opponents, I leave them to be examined by the judgment of one who has some. 50. See note 48 above. 51. Hermetism was to succeed, in part at least, by its recondite magic, which Bruno claimed to possess and tried to intimate in his various works. This list of extraordinary qualities is also a glimpse at a golden age to be ushered in by the triumph of Hermetism.


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SMI. But what do you say if the larger part of our generation thinks the very opposite, and especially in regard to that doctrine? THE. I am not surprised, because (as usual) those who understand less, believe that they know more; and those who are all fools, think they know everything. SMI. Tell me, in what way might they be corrected? FRU. By removing that very head [of theirs], and planting another in its place. THE. By removing through some argument that confidence of knowing; and by depriving them as much as possible, with incisive persuasions, of that foolish opinion, so that they would be willing to listen. The teacher must, of course, be first reassured that he deals with capable and qualified minds. (According to the custom of the Pythagoreans and of our school 52 ) I do not want these to have the opportunity to exercise the role of interrogators and disputants before having listened to the whole course of philosophy. For, if the doctrine is perfect in itself and is understood by them perfectly, it will clear away all doubts, and will remove all contradictions. But it may happen that there should come along a more polished mind, who can see for himself to what extent something can be added, taken away, corrected and changed. Then he can compare these principles and conclusions, and thus agree or disagree, ask and reply, in a reasonable manner, because otherwise, that is unless one first had listened, it is not possible to know how to raise doubts and questions to the point and in a proper order about an art [philosophy] or science. N o one can ever be a good examiner and judge of a case if one has not first informed himself about the whole issue. Therefore, while the [presentation of the] doctrine goes through its steps starting with well posited and proven principles and foundations to [becoming] the edifice and the perfection of things which can be discovered thereby, the student must be silent, and first must have heard and understood everything, and he also must believe that as the presentation progresses all difficulties will vanish. A different custom prevails with the Eclectics 53 and Pyrrhonians who, while asserting that nothing can be known, 52. The secretiveness of Pythagoreans was also a feature of the implementation of the Hermetic dispensation. Clearly, science (always a Hermetic science) is in Bruno's thought not a message to be shared freely and indiscriminately. 53. The Eclectics, also known as Pyrrhonians, were followers of Pyrrho (c. 360-270 BC) of Elis, the father of skepticism.

First Dialogue


keep on asking and searching without ever wanting to find anything. No less unfortunate minds are those who want to dispute even the clearest points, causing the greatest loss of time that can be imagined. Those, in order to appear learned and for other mean motivations, do not want to teach or to learn but only to contest and oppose the truth. Smi. I have a small doubt about what you said.54 Now there is an innumerable multitude of those who presume to know and think they deserve to be constantly listened to, as you can see that everywhere the universities and academies are full of these Aristarchuses55 who would not yield a whit to the thundering Zeus; those who study under them will not gain anything except to be promoted from not knowing (which is the absence of truth) to thinking and believing that they do know, which is foolishness and ingrained falsehood. See now what has been gained by such students: removed from the ignorance of simple negation, they are transposed into the ignorance of bad disposition as the saying goes. Now, who will reassure me that using up so much time and effort and opportunities of better studies and pursuits, it should not happen to me what most likely happens, namely, that instead of learning the doctrine, my mind would be infected with pernicious stupidities ? How can I, who know nothing, learn to know the difference between dignity and indignity, poverty and richness, between those who think they are wise, and those who are esteemed as such? I see well that we all are born ignorant; I believe readily that we are ignorant; [but] as we grow, we are imbued with the discipline and customs of our home, and to no less a degree do we hear against the laws, the rites, the faith, the style of our adversaries and of those opposed to us, than is the case with these [things] concerning us and our affairs. To no less extent are planted in us, perforce, the roots of a zeal for our own things, than is the case with those many other and diverse people about their own affairs. Thus, it has easily become a tradition that our own people think to offer a sacrifice pleasing the gods when they have oppressed, 54. The following analysis of mental conditioning as a barrier to truth stands in strange contrast to Bruno's posturing as the one wholly above such shortcomings. 55. The allusion is most likely to Aristarchus of Samothrace (c. 217-C.145 BC), librarian at Alexandria. He was famed for his careful edition of Homer, and for the publication of some 800 works of exegesis and commentary. Bruno seems to have seen in him a symbol of pedantic scholarship.


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killed, vanquished and assassinated the enemies of our faith; no less is this true of all those others, when they have done the same to us. And these will thank God with no less fervor and persuasion of certainty for having the light for which eternal life is promised, than we do offer thanks for not being in that blindness and darkness in which they are. To these convictions in [matters of] religion and faith are added the convictions about sciences. I, myself, either through the choice of those ruling me, parents or teachers, or through my own caprice and fantasy, or through the fame of a professor, shall think with no less satisfaction of mind to have gained under [the guidance of] the arrogant and blissful ignorance of a horse [dumbbell], than anyone else [studying] under a less ignorant or under a simply [patently] learned man. Don't you know how great is the impact [force] of the habit of believing and of being nourished from childhood with certain persuasions, on blocking the understanding of most evident things, in no other way than it happens with those who are used to eating something poisonous, whose constitution not only does not, in the end, feel revulsion, but absorbs it as natural food to the extent that the antidote itself becomes to him the deadly substance? Or tell me by what means can the ears of a listener be attuned to you rather than to someone else when his mind is perhaps less inclined to attending to your propositions than to those of thousands of others? THE. This is the gift of gods, if the fates guide you and dispose of you in such a Way as to let you come across a man, who not only has the reputation of a true guide, but he is such in truth, and if the fates enlighten the interior of your soul to choose the one who is the better. SMI. Still, as a rule, one sticks to the common opinion, so that if one makes an error, one will not be without broad approval and consent. THE. A thought most unworthy of man. This is why the learned and divine men are rather small in number, and this is so by the will of the gods, for nothing is, indeed, esteemed or valued unless it is [not] common and general. SMI. I readily believe that the truth is known by a few and that precious things are possessed by a very few. Still, it puzzles me that many things are rare, and can only be found in the possession of a few, or perhaps of a single person, though they should not be valued and have no value, and may in fact be real madness and vice. THE. Very well; but in the end it is safer and more convenient

First Dialogue


to look for the truth away from the crowd, because the latter never offered precious and worthy things. It is always among the few that one can find things of perfection which, if they are only rare and in the possession of a few, 56 could at least be recognized by anyone, though he could not get hold of them. And thus, their value would be due not so much to knowledge but solely to [the manner of] possession. SMI. Let us, therefore, leave these topics, and let us stop for a while to hear and consider the thoughts of the Nolan. It is no small matter that by now he has earned so much trust as to be considered worthy of being heard. THE. That is more than enough for him. Now watch how vigorous is his philosophy to maintain and defend itself, to unmask vanity and to lay open the fallacies of the Sophists,54 the blindness of the crowd, and the vulgar [accepted] philosophy. SMI. TO that end (since it is already night) we shall return here at the same hour, and will reflect on the experience and teaching of the Nolan. PRU. Sat prata biberunt\ nam iam nox humida caelo praecipitat58 [The meadows are soaked well enough, since already a humid night precipitates from the sky].

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56. Another clear indication of the exclusiveness of (Hermetic) science as understood by Bruno. 57. The Sophists were a group of teachers of politics, rhetorics and philosophy in Socratic Athens, intent on clever, though hardly conclusive, arguments. 58. A phrase compiled by Bruno from Vergil's Bmlies (III: 111) and from his

Aeneid (II: 8-9).


THEOPHIL Then Sir Fulke Greville said to him [the Nolan]: Please, S[ir] Nolan, let me understand the reasons for which you think that the earth moves. He replied that he could not give any reason since he did not know his [Greville's] ability, and not knowing how he would be understood, he was afraid of acting like those who tell their reasons to statues, or go to talk with the dead. It would be better if he [Greville] first listed those arguments that persuaded him to hold the opposite, because in proportion to the light and strength of his mind, evidenced in setting forth those arguments, he could be given their solutions [rebuttals]. He [the Nolan] added to this that since he takes delight in showing the imbecility of contrary positions on the basis of the very same principles with which they seem to be proven, it would be of no small pleasure to him to find persons who would be qualified for such a procedure, and that he would always be prepared and prompt to reply. In such a way one might so much better see the excellence of the foundations of this philosophy as contrasted with the accepted one, the greater are the opportunities presented for giving a reply and a clarification. This answer pleased Sir Fulke very much. He said, you do me a most excellent favor. I accept your proposition, and I want to determine a day on which you would be confronted with some people who perhaps will not be short of material to bring your ideas into full view. A week from now, on Wednesday, which shall be the Wednesday of the Ashes, you will be invited with many gentlemen and learned personalities, so that after the meal there should be a discussion of beautiful and various things. I promise you (the Nolan said) that I will not fail to be present at the determined hour, and any time when similar occasions present themselves; for nothing can be important enough, according to my destiny 1 , to 1. The destiny is Bruno's Hermetic mission. 73


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slacken my urge to understand and to know. But I beg you, do not let me appear in front of unworthy persons, poorly educated, and hardly attentive to similar speculations (and certainly he was right in having doubts because he found that many doctors [learned men] of this country, with whom he had occasion to dispute about letters [philosophy], displayed, as things went on, more of the attitude of a boor than of someone else one might have wished for). Sir Fulke replied that he had no doubts because those he was proposing were very proper and most learned. Such was the conclusion. Now the appointed day having come (help me, O Muses, to relate the story) PRU. Apostrophe, pathos, invocatio poetarum more [Digression, pathos, invocation in the style of poets]. SMI. Listen, I beg you, Master Prudenzio. PRU. Lubentissime [Most readily]. THE. - the Nolan, having waited until after the midday meal and since he received no new word, thought that the gentleman [Greville], due to other business, failed to remember or could not attend the meeting. And having this concern set aside, he went for a walk and to visit some Italian friends.2 Returning late, after sunset PRU. Already the shining Phoebus3 has turned its back to our hemisphere, and gone to illuminate the antipodes with his radiant head. FRU. Please, magister [master, teacher], go on because your way of recitation gives me marvelous satisfaction. PRU. Oh, if only I knew the story. FRU. NOW, be quiet then, in the name of your devil. THE. - late in the evening, on returning home, he found in front of the door Messrs. Florio and Gwinne, who spent much effort in looking for him; and when they saw him coming, Oh, please (they said) let us go quickly without delay, because there are waiting for you so many cavaliers, gentlemen and doctors, and among others there is one of those who knows how to dispute, who is your namesake. 2. Aquilecchia suggests that Bruno might have gone from his residence at the French Embassy on Butcher Row, joining in an arc Temple Bar and St. Clement's, to the Burse (Royal Exchange), where Italians in London used to gather. But see note 42 below. 3. Phoebus, or Apollo, was the deity in charge of the sun, and poetically the sun itself.

Second Dialogue


Then, (said the Nolan), we cannot fare badly; up to this point only one thing failed to come through, namely, that I hoped to do this business by daylight, and now I see that we shall dispute by candlelight. Master Gwinne offered the excuse that some cavaliers, who wished to be present, could not come for the midday meal and came for dinner. Now (said the Nolan) let us go and pray to God that He may accompany us in this dark evening, on such a long walk, and along such unsafe streets. Although we were on the straight road,4 we thought to do better by making a shortcut; we turned to the river Thames to find a boat going toward the [Royal] Palace.5 We reached the embankment of the palace of Milord Beuckhurst6, and there, shouting and calling oares, {id est) boatsmen, we wasted as much time as would have been enough to walk at leisure to the appointed place7 and even to do a little business. Finally, two boatsmen replied from a distance, and little by little they came, as if they were risking their lives, to touch the bank; there, after many interrogations and replies of from where, to where, and why, and how, and how many, we approached the river's edge to the last steps of the embankment, and, lo and behold, one who looked like the old steersman of the Tartar Kingdom offered his helping hand to the Nolan, and another whom I believe was his son, though he looked like a man of about sixty-five, helped us others aboard. And so without the entry of a Hercules, of an Aeneas, or even of a king of Sarza Rodomonte 8 The ramshackle craft creaked under the weight And let through its seams great swashes of muddy water.9 4. The straight toad is The Strand, which Bruno reached at Temple Bar, at the east end of Butcher Row. 5. The Palace is Whitehall, then the residence of the Royal Court. Bruno, as will be clear shortly, wanted to g o to the vicinity of Charing Cross, where Greville's mansion was located. The distance would have been about a mile and a half along The Strand, which was, however, a notoriously muddy road. Hence the decision to g o by the Thames, the course of which closely paralleled The Strand. 6. Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst (1536-1608), known both for his literary and political activities. His palace, better remembered under the name, Salisbury House, was located near the north end of the present Carpenter Street, which led directly to the river. 7. The appointed place is Greville's mansion. Apart from the loss of time, the distance from Butcher Row to the south end of Carpenter Street almost equalled the distance between Butcher Row and Charing Cross. 8. A reference to a figure in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, XXVIII: 85-91. 9. These two lines are from the Aeneid, VI: 413-14.


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Hearing that music, the Nolan said that may it please God that this [fellow] should not be Charon:10 [for] I think that this is the dinghy which is called the rival of the lux perpetual [eternal light]. It could [have] certainly compete[d] in antiquity with the ark of Noah and, by my faith, looks certainly to me like one of the relics of the deluge. The parts of that dinghy responded wherever you touched it, and with every little motion they resonated all along. Well, I believe (said the Nolan) that it is not a fable that the walls (if I remember it correctly about Thebes12) were vocal, and that on occasion they sang with the rhythm of music; if you do not believe this, listen to the accents of this dinghy. There seem to be as many whistling fifes as [are] the waves [which] let [themselves] to be heard on entering through the dinghy's fissures and fractures from every side. We laughed, but god knows how. Hannibal, when the empire collapsed Saw fortunes take an adverse turn, Laughed among people crying and sad.13 PRU. Kisus sardonicus [sardonic laughter]. THE. Invited by that sweet harmony, as if by love, to curses, to rhythms, and to measures, we accompanied the sounds with songs. Mister Florio (as if reminiscing of his loves) sang Dove sen^a me dolce tnia vita14 [Where, without me, my sweet life]. The Nolan chimed in with II Saracen dolente, oh femenil ingegno,1S [Wherever the grieving Saracen w e n t . . . oh feminine valor], and continued with his remarks. Thus, little by little [we moved along], as much as the dinghy permitted; (although reduced by worms and time to such a stage that it might have been used for cork), it seemed with its festina lente [make haste slowly] as if all made of lead, and the emaciated arms of the two oldsters, although suggesting a long span through the exertion of the bodies, made but short strokes with the oars. 10. Charon was the avaricious ferryman who transported the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades. 11. The starting words of a responsorial verse from the funeral rite. 12. According to Greek mythology, the walls of Thebes, Boetia's chief city, were built by Anphion with the sound of his lyre. 13. From Sonnet CII of Petrarch. 14. Orlando Furioso VIII: 76. 15. Orlando Furioso, XXVII: 117.

Second Dialogue


PRU. Optime descriptum illud, festina [Excellent description of that make haste], with the hurried backs of sailors, lente [slowly] with the efficiency of the oars: like the useless workers of the god of vegetable gardens. THE. In this way, [while] advancing much in time, but very little in the journey; not one third of the voyage was yet done, [we were] little beyond the place which is called the Temple;16 and look, our patrons, instead of hurrying up, turned the prow of the dinghy toward the riverbank. The Nolan asked what do they intend to do ? Do they perhaps want to catch their breath? And it was explained to him that they did not intend to go any farther, because right there was their lodging. We begged and begged, but all the worse. Because this is the kind of peasant in whose breast all the arrows of the love-god of villains became blunted. PRU. Principio omni rusticorum generi, hoc est a natura tributum, ut nihil virtutis arnore faciant\ et vix quicquam formidine paenae [It is the first principle, namely, a rule of nature with all kinds of peasants, that they should make nothing out of love, and hardly anything out of fear of punishment]. FRU. Here is another proverb, also concerning each villain: Rogatus tumet, Pulsatus rogat, Pugnis concisus adoratP

[Balks when asked, Asks with trembling, Worships when hit with fists].

THE. In conclusion, they unloaded us [right] there, and after paying them and thanking them, (because in such a place one cannot do anything else, once one is double-crossed by similar scoundrels), they showed us the straight path to get to the street.18 Now I want, sweet Mafelina, that you should be the Muse of Merlin Cocaio.19 This was a walk which began from a mud puddle which allowed no bypass either by rule or by luck. The Nolan, who studied 16. The present locality, known as The Temple, originally the English center of the Knights Templars. Bruno now was around the middle of the present Temple Place, not more than half a mile from his original starting point. 17. A combination of lines 293 and 300 in Juvenal's Satires, III. See, A New and Literal Translation of Juverttal & Persius; with Copious Explanatory Notes, by the Rev. M. Madan (London, Printed by J.F. Dove, 1814), Vol. I, pp. 126-29. 18. The street was one of the small connecting alleys from Temple Place to The Strand. 19. Allusion to one of the muses in T. Folengo's Baldus, XI, I, 13-15.


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and worked in schools longer than we did, said: I believe I see a miserable trail, therefore follow me. He did not finish saying this when he got implanted in that mess in such a manner that he could not pull his feet out, and thus helping one another we went right in, hoping that this purgatory would not last long; but lo, by some sinister and harsh fate, he and we, we and he, found ourselves engulfed in a slimy stretch, which, as if it were the garden of jealousy, or the garden of delights, was terminated here and there by a sizeable wall; and since there was not any light to guide us, we could not figure out the difference between the road we had already covered and the road we still had to cover, hoping at each step that it would come to an end; always slashing the liquid slime, we penetrated up to our knees toward the deep and dark hell. Since one could not counsel the others, we did not know what to say; but with dumb silence some madly whistled, some whispered, some snorted with their lips, some uttered a sigh and halted for a short while, some cursed under their breath; and because one's eyes were of no use, feet escorted feet, like when a blind man got confused in trying to be the guide of another. So that Like the man who lies on the ground and keeps wailing On his hard bed about the lazy passing of the hours, And hopes that some stone, powder, or liquid Shall do away with the great pain he feels. But then at long last the victim comes to know That all remedy is vitiated by pain itself; Despairing he gives in, and though almost dying He resents that someone should try to save him; 20 thus, after trying and trying again, and seeing no remedy for our distress, in despair and without thinking and tasking our brains in vain any longer, we firmly walked, one splash after another, through the deep sea of that fluid mud, which with its slow flow moved from the depths of the Thames toward its banks. PRU. Oh beautiful clause! THE. We all were seized by the resolve of the tragic blind man of Epicuro: 20, From the sonnet 'Qual uom,. ' of Tansillo,

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Wheresoever the fatal destiny, my blind guide, Might let me go, and wheresoever my feet might carry me, For no pity of me should you come along. Perhaps I shall find a ditch, a den, or a rock Even enough to let me out of so great a struggle, By plunging into a place, deep and hollow.21 But by the grace of the gods (because as Aristotle says, non datur infinitum in actu [there is no actually realized infinite]), without incurring a worse fate, we found ourselves in the end by a puddle, which, though miserly in yielding a little edge to form a path, still seemed to treat us with more courtesy by not trapping our feet any longer; until (moving upward on the path) there emerged on one side, through the courtesy of a torrent of water, a rocky stretch which gave dry ground to our feet, so that with each step we were stumbling like drunkards, not without the danger of breaking a head or a leg. PRU. Conclusio, conclusio [Conclusion, conclusion]. THE. In conclusion, tandem leata arva tenemus22 [we have reached, at long last the happy fields]. We felt that we were in the Elysian fields by having arrived at the wide, regular street. And from there, judging by the appearance of the site where this damned detour led us, lo, we found ourselves little more or less than twenty-two steps away from the spot23 where we started out to find the boatsmen, and near the lodging of the Nolan. O various dialectics, O knotty doubts, O importune sophisms, O cavillous fallacies, O obscure enigmas, O intricate labyrinths, O devilish sphynxes, resolve yourselves, or let yourselves be resolved. On this crossroad, in this doubt, I move, What should I do, what should I say, so tired?24 From this side, there beckoned our lodging; also Mister Mud and Mister Slough had so thoroughly attached themselves to us that we could hardly move our legs. Moreover, the rules of divining the roads, and the precepts of augury most insistently advised against continuing that voyage. The stars, being covered by obscure, darkish 21. From A.M. Epicuro's Cecarta, terzine I and III. 22. From the Aeneid, VI: 743-44. In Greek mythology, Elysium was the place of virtuous souls enjoying lasting peace and happiness. 23. The spot in question must have been near the west end of Butcher Row. 24. From Petrarch's sonnet 'Che debb'io far?'.


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mantle, and sending us foggy air, also forced us to return [home]; the weather cautioned against going a great distance, and exhorted to turn around for that little stretch [homeward]. The nearness of the place applauded kindly. The occasion [circumstance] which with one hand pushed us back to this point has now with two bigger pulses made the biggest impetus [push] in the world. The exhaustion (no less than a stone moves by intrinsic principle and nature toward the center) indicated in the end the same road, and made us lean to the right. From the other side, there spoke to us the many fatigues, labors and discomforts, which would be spent in vain; but the worm of conscience said that if that little route, which had cost so much, is not even twenty-five steps, what will it be like with that big route which still remains? Meior esperdere, che masperdere25 [It is better to lose something than to lose all]. [Also] from the other side, we were urged by our common desire not to shortchange the expectations of those cavaliers and noble personalities; but there replied from the opposite side the rude suspicion that those who did not care or think of sending a horse or a boat to [us] gentlemen in such weather, hour and occasion, would have no scruples about our failure to go there. From the other side, we could be accused of being finally short on courtesy, or of being too punctilious persons who measure things by rank and position, and are more intent on being shown courtesy than showing it. And [that] like villains and scum we want rather to be defeated in that [contest of courtesy] than to win [it]. From this side we were excused [by the thought] that where there is [a major] force there is no argument. From the other side, there attracted the particular interest of the Nolan, who made a promise, and [the thought] that [in retaliation] they might have attached I do not know what to his back. Also, he had the great desire that opportunity be given to him to see customs, to know scholars, to gather, if possible, some new truth, to strengthen the good habit of knowledge, to notice things that he is lacking. From this side, we were delayed by the common boredom and by I do not know what spirit, which told us certain reasons more true than worthy of being recalled. Who is competent to resolve that contradiction? who is [qualified] to triumph over that free will? to whom does reason give its consent? who has determined the [course of] fate? Look, this fate, by the means of reason, is open25. A proverb of Spanish origin.

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ing the door of intellect, moves inside, and gives its command to the choice to expedite consent for the continuation of the journey. Opassi graviores26 [O more fateful steps] (as it is said), O you pusillanimous, O you facile, O you inconstant, and O you men of little faith. PRU. Exaggeratio concinna [Appropriate exaggeration]. THE. NO, this enterprise is not impossible, difficult as it may be. The difficulty is that one must make the lazy step back. The ordinary and easy things are for the average and ordinary people. The rare, heroic and divine men move along this path of difficulty in order that [the course of] necessity might be constrained, and that they could be accorded the palm of victory. It may be added to this that even though it might not be possible to reach the target and win the laurel, just keep running and expend your efforts in a thing of great importance, and resist until your last breath. Not only will he who wins be praised, but also he who does not die as a coward and as a lazybones; such a man rejects [refuses to commit] the crime of [meeting] defeat and death on his own back, so to speak, and shows to the world that not because of his defect, but by default of fortune has he met such an end. Not only the one who earned the laurel is worthy of honor, but also that and that other who has run well and was also judged capable and worthy of deserving it, though he did not win. And ignominious are those who halfway in the race stop in despair, and do not proceed (though they be the last) to touch the finish line with that strength and vigor of which they are capable. Yet I have seen Seeds chosen patiently and tested long [And moistened, too, over a gentle fire,] Spoilt notwithstanding, save [if year by year One picked the best by hand]. It is the law Of all things to grow worse and to return To lower levels; as when oarsmen drive A boat upstream, if once the rowing gets slack, The hurrying river hurls it headlong down.27 26. From the Aeneid, I: 199. 27. An inaccurate quotation from Virgil's Georgia, I: 197-203. See The Georgics and Eclogues of Virgil, translated into English verse by Theodore Chickering Williams, with an Introduction by George Herbert Palmer (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1915), p. 32.


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Let perseverance, therefore, be the winner; because if the fatigue is so great, the prize will not be mediocre. All valuable things are on the difficult side; narrow and thorny is the road of happiness; heaven perhaps holds out no small measure of it. Or as the poet says: Great Jove himself ordained for husbandry No easy road, when first he bade earth's fields Produce by art, and gave unto man's mind Its whetting by hard care; where Jove is king He suffers not encumbering sloth to bide.28 PRU. This is a very pompous progress which would befit a topic of great importance. FRU. It is licit, and is in the power of princes to exalt the humble things which, if made worthy, will be considered worthy, and will truly be worthy, and in this the actions of princes are more illustrious and noteworthy than if they aggrandized the great: for the latter there is not a thing which they would not think they deserved on account of [their] greatness; or in the case of high ranking people maintaining their high position, for they will say that this befits them not because of the favor, courtesy, and magnanimity of the prince, but because of justice and reason. Or apply this in regard to the discourse of our Theophil. Still (Master Prudenzio), if this seems hard to you, detach it from this subject and tack it to another. PRU. I did not say other, except that the progress seemed to be too pompous for this subject which is offered at present. FRU. I also wanted to say that Theophil seems to have something of Prudenzio. But forgive him, because (as it seems to me) this infirmity of yours is contagious. And do not doubt that Theophil knows how to make virtue out of necessity. And out of infirmity caution, perseverance and sanity. Go on, Theophil, with your discourse. PRU. Ultra domine [Proceed, Sir]. SMI. On the way, let us hurry, lest we should run short of time. THE. NOW spread your wings, Theophil, and get organized, and realize that at the moment there is no opportunity to present some of the more profound things of the earth. You have no opportunity here to speak of that divine spirit of the earth, of that special and unique Lady, who from that cold sky lying by the arctic parallel 28.

Georgics, I:

121-24; see

ibid., p.


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spreads such a clear light over the whole terrestrial globe. I mean Elizabeth,29 who by title and royal dignity is not inferior to any king anywhere on earth. In regard to judgment, wisdom, counsel and governing [she] is not second to anyone who carries a royal scepter on earth. In the knowledge of arts, in familiarity with sciences, in understanding and mastering all languages that noted and learned personalities can be heard to speak in Europe, without any contradiction she is superior to all the other princes and rulers of such kind; if the empire of fortune would correspond to and would match the empire of the most generous spirit and mind, [she] would be the sole empress of this terrestrial sphere, and with fuller significance that divine hand of hers would sustain the globe [golden scepter] of this universal monarchy. You, [Theophil], have no opportunity here to discourse of the one, whom if you wanted to liken to a memorable queen of past times, you would thereby dishonor the dignity of her singular and exclusive being, because she is far ahead of them all: of some in greatness of authority, of some in the endurance of a long, entire, and not yet abbreviated rule; of all in sobriety, prudence, insight and knowledge. [She is ahead] of all in hospitality, [and] courtesy, with which she receives any kind of foreigner who does not render himself wholly incapable [unworthy] of grace and favor. There is no opportunity for you to speak of the most generous humanity of the most illustrious Milord Count Robert Dudley,30 Count of Leicester, etc., so well known all over the world, mentioned in the same breath with the fame of the kingdom and of Queen Elizabeth in the surrounding kingdoms; [he is] so praised from the hearts of generous Italian souls, who were received especially by him with particular favor (accompanying that of his Lady), and were always befriended [by him]. This [he] together with the most excellent Sir Francis Walshingham,31 great secretary of the Royal Council (likewise those who sit next to the sun of royal splendor), with the light of their great nobility are sufficient to dissipate and extinguish darkness; and with the warm and loving courtesy to polish and clean 29. Years later, Bruno had to explain, before the Inquisition of Venice, his encomiums of 'heretical monarchs'. Elizabeth was an admirer of the Italian Renaissance. 30. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532?-1588), a favorite of Elizabeth, was Chancellor of the University of Oxford and let Bruno join his literary circle. 31. Francis Walsingham (1532P-1590) was the highest ranking official in the Queen's cabinet.


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any rudeness and rusticity that may occur not only among the Britons but also among the Scythians, Arabs, Tartars, Cannibals and Anthropofags [Man-eaters]. You will have no opportunity to recall the honest conversation, civility and good manners of many cavaliers, and of many noble English personalities, among whom so welt known - and to us most particularly, by advance fame, when we were in Milan and France, and then by [personal] experience, so that we could be in his country - [and] so evident is the most illustrious and excellent cavalier, Sir Philip Sidney. 32 About him that most acute mind (in addition to most praiseworthy qualities) is so rare and unique, so that even among the most rare, outside as well as inside Italy, you would not find his like. [But] there is no ground for praise, when most importunely and to the disgrace of the world, there comes the turn of a populace, which as populace is not inferior to any other populace, which the all too generous earth feeds on its lap; because this [populace] certainly gives an idea of a populace, in regard to all populaces that I have learned to know up to now, irreverent, disrespectful, with no manners, illbred. When they see a foreigner, they appear (by God) to be as many wolves and bears, which with their grim faces give him that look which a pig would give anyone who came to take the hogshed away from under its nose. This most ignoble populace (as far as this topic is concerned) is divided in two parts.


Omnis divisio debet esse bimembris; vel reducibilis ad bimembram

[All division should produce two parts, or at least be reducible to two parts]. THE. Of these, one is [composed] of craftsmen and shopkeepers, who know you in some strange fashion; they turn down their noses at you, laugh at you, sneer at you, blurt with their mouths at you, they call you in their language dog, traitor, foreigner, and this [latter] is with them a most insulting name, which makes the person in question entitled to all the wrongs in the world, be he a young man, an old man, a professional man, or a soldier, a nobleman, or a gentleman. Moreover, they are eager to have the opportunity to pick an argument with a foreigner. 33 And in this they are protected, because 32. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), well-known poet and critic, a nephew of Dudley, visited in Italy during the first half of 1574. 33. Bruno clearly exaggerates in the lines to follow, but occasional riots of Londoners against foreigners had been registered during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

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unlike in Italy, where when it happens that one [a foreigner] should break the head of one of such scoundrels, everybody will wait to see whether by chance there should come along some official guard to grab him, [and] if some one would still make a move he [the guard] then would act by separating and pacifying [the opponents], by helping the weak, and by taking especially the side of the foreigner. And nobody who is not an official of the courts, or a minister of justice, id est [that is] a birro [sheriff], has the daring or authority to put his hand on the delinquent; and unless the sheriff is unable to catch the delinquent, everybody would be ashamed to assist him in such a procedure. And thus the sheriff, and sometimes the sheriffs, lose the game. But here [in England], if by bad fortune, it should happen to you that you should touch anyone, or put your hand on your weapons; look and behold, in one moment you would see yourself along the whole street in the middle of an army of villains, who, more suddenly than (as the poets imagine) armed men rose from the dragon's teeth sowed by Jason, turn up seemingly from the ground, but certainly from the shops, and produce a most respected and gentle prospect of a forest of sticks, of long poles, alebards, lances, and rusty forks; all of which (although authorized by the prince for better use) are always appreciated and ready for such and similar occasions. So you see them rush on you with rustic fury, without considering who, why, where and how, without asking one another about the whole thing, each venting that natural contempt which he has against [for] the foreigner; you will see them each with his own hand (unless blocked by the stampede of others putting into effect similar ideas) and with his own stick taking the measure of your frock, and if you are not cautious, nailing your hat on your head for good measure. And if by chance there was present some man of good will, or a nobleman who is displeased by such villainy, he (though he were the count or the duke), doubtful about [the merit of] siding with you at his damage and without your profit (because these have no respect for any person when they come armed in this fashion), would be forced to keep his outrage to himself and wait, standing apart, for the outcome. Or when tandem [at long last] he thinks that you are free to go to find the barber [surgeon], and let your aching and mistreated bust have its rest; lo, you find these very same people to be as many sheriffs and cops, who can feign that you have hit somebody (however miserable a back and legs you may have), as if you had the [winged] ankles of


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Mercury, or as if you had mounted the horse, Pegasus, or as if you had pressed the flanks of the charger of Perseus,34 or as if you were riding the winged horse of Astolfo,35 or as if you were carried by a camel of Midian,36 or as if you had trotting under you one of the giraffes of the three Magi; [instead] with forceful knocks they would make you run, with ferocious blows they would help you go on, so that it would have been better for you had you been an ox, a donkey, or a mule; they would never leave you alone until they had stuck you inside a prison, and there me tibi commendo37 [I commend myself to you]. PRU. A fulgure et tempestate, ab ira, et indignatione, malitia, tentatione, et furia rusticorunP8 [From lightning and storm, from the wrath, and indignation, from malice, temptation, and from the fury of peasants] FRU. libera nos dominé9 [deliver us, O lord]. THE. - In addition to these is the class of servants: I do not speak of those of the first class, who are the noblemen of barons, and as a rule do not carry insignia or emblems, unless because of the excessive ambition of some, or because of the excessive adulation of others, there is civility among these. PRU. Omnis régula exceptionem patitur [All rule admits exception]. THE. But I speak of another kind of servants. Of these, some are of the second class, and all these carry emblems clasped on their backs. Others are of the third class, whose patrons are not as important as to befit them to give emblems to their servants, or perhaps these latter are esteemed unworthy and incapable of bearing them. Others are of the fourth class, and these follow those with and without emblems, and are the servants of servants. PRU. Servus servorum, non est malus titulus usquequaquei0 [Servant of servants, is not a bad title in any case]. 34. Perseus, a figure of Greek mythology, was the son of Zeus and Danaeë. 35. Astolfo, king of the Longobards (749-54), renowned for his military bravados. 36. The tribe of Midian, mentioned in the Book of Judges: 6:6-5. 37. Allusion to the words of Christ on the cross; see Luke, 23: 46. 38. A mixture of invocations from the Litany recited on Rogation Days. The reference to peasants is Bruno's addition. 39. The people's response to those invocations. 40. The original use of the expression is in Genesis, 9:25, but the most likely association would have been the papal title, servus servorum Dei [servant of thç servants of God].

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THE. Those of the first class41 are the poor and deserving men of noble birth, who through industry or favor gather under the wings of the more powerful, and without losing their own houses and without indignity they follow their lords, and are esteemed and favored by them. Those of the second class are the bankrupt merchants or artisans, or those who have learned reading or some other art [but] without profit; these were either dismissed from some school, store, or workshop, or themselves fled from there. Those of the third class are those lazybones who, in order to escape major toil, have abandoned worthier jobs; these idle men are either from the sea, coming from ships, or are from the land, coming from farms. The last or fourth class are a bunch of desperados, of men rejected by their employers, of men saved from seastorms, of vagabonds, of useless and laggard people, of those who have more opportunity to steal, of those who recently escaped from jail, of those who plan to trap and rob someone who comes their way. And these originate from under the columns of the Burse42 and from the entrance of Saint Paul's. You will find, if you wish, similar ones in Paris, as many as you could want, at the entrance of the Palace.43 In Naples on the steps of Saint Paul, in Venice on the Rialto. Of the last three classes are those who want to show how powerful they are in their homes, and that they are men of strong stomach, and are good soldiers, and have contempt for the whole world. To anyone who does not seem to be willing to give them a wide berth, they give a shove with their shoulder, something of a spin produced by a ship's rudder, which makes him turn around and lets him see how strong and mighty they are, good enough, if need be, to beat an army. And if the one coming along is a foreigner, and though he should give them as wide a berth as possible, they want him to understand in every way what can be done by a Caesar, a Hannibal, a Hector, and by an ox 41. Bruno's sociological characterizations are marked with more haughtiness than compassion. 42. The Burse, or the Royal Exchange. Its very vicinity is the starting point of Lombard Street, a clear indication of the presence of Italians there. It is, however, too far from Butcher Row to make it a leasurely afternoon walk, especially, if the streets in London were as uncomfortable and unsafe as Bruno described them. See note 2 above. 43. The Palace in question is Le Chatelet, the Hall of Notaries, which stood at the present location of the Place 4u Chatelet, It wa? surrounded by shops of butchers and tanners,


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which is still fuming. They dorrt act merely like a donkey which (especially when loaded) is satisfied with its straight path in the lane from which if you do not move, he does not move either, and so it will happen that either you give it a jolt, or it will give you one. But the same is done by those who carry water, [for] if you do not use your brain, they let you feel the sharp point of that iron beak which is at the mouth of the jar. In the same way act those who carry beer and ale; if because of your inadvertence they fall on you while making their rounds, they will let you feel the full weight of the load they carry. They are not only strong enough to carry things on their shoulders, but also strong enough to push a thing forward, and pull it (as if it were a cart) even farther. These particularities deserve to be excused by the authority [right of way] which belongs to those who carry a load, because they have more of a horse, of a mule, or of a donkey than of a man; but I accuse all the others who have a little reason, and are more than those others to the likeness and image of man; but instead of giving you a 'good morning' or a 'good evening' (after making a gracious face, as if they knew you, and wanted to greet you), they plan to give you a beastly jolt. I accuse (I say) those others, who sometimes feigning to flee, or to follow one, or to do an errand, jump out from inside a shop, and with that fury they will give you from behind, or from the side, that spin which a bull can give when irritated, as (a few months ago) happened to a poor Italian nobleman, who in such a way, to the laughter and amusement of the whole square, had his leg bruised and smashed. Later, the magistrate44 handling his case could not believe that such a thing could happen on that square. So that when you wish to leave your house, take care lest you do it without urgent reason, and do not dare think about walking through the city for enjoyment. Then making the sign of the holy cross, arm yourself with the cuirass of patience that can withstand an arquebuse, and be always ready to bear ill turns liberally, if you do not wish to endure worse things perforce. Bear yourself prudently, and remember that you never have to deal with only one, or with two, or fifty, but with the whole plebeian republic and country to which, rightly or wrongly, everyone is obligated to the point of laying down one's life. Therefore, my brother, when you feel yourself

44. Clearly, Bruno is satisfied in London only with a few select individuals, whose roster does not include lower ranking officials,

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being hit that way, put your hand on your hat, greet your antagonist, and take account of the fact that he acted as one acts among companions and friends. Or if this seems rather harsh to you, ask his forgiveness, so that he may not come back and leave you worse off, by provoking you, [and] feigning that you have hit him, or wanted to hit him. Such is indeed the moment and occasion which you had better never have known about. Said the Nolan that during the ten months he had stayed in England, he had not had as much opportunity to make penance and to gain forgiveness as he had on that evening. That evening was for him most appropriate to be the beginning, the middle, and the end of Lent. I want (he said) this evening to count in penance for that which I would have made by fasting through forty more blessed days and forty nights in addition. This evening I stayed in the desert, where not by one, or three, but by forty trials I have gained forty thousand years of plenary indulgences.45 PRU. Per modum suffragii46 [In the manner of suffrages]. THE. SO that in good faith, I believe that I have those indulgences not only for the sins that I have committed, but also for many others that I could have done. PRU. Supererogatoria7 [Superabundantly]. FRU. I would like to know if he counted these blows and rude jolts, which he said were forty in number. You bring me back the memory of Master Mamfurio, 48 on whom certain scoundrels counted off I do not know how many blows. THE. Had he known that he was to suffer so many blows, he might have been curious enough to count them; but he always thought that each was to be the last; but it was indeed last only in respect to those that had already become a thing of the past. In saying that the jolts were forty, he did perhaps as a devout sinner, who being obligated to tell the father confessor about the quoties, that is, how many times, and not remembering the exact number, picked the higher rather than the lower figure, being afraid that by saying less than more, some sins might be left out instead of being left in the hand of the priest, 45. 46. 47. 48.

One of the many cases of Bruno's sarcastic jibes at ecclesiastical matters. An expression from Scholastic moral theology and canon law. The same as above. A reference to the pedant, Manfurio, in Bruno's play, the Candelaio,

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who gives the absolution. And I leave it aside, that in enduring those jolts, blows and hits, one does not have the pleasure which one could have in telling about them; because in the body they do not register without pain and affliction, and from the mouth the two proceeds with the same facility as do the twelve, the forty, the hundred, and the thousand. But be they as many as they may, I could not count his [the Nolan's], but very well mine. He stayed behind as do those who at a rough spot courteously yield to the companion, but he now trapped himself. For the assault came no less from the shoulders of those who followed than from the chest of those in front. Nevertheless, he did so much the better, as does a prior who walks behind his convent, or as one does in a formation when the battle is joined (in the present case one could imagine feeling all around a great many sharp lances), making a cover of us by staying in the back, as does a good [captain, who in order to save] his army which would perish were he to die, stays in the back in reserve, safe and free, from where afterwards, when need arises, he can run to order others to come in aid, or become himself the messenger of disaster. He, therefore, walking in that position could not be seen by us, who being in the same way occupied with our problems had no leisure to turn back and to make any gesture which, however disguised, might have appeared all the more criminal [provocative]. PRU. Op time consultum [Very well analyzed]. THE. And particularly, when we were at the pyramid 49 near the Palace 50 in the middle of three streets PRU. In trivio [In threesome]. THE. - there came from the opposite direction six noblemen, who had a pageboy in front with a lantern, and of these one gives me a jolt, which, by turning me around, made me see another, who gave the Nolan a double jolt, so gentle and robust that it could have passed for ten, and who gave him another by the wall, which also could have passed for another ten. PRU. In silentio, et spe, eritfortitudo vestra. Si quis dederit tibi alapam; tribue illi et alteram51 [In silence, and hope, will be your strength. He who gave you a slap on your cheek, give him the other]. THE. This was the last squall. Because a little beyond, thanks to 49. A stone cross at Charing Cross. 50. See note 5 above. 51. Quotations of Is. 30;15 and Mat, 5:39,

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Saint Fortunio, 52 after having covered such badly trodden paths, passed so many doubtful detours, forded so many rapid rivers, traversed such sandy beaches, overcome such mudholes, cut across such turbid puddles, trod through such stony torrents, lived through such rude encounters, crossed such slippery streets, stumbled on such ragged rocks, cast upon such dangerous reefs, we reached alive, by heaven's grace, the port id est [that is], the gate, which as soon as we knocked on it, was opened. We entered, and found in the foyer many diverse personalities, diverse and many servants, who without stopping, and without bowing their heads, and without any sign of reverence, were indicating contempt with their gesture, [but finally] they did us the favor of showing the [inner] door. We go inside, go upstairs, and find that after having waited for us for so long a time, they desperately sat at table. After doing the salutes and re-salutes PRU. Salutations. THE. - and some other minor ceremonies (among which there was the amusing fact that one of us being shown to the last place, at the tail-end of the table, and thinking that it was the head of the table, out of humility wanted to go and sit where the first [dignitary] was sitting; and so there was for a little while the constrast between those who out of courtesy [propriety] wanted to seat him at the last place, and the one who out of humility wanted to sit at the first place); finally, Mister Florio sat across from a cavalier, who sat at the head of the table; Sir Fulke to the right of Mister Florio; I and the Nolan to the left of Mister Florio; Doctor Torquato to the left of the Nolan; Doctor Nundinio face to face with the Nolan. SMI. Now let them dine, and may they repose at the table until tomorrow. FRU. I am sure that they do not take [as many mouthfuls as they took] steps. SMI. Enough of words. See you again. FRU. Good-bye. PRU. Valete [Farewell].

End of the Second Dialogue 52. Most likely Saint Fortunatus of Aquileia, a martyr of the Diocletian persecutions.


THE. NOW, Doctor Nundinio, after he has settled down, slightly limbered his back, placed his hands on the table, looked briefly circum circa [all around], gently turned his tongue in his mouth, raised his eyes to heaven, dropped a delicate laugh from his mouth, and spat once, began in such a way: PRU. In haec verba, in hosce prorupit sensus [Into these words, and into these sentiments he sallies forth].


THE. Intelligis domine que diximus [Do you understand, sir, what we said] ? And he asked [the Nolan] whether he understood the English language. The Nolan replied, no, and said the truth. FRU. Better for him, because he would have understood more unpleasant and derogatory things than their opposite. It helps a great deal to be dirty by necessity, where the person would not like to be dirty by choice. I would, however, easily convince myself that he understands English, but in order that he should not be involved in all cases that present themselves through the numerous and impolite encounters, and so that he might reflect on the attitudes of those who come across him, he pretended not to understand English. PRU. Surdorum, alii natura, alii physico accidente, alii rationali volúntate [Some are deaf by nature, some by physical accident, some by deliberate intention]. THE. Do not suppose this of him, because although he has been around in this country almost a year, he does not understand more than two or three very ordinary words; those that are words of greet93


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ing, but not those that say something particular. And of these latter even if he wanted to utter one, he could not. SMI. What does it mean that he had given so little thought to understanding our tongue? THE. It is not something specific that forced and prompted him to this. For those who are distinguished and the gentlemen with whom he used to converse, all speak Latin, or French, or Spanish, or Italian: they, aware of the fact that English is used only within this island, deemed it disadvantageous not to know any other language except their own native tongue. SMI. This is true of all; it is unworthy not only of a well-born Englishman but also of any other nationality not to know to speak more than one language; though in England (as I am sure also in Italy and France) there are many noblemen in this predicament, with whom anyone who does not have a command of the language of the country cannot converse without that anxiety which is felt by one who depends on an interpreter. THE. It is true that there are still many who are noblemen by birth only, and happily to their and to our greater benefit are neither understood, nor seen.


SMI. What does Doctor Nundinio wish to submit? THE. I dumque [therefore] (he said in Latin) wish to explain to you what we said, namely, that Copernicus presumably was not of the opinion that the earth moved, for this is inconvenient and impossible; but that he attributed such motion to the earth rather than to the eighth sphere for the sake of easier calculations.1 The Nolan said that if Copernicus had said the earth moved for this sole reason 1. Beneath this remark lies the chief issue which divided astronomers prior to the seventeenth century into the camps of realists and formalists. To the former, all explanatory devices (spheres, deferents, epicycles, etc.) were somehow rooted in reality; to the latter, these were merely convenient mathematical and geometrical tools to help predict celestial motions, that is, 'to save the phenomena'. The classic account of this is Pierre Duhem's To Save the Phenomena: An Essay on the Idea of "Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo (1908), translated from the French by E. Doland and C. Maschler, with an Introduction by S.L. Jaki (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1969).

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and not f o r some other, then he understood little and hardly enough of Copernicus. But it is certain that Copernicus meant it as he said it, and proved it with all his efforts. SMI. W o u l d this mean that those vainly pass this judgment on Copernicus' opinion unless they can gather it f r o m some propositions of his? THE. Note that such a statement comes f r o m Doctor Torquato w h o f r o m the whole Copernicus (though I may believe that he turned all its pages) retained only the name of the author, of the book, of the printer, of the place where it was printed, the year, the number of signatures and pages, and since he was not unfamiliar with the [Latin] grammar, he understood a certain epistle attached to it by I do not k n o w what ignorant and presumptuous jackass 2 w h o (as if trying to support the author by exculpating him, or perhaps to enable other jackasses to find in this book their herbs and fruits, and not to let them part with it starving) adverted them in this way before they started reading the book and mulled over its phrases: 'I have no doubt that some savants' 3 (he said well 'some' of which he might be one) 'feel greatly offended, because of the widespread 2. Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), a noted Lutheran theologian, took over from Georg Joachim Rheticus (1514-1576), professor at the University of Wittenberg, the responsibility of having Copernicus' book printed. In order to forestall theological objections, he had on the back of the title page an 'advisory epistle' printed, which had the appearance of one written by Copernicus himself. In that epistle addressed 'To the Reader concerning the Hypotheses of this Work' the book was presented as the setting forth of an ingenious mathematical method 'to save the phenomena'. Bruno's failure to identify the 'jackass' as Osiander is one more evidence of the fact that he was not in touch with the astronomers of his times. There are numerous indications that long before Kepler called Osiander by name in his Astronomia nova. . . de motibus stellae Martis (1609), the information was sufficiently widespread that Osiander was the author of the 'advisory epistle'. No sooner had the copies of Copernicus' freshly printed book reached Tiedemann Giese (1480-1550), bishop of Kulm and a close friend and supporter of Copernicus, than he requested in a letter to the Senate of Nuremberg that the printer, Johannes Petreius, be forced to reissue properly the introductory section of the book by leaving out the 'advisory epistle'. At the urging of Giese, Rheticus obtained from Osiander a written admission of his authorship. This detail was well known to Hieronimus Schreiber, successor of Rheticus in Wittenberg. Other contemporary astronomers who knew about Osiander's authorship were Petrus Apianus and Michael Maestlin, Kepler's teacher in Tübingen. 3. Here Bruno's rather free translation of the original is followed closely. For a more exact rendering in English of Copernicus' words, see the translation by Charles Glenn Wallis, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in Great Books of the Western World, vol. XVI (Chicago, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1952) pp. 505-06.


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publicity of the new suppositions of this work which wants the earth to be mobile and the sun to stand firmly set in the center of the universe, thinking that this is a cause to throw into confusion the liberal arts which had been well settled and for so long a time. But if they wish to consider the matter more carefully, they will find that this author [Copernicus] is not deserving of blame, because it is the business of astronomers to gather diligently and artfully the history [details] of celestial motions: [and if they are] unable to find for some reasons the true causes of those motions, it is allowed to them to feign and formulate in their places reasons with the principles of geometry, by means of which they [those motions] might be calculated both for the past and for the future[:] therefore, not only is it not necessary that the suppositions should be true, but not even [that they should be] likely. Such should [indeed] be esteemed the hypotheses of that man [Copernicus], except if someone were to be so ignorant of optics and geometry as to believe that the forty degrees or more acquired by Venus in receding from the sun on one side and the other is caused by its motion on its epicycle.4 Were this the case, who would be so blind as not to see that which would follow from this against all experience: that the diameter of the planet would appear four times larger, and the body of the planet more than sixteen times larger, when it is closest to the opposite of its auge 5 [perigee], than when it is farthest away, where it is said to be in its auge [apogee]. There are still other no less inconvenient suppositions than this, which need not necessarily be referred to.' (Et conclude al fine) [And he concludes in the end]. 'Let us, therefore, take the treasure of these suppositions, solely for the marvelous and artificial facility of computations: for, if someone 4. In the geocentric system, the explanation of the foregoing angular separation of Venus from the Sun is possible only if the radius of the epicycle of Venus is supposed to be as great as three-fourths of the radius of its deferent. This had to appear a glaring incongruity and also implied a variation from one to four in the Venus-Earth distance. But Osiander (and Bruno, too) failed to note that in the heliocentric system the variation of the same distance would be at least of similar range. Both Osiander and Bruno (see note 21 below) overlooked the fact that the problem of the variation of the brightness of Venus had a very important, special feature of its own in the heliocentric system, a point of which Copernicus was very much aware. 5. Here Bruno's departure from the original is particularly pronounced. Copernicus uses the expressions apogee and perigee, whereas Bruno uses the medieval Latin (Arabic) term auge.

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would take as true these feigned things, he would exit more stupid from this science than when he entered.' Now, look, what a fine doorman! See how well he opens the door for you to let you enter into the sharing of that most excellent knowledge [the motion of the earth], without which the art of doing computations, measurements, geometry and perspective is nothing else than the pastime of ingenious fools! See how faithfully he serves the owner of the house! 6 To Copernicus it was not enough to say merely that the earth moves, but he also emphasizes and confirms it by writing to the Pope, 7 and by saying that the opinions of the philosophers are very far from those of ordinary folks, 8 which are unworthy of being followed and worthy of being avoided as the very opposite to what is true and right. And many other explicit indications emerge from his [Copernicus'] statement, in spite of the fact that somehow in the end9 he seems to suggest, according to the opinion of both those who profess that philosophy [the motion of the earth], and of those who are pure mathematicians, that should such a supposition be declined because of the apparent inconveniences, then it is fitting that he too should be given the liberty of positing the motion of the earth in order to produce demonstrations that are more solid than those made by the ancients, who were free to feign so many kinds and models of 6. The owner of the house is, of course, Copernicus. 7. Copernicus prefaced his book with a dedicatory letter addressed to Pope Paul III. There he spoke about his hesitation to 'bring to light my commentaries written to demonstrate the Earth's movement', or to communicate his findings only to a select number of confidants, as was the practice of the Pythagoreans. Copernicus also spoke of his fear of the scorn which 'the newness and absurdity' of his opinion might provoke, an attitude hardly reasonable if his book did not convey a firm belief in the motion of the earth. See transl. cit., p. 506. 8. Actually, Copernicus remarks that his notions of the movement of the earth are not only 'in opposition to common sense', but also 'in opposition to the general opinion of mathematicians'. See transl. cit., p. 507. 9. The remark in question is more toward the middle than toward the end of the dedicatory epistle; at any rate, it hardly justified the efforts of some antiCopernicans to use it as evidence that Copernicus proposed the earth's motion merely as a working hypotheses. The remark reads as follows: 'And although the opinion [of the earth's motion] seemed absurd, nevertheless because I knew that others before me had been granted the liberty of constructing whatever circles they pleased in order to demonstrate astral phenomena, I thought that I too would be readily permitted to test whether or not, by the laying down that the Earth had some movement, demonstrations less shaky than those of my predecessors could be found for the celestial spheres'. See transl. cit., p. 508.


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circles to demonstrate the phenomena of the stars [planets]. From those words one cannot gather that he doubted what he so steadily professed and was to prove sufficiently in the first book [of the ^.evolutions] by replying to some arguments of those who held the opposite; there he resorts not only to the position of the mathematician who makes suppositions, but also to that of the physicist10 who proves the motion of the earth. But certainly it counts little with the Nolan that Copernicus, Nicetas the Pythagorean from Syracuse,11 Philolaus,12 Heraclitus of Pontus,13 Ecphantus the Pythagorean,14 Plato in Timaeus15 (though timidly and inconstantly, for he held it more on faith than on the basis of science), and the divine Cusanus18 in the second book of his De docta ignorantia

10. Copernicus tried to answer several objections to the earth's motion, but the physics which underlies his answers reflects the organismic physics of Aristotle rather than the rudimentary notion of inertial motion as elaborated at the University of Paris during the fourteenth century, a circumstance of which Bruno was conspicuously unaware. 11. Nicetas, or Hicetas, as Cicero has it, is known only through a short reference of the latter to a now lost work of Theophrastus. The list given by Bruno is a replica of that of Copernicus, with the exception of Bruno's reference to Plato. 12. Philolaus of Croton lived in the middle of the fifth century BC. 13. Heraclides of Heraclea in Pontus (c. 388 BC-312 BC), a student of Plato, was the proponent of the rotation of the earth around its axis and of the orbiting of Venus and Mercury around the Sun, which in turn orbited around the Earth. 14. Ecphantus, a figure as elusive as almost all the other members of the Pythagorean confraternity. 15. See Timaeus: 40b-c. 16. In chapter XII 'Conditions of the Earth' of Book II of his Of Learned Ignorance (De docta ignorantia, 1440) Nicholas of Cusa (1401P-1464) declares at the outset both the motion of the earth and the relativity of motion: 'It is now evident that this earth really moves though to us it seems stationary. In fact, it is only by reference to something fixed that we detect the movement of anything. How would a person know that a ship was in movement, if, from the ship in the middle of the river, the banks were invisible to him and he was ignorant of the fact that water flows? Therein we have the reason why every man, whether he be on earth, in the sun or on another planet, always has the impression that all other things are in movement whilst he himself is in a sort of immovable centre; he will certainly always choose poles which will vary accordingly as his place of existence is the sun, the earth, the moon, Mars, etc. In consequence, there will be a machina mundi whose centre, so to speak, is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere, for God is its circumference and centre and He is everywhere and nowhere' (translated by Fr. German Heron, with an Introduction by D.J.B. Hawkins, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954, p. 111).

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[Of Learned Ignorance], and other certainly very rare individuals,17 have said, taught and confirmed it beforehand; because he [the Nolan] holds it for other specific and more solid principles18 by which, not through authority but through real evidence and reason, he has this for as certain as anything else that can be had for certain. SMI. Very well; but, please, what is that argument which is offered by that doorman19 of [the book of] Copernicus; for it appears to him that there is more than mere likelihood (if it indeed is not simply true) that the planet Venus should display as great differences in size as in distance. THE. That fool 20 who passionately fears, lest some be duped by the doctrine of Copernicus, - I wonder if a more inept point could have been offered for a particular need than the one which he set forth with so much solemnity, - deems it sufficient to prove that to assume this [the variation in Venus' size]21 would be the act of one very ignorant about optics and geometry. I would like to know what kind of optics and geometry is meant by that beast,22 who shows all too well how ignorant he was about true optics and geometry, and were all those from whom he learned.23 I would like to know how from the size of luminous bodies one can infer the clue of their remoteness and closeness; and inversely, how from the remoteness and closeness 17. The one Bruno (and Copernicus) should have mentioned before anyone else was Aristarchus of Samus (fl. 280 BC), aptly named by Sir Thomas Heath the 'ancient Copernicus', whom Ptolemy put to ridicule in the opening section of his Almagest for his advocacy of the earth's motion both around its axis and around the sun. 18. Bruno's reference to his own principles which are supposedly better even than those given by Copernicus, and which are founded on reason and experience, clearly shows his megalomania and his misconceptions about science. The principles he had in mind were rooted in gross animism, rank pantheism and, last but not least, in Hermetic mysticism. 19. The doorman is Osiander. 20. Again, Osiander. 21. In the whole discussion about Venus, Bruno keeps silent about a detail on which Copernicus was very explicit, namely, that Venus should show phases as does the moon. Consequently, the variations of the brightness of Venus are not merely a function of its varying distance from the earth, but also of its phases. These two factors affect the situation in the opposite sense. At its perigee, or closest approach to the earth, less than a quarter of Venus can be seen illumined by the sun, whereas at its apogee, its whole hemisphere facing the earth is bathed in sunlight. 22. Once more, Osiander. 23. Here, by inference, Bruno indicts all past masters of optics, another evidence of his odd sense of superiority.


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of similar bodies one may infer to some proportional variety of size? I would like to know with what principle of optics and geometry we can definitely derive, through the variation of diameter, the right distance or the major and minor differences [in it]? I wish to understand whether we make a mistake by positing this conclusion. From the appearance of the size of the luminous body we cannot infer its true size nor its distance, for just as the case is not the same with an opaque as with a luminous body, so the case is not the same for a luminous, a less luminous, and a very luminous body as to let us estimate the distance or size. The bulk of a man's head does not show at two miles, but a much smaller lamp, or some similar flame, would be seen without much difference (though with some difference) sixty miles from the shore, as from Otranto in Puglia the candles [lamps] of Avellona can often be seen, though between those two places there are the vast tracts of the Ionian Sea.24 Every one with sense and reason knows that if the lamps were to contain twice as perspicuous a flame - take lamps that now can be seen from a distance of seventy miles - they would be seen at a distance of one hundred and forty miles with no variation in size. If tripled, at 210 miles, if quadrupled, at 280 miles. One should think in the same way of other increases of proportion and degree. For it is much rather through the quality and intensity of light than through the size of the burning body that the same diameter and size of the body would be maintained.25 Would you, wise opticians and wizards of perspective, claim, therefore, that if I were to see at one hundred stadia a light of four inches in diameter, it would necessarily appear eight inches in diameter at a distance of fifty stadia, sixteen at a distance of twenty-five, thirtytwo at twelve and a half, and so on,26 until, of course, by coming much closer it would become indeed as great as you suppose? Smi. But then, according to what you say, one cannot disprove by geometrical reasons the opinion, false as it may be, of Heraclitus of 24. Avellona is the Albanian town Vlone, or Valone, about seventy miles northeast of Otranto. 25. This, apparently rigorous, quantitative reasoning is merely an exercise in fantasy, the only realm where lanterns f r o m 280 miles can be seen, a circumstance that had to be clear to any judicious reader of the passage. 26. 100, 50, 25, 12V 2 stadia approximately equal 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,500 yards, or about 12, 6, 3, l 1 / 2 miles respectively. A t such distances no change in the size of the light (lantern) would be noticeable to the naked eye.

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Ephesus,27 who says that the sun should be exactly as great as it appears to the eyes, an opinion to which Epicurus subscribes, as it seems from his "Letter to Sophocles,28 and he states in the eleventh book of On Nature (as reported by Diogenes Laertius29) that (as far as he can judge) the size of the sun, of the moon, and of other stars [planets] is as great as appears to our senses, because (he says) if they would lose their true size through distance, they would even more so lose their color; and it is certain (he says) that we should not judge otherwise about those [celestial] lights than about those that are near us. PRU. The Epicurean Lucretius30 also testifies the same in the fifth book of his De [rerum] natura\ The wheel of the sun cannot be much larger Nor its glow less than is perceived by our senses. For from whatever distances fires can project light And breathe warm heat upon our bodies They diminish nothing by these intervals from their mass of flame And the fire is made no narrower to the eye. And the moon, whether with bastard light she moves illumining the world, 27. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BC-c. 475 BC), the famed proponent of the view that there was no permanence whatever in nature, held the celestial bodies te be hollow cups in which the basic element, fire, collected. According to Diogenes Laertius (see note 29 below) Heraclitus estimated the cup of the sun to be one foot in diameter. 28. Another careless remark of Bruno. It is in his letter to Pythocles (instead of Sophocles) that Epicurus (341 BC-270 BC), a noted proponent of atomism, states: 'The size of sun (and moon) and the other stars is for us what it appears to be.' This is followed by a statement which is clearly at the basis of Bruno's rebuttal of Osiander's exploitation of Venus' changing brightness: 'And in reality it (the sun) is either slightly greater than what we see or slightly less or the same size: for so too fires on earth when looked at from a distance seem to the senses' (see Epicurus. The Extant Remains, with short critical Apparatus, Translation and Notes by Cyril Bailey, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1926, p. 61). 29. Diogenes Laertius (fl. 220 AD), author of a work in ten books on the lives and opinions of philosophers from Thales to Epicurus. 30. Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC-c. 55 BC), Roman poet, author of the De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), a famed exposition of the atomistic philosophy of nature advocated by Epicurus, Leucippus and Democritus. Lucretius' book, which first became known to scholars in Europe in 1414, exerted an increasingly decisive influence during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially by its emphatic and detailed assertion of an infinite universe of stars in perpetual transformation.


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Or whether she casts her own light f r o m her own body, However that may be, her shape as she moves does not increase. Lastly, with all the fires of ether which you see from this earth, So long as their flickering is clear, so long as their glow is perceived, You may be sure that they can, indeed, be only a very little, Smaller or larger by a small and but trifling difference, Just as in all the fires which we see on the earth, The size seems often to change very little, indeed, One way or to the other, according to their distance. 31 THE. Certainly, you say it well that with ordinary and customary reasons the masters of geometry and perspective would in vain dispute with the Epicureans, I do not say with the fools like that doorman 3 2 of the book of Copernicus, but even with the more learned among them; and now let us see how they could conclude that given a distance equal to the diameter of the epicycle of Venus one may establish the size of the diameter of the planet and similar things. Also I would like to call your attention to another thing. D o you see how great is the body of the earth? D o you know that we can see of it but [what falls within] the artificial horizon? SMI. Exactly. THE. O r do you believe that if it were possible to recede from the total globe of the earth to some point (wherever you wish) of the ethereal region, it should ever happen that the earth would appear bigger? SMI. I think not, because there is no reason whatever that the line of sight of my eye should become stronger, and that it should increase the earth's radius, which determines the diameter of the horizon. 3 3 THE. YOU judged well. Therefore, one must believe that, if we recede farther away, the horizon always diminishes. But note that with such a diminution of the horizon there comes also a more con31. This quotation of sixteen lines is composed from lines 564-95 of Book V. Translation is based on Lucretius, De rerum natura, with an English translation by W.H.D. Rouse (Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1937), pp. 381-83. 32. Osiander. 33. This muddled wording is characteristic of most of Bruno's utterances concerning scientific, and specifically quantitative, geometrical details.

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fused [less distinct] glimpse of some of that realm which lies outside of the already encompassed horizon, as can be shown in the present figure34 [1], where the artificial horizon is 1-1, to which corresponds the arc A-A of the globe. The horizon of the first decrease is 2-2, to which corresponds the arc B-B of the globe. The horizon of the third decrease is 3-3, to which corresponds the arc C-C. The horizon of the fourth decrease is 4-4, to which corresponds the arc D-D. And so

[Fig-1] 34. The figure lacks the numbers 4-4 and the letters D-D, and contains a fifth pair of lines which subtend, bafflingly enough, the same base, A-A., as do the lines 1 - 1 . This latter circumstance runs counter to whatever soundness there is in Bruno's effort to convey the idea that whereas the visual angle permitted by the structure of the eye remains the same, it spans more of the horizon ftom increasing distance though in decreasing detail,


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with the further decrease of the horizon the stretch of the arc will always increase up to the hemispherical line and beyond. Once placed at that distance or about, we would see the earth with the same detail as we see the moon with its shining and obscure parts depending on whether the surface is water or dry land. In the measure in which the visual angle is narrowed will increase the part which the baseline occupies of the hemispherical arc, and the smaller will appear the horizon which we want to be called always such, although according to the accepted usage it has only one proper meaning. As we move farther away, an always bigger part of the hemisphere is seen, and, in the measure in which the visual diameter decreases, the light becomes more and more a compact point, so that if we moved farther from the moon, its spots would always become smaller, until it would look like a small and entirely luminous body. 35 SMI. It seems to me that I grasped a point not at all ordinary and of no small importance; but, please let us come to the opinion of Heraclitus and Epicurus, which, as you say, may maintain itself in spite of arguments from the science of perspective because of the defects of principles hitherto posited in that science. In order to perceive those defects36 and to see the fruits of your discovery, I would like to understand the explanation of the argument through which one proves very convincingly that the sun not only is great, but also greater than the earth. The principle of that argument is that [when] the bigger luminous body spreads its light over an opaque body, the light makes the latter the base of the conical shadow which extends beyond the opaque body in the other direction, as illustrated in the following figure37 [2], where M [A], the lucid body, sends to the point N [I] the cone from the base of C which is terminated by HI. The smaller luminous body [J3], after having formed the cone with the larger opaque body, will not know [find] a determinate place where

35. The real point Bruno seems to want to make is that there is no basic difference between celestial bodies, the eternally permanent entities in his pantheistic universe. This is the first of several instances in the Cena of Bruno's abolishing the difference between stars and planets as intrinsically lucid and opaque bodies. 36. Bruno's criticism of the optical science of his day will shortly give itself away as truly pathetic boasting. 37. The figure's lettering differs from that in the text. T o match the figure, the text should have A for M, I for N, and B for A.. The argument was already proposed by some pre-Socratics as an explanation of the Milky Way.

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its baseline could logically be drawn, and thus it will form an infinitely extended conoid, as can be seen in the same figure, where the lucid body A forms a cone of shadow through the opaque body C, by sending out the two lines CD, CE, which by increasingly widening the conoidal shadow, run much more to infinity than that they might find a base to terminate them. The conclusion of this reasoning is

[Fig- 2]

that the sun is a much larger body than the earth in that it sends the cone of the shadow of the latter almost to the sphere [orbit] of Mercury, and [the shadow] does not go beyond.38 Were the sun the smaller lucid body, it would be necessary to judge the matter differently; then it would follow that when this luminous body was in the lower hemisphere, our sky would be obscured in a larger part rather than illumined, assuming or granting that all stars have their light from the sun.39 38. Already Aristotle noted (Meteorologica, 345b) that the shadow of the earth could not reach too far, let alone as far as the fixed stars. 39. The atomists and several pre-Socratics held that the stars were intrinsically luminous and fiery bodies. According to Aristotle the stars, composed of the ether, were not intrinsically luminous bodies. Their light was due to the friction which their motion caused remotely and indirectly in the upper air.






THE. NOW see how a smaller luminous body can illumine more than half of a larger opaque body. 40 Please recall what we see by experience. Given [Let there be] two bodies of which one is opaque and big like A, the other small and luminous like N; if the lucid body is placed at the smallest and first distance as noted in the following figure41 [3], it will illuminate to the extent of the small arc CD \cd\ reaching the line B1 [b1]. If placed at the second and greater distance, it will illuminate to the extent of the larger arc EF \ef\, reaching the line B2 \b2\. If placed at the third and greater distance, it will terminate

[Fig. 3]

40. Here follows one of the most astonishing 'scientific' arguments of Bruno. 41. The figure should have capital letters, together with indices 1, 2, 3, 4 for the row of the bs. Also the angle ending at the bs should have been drawn of the same magnitude, since the angular width of the eyesight remains the same. By decreasing the angular width of vision from the earth outward, Bruno was led into a patently absurd conclusion.

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through the greater arc GH [gh] set by the line B3 [b3]. From this one may conclude that it may thus happen that the lucid body B - by maintaining the strength of such brilliance, as demanded by the desired effect, namely, to penetrate that much space - might, by being sufficiently removed, cover in the end an arc bigger than the semicircle; provided that nothing should oppose that the distance which placed the luminous body so as to span the semicircle [with its light], might not be increased to such an extent that more [than a semicircle] be spanned [by its light]. Moreover, 4 2 I say that if the luminous body does not lose its diameter except very slowly and with great difficulty, and if the opaque body (big as it may be), should do it most easily and disproportionately, one would, thereby, come progressively from the length of the smaller cord CD [cd] to span the larger cord EF \ef], and finally the largest GH [gb\ which is the diameter, thus, by increasing the distance more and more, [the light from] the luminous body would terminate at the other cords smaller than the diameter, so that finally the opaque body standing in between will not prevent other diametrically opposite bodies from being seen; and the cause of this is that the barrier set by the diameter will diminish with the diameter itself in the measure in which the angle B [£] becomes so acute (it takes a fool to believe that in a physical division of a finite body one may go on to infinity, 43 or one may intend it either in act or in potency) that there will be no longer an angle but merely a line, by which two visible opposite bodies can be seen from one another, with an in-between point presenting no barrier, given that it has lost all its proportionality and difference in diameter which maintains itself in the luminous bodies. It is merely required that the opaque body, which stands in between, should retain so much distance from one and the other, by which its mass loses the said proportion and difference in diameter, as this is seen and observed on the earth: its

42. Here Bruno plays an arbitrary game with the respective decrease of sizes (apparent and real) so as to prove a point, which in its final formulation (point objects do not obstruct the light going from point sources toward point targets) is physically meaningless. 43. Bruno's support of atomism seems to have been dictated by his determination to oppose Aristotle on every essential point of the latter's philosophy. Bruno's advocacy of stars (and planets) as the indestructible cosmic units was hardly compatible with rigorous atomism. Indeed, according to Lucretius, stars composed of atoms were in continual formation and dissolution,


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diameter does not prevent that two diametrically opposite stars44 should be seen mutually in the same way as the eye can see without any difference one and the other [star] from the hemispherical center N, and from the points of the circumference ANO (having imagined in that case that the earth be divided through its center into two equal parts in order that all lines of perspectives may have their proper place). This is easily made evident in the present figure 45 [4],

[Fig. 4]

There, by the fact that the line AN is a diameter, it makes a right angle with the circumference. But from the next point it makes an acute angle, from the third [point] an even more acute [angle]; therefore, in the end it must become exceedingly acute, and finally at some limit it should not appear an angle but a line; consequently, the relation [role] and difference of the semidiameter is destroyed, and by the same reason also the relation [role] of the entire diameter AO will be destroyed. Therefore, it becomes finally necessary that two more luminous bodies, which do not quickly lose their diameter, will not be prevented from being seen reciprocally since their diameter does not 44. The application to the sighting of two diametrically opposite stars is another example of Bruno's hapless use of geometry. 45. In the figure the letters N should have been denoted with running indices 1,2,3. , . from right to left, K seems to indicate a very large, if not infinite distance.

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vanish, 46 as is the case with a non-lucid, or less luminous intervening body. It is, therefore, to be concluded that a larger body which is more apt to lose its diameter, will not, in spite of its being placed at the midpoint of the [connecting] very straight line, block the [mutual] sight of two bodies, however small, provided they retain a diameter of visibility which is already lost in the bigger body. But in order to help a n o t too cultivated mind that it may bring itself to comprehend the foregoing argument, and to soften as much as possible the rigor of understanding, 4 7 let him see by experiment that by placing a rod by his eye, his sight will be wholly blocked f r o m seeing the light of a candle placed at a certain distance; but the more the same light is brought closer to the rod, by moving the latter away f r o m the eye, the less will his sight be blocked; and if the rod comes finally so close to the light as to touch it, as it touched beforehand the eye, the rod will not perhaps impede [the sight of the candle] as much as it should because of its thickness. N o w add further to this, that the rod stays there and the light will be removed even farther; then the rod will block [the light] much less. Thus, increasing more and more the equidistance of the eye and of the light f r o m the rod, one will finally see the light alone without any perceptible evidence of the rod. With this in mind any intellect, however crude, can be easily introduced to the understanding of the little that has been said here shortly before. Smi. It seems to me that in regard to this proposition I must feel very satisfied, but there still remains a confusion in my mind about what you first said; rising f r o m the earth and losing the sight of the horizon whose diameter will decrease more and more, we shall take that body for a star. 48 I would like to have something added to what 46. Bruno's reasoning implies an unjustified mixture of some characteristics of visual perception with an imprecise analysis of a given geometrical configuration. 47. In what follows, Bruno, instead of giving a legitimate, easily comprehensible and not too rigorous illustration of his conclusion, throws to the wind rigorous reasoning. He fails to perceive that the eye is anything but a mere point. 48. See note 35 above. Bruno echoes in part Nicolas of Cusa, who assigned to each celestial body the same structure consisting of a solid core surrounded by a watery layer, enveloped in turn by a layer of fire, which, however, sent its light only in the outward direction. To account for the pale light of the moon, Nicolas of Cusa placed the earth inside the moon's fiery layer. See Of Learned Ignorance, pp. 112-13.


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you have said in this connection, since you are of the opinion that there are many, nay, innumerable earths similar to this one, and I also remember having read Cusanus, whose judgment I know you will not reprove, who claims that even the sun should have dissimilar parts as do the moon and the earth; by this he says that if we fix our eye attentively at the body of the sun, we would see in the midst of that splendor which is more so towards its circumference than elsewhere, a most noteworthy opacity.49 THE. He said it divinely, and I think you have applied it in a praiseworthy manner. If memory serves me right, I have also said a little earlier that (insofar as the opaque body easily loses its diameter and the luminous one with difficulty50) it happens that due to distance the appearance of the obscure body annuls itself and vanishes, but the appearance of a transparent illuminated body, or of a body luminous in some other manner, becomes more and more compact, and from the disconnected, lucid parts there forms a visible, continuous light, thus, if the moon were farther away, it would not eclipse the sun,51 and every man who is able to reflect on these things would easily [realize] that a more distant light would become even brighter, [and] were we located on that more distant body [the moon], it would not appear more luminous to our eyes; in the same way as being on this earth we do not see that light of her which presents itself to those who are on the moon, which light is perhaps greater52 than that which is provided to her [the moon] by the rays of the sun diffused in her crystalline liquid. I do not know whether at the present one should judge in the same or in some other manner about the sun's own light.53 But look how far we moved from our topic. It is time to return to the other parts of our proposition. SMI. It will indeed be good to understand other claims which he might have submitted. 49. This follows from his theory of three layers for each celestial body, at whose edges there was, therefore, a greater depth of fire with respect to an outside observer than in the central regions. 50. Visually, that is, and below a certain angular width. 51. The meaning is that the small, lucid spot corresponding to the moon would not be distinguished from the sun's brilliant surface. 52. A far-fetched speculation, which reveals Bruno's readiness to rush on with favorite theories. 53. See note 35 above.


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THE. NOW Nundinio said that it cannot be really probable that the earth should move, since it is the very center and middle of the universe which must have a fixed and steady foundation of all motion. Replied the Nolan: the same also can be said by someone who holds that the sun is in the middle of the universe, and that it is as immobile and fixed as intended by Copernicus and many others who set a spherical limit to the universe. So that this reasoning of Nundinio (if it is reasoning at all) is of no value against these, and it also begs its own principles [proofs]. And it is of no value against the Nolan who wants the world to be infinite, so that there could, therefore, be no body in it to which it would simply be proper to be in the middle or in the extremes, or between these two endpoints. Rather, this [should be possible only] through certain relations to other bodies and to endpoints chosen intentionally.54 SMI. What do you think of that? THE. Magnificently said. For just as no one of the natural bodies is found to be simply [perfectly] round and consequently with a simple [exact] center, so among the sensible and physical motions which we see in natural bodies, there is none which would not differ [deviate] by far from the simply [perfectly] circular and regular [movement] around some center, 55 try as may those who imagine those stuffings and fillings of unequal orbits of diverse diameters and other plasters and receptacles, to doctor up nature to the point of making it a servant of Master Aristotle, or of someone else, and to conclude that all motion is continuous and regular around the center. But we who 54. T h e statement of the relativity of motion, for which B r u n o has often been given undue credit, had been voiced by Nicolas o f Cusa. See note 16 above. 55. Bruno's eagerness to tie the infinity of the world and the relativity of motion to the absence of perfectly circular orbits derives f r o m his animistic, stellar pantheism, in which there can be no strict laws of motion because these would set a constraint on the freedom of stars and planets permeated by divine attributes. F o r this reason, B r u n o would also have rejected the idea of an elliptic orbit f o r planets as worked out painstakingly by Kepler. N o r could B r u n o have been pleased with the closed space-time continuum of relativistic cosmology with its emphasis on a finite number of stars or galaxies. While science m o v e d with Kepler and Galileo toward exactness and precision, Bruno advocated a trend in the opposite direction.


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set our sight not on fantastic shadows but at the very things, we who envision an aereal, ethereal, spiritual, 56 liquid body capable of motion and of rest, though infinite and immense (this we must affirm at least because we do not perceive any limit either sensibly or rationally), and we know for certain that being the effect and product of an infinite cause and infinite principle, it must be infinitely infinite according to its bodily capacity and according to its mode of being. 57 And I am certain that not only to Nundinio, but also to all those who are professors of the [art of] understanding, it is never possible to find [even] half-probable reasons for which the corporeal universe should have a boundary, and consequently, the stars contained in its space should be finite in number, 58 and in addition there be a naturally determined center and middle of it. NOW does Nundinio add something to that? Does he SMI. afford some argument, or likelihood, to infer that, first, the universe be finite, second, that it have the earth as its center, third, that this very middle be altogether immobile [devoid] of [any] local motion? THE. Nundinio, or anyone who says this, says it on faith and by habit; and he who denies it [the opposite], does so because of its unusualness and novelty, as is customary with those who reflect but little and are not masters of their own actions, either rational or natural [physical]; [and thus] he remains foolish and astonished like the one who suddenly sees a new phantasm; he is like the one who, after being slightly more discrete and less proud than his companion, becomes silent, and adds no words where he could not attach meaning. FRU. Such is not the case with Doctor Torquato, who either wrongly or rightly, or by God, or by the devil, always wants to combat, even after he has lost the shield for defense and the sword for offense. I say when he has no more ripost, nor argument, he jumps in the shoes of madness, sharpens the nails of detraction, gnashes the teeth of injuries, opens the throat of outcries so that the contrary 56. The mixing of 'spiritual' with physical characteristics is a typical feature of Bruno's counter-science. 57. This is the reasoning on which Bruno's pantheism rests from the logical viewpoint. It is this argument which he elaborates in many cumbersome, obscurantist and repetitious details in the De Pinfinito and the De la causa, immediate sequels to the Cena. 58. Contradicting every fact of the Aristotelian world view was not a method which could invariably lead to an ultimately true proposition. See note 55 on the finite number of stars, or rather on the finiteness of the mass in the universe.

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reason may not be uttered and may not reach the ears of those around, as I heard it said. SMI. Therefore, he [Nundinio] said nothing else. THE. He said nothing else about this proposition, but entered into another proposition.


Since the Nolan says in passing that there are innumerable earths similar to this; but Doctor Nundinio, as a good discussant, not having anything to add to this proposition, begins to raise questions apart from this proposition and apart from what had been said on the mobility and immobility of this globe: he asks about the quality of other globes, and wants to know of what material are those bodies that were thought to be of the fifth essence,59 that is, of an unalterable, incorruptible material, of which the thicker parts are the stars.60 FRU. This question seems to me to be outside the topic, though I do not understand logic. THE. The Nolan, out of courtesy, did not want to press that point: but after he said that it would please him if Nundinio followed the principal topic or asked about that, he answered that other globes that are earths are not on any point different in specie [in kind] from that, merely in being bigger and smaller, as in other animal61 species inequality occurs through individual differences. But those spheres which are foci [of light] as the sun (for the time being), he believes them to differ in kind as do hot and cold, luminous in itself and luminous through other [cause]. SMI. Why does he say that he believes this for the time being and does not affirm it absolutely? 59. According to Aristotle, in addition to the four terrestrial elements (fire, air, water, earth) there is a fifth, the ether, composing all bodies from the moon to the stars and also filling all the celestial or interplanetary places. See On the Heavens: 270b. 60. A consequence of the Aristotelian view of the ethereal composition of the celestial regions. 61. Reference to animal species as an explanatory analogy is one piece with Aristotle's use of the concept of organism as the chief paradigm in scientific explanation. The same approach permits for Bruno, as will be seen immediately, the denial of a major difference between planets and stars.


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THE. He was afraid that Nundinio would drop the question raised lastly and would address and attach himself to this. I do not want to discuss in detail that the earth, being an animal and consequently a dissimilar body, should be considered a cold body in some of its very external parts cooled by air; but rather, because of other parts of it that are more numerous and great it should be believed to be hot and indeed very hot. I do not want to discuss either that [I am] doing this dispute by accepting in part the principles of the opponent, who in this case wants to be known and professes to be a Peripatetic; and in another part [by accepting] the proper principles that are not only admitted but proved, [one may show that] the earth is as hot as the sun in some respect. SMI. HOW can this be so? THE. Because (by that which we have said) through the vanishing of the dark and opaque parts of the globe and through the union of the lucid and crystalline parts, one always comes to more and more distant regions, where light is more and more diffused. N o w , if light is the cause of heat (as with Aristotle 62 many others affirm, who also claim that the moon and other stars [planets] are more or less hot because of the greater and smaller participation in light; therefore, when some planets are called cold, they want this to be understood by certain comparison and respect), it turns out that the earth, with the rays which it sends to the distant parts of the ethereal region, goes to communicate to others, according to the strength of light, just as strong a heat. 03 But we do not necessarily experience that a body which is lucid should also be warm, because we see around us many lucid things that are not warm. Or, to turn to Nundinio, it is here that he begins to show his teeth, broaden his jaw, blink his eyes, frown his eyebrows, widen his nostrils and send the croaking of a capon through the pipe of his lungs, so that due to this laughter [of his] 62. In what follows, Bruno says exactly the opposite of what was most emphatically claimed by Aristotle, according to whom the whole celestial region composed of the ether was free of such terrestrial attributes as hot and cold. In particular, Aristotle rejected the general opinion, according to which the sun's rays were the cause of heat on earth. See On the Heavens: 289a. 63. In Bruno's infinite world there should, therefore, arise a paradox of infinitely high temperature and brightness, but his mind, defiant of the rigor of mathematical reasoning, failed to perceive such a logical consequence. See on this my The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox (New York, Herder and Herder, 1969), pp. 22-24, and The Milky Way: An Elusive Road for Science (New York, Science History Publications, 1972), pp. 72-73.

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others may think that he understood it well, that he was right, and that this other said ridiculous things. FRU. And how true. Don't you see how he himself laughed? THE. This happens to the one who gives sweet-meat to pigs. You ask, why did he laugh? He answers that to say and imagine that there should be other earths, which have the same properties and accidents, is [something] taken from the True Story of Lucian.64 The Nolan answers that when Lucian said that the moon is another earth, inhabited and cultivated like this, he said it to poke fun at philosophers, who affirm that there are many earths (and particularly the moon, whose similarity with this globe o f ours is all the more evident as it is closer to us); but [that Lucian] showed himself to be in common ignorance and blindness; for, if we carefully consider [the matter], we shall find the earth and many other bodies that are called stars to be the principal members of the universe; since they give life and nourishment to the things and whatever material they take from them they return it all: therefore, they have in themselves life more abundantly, by which, as if by a directed and natural will [stemming] from an intrinsic principle, they tend toward other things and through spaces which are convenient to them. 65 And there are no other extrinsic movers, which by moving fantastic [imaginary] spheres transport those bodies as if embedded in them, for if this were correct, the motion would be violent and outside the nature of the movable thing, the mover would be more imperfect, and the moved and the mover would be solicitous and laborious, and many similar inconveniences would follow. Consider also how the male moves towards the female, and the female towards the male, how each herb and animal moves more or less expressly to the sun and the stars as to its vital principle. The magnet moves to the iron, the straw to the amber, and finally everything finds its like, and flees its contrary; everything proceeds from the sufficient interior principle66 through which it 64. Lucian of Samosata (c. 125 AD-c.180 AD), Greek author, whose strength lay in satirical characterizations written in exemplary style. Book I of his A True Story is a lampooning of dreams about traveling to the moon. See Lucian (with an English translation, by A.M. Harmon, Loeb Classical Library, London, W. Heinemann, 1913), vol. I, pp. 248-303. 65. This animistic account of celestial motions was worlds removed from the spirit of a purely mechanistic explanation of motion which increasingly marked the progress of science from the mid-fourteenth century on. 66. It is this and similar details which are usually overlooked or minimized by all who see in Bruno a figure of intellectual and scientific progress.


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becomes naturally activated, and not from an external principle as we see happen with those things that are moved either against or outside [in a manner alien to] their own nature. The earth moves and so do the other stars, according to their proper local differences, in virtue of an intrinsic principle which is their proper soul. Do you think (said Nundinio) that this soul is sensitive? Not only sensitive (replies the Nolan) but also intelligent; 67 not only intelligent as ours, but perhaps even more so. Here Nundinio fell silent and did not laugh. PRU. It seems to me that, by being animated, the earth does not enjoy it when holes and caves are made in its back, just as it pains and displeases us when we are bitten there and our flesh is perforated. THE. Not so simple-minded as Prudenzio, Nundinio did not think this argument worth developing, though it occurred to him, because he is not so ignorant a philosopher as not to know that if the earth has senses, it has them not similar to ours; if it has members, it has them not similar to ours; if it has flesh, blood, nerves, bones, veins, they are not similar to ours; if it has a heart, it is not like ours; and so on, about all the other parts which have [some] proportion to the [various] members of all those others that we call animals, and are generally thought to be but animals. He [Nundinio] is not so good a Prudenzio, and not so poor a physician, as not to know that in regard to the great mass of the earth, these [caves] are but exceedingly insensible accidents which are so sensible only to our imbecility. And I believe that he [the Nolan] means this in no otherwise 68 than that the animals which we know to be such, have their parts in continual alteration and motion, and have a certain flux and reflux, always gathering something inside from the outside, and sending outside something from the inside; as a result, the fingernails become longer, the fleece, the fur, and the hair get nourished, the skin heals and the hide hardens; in the same way the earth receives the outflow and the 67. The alleged intelligence of stars fits the Hermetic world view but hardly reflects scientific mentality. True, Tycho Brahe and Kepler, older and younger contemporaries of Bruno, have also been deeply steeped in organismic analogies, but they were also dedicated geometers, bent on utmost precision in measurements, and, last but not least, they believed in laws of nature embodying the exactness of mathematics. It was these traits which were completely lacking in Bruno, and which, on the other hand, turned Tycho Brahe and Kepler into crucially important contributors to the progress of science. 68. For all that disclaimer, Bruno retains so much of animism as to banish from science the exactness of mathematics.


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inflow of the parts by which many animals (manifest to us as such) expressly evidence their lives: as it is more than likely that (since all things share in life) many, nay, innumerable individuals live not only within us but in all composite things, and when we see a certain thing which is said to be dying, we need not so much think that it dies but that there changes and ceases that accidental composition and concord [harmony], while the things which constituted it remain always immortal; 6 9 more so with those things that are called spiritual than with those that are called corporeal and material, as we shall show this at another time. 70 Or to come back to the Nolan; as he saw Nundinio fall silent, he resented for a while the sneer of Nundinio who compared the positions of the Nolan to the True Story of Lucian, [and] indicated a slight anger, and said to him that if one is to have an honest disputation, one should not laugh and make fun of him whom one cannot understand; and just as I (said the Nolan) do not laugh at your phantasies, you should not laugh either at my statements; if I dispute with you with courtesy and respect, you should do at least the same to me, who knows you to be only of so much talent that even if I should want to defend as true the foregoing histories of Lucian, you would not be able to destroy [refute] them. And in such a way he replied with some anger to the laughter, after he had handled the question with more reasoning.


Importuned by the Nolan as well as the others, that he should leave aside questions of why, how, and what, Nundinio submitted some argument PRU. Per quomodo, et quare; quilibet asinus novit disputare [With how's and why's, each ass knows how to vie]. THE. - at the end of which he made the point that fills all pamphlets, namely, that if the earth were carried in the direction called east;

69. Bruno's emphasis on the eternity of matter is an integral part of his pantheism in which there is no room for the basic Christian belief in a personal Creator and in a creation out of nothing. 70. In part, Bruno did this in his Cabala del cavallo Pegaseo (1585) where he advocated explicitly the transmigration of souls.


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it would be necessary that the clouds in the air should always appear moving toward west, because of the extremely rapid and fast motion of that globe, which in the span of twenty-four hours must complete such a great revolution.71 To that the Nolan replied that this air through which the clouds and winds move are parts of the earth, because he wants (as the proposition demands) to mean under the name of earth the whole machinery and the entire animated part, which consists of dissimilar [variegated] parts; so that the rivers, the rocks, the seas, the whole vaporous and turbulent air, which is enclosed within the highest moutains, should belong to the earth as its members, just as the air [does] in the lungs and in other cavities of animals by which they breathe, widen their arteries, and other similar effects necessary for life are performed. The clouds, too, move through accidents [happenings] in the body of the earth and are [based] in its bowels as are the waters. This is so stated by Aristotle in the first book of the Meteors™ where he says that this air which is around the earth and is humid and hot [cold] because of the earth's exhalations, is surrounded by another air, dry and hot, and no clouds can be found there: and that this air is outside the circumference of the earth and of the surface which defines it, so as to let the earth become perfectly round, and that the production of winds occurs only in the bowels or holes of the earth; so that above the highest mountains neither clouds nor winds appear, and that there the air moves regularly in a circle as a universal body. Perhaps this is what Plato73 meant when he said that we inhabit the concavities and obscure parts of the earth, and that we have the same relation with respect to animals that live above the earth, as do in respect to us the fish that live in thicker humidity. This means that in a way the vaporous air is water, and that the pure air which contains the happier animals is above the earth, where, just

71. This objection is considered by Copernicus, to say nothing of earlier sources. Nothing is added by Bruno's dicta to Copernicus' solution except the organismic phraseology. 72. Typically enough, Bruno's organismic analogy is from Aristotle's Meteorologica, the only book of Aristotle which Bruno quotes at length and with approval, undoubtedly because of its virulent animism and because of its sections on cyclic processes. That Bruno failed to see the Meteorologica in its true unscientific light is one more indication of the peculiar character of Bruno's science. By 1585 several sections of the Meteorologica had been the target of sharp denounciations. 73. The reference is to Phaedo: 109b-c.

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as this Amphitrite 74 [ocean] is water for us, this air of ours is water for them. This is how one may respond to the argument referred to by Nundinio; just as the sea is not on the surface, but in the bowels of the earth, and just as the liver, this source of fluids, is within us, that turbulent air is not outside, but is as if it were in the lungs of animals. SMI. NOW how is it that we see the entire [celestial] hemisphere though we inhabit the bowels of the earth? THE. Because of the mass of the sperical earth, it happens not only on the outermost points of the surface, but also on interior [lower] points, that from place to place a convexity is given to [permit] the sight of the [whole] horizon; in that case there does not arise that impediment which we see when between our eyes and a part of the sky a mountain interposes itself, which, by being close, can destroy the perfect vision of the circle of the horizon. The distance of those mountains which follow the convexity of the earth, which is not plain but spherical, causes them to be invisible from the bowels of the earth; as one may to some extent see this in the present figure 75 [5] where the true surface of the earth is ABC, within which surface are the many particulars of the sea and of other continents, such for instance M, from which point we see no less the entire hemisphere than from the point A and from other points of the outermost surface. The reason for this is twofold: the greatness of the earth and its convex circumference; therefore, the point M is not blocked so that [from there] one may not see the entire hemisphere, because the very high mountains do not interpose with respect to M, as does the line MB, (which would, I believe, happen, were the earth's surface flat), but rather as with the line MC, MD does not suffer such impediment, as this is seen in virtue of the circumferential arc. And note furthermore that as M relates to C and M to D, so does K to M. Therefore, one need not consider a fable what Plato said of very great concavities and laps of the earth.76 SMI. I would like to know if those who are near the highest mountains are inconvenienced by that impediment? THE. NO; but rather those who are near the smaller mountains, because the mountains are not very high unless they are so high as to 74. Amphitrite was in Greek mythology the daughter of Nereus and the wife of Poseidon and, therefore, the goddess of the sea. 75. Another frustrating effort by Bruno to use geometry, 76. The conclusion should speak for itself,

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[Fig- 5]

cause their magnitude to appear insensible to our vision;' 7 so that in such a way one may understand [the situation about] many other artificial horizons, in which the accidents of some cannot produce alteration of some others; however, by 'very high mountains' we do not mean the Alps, and the Pyrenees, and the like, but like the entire France which is between two seas, the northern Ocean and the southern Mediterranean; from these seas one always ascends [in going] toward Auvergne, as also from the Alps and the Pyrenees, which once were the peaks of a gigantic mountain range broken into fragments as time went on 78 (while elsewhere other mountains formed through

77. A reasoning as tains. 78. One should be into these statements. ic than scientific, the

self-defeating as Bruno's subsequent rambling about mounon guard against reading a very advanced geological theme In the next breath Bruno is back into a theme more Hermetperpetual cyclic process of everything.

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the vicissitude of the renovation of parts of the earth), and now form so many particular mountains which we call peaks. Therefore, concerning the example offered by Nundinio about the Scottish mountains,79 where he once perhaps stayed, it is clear that he is unable to grasp what is meant by very high mountains. For, in truth, the whole island of Britannia is a mountain which raises its head above the waves of the Ocean sea; the top of that mountain must be at the more eminent point of the island; that top joins the tranquil part of the air, and thus proves that this should be one of those highest mountains, where is perhaps the region of the happier animals. Alexander of Aphrodisias80 reasons so about Mount Olympus, where the evidence of the ashes of sacrifices shows the condition of the highest mountain and of the air above the confines and parts of the earth. SMI. YOU have satisfied me most sufficiently, and you have excellently opened many secrets of nature which lay hidden under that key. Thus, you have replied to the argument taken from winds and clouds; there remains yet the reply to the other [argument] which Aristotle submitted in the second book of On the Heavens,81 where he states that it would be impossible that a stone thrown high up could come down along the same perpendicular straight line, but that it would be necessary that the exceedingly fast motion of the earth should leave it far behind toward the west. Therefore, given this projection [back] into the earth, it is necessary that with its motion there should come a change in all relations of straightness and obliquity; just as there is a difference between the motion of the ship and the motion of those things that are on the ship which if not true it would follow that when the ship moves across the sea one could never draw something along a straight line from one of its corners to the other, and that it would not be possible for one to make a jump and return with his feet to the point from where he took off.82 [THE]. With the earth move, therefore, all things that are on the 79. One wonders if Nundinio's dicta on Scottish mountains had more sense than had Bruno's subsequent declaration about that exceedingly high mountain in the middle of England. 80. Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. 200 AD), a philosopher famed for his ardent defense of Aristotle. Two commentaries of his on Aristotle's work are extant, of which one is on the Meteorologica, but it does not contain the detail in question about Mount Olympus. 81. See section 296b. 82. Here Smith provides some of the answer to his own question,


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earth. 83 If, therefore, from a point outside the earth something were thrown upon the earth, it would lose, because of the latter's motion, its straightness as would be seen84 [Fig. 6] on the ship AB moving along a river, if someone on point C of the riverbank were to throw

[Fig. 6]

a stone along a straight line, [and] would see the stone miss its course [target] by the amount of the velocity of the [ship's] motion. 85 But if someone were placed high on the mast of that ship, move as it may however fast, he would not miss his target at all, so that the stone or some other heavy thing thrown downward would not come along a straight line from the point E which is at the top of the mast, or cage, to the point D which is at the bottom of the mast, or at some point in the bowels and body of the ship. Thus, if from the point D to the point E someone who is inside the ship would throw a stone straight [up], it would return to the bottom along the same line however far the ship moved, provided it was not subject to any pitch and roll. 83. Theophil's answer simply states something that was already a well-known notion, namely, that objects on the surface of the earth share in the earth's motion (rotation), if indeed such is the case. 84. The figure wholly lacks the lettering referred to in the text. 85. The case of a stone thrown horizontally toward the ship was hardly a felicitous one, as the rotation of the earth presented an additional problem in the context of such motion.

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SMI. From the consideration of this difference there opens the door to so many and highly important secrets of nature and of profound philosophy; indeed, it is a frequent and little noticed case how great is the difference between he who cures himself and he who is cured by another: it is often noticed that we derive greater pleasure and satisfaction from taking the food with our own hands than from the hand of someone else. As soon as children can use their own utensils to take food, they do not rely willingly on others; as if nature would in some way make them understand that what provides for little pleasure, secures but small profit. See the children who are nursed, how they cling with their hands to the breast. And I am never so shocked by theft as when done by a domestic servant, because, I do not know why, someone familiar brings along more of a shadowy portent than does a stranger, by conjuring up the form of evil genius and of fearful omen.86 THE. NOW to turn to the subject. If there are two, of which one is inside the ship that moves and the other outside it, of which both one and the other have their hands at the same point of the air, and if at the same place and time one and the other let a stone fall without giving it any push, the stone of the former would, without a moment's loss and without deviating from its path, go to the prefixed place, and that of the second would find itself carried backward. This is due to nothing else except to the fact that the stone which leaves the hand of the one supported by the ship, and consequently moves with its motion, has such an impressed virtue [impetus],87 which is not had by the other who is outside the ship, because the stones have the same gravity, the same intervening air, if they depart (if this is possible) from the same point, and are given the same thrust. From that difference we cannot draw any other explanation except that the things which are affixed to the ship, and belong to it in some such way, move with it: and one of the stones carries with itself the virtue [impetus] of the mover which moves with the ship. The other does not have the said participation. From this it can evidently be seen that the ability to go straight comes not from the point of motion 86. Rather obscure remarks. 87. The notion of impressed virtue (impetus) was an all-important link in the development toward the formulation of inertial motion by Galileo, Descartes and Newton, and it had a long history antedating Bruno, as has been amply documented in the studies of P. Duhem, A. Meier and others.


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where one starts, nor from the point where one ends, nor from the medium through which one moves, but from the efficiency of the originally impressed virtue [impetus], on which depends the whole difference. And it seems to me that enough consideration was given to the propositions of Nundinio. SMI. SO tomorrow we shall see each other again to hear the propositions which Torquato submits. PRU. Fiat [So be it].

End of the Third Dialogue


SMITH D O you want me to tell you the [real] issue? THE. Just say it. SMI. [It arises] Because the divine scripture (whose meaning should be very much commended as something which proceeds from higher minds that do not err) in many places hints, and supposes the contrary [of the doctrine of the motion of the earth].1

1. Clearly, the atmosphere had considerably changed from the times of Copernicus who still could confidently brand as 'foolhardy' the objections based on the parlance of the Bible. (See his 'Dedicatory Epistle', transl. cit., p. 509). In the same context Copernicus also referred to the blunder of Lactantius, a Church Father of the fourth century, who rejected the sphericity of the earth in the name of the Bible. Copernicus could have considerably strengthened his point by recalling the De Genesi ad litteram, a thematic discussion by Saint Augustine of the guidelines in interpreting various passages of the Bible in the face of natural evidence, and by referring to similar utterances of other Church Fathers, such as Saint Basil and Tertullian. These were well known as can be seen from their brilliant utilization by Galileo in his famed 'Letter to Grand Duchess Christina' (1615). Yet, the effort did not really help Galileo because of a trend toward biblical fundamentalism and Scholastic rigidity in the Catholic Church, a defensive trend motivated to a large extent by the emphasis placed on the Bible by the reformers. In considering the possibility of the earth's motion, Tycho Brahe, a Protestant in a Protestant land, stated his fear of theological censure as one of his big stumbling blocks. (See his Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata, 1582, in Tychonis Brahe Darns opera omnia, edited by J.L.E. Dreyer, Copenhagen, Libraria Gyldendaliana, 1916 vol. I l l , p. 175). About that time renewed attention was paid in the Catholic Church to the process of placing books on the Index and to doctrinal investigations by the Holy Office. Long gone were the days when around 1377, Nicholas Oresme, the learned Bishop of Lisieux, could discuss the pros and cons of the rotation of the earth both in the context of science and of the Bible and conclude: 'However, everyone maintains and I think myself, that the heavens do move and not the earth: For God hath established the world which shall not be moved, in spite of contrary reasons because they are clearly not conclusive persuasions. However, after considering all that has been said, one could then believe that the eatth moves and not the heavens, for the opposite is not clearly evident. Never»25


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THE. Or insofar as you believe me on this point, if the gods2 deigned to teach us the theory of the things of nature, as they did us the favor of presenting us with the practice [rules] of moral things, I would much rather have approached that revelation with faith than have asserted ever so slightly the certainty of my reasons and feelings. But (as anyone can see very clearly) the demonstrations and speculations about natural things are not treated in the divine books for the benefit of our intellect in the style of philosophy: but for the benefit of our minds and affections, the practice concerning moral actions is set by laws. In having this aim before his eyes, the divine lawgiver 3 does not care to speak on that level of truth by which the common folk would not profit, so as to avoid the evil and follow the good; but he leaves to contemplative men the speculation about that [higher level of truth], and speaks to the uneducated [man] in a fashion so that according to his manner of understanding and speaking he might grasp what is essential.4 SMI. It is certainly an appropriate way, when someone intends to present history and to give laws, to speak according to the general understanding and not to be solicitous about points that are irrelevant. He would be a stupid historian who, in treating his material, wanted to introduce words that are considered new and to reform the old ones, so that the reader would be forced to consider and interpret him more as a grammarian than to understand him as a historian.5

theless, at first sight, this seems as much against natural reason as, or more against natural reason than, all or many of the articles of our faith. What I have said by way of diversion or intellectual exercise can in this manner serve as a valuable means of refuting and checking those who would like to impugn our faith by argument.' (See Nicole Oresme, Le Livre du ciel et du monde, edited by A. D. Menut and A.J. Denomy, translated with an Introduction by A. D. Menut, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1968, pp. 537-39). 2. This and similar expressions often occurring in Bruno's books seem to be more than a matter of style in vogue during the Renaissance. They give a glimpse of Bruno's overt support of non-Christian, if not simply pagan, theological preferences. 3. Meaning perhaps Moses. 4. This is, indeed, the gist of Saint Augustine's discussion in his work quoted in note 1 above. 5. The crucial importance of considering the literary class of a particular book of the Bible was also much emphasized by Saint Augustine in the same context.

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Even more so, if one who wanted to give to the general folk the law and form of life were to use terms which he alone would understand and a very few others, and were to treat about material irrelevant to the aim to which the laws are directed: [then] it would certainly appear that he does not direct his doctrine at the general multitude for which the laws are enacted, but at the learned and generous minds and at those who are truly [ideally] men, who do what is proper without laws; for this reason Algazel,6 the Muslim philosopher, high priest, and theologian, says that the aim of laws is not so much a search about the truth of things and speculations, as it is the goodness of customs, the benefit of society, the harmonious living of people, and its implementation through the commodity of humane conversation, the maintenance of peace, and the growth of commonwealths. Many times, therefore, and in many respects, it is stupid and ignorant to refer to things according to [intrinsic] truth rather than according to occasion and convenience. Just as if the wise man [author of Ecclesiastes, who] said 'The sun rises and sets, orbits through half a day and moves towards Aquila', 7 would have [instead] said: the earth revolves [rotates] towards the east and leaves behind the setting sun, moves along the two tropics, from that of Cancer toward south and from that of Capricorn toward Aquila [north]; would [not] the listeners have been startled and asked, in what sense does he state the earth to move? what novelties are these? they would in the end have held him for a fool, and he would indeed have been a fool. But in order to satisfy the importuning of some impatient and rigorous rabbi, 8 I would like to know if what we say can be most readily confirmed with the approval of the very same scripture. THE. Perhaps these reverends would have it that when Moses says9 that God made two big ones, which are the sun and the moon, among the rest of the [celestial] luminaries, this should be understood 6. Algazel, or al-Ghazali Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Fusi (1058-1111) of Baghdad, perhaps the most influential Muslim philosopher, who in order to defend revealed truth called into doubt the objective and lasting validity of truths obtained through the light of natural reason. Bruno's wholehearted reference to Algazel who generated a deep mistrust among Muslim scholars about the meaning of search for universal scientific truths is another indication of Bruno's own distrust of exact science. 7. Eccl. 1: 5-6. 8. The original Italian, rabbino, if read with reverendi, two lines later, might suggest a sarcastic remark about some legalistic Catholic theologians. 9. Gen. 1: 16.



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absolutely, because all the others are smaller than the moon; or, in truth, [should not this rather be understood] in the everyday sense and in the ordinary manner of understanding and speaking? Are not so many stars larger than the moon? Cannot they be larger than the sun? What is lacking to the earth that it should not be a luminary more beautiful and larger than the moon, and that by receiving in the same manner in the body of the Ocean and other mediterranean seas the great splendor of the sun, might it not match as a most shining body the other worlds, called stars, no less than these appear to us as so many lamp-like torches?10 Certainly, he [Moses] did not call the earth a big or small luminary, and he called only the sun and the moon such - [and] this was stated well and said truly on its proper level, because he wanted himself to be understood according to the commonly used words and statements, and not to do as one who out of foolishness and stupidity resorts to knowledge and wisdom. To speak with the terms of truth where there is no need for it, and to wish that the ordinary and silly multitude, of which this approach is requested, should have the proper understanding, would be pretty much to wish that the eyes be possessed by the hand, which was not made by nature for seeing, but for working, and for giving its consent to the sight. Thus, however well he [Moses] might have understood the nature of spiritual substances,11 was he to speak of them in any other way than to show that some of these have spoken to men and served them, when acting as ambassadors [of God]? However well he might have known that all, or at least something similar, what befits this world of ours [earth], befits also the moon and other world bodies that are seen and also [those] that cannot be seen, does it seem to you that it would have been the office of a legislator to gather and give these poultices to the crowds ? What does the practice of our laws and the exercise of our virtues have to do with these other [questions]? Therefore, wherever the divine men [inspired authors] speak by presupposing in natural things the generally accepted sense, they should not be taken for authorities; however, wherever they speak indifferently [unphilosophically], and where the crowd has no insight whatever, there I want one to pay attention to the words of divine men [inspired authors], as well as to the soarings of poets who 10. Another instance of Bruno's attempt to gloss over the differences between planets and stars. 11. Angels.

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spoke with superior light,12 and not to take as a metaphor what was not stated as a metaphor, and to take, on the contrary, as [literally] true what has been stated as analogy. But this distinction between the metaphorical and the [literally] true need not be grasped by all, because the ability was not given to everyone to understand it. Or if we want to turn the eye of consideration to a contemplative, natural [philosophical], moral and divine [inspired] book, we find this philosophy very much favored and preferable. I speak in connection with the Book of Job, which is one of the finest books that can be read, full of all good theology, natural [philosophical] lore, and moral doctrine, overflowing with most learned discourses which Moses13 attached as a sacrament to the books of his laws. In that book one of the personalities,14 in wishing to describe the provident power of God, says that he keeps the peace among his eminent ones, that is, sublime sons, that are the stars,15 the Gods, of which some are fire, some are water (as we say some are suns, some are earths), and that these are in harmony; for however contrary they may be, nevertheless one lives, feeds and grows through the other; meanwhile, they do not mix confusedly together, but one moves around the other at certain distances. Thus, the universe becomes differentiated into fire and water, which are subject to two primary, formal and active principles, the cold and the hot. The bodies that breathe hot are the suns, because they are luminous and warm in themselves; the bodies that breathe cold are the earths, which being likewise heterogeneous 12. The hasty juxtaposition by Bruno of biblical authors speaking with divine inspiration and of poets speaking with superior light is a clear indication of his sustained effort not to present biblical revelation as something unique. As a Hermetic prophet he vindicated to himself that exclusive status. 13. Needless to say, Moses was not the author of the Book of Job, composed in the post-exilic times, perhaps during the early part of the fifth century BC, but because of the style of its prose parts it was sometimes classed with the books narrating the patriarchal times authored for the most part by Moses. 14. The personality in question is Bildad of Shuah and the passage is Job 25: 1-2.

15. Bruno had in mind the phrasing of the Vulgate, but even its notorious inaccuracies could not justify Bruno's paraphrases which are an arbitrary projection of his world view into the Bible. The tactics shows not only the strongly Aristotelian strains in Bruno's notion of the material composition of the world but also reveals his inconsistency. Contrary to his previous claim that the Bible was not meant'to contain the scientific truth about the world, Bruno now claims that the Bible contains his own message about the infinite realm of stars as a realm of inexhaustible exchange of life and force among the celestial bodies.


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bodies are rather called waters, in view of the fact that such are the bodies [materials] by which they are visible, and therefore, we rightly designate them on account of that factor through which they are sensible [perceptible]; I say sensible [perceptible] not in themselves, but by the light of the sun scattered from their faces [surfaces]. In conformity with this doctrine is Moses, who calls the firmament air, in which all these bodies have persistence and placement, and through whose spaces the lower waters, which are on our globe, become distinct and divided from the higher waters, which belong to the other globes. So that it is said that the waters are separated from the waters. And if you consider well many passages of the divine scripture, the Gods and ministers of the most high are called waters, abysses, earths and burning flames. Who prevented it that he should not call them neutral, unalterable, immutable bodies, fifth essences, denser parts of the sphere, beryls, carbuncles and other phantasies,16 in which, indifferent [irrelevant] names, that is, the ordinary crowd could find nothing amiss for its pasture? SMI. I am, for sure, very much moved by the authority of the Book of Job and of Moses, and I can readily acquiesce in these real[istic] sentiments [views] much rather than in metaphorical or abstract ones, were it not for some parrots of Aristotle, of Plato, and of Averroes, - from whose philosophy they were promoted to the rank of theologians, - who say that these meanings are metaphorical, and thus, with the aid of their metaphors, they let these meanings signify anything they want, through their zeal for that philosophy in which they were brought up. THE. And as to how constant these metaphors are, you can judge this from the fact that the same Scripture is in the hands of Jews, Christians and Mohammedans, such different and contrary sects, which are, in turn, breeding innumerable other most contrary and different sects, all of which know how to find in the Scripture that proposition which pleases them and suits them better;17 and not only the very diverse and different proposition but also the wholly contrary 16. These were some of the names used among Peripatetics to specify further the nature of the ether. The sense of the question is, of course, that some superior force, or God, providentially prevented Moses from speaking the language of Aristotelian philosophy. 17. Bruno was notably indifferent to doctrinal controversies between Protestants and Catholics.

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proposition, by making a no from a yes and a yes from a no. Thus, when verbi gratia [for example] in certain passages where they say that God speaks out of irony. SMI. Let us not bother to judge these, I am certain that it does not matter with them that this should be a metaphor or not a metaphor: therefore, in that respect, they can easily be at peace with our philosophy. THE. One is not to fear the censure of honorable minds, of truly religious and also naturally well-meaning men, who are friends of courteous conversation and of good doctrine. For upon having these things well considered they find that this philosophy not only contains the truth, but also favors the [true] religion to a greater degree than does any other kind of philosophy: like those philosophies 18 which posit the world as finite, the effect and efficiency of divine power as finite, the intelligences and intelligent natures as being merely eight or ten; the substance of things as corruptible, the soul as mortal, as if it rather consisted of an accidental disposition, of an effect of complexion and of dissolvable temperament and harmony, the execution of divine justice over human actions as per consequence nothing, the knowledge of particular things as being removed from the primary and universal cause. And other rather inconvenient propositions which, by being false, not only blind the light of intellect, but also, by being negligent and empty, dissipate the fervor of good intentions. SMI. I am very satisfied to have this information about the philosophy of the Nolan. Now let us turn for a while to the discourses made with Doctor Torquato, who, I am certain, cannot be so much more ignorant than Nundinio than he is more presumptuous, brazen and impudent. FRU. Ignorance and arrogance are two individual sisters in one body and in one soul. THE. This [Torquato], with an emphatic look, with which the divum Pater is described in the Metamorphoses19 as sitting in the middle of the counsel of the Gods and fulminating that most severe sentence 18. From the subsequent list of doctrinal tenets it is clear that Bruno had in mind the various shades of Averroists, the most rigid followers of Aristotle. It should also seem significant that Bruno emphatically opposes the finiteness of the world, since according to his pantheism the infinite deity would of necessity generate an infinitely large effect. 19. The reference is to Book I, lines 171-81 of Ovid's work.


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against the profane Lycaon, 20 after having viewed his golden necklace, PRU. Torquem auream, aureum monile [Collar of gold, golden necklace]. THE. - and after having looked closely at the chest of the Nolan, where some buttons were possibly missing, staightened himself, pulled his hands from the table, shook his back a little, rasped his voice, adjusted the velvet biretta on his head, twisted his mustache, straightened his perfumed face, curved his eyebrows, widened his nostrils, placed himself in readiness with a backward glance, put his left hand on his right flank, joined the three first fingers of his right hand so as to start his skirmish, and while tracing with his right hand [through the air] began speaking in this way: Tune ille philosophorum protoplastes? [Are you that protoplast of all philosophers?] Suspecting that he came for other reasons than for taking part in a disputation, the Nolan immediately interrupted his words by telling him: Quo vadis domine, quo vadis?Quid si ego philosophorum protoplastes? Quid si nec Aristoteli nec cuiquam, magis concedam, quam mihi ipsi concesserint? Ideo ne terra est centrum mundi immobile? [Where are you heading, Sir? Where are you heading? So what, if I am the protoplast of philosophers? So what, if I do not yield either to Aristotle or to anyone else anymore than they themselves would not have yielded to me? Is, therefore, the earth the immobile center of the world?] With these and similar other arguments, with that greater patience which he possessed, he exhorted him to submit propositions by which one could infer convincingly or with probability in favor of other protoplasts against this new protoplast. And turning towards those around, [and] laughing in a subdued tone, the Nolan said: He [Torquato] did not so much come armed with reason as with words and slogans which tremble of cold and hunger. [Torquato was] urged by everybody to begin with the arguments. He uttered these words: Unde igitur stella Marti s nunc major, nunc vero minor apparet; si terra movetur? [Why should the planet Mars appear now larger, now smaller, if the earth moved?] SMI. O Arcadia, 21 [What a naiveté], should it be possible anywhere in rerum natura [in the nature of things] that with the title of philosopher and physician 20. See note 5 to the Prefatory Epistle. 21. Arcadia, a mountainous region in the center of Peloponnesus, proverbial for the pastoral innocence and primitive simplicity, if not naïveté, of its natives.

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FRU. And of doctor and of torquato [twisted]. SMI. - such a consequence could be drawn? What did the Nolan reply? THE. He was not bothered by that: but he replied that one of the principal reasons why the planet Mars appears larger and smaller from time to time is the motion of the earth and of Mars also, in their proper orbits, so that it happens that now they should be closer [to one another], now more distant [from one another]. SMI. What did Torquato add to this? THE. He immediately requested [details] about the proportion [magnitude] of the motion of the planets and of the earth. SMI. And the Nolan had so much patience that, on seeing such a presumptuous and awkward fellow, he did not turn his shoulders, and did not go home telling the one who invited him that THE. So he replied that he came neither to lecture nor to instruct, but to reply, and that the symmetry, order and measure of the celestial motions is presupposed such as is, and has been known by ancients and moderns: and that he does not argue about that,22 and that the issue is not to litigate against the mathematicians to undo their calculations and theories to which he subscribes and believes in. Rather, his aim is about the nature and verification of the subjects of these motions.23 In addition, the Nolan said: if I were to take out time to answer this request, we would be here through the whole night without [having any] disputation and without ever laying the foundations of our claims against the generally accepted philosophy. For both these [our opponents] and those [we] admit the same suppositions so that a conclusion might be made about the true reason [amount] of the quantity and quality of [heavenly] motions; and concerning these motions we are in accord. So why rack our brains apart from the topic? See it for yourselves, if from the observations that have been made and from the verifications that have been agreed to, you should be able to infer something that would lead to a conclusion against us; and then you have the liberty to come forth with your condemnation [of us]. SMI.- enough to say that he was very much to the point. 22. Bruno's handling of geometry and of some subsequent points of astronomy should suggest that he would not have been able to discuss technicalities of Ptolemaic astronomy. 23, Bruno's performance as a physicist was not any better.


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THE. NOW none of those around was so ignorant as not to show with look and gesture that he realized that he [Torquato] was a big sheep aurati ordims [of the golden order]. FRU. Id est [That is] of the [golden] fleece.24 THE. At any rate, to confuse the business, they implored the Nolan to explain that which he wanted to defend, because [then] the aforesaid doctor Torquato would engage in argumentation. Replied the Nolan that he had given more than enough explanation; and if the arguments of the opponent were scarce that was not due to the deficiency of the subject as should be evident to every blind man. Still, he again stated to them that the universe is infinite, and that it consists of an immense ethereal region. There is in truth only one heaven which is called space and bay [lap], in which the so many stars are fixed, not otherwise than is the earth. And thus the moon, the sun, and other innumerable bodies are in that ethereal region in the same way as we see the earth to be. And that one should not believe in another firmament, in another base, in another foundation or kind of support for these grand animals which concur for the constitution of the world. [This infinite world] is the true subject and infinite material of the infinite divine actual potency [power], as this was made well understood both by regulated reason and discourse and by the divine revelations which state that there is no count of the ministers of the Most High, to whom thousands of thousands assist and ten hundreds of thousands administer. 25 These are the great animals of which many, with the clear light which emanates from their bodies, are from all sides visible [to us]. Of which some are effectively hot as the sun and other innumerable fires [stars]; others are cold as the earth, the moon, Venus, and other innumerable earths.26 These, in order to communicate with one another and to participate in one another's vital principle, complete their gyrations, at certain spaces, at given distances, some around others, as is evident about these seven that turn around the sun, of which the earth is one that moves around in the space [period] of 24 hours from the side called west toward east: causing 24. The reference is to the Order of the Golden Fleece. 25. An allusion to Dan. 7:10. Bruno once more contradicts himself by using the Scripture as a proof of a cosmological tenet, in this case of the alleged infinity of the world. 26. Unfortunately, not all statements of Bruno concerning the difference between planets and stars are as clear as this.

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the appearance of that motion of the universe around it, which is called the universal and diurnal motion. This imagination is most false, is against nature and is impossible, since it is possible, convenient, true and necessary that the earth should move around its proper center to participate in the light and darkness,27 day and night, hot and cold. [And that it should move] around the sun for participation in spring, summer, fall and winter. [And that it should move] toward the [points] called poles and opposite hemispherical points for the renewal of the ages,28 and for a change of its [own] face, so that where the sea was, there be dry land, where the torrid [zone] was, be the cold [zone], where the tropical [zone] was, be the equinoctial; and finally28 that vicissitude [continual transformation] be in all things, as in this [earth]; likewise in the others stars which were called worlds, not without reason, by the true ancient philosophers. Now as the Nolan said this, Doctor Torquato shouted: Ad rem, ad rem, ad rem [To the point, to the point, to the point]. Finally, the Nolan began to laugh and said to him that he did not argue, nor was he replying to him, but that he submitted propositions to him; and, therefore, ista sunt res, res, res [these are the points, points, points]. And he pressed Torquato hard to offer something ad rem [to the point]. SMI. Thinking that he was in the midst of blockheads and idiots, that jackass [Torquato] thought that they would let this ad rem of this pass for an argument, and for a proof, and that he would satisfy the whole gathering with a mere tinkle of his golden chain. THE. Listen further. While all stayed there waiting for that coveted argument, Doctor Torquato, now turning to his dining companions, draws from the depth of his self-sufficiency and throws in their faces the Erasmian adage [:] A N T I C I R A M NAVIGAT 30 [He is sailing toward Anticyra]. SMI. A jackass could not have spoken better, and one cannot [indeed] hear other words when busy with jackasses. THE. I believe he prophesied (though he himself did not mean 27. Bruno even seems to retain the Aristotelian notion of darkness as something as positive as brightness. 28. This remark of Bruno evokes the doctrine of the Great Year, or the eternal recurrence of all at great intervals. It will be broached more in detail in the next Dialogue. 29. These four motions of the earth will be discussed by Bruno in the next Dialogue. 30. See note 39 to the First Dialogue,


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his prophesy) that the Nolan went to make a provision of hellebore [medicinal herb] to resolder [heal] the brain of these barbarian fools. SMI. If those present, courteous as they were, had been most courteous, [then] they would have put, instead of a necklace, a rope around his [the Nolan's] neck and would have made him count forty bastinados in commemoration of the first day of Lent. THE. The Nolan said to them that Doctor Torquato and not he was mad, because he [Torquato] wears the necklace, [and] had Doctor Torquato not been wearing it, he certainly would not be worth more than his vestments, which in turn would be of little value unless thoroughly dusted with bastinados. And saying this he rose from the table, lamenting that Sir Fulke did not provide for better partners. FRU. These were the products of England; and search as much as you wish, you find all of them to be doctors in grammar in these days in which there rules in that happy realm a constellation of pedantic, most obstinate ignorance and presumption, mixed with a boorish impoliteness that would vitiate the patience of Job, and if you do not believe this, go to Oxford and let them tell you the things that happened to the Nolan. When he engaged in public disputation with those doctors in theology in the presence of the Polish prince, Alasco [Laski], 31 and of others of the English nobility. Let them tell you how they meant to reply to the arguments [of his], how for fifteen times through fifteen syllogisms that chick stayed in the tow [of] that poor doctor32 and like the coryphaeus of the Academy33 feared to come forward in that grave situation? Let them tell you with what rudeness and discourtesy that pig [doctor] did proceed and with what patience and humanness did that other, who in fact showed himself to be a native of Naples34 and as one raised under a more benign sky? Let them inform you how they forced him to finish his public lectures, those de immortalitate animal [on the immortality of soul] and those de quintuplici sphera36 [on the fivefold sphere] ? 31. See the Introduction. 32. The doctor or scholar in question can be identified with some probability as John Underhill (c. 1545-1592), a protégé of Lord Walsingham, chaplain to the Queen, and from 1589 bishop of Oxford. 33. Leader of a dance and music group, or simply a leader. The Academy means the Aristotelian Oxford. 34. Such remarks speak for themselves. 35. Since Bruno's views on the human soul were hardly in conformity with Christian tenets, his lectures had to be discontinued. 36. The Oxonians expected to hçar about astronomy and not about Hermetism.

Fourth Dialogue


SMI. He who gives to pigs pearls 37 should not lament if they are trampled. Now continue with the proposition of Torquato. THE. As all rose from table, there were some who in their own language accused the Nolan of being impatient, instead of having before their eyes the barbarous and boorish discourtesy of Torquato and of their own. Nevertheless, the Nolan, who believes in outdoing in courtesy those who can easily outdo him in [some] other [matter], controlled himself, and as if he had forgotten about everything, he said amicably to Torquato: Do not think, dear brother, that because of your views I want to or may become your enemy; nay, I am as much a friend of yours as of myself. So that I want you to know that before taking this position as a most certain one, I held it several years ago as simply true; when I was younger and less knowledgeable, I held it as something very likely. When I was more of a beginner in speculative things, I held it so factually false that 1 wondered at Aristotle that not only did he not disdain to consider it, but spent more than half of the second book, [of] On the Heavens, in an effort to demonstrate that the earth does not move. When I was a kid, and acted without speculative thinking, I held that to believe this [the motion of the earth] was sheer madness and thought that it was advanced by some for the sake of sophistry and captious material [topic], and for the exercise of those carefree minds, who wish to dispute for game's sake, and who make a sport of proving and defending that white is black. Therefore, I can hate you for this reason only as much as myself, insofar as I was younger, more childish, less wise, and less discreet [discerning]. Thus, instead of being obligated to be angry with you, I have compassion for you, and I pray God that just as He gave me this knowledge, so (if it does not please him to make you capable of seeing it), He may at least make you capable of admitting that you are blind. And this will be of no small help, to make you more polite, and courteous, less ignorant and brazen. And you should still love me if not as one who is at present more prudent and older, at least as one who was more ignorant and more juvenile when I was partly in my more tender years, than you are in your old age. I want to say that although I have never conversed and disputed in such a boorish, rude and discourteous manner, nevertheless for a while I was as ignorant as you. Thus, I have consideration 37, Biblical allusion; see Mat. 7: 6,


The Ash



for your present state, [which is] similar to my past state, and you for my past state, similar to your present state, [and so] I will love you and you do [should] not hate me. 38 SMI. And they, (after having engaged in another kind of dispute), what did they say to this? THE. TO make a long story short, that they were companions of Aristotle, of Ptolemy, and of many other most learned philosophers; and the Nolan remarked that there are innumerable imbecile, senseless, stupid and ignorant persons, who are in this regard not only the companions of Aristotle and of Ptolemy, but even more of themselves, [and] who are unable to grasp what the Nolan means, with whom not many do and can agree except those divine and wisest men like Pythagoras, Plato and others; as to the multitude which boasts of having philosophers on its side, I would that you consider that insofar as these philosophers are in agreement with the populace, they have merely produced a popular philosophy. And in regard to what pertains to [all of] you, who gather under the banner of Aristotle, I advise you that you should not boast as if you understood what Aristotle meant, and as if you penetrated what Aristotle penetrated: for there is an immense difference between not knowing what he did not know, and knowing what he did know; because [on the points] where this philosopher was ignorant, he has for companions not only you but all your kind, including the bargemen and stevedores of London. [On the points] where that gentleman [Aristotle] was learned and judicious, I believe and am most certain that you all are far removed from him. 39 About one thing I marvel very much, [namely], that after you have been invited and come to dispute, you have never laid such foundations and submitted such reasons by which you could in any manner reach a conclusion against me, or against Copernicus, though there are many [such] powerful arguments and reasonings. 40 Tor38. This profuse protestation of intellectual humility and fraternal compassion stands in strange contrast with the hardly polite epithets heaped by Bruno on his opponents. 39. Galileo, too, was to claim to himself a 'better-informed Aristotle', a clear indication of the latter's enormous reputation. 40. With this remark Bruno reveals that his real aim was not a systematic defense of Copernicus, or else these 'many powerful arguments and reasonings' against the motion of the earth would have been discussed by him. Clearly, for Bruno, Copernicus' doctrine was but a vehicle for promoting his own Hermetic message.

Fourth Dialogue


quato, as if to wish now to unveil a most worthy proof, asked with [the air of] august majesty: U B I EST AUX 4 1 SOLIS? [Where is the auge of the sun ?] The Nolan replied that he might imagine it to be wherever it pleases him for any conclusion he might reach from it. For the auge changes and does not always stay in the same point of the ecliptic, and he is unable to see for what reason he asked this. In turn, Torquato asks the same question, as if the Nolan had not been able to answer it. Replied the Nolan[:] Quot sunt sacramenta ecclesiae. Est circa vigesimum Cancri; et oppositum circa decimum vel centesimum Capricorni [How many are the sacraments of the Church? Is (the auge) around the twentieth of Cancer: and opposite around the tenth or hundredth of Capricorn] or above the belfry of Saint Paul.[?] SMI. Would you know for what reason did he ask this? THE. TO show to those, who knew nothing, that he was indeed disputing, and that he made a point, and, in addition, to go on trying so many quomodo, quae, ubi [how's, why's, where's], until he found one about which the Nolan would say that he did not know [the answer]; until that [question] which was about how many are the stars of the fourth magnitude. But the Nolan said that he did not know anything except what belonged to the topic. This inquiry about the auge of the sun proves all in all that he [Torquato] was all too ignorant [to qualify] for disputation. To ask from one, who says that the earth moves around the sun, [and] that the sun stays fixed in the midst of these wandering lights [planets], the question of where is the auge of the sun, is to the point as if one asked from an adherent of the ordinary appearances [immobility of the earth] where is the auge of the earth; at any rate, the first lesson which is given to one who wants to learn to argue is that one is not to search and ask according to one's own principles, but according to the ones admitted by the opponent; but to this blockhead everything was the same; because in this manner he could derive arguments from those assumptions that were to the point as well as from those that were beside the point. Having concluded this discourse they began to consult among themselves in English, and after they spent some time together, there appeared on the table a sheet of paper and an inkwell. Doctor Torquato spread it out until it made a wide and long page, took the pen in his hand, drew a straight line across the middle of the page from 41. See note 5 to the Third Dialogue.

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one side to the other [Fig. 7J; in the middle he drew a circle, to which the aforesaid line passing through the center formed a diameter, and inside of one of its semicircles he wrote Terra*2 [earth], and inside the other semicircle he wrote Sol [sun]. On the side of the [semicircle of


COPERNICVS, [Fig- 7] the] earth he drew eight semicircles, where the symbols of the seven planets were [placed] in order, and around the last [semicircle] there was written OCTAVA SPHAERA MOBILIS [eighth movable sphere] and on the margin PTOLOMEUS. Meanwhile the Nolan said to him what he wanted to do with that which even children know? Torquato replied [:] Vide, face, et disce; ego docebo te Ptolomeum et Copemicum [Look, listen, and learn: I will teach you Ptolemy and Copernicus]. 42. This w o r d and some others are missing in Figure 7, in conformity with Bruno's carelessness with his diagrams,

Fourth Dialogue


SMI. SUS quandoque Minervam43 [Sometimes the pig (teaches) Minerva]. THE. The Nolan replied that when one writes [practices] the alphabet, it is a poor method to wish to teach grammar to one who knows more of it than does the former. Torquato went on making his diagram, and around the sun, which was in the middle, he drew seven semicircles with similar symbols, writing around the last one S P H A E R A INMOBILIS FIXARUM [Immobile sphere of the fixed stars], and on the margin: C O P E R N I C U S . Then, he turned to the third circle, and on a point of its circumference he marked the center of an epicycle; having drawn its circumference, he painted in its center the globe of the earth and that no one should delude himself into thinking that it was not the earth, he wrote there in large characters, T E R R A [earth].44 And on a point of the circumference of the epicycle, which was most distant from the center, 45 he marked the symbol of the moon. When the Nolan saw this, (he said) look, here he wants to teach me from Copernicus what Copernicus himself did not mean, and would rather have had his head cut off than to say it or write it. 46 Because the biggest jackass on earth would know that from that part one would always see the diameter of the sun equal [the same]47 and other numerous conclusions would follow that cannot be verified. Tace, face [Be quiet, be quiet], said Torquato, tu vis me docere Copernicum [you want to teach me Copernicus] ? I care little about Copernicus, said the Nolan, and I care little that you or others understand him; 48 but I want to remind you of this alone, that before you come to instruct me another time, study better [the subject]. The gentlemen there present showed so much diligence [interest] that the book of Copernicus was brought in, and by looking at the figure they saw 43. Another example from Erasmus' collection of dicta from classical antiquity. See note 39 to the First Dialogue. Minerva was the goddess of learning. 44. Here the text contradicts the diagram, where the little dot on the epicycle stands for the earth. 45. Here 'center' means the sun, in the center of the Copernican half of the diagram. 46. Copernicus stated and with a diagram illustrated exactly the opposite of what Bruno now claims. In other words, Copernicus indicated (see transl. cit., p. 526) the earth's position in exactly the same way as Torquato did. 47. Once more, Bruno states that Torquato marked the center of the epicycle as the position of the earth. 48. Such boastings are rather rare in contemporary scientific literature which contains otherwise many unusual statements.


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that the earth was not marked on the circumference of the epicycle as was the moon, so that Torquato wanted that the point in the center of the epicycle on the circumference of the third sphere was designating the earth.49 SMI. The cause of the error was that Torquato has studied the figures50 in that book, and has not read the chapters and even if he had, he did not understand them. THE. The Nolan began to laugh and told him that this point represented no other thing than the [fixed] point of the compass as it traced out the epicycle of the earth, and of the moon which is one and the same. Or if you truly wish to know where the earth is according to the meaning of Copernicus: read his own words. They read and found that the earth and the moon were as if carried by the same epicycle,51 etc. And so they kept ruminating in their own language, until Nundinio and Torquato departed, having greeted all the others except the Nolan. And he sent one right away that he greet them on his behalf. Those cavaliers after begging the Nolan that he should not be upset because of the discourteous impoliteness and brazen ignorance of their doctors; but that he should have compassion over the poverty of this country, which was left a widow by good letters [learning] concerning philosophy and real mathematics [astronomy] (in which they are now all like blind men;52 [so] there come these 49. And this is precisely what Bruno stated a page earlier concerning Torquato's procedure. 50. In fact, Torquato studied Copernicus' diagram far better than Bruno did. 51. Another misstatement of Bruno about Copernicus. English astronomers knew the point not only from Copernicus but also from the English translation of the passage in question which appeared in 1576 in an Appendix attached by Thomas Digges to the new edition of Prognostication euerlastinge, a work of his father, Leonard Digges. The passage reads as follows: 'Then followeth the great Orbe wherein the globe of mortalitye [the earth] inclosed in the Moones Orbe as an Epicicle and holdynge the earth as a Centre by his owne waight restinge alway permanente, in the middest of the ayre is caryed rounde once in a yeare.' See the critical edition of that Appendix by Francis R. Johnson and Sanford V. Larkey, 'Thomas Digges, the Copernican System, and the Idea of Infinity of the Universe in 1576' {The Huntington Library bulletin, Number 5, April, 1934, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1934), p. 87. 52. Contrary to Bruno, astronomy and other sciences stood at a respectable level in late sixteenth-century England, as clearly evidenced by carefully documented historical studies, such as Francis R. Johnson, Astronomical Thought in Renaissance England: A Study of the English Scientific Writings from 1500 to 1645 (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937), and Antonia Mc Lean, Humanism and the Rise of Science in Tudor England (New York, Neale Watson Academic Publications, 1972).

Fourth Dialogue


jackasses and present themselves as seers and offer bladders for lanterns), they left him with most polite salutations and went on their way; we and the Nolan returned home late along another route, without encountering these usual molestings, because the night was very dark, and the butting and kicking animals did not pester us on our way back as they did on our going, because, taking a deep rest, they were retired in their sheepfolds and stables. PRU.

It was night. Tired bodies were plucking quiet sleep Over the lands, rested the forests and the violent Seas, as the stars were halfway through their orb, And silent lay all meadows, animals etc.53 SMI. NOW we have said enough today, please, Theophil, return tomorrow, because I want to understand some other points about the doctrine of the Nolan. Because this doctrine of Copernicus, though convenient for computations, nevertheless is not safe and expeditious in regard to the natural [physical] reasons, which are the principal ones. 54 THE. I shall gladly return another time. FRU. I also. PRU. Ego quoque. Valete [I, too. Good bye].

End of the Fourth


53. Aeneid, IV: 522-25. 54. This remark of Smith makes it clear that the Fifth or last Dialogue will be devoted to the explanation of the physical world by real, that is, physical causes. Bruno can now move 'far beyond' Copernicus.



THEOPHIL NOW, the other stars are not more [strongly] or in another manner fixed in the heavens than is this star, which is the earth, fixed in the same firmament, which is the air. And [the place], where the tail of the Bear is, is not more worthy of being called the eighth sphere than is [the place] where the earth is, on which we are: because, these distinct bodies are in one and the same ethereal region as in one and the same great space and field, and are separated from one another by certain convenient intervals. Consider the reason by which seven heavens were allotted to the wandering stars [planets] and only one to all the others [stars]. The varying motion that could be seen in [the] seven [planets] and the one regular motion in all the other stars, that keep forever the same equal distance and regularity, make it appear that to all these [stars] one motion, one fixedness, one orb is appropriate. And that [therefore] there are no more than eight sensible [real] spheres for the luminaries [stars and planets] which are imbedded, so to speak, in them. But if we muster so much light [insight] and such disciplined understanding, as to recognize that this appearance of the world-motion proceeds from the rotation of the earth, and if from the similarity [analogy] of the consistency [stability] of this body in the middle of the air we infer the consistency [stability] of all the other bodies, then we can first believe and afterwards convincingly infer the very contrary of that dream and of that phantasy that set up the first inconvenience; which generated and still generates so many other innumerable 1. The immobility of the earth in the center of the universe. Contrary to Bruno, the root evil of the traditional world view was not the immobility of the earth but the divinisation by Plato and Aristotle of the heavenly regions, a process of which Bruno, in a somewhat different sense, was equally guilty. 145


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inconveniences. This is why that error arises. Just as we, in turning our eyes from the center of the horizon toward all other parts [directions], are able to judge the major and minor distance here and there, and in those things that are closer, but beyond a certain distance all things will appear equally distant; thus, looking at the stars in the firmament, we perceive the difference in the motions and distances of some more nearby stars, but the more distant and very distant ones will appear immobile, and equally distant, and far away in regard to longitude [depth in space]. In such a manner, a tree will sometimes appear to be closer to the other as it approaches the same semidiameter [radius, or line of sight]; and, if it will be indifferent [the same] in that respect [when it falls on the same line of sight], it will appear quite one [with the other], although in spite of all this, there is a greater separation between these than between those which are judged to be far more separated because of the difference of semidiameters [angular separation of the radii, or lines of sight]. Thus, it happens that a star is estimated to be the much larger [more distant] one, which is [in fact] the much smaller [closer] one. Another one, which is much closer, [would be estimated to be] much farther away. As in the following figure 2 [Fig. 8], where with respect to O, the eye, star A appears to be the same [identical] with star B, and even if it looks distinct, it will appear very close to the former: and star C, being at a very different semidiameter [line of sight], will appear much more distant, and [although] actually is much closer. Therefore, the fact that we do not see many motions in these stars, and that they do not appear to move closer to one another and to move away from one another, is not so because they do not perform their orbits like these [the planets], given that there is no reason by which the same accidents [characteristics] should not be present in those [the stars], as in these [the planets], by which characteristics a body, to derive strength from another, must likewise move around the other. 3 And, therefore, they should not be called fixed [stars] because [as i f ] they truly kept the 2. In the whole work this is the only correct diagram which is also accompanied by a correct explanation, although it still falls short of its goal in demonstrative value. Bruno should rather have put emphasis on the greatly varying degrees in the brightness of stars, and perhaps on the phenomenon of the Milky Way. See on this my works quoted in note 63 to the Third Dialogue. 3. It is hardly legitimate to base on such a vague utterance the claim that Bruno should be credited with the intuitive anticipation of binary stars. The exact properties of their orbits would not have been to Bruno's liking.

Fifth Dialogue


O , la uifta, 1' occhio. O A B , O C , 0 D , lunghezze,longi tudini et linee uifuali. A C , A D , C D , larghezze, latitudini. [0, the sight, the eye. OAB, OC, OD lengths, longitudes and lines of sight. AC, AD, CD, widths, latitudes] [Fig. 8]

same equal distance from us and among themselves, but because their motion is not perceptible to us. This can, for instance, be seen in a very distant ship which makes a turn of thirty or forty paces: it will appear no less to stand firm than if it did not move a bit. Thus, one should make estimates proportionately in regard to greater


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distances, [and] to very large and very luminous bodies, of which very possibly many innumerable others are as great and as luminous as the sun and even more so, [and in regard to] circles [orbits] and motions, of which [even] much greater ones are not [cannot be] seen. Therefore, if with some [stars] among these [stars] there occurs a variety of approach, this cannot be known except through very long observations, which have not begun, nor have been pursued,4 because nobody believed in, searched for, or presupposed such motion. Let us recognize that the start of inquiry is the knowledge and cognizance that the thing is [exists], or is possible, and convenient [probable], and it is from this that one extracts profit.5 PRU. Rem acu tangís [You pinpoint the matter]. THE. NOW this distinction [separation] of bodies in the ethereal region was known to Heraclitus,6 Democritus, 7 Epicurus,8 Pythagoras,9 Parmenides,10 Melissus,11 as those fragments which we possess make it manifest to us; thus, it is clear that they knew of an infinite space, infinite region, infinite forest [mass], infinite capacity of innumerable worlds,12 and the like. These complete their orbits as the earth does its own, and, therefore, in antiquity were called ethera}z 4. In the context of pre-telescopic astronomy this insistance on observation does not make much sense, especially in view of the fact that even a Tycho Brahe, who improved the precision of astronomical observations more than anyone else prior to the seventeenth century, had to be satisfied with a minimum error of 5 minutes of an arc. 5. This is certainly a most noteworthy remark on the paramount role of presuppositions in science. But undue reliance on them may easily turn into sheer apriorism, a case all too evident in Bruno's reasoning about the world. 6. On Heraclitus, see note 27 to the Third Dialogue. 7. Democritus of Abdera (c.460 BC-c. 370 BC), pupil of Leucippus, and perhaps the most renowned exponent of atomism and of an infinite world in classical antiquity. 8. On Epicurus, see note 28 to the Third Dialogue. 9. Pythagoras (c. 582 BC-c. 507 BC), the leader of a secret religious society dedicated to the mystical veneration of the role of numbers (integers) in the structure of the whole and of each part of the cosmos. 10. Parmenides of Elea (fl. 480 BC) in Southern Italy, the champion of a notion of being which is unchangeable and unlimited. He denied the possibility of empty space and claimed that motion and change were illusions. 11. Melissus of Samos (fl. 440 BC) was a follower of Parmenides. 12. Such claims are true of Democritus and Epicurus. As to the paradoxes of an actually realized infinite space and mass, Bruno was wholly unaware of them. 13. The etymology of the word ether as a derivative of the expression ael &elv (always runs) is given in Plato's Cratylus: 410B, and in Aristotle's On the Heavens: 270b. The subsequent exploitation of the term for a pantheistic, animistic world view is a Hermetic maneuver of Bruno.

Fifth Dialogue


that is, runners, messengers, ambassadors, envoys of the magnificence of the sole most high, that temper with musical harmony the order of the constitution of nature, [this] living mirror of the infinite deity. This name ethera was taken away from them by blind ignorance and attributed to certain fifth essences, into which these lights and lanterns [stars] were [believed to be] driven as so many nails. These runners have for principle of intrinsic motion their own proper nature, their own proper soul, their own proper intellect,14 because the liquid and subtle air is not sufficient to move such dense and great machines, because in order to do this they would need attractive or impulsive virtue [force] and other similar things, which do not act without at least the contact of two bodies, of which one pushes with its extremity and the other is pushed: and, certainly, all things which are moved in such a manner recognize [reveal] the principle of their motion [which is] either against or outside their own nature, that is, violent or at least not natural. It is, therefore, a thing convenient to the commodity of things that exist, and is in accord with the effect of the most perfect cause,15 that this motion be natural, [that is], deriving from an internal principle and proper propulsion, without resistance. 10 This befits all bodies which move without sensible [perceptible] contact with another pushing or attracting body. Therefore, wholly mistaken are those who say that the magnet pulls the iron, the amber the straw, the lignite the feather, the sun the sunflower: rather, in the iron there is a sense [sensitivity], (which is awakened by a spiritual force which is diffused from the magnet), with which it [the iron] moves to this [the magnet], the straw to the amber, and in general all that desires and has needs moves to the thing desired, and is converted in it to its possible [realization], beginning with the wish to be in the same place [with it]. 17 From this it is to be considered that nothing moves locally by an extrinsic principle without a contact 14. It should not be surprising that such a view should go hand in hand with a carefree mixing of mechanistic concepts with the Aristotelian idea of 'natural' motion and places. 15. The infinite deity conceived in terms of pantheism. 16. Although Bruno fights the Aristotelian separation of the world into a perfect (divine and incorruptible) and an imperfect (corruptible) region, he does much the same by postulating motion without resistance, and perpetual life to all celestial bodies as such, and allowing for the opposite to all their parts. 17. A clear example of the direction of Bruno's thought from imperfect science toward sheer animistic obscurantism.


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more vigorous than the resistance of the mobile [moved thing]: consequently, one must realize what a solemn foolishness and impossible thing it is [to try] to persuade a disciplined sentiment [mind] [about the claim] that the moon moves the waters of the sea causing the flow [tide] in it, makes the humors grow, fertilizes the fish, fills [matures] the oysters and produces other effects;18 since in all these things [processes] the moon is properly a sign and not a cause.19 I say sign and indication, because the observation of these things together with certain dispositions of the moon, and [the observation] of other contrary and diverse things together with the [observation] of other contrary and diverse dispositions, proceeds from the order and correspondence of things and [from] the laws of a change that are conformal and corresponding to the laws of another [change]. Smi. From the ignorance of this distinction proceeds [the fact] that similar errors fill many shreds of paper which teach so many strange philosophies in which the things that are signs, circumstances, and accidents are called causes. Among these follies that is a chief one which says that the perpendicular and straight rays are the causes of greater heat, and the rays of acute and oblique angles the cause of greater cold; 20 but this is only an accident of the sun, which is the true cause of this, as it stays longer or less so over [an area of] the earth. Reflected and direct rays, acute and obtuse angles, perpendicular, incident [oblique], and horizontal lines, larger and smaller arcs, such and such an aspect [form], are mathematical circumstances and not natural causes. One thing is to play with geometry, and another is to prove with nature [physical causes]. It is not lines and angles that make the fire more or less warm, but the neighboring and distant situations [circumstances], [the] long and brief periods. 18. All these effects were in Bruno's time generally ascribed to the moon, in virtue of an organismic connection of all parts of the world. For a classic statement, see the inaugural lecture of Tycho Brahe as professor of astronomy at the University of Copenhagen on 'the mathematical disciplines': 'Oratio quam habui anno 1574' (Opera omnia, Copenhagen, Libraria Gyldendaliana, 1913, vol. I, pp. 145-73). 19. On the face of it this is a surprisingly positivist statement, but in reality it points to Bruno's Hermetic symbolism. 20. It is doubtful that anyone has ever claimed that the variation of the angle of incidence, as a purely geometrical factor, was the physical cause of the variation in the heat received from the sun. Bruno's own explanation is as revealing of his confused notions as is his subsequent remark on 'playing with geometry'.

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THE. This you understand very well, this is how one truth clarifies the other. Or to conclude the topic: these big bodies, if they were moved from the outside otherwise than by their much desired goal, would be moved violently and accidentally; even though they had that potency which is said to be non-repugnant, because the truly non-repugnant is the natural, and the natural, (like it or not), is an intrinsic principle, which of itself carries the thing there where it is proper [for it to be]: otherwise the extrinsic motor [mover] will not move without fatigue, or else it will not be necessary but superfluous; and if you would accuse the efficient cause of being deficient in its effect, and [then you would] want most noble motors [movers] be busy with rather ignoble mobile [things],21 as do those who say that the action of ants and spiders is not from their own prudence and skill but fiom unerring divine intelligences that give them {verbi gratia) [for example] the impulsions, which are called natural instincts, and other things denoted by words without meaning,22 because if you asked those savants what that instinct is they will not be able to say [something] other than instinct, or some other word as undetermined and foolish as is that instinct, which signifies an instigating principle, which is a most common name, not to say a sixth sense, or reason, or pure intellect. PRU. Nims arduae quaestiones [Too exacting questions]. SMI. For those who do not want to understand these things, but want to believe obstinately what is false. But let us return to ourselves. I would like to know what he replied to those who find it a difficult thing that the earth moves; saying that it is so big, so dense, so heavy a body. I would much like to hear your mode of replying, because I see you so much steeped in reasonings. PRU. Non talis mihi [This is not for me]. SMI. Because you are a mole [idiot]. THE. The mode of replying consists in this, that the same thing could be said about the moon, the sun and other very large bodies and so many innumerable [bodies] which the adversaries want that they should circle the earth in so many disproportionate periods. 21. This frenzied accumulation of specious distinctions and syllogisms contrasts sharply with Bruno's repeated denunciations of Aristotelian hair-splitting. 22. Again, a clear example of the self-contradictory arguments offered by Bruno, who has just insisted on the divine intelligence by which the main parts of the universe moved.


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And yet, they make it a big issue that the earth should revolve in 24 hours around its proper center [axis]. And in one year around the sun. Note that neither the earth nor any other body is absolutely heavy or light: none of the bodies [when] in its place, is either heavy or light.23 But these differences and qualities happen [belong] not to the principal bodies and to the particular, perfect individuals [stars] of the universe, but belong to the parts that are divided [separated] from the whole, and find themselves outside their proper continent as if [they were] pilgrims: these no less naturally tend toward the place of [their] conservation, as the iron toward the magnet, which goes to unite with it not with reference to down, up, or to the right, but along all local differences [directions], wherever it is. The parts of the earth come from the air toward us because there is their sphere [natural place]. If this were in the opposite part [direction], they [parts of the earth] would move away from us, directing their course toward it [that sphere]. So [with] the water, so [with] the fire. The water is not heavy in its place, and does not weigh on those [things] which are in the depths of the sea;24 the arms, the head, and other members are not resentful of their own chest, and no naturally constituted thing does an act of violence [moves violently] in its natural place.25 Gravity and levity are not actually seen in a thing which possesses its own place and natural disposition; but they are in things that have a certain impetus by which they tend toward the place convenient in itself, for it is an absurd thing to call any body naturally heavy or light, since these qualities do not belong to a thing which is in its natural constitution, but outside it, which never happens to a sphere26 but sometimes to the parts of it, which, however, are not determined [assigned] to a certain local difference with respect to us, but are always determined [assigned] to the place where the [their] proper sphere [natural place] and the center of their conservation are. Thus, if there were within the earth another kind of body, the parts of the earth from that 23. Bruno is now battling the Aristotelian distinction between heavy and light, which is based on the notion of natural places, with a theory based on a similarly organismic notion of natural places. 24. Like Aristotle, Bruno, too, is carried away into assertions which will be proven wholly false by the development of science. 25. The significance of Bruno's recourse to such organismic analogy cannot be emphasized enough. 26. Bruno is now endorsing a typically Aristotelian tenet about the physical perfection of spherical bodies,

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place would ascend naturally,27 and if a spark of fire occurred (to speak according to the common parlance) above the concaveness [sphere] of the moon, it would come down with the same velocity with which it ascends high up from the convexity [surface] of the earth. Thus, water descends no less [readily] down to the center of the earth, if there is space [room there], than it ascends from the earth's center to its surface. Similarly, the air moves with the same facility toward any local difference [different locality]. What, therefore, do heavy and light mean? Don't we see the fire go at times downward and sideways to ignite a body disposed for its nourishment and conservation [maintenance] ? Every thing, therefore, which is natural, is most easy, every natural place and motion are most convenient. With that ease with which the things that do not move naturally stay fixed in their places, the other things which move naturally, march through their spaces. And just as the former would be moved violently and against their nature, so the latter would stay fixed violently and against their nature. It is then certain that if it naturally befitted the earth to be fixed, its motion would be violent, against nature and difficult, but who found this [to be so]? Who proved it? [it was proved by] the common ignorance, the defect of sense and of reason. Smi. This I have well grasped, that the earth in its place is not heavier than the sun is in its own place, and the members of the principal bodies (such as the waters) in their [own] spheres, from which if separated they would move toward them from every place, site and side. Therefore, we from our viewpoint can say that they are no less heavy than [and] light, than indifferent [natural], as we see this in the comets 28 and other combustions, which from [their] bodies which burn always send flames toward the opposite places [away from us]: whence they are called 'hairy'; when always toward us, [they are called] 'bearded', when now toward us, now away from us, they are called 'tailed'. The air, which is the most general container, and is the firmament of the spherical bodies, goes out from every part, enters into every part, penetrates through all, diffuses in all. Therefore, 27. In all these lucubrations Bruno does not reveal even a rudimentary inkling of the notion of specific weights, although Archimedes' ideas and findings on the point had been widely discussed in his times. 28. Bruno's recourse to the Aristotelian doctrine on comets ( M e t e o r o l o g i c a , 342b-345a) as an illustration of the 'correct' explanation of gravity and levity puts a most ironic touch on his hapless discourse on (he topic,


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vain is the argument which those submit on account of the fixity of the earth, that it should be a heavy, dense and cold body. THE. I praise God that I see you being so capable, and that you spare me such fatigue, and that you have so well grasped that principle by which you can reply to the strongest persuasions [arguments] of the vulgar [typical] philosophers, and that you have access to many profound considerations about nature. SMI. Before I should come to other questions I would like to know for the moment how we mean that the sun is the true element of fire29 and is the primary hot [body], and that it is fixed in the center of these wandering [bodies] among which we count the earth? Because it occurs to me that it is more likely that this body [the sun] should move rather than the others, [a fact] which we should be able to see through the experiences of the senses. THE. Tell the reason. SMI. The parts of the earth, wherever they are either naturally or by violence, do not move. Thus, the parts of the waters outside the sea, rivers, and other living containers stay firm. But the parts of fire when they cannot move upward, such as when they are retained in the concavity of furnaces, turn and rotate in a circle, and there is no way to hold them [fixed]. If, therefore, we want to take an argument and confidence from [the consideration] of the parts, motion belongs rather to the sun and to the element of fire than to the earth. THE. TO this I reply, first, that on this basis one might admit that the sun moves around its proper center [axis]. But not around some other center, 30 since it is enough that all the other surrounding bodies should move around it, insofar as they need it, and also because perhaps it too might be longing after them. Second, one should consider that the element of fire is subject to the first hot [body], [and] is a body as dense and dissimilar in its parts and members as is the earth: 31 though what we see to move in that way is the burning air which is called flame, as the very same air, when changed by the coldness of the earth, is called vapor. SMI. And from this I seem to have the means to confirm what 29. This is, of course, the notion of Smith, not of Bruno. 30. A statement which specifies further a previous assertion of Bruno. See p. 134. 31. In sum, Bruno explains the 'stability' of the sun by claiming (his claim is truly Aristotelian) that the sun is the natural place of the element of fire.

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I say; because the vapor moves slowly and lazily, the flame and exhalation [do, however, move] most speedily, and therefore, that which is more similar to fire can be seen to be more mobile than that [kind of] air which is more similar to the earth. THE. The reason is that the earth tries more [eagerly] to escape from that region which is more connatural to a body of the contrary quality. Just as if the water or vapor should find themselves in the region of fire, or in a place similar to that, they would flee with greater velocity than would the exhalation which has in it certain participations and major connaturality with the fire than contrariety or difference; [thus] it is enough to hold this: because from the intention [ideas] of the Nolan I do not find any proof about the motion or rest of the sun. The motion, which we see in a flame retained and contained in the concavity of furnaces, comes from this that the virtue [force] of fire pursues, ignites, changes and transforms the vaporous air by which it wants to increase and nourish itself; and that other [the vapor] withdraws and flees the enemy of its being and its punishment.32 SMI. YOU have spoken of the vaporous air; what would you say about the pure and simple air? THE. This is no more subject to the heat than to the cold; it is no more capable of absorbing humidity when this comes in a denser form [ice] through cold, than is capable of absorbing vapor and exhalation when the water is diluted by heat.33 SMI. Since nothing in nature is without providence and final cause, I would like to know from you again (because by what you have said, this can be perfectly understood) what is the cause of the local motion of the earth? THE. The reason of such motion is the renovation and rebirth34 of that body which cannot be perennial by its very disposition; just as the things that cannot be perennial as individuals (to speak according to the common parlance) perpetuate themselves as a species; the substances, that cannot perpetuate themselves under the very same appearance, go on changing their faces completely: because, since 33. Bruno's dictum on 'clean air' is a repetition of what Aristotle stated on the so-called dry exhalation in the Meteorologica (341b). 34. The discourse now turns to the idea of eternal returns, another indication of Bruno's close alliance with a tenet that dominated the world view of all nonChristian cultures and stifled all promising beginnings toward science as a selfsustaining enterprise. See on this my book, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1974).


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the material and substance of the things are incorruptible, any thing must be subject in all its parts to all forms, so that in all its parts (as far as capable) it might become all, be all, if not at the same time and instant of eternity, at least at different times in various instants of eternity, successively and vicissitudinously, because although all matter as a whole is capable of [assuming] all forms, still, every part of matter cannot be capable of [assuming] all these forms together. Therefore, since death and dissolution are not proper to that entire mass of which this globe, this star [the earth] consists, and since annihilation is not proper either to its entire nature, from time to time, in certain order, it gets renovated by transforming, changing, altering all its parts; thus, it is proper that in a certain succession each part should take the place of all the other parts, because otherwise these bodies, that are dissolvable, would actually dissolve at times, as it happens to us particular and smaller animals [living beings]. But to those living beings [stars] (as Plato believes in Timaeus,35 and we too believe) it was stated from the first beginning: Voi S I E T E DISSOLV B I L I : MA NON vi D I S S O L V E R E T E [You are dissoluble, but you do not dissolve]. It happens, therefore, that there is no part in the center of and within the star which should not move to the circumference and outside it; [and that] in that extreme and external part there is no portion which should not at times become interior and internal: and experience of every day demonstrates this: in the bosom and bowels of the earth some things gather and some others are sent outward. And we ourselves, and our things, go and come, pass and return; there is no thing [part] of ours which would not become alien [to us], and there is no alien thing which would not become ours. And there is not a thing we are made of that at times should not become other than ours, just as there is no thing which is ours, which at times we shall not be made of: if one is the material of [all] things, then in one kind, if two are those materials, then in two kinds; because I have not determined yet whether the substance and material, that we call spiritual, should change into what we call corporeal, and vice versa, or really not. 36 Thus, all things in their kind have all the vicissitudes of dominion and servitude, of happines and unhappiness, of that state 35. Timaeus: 4 1 a - b . Typically e n o u g h , in the very s a m e context (39d) Plato endorses the idea o f the G r e a t Y e a r . 36. H e r e B r u n o m a k e s all t o o clear his reservations a b o u t the Christian n o t i o n o f soul.

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which is called life, and of that which is called death, of light and darkness, of good and bad. And there is no thing to which it would be naturally convenient to be eternal, except to the substance which is matter; 37 to which it is no less convenient that it should be in continuous transmutation. I do not speak for the present about the supersubstantial substances [souls], but I return to discourse in particular about this grand individuum which is our perpetual nurse and mother, 38 about which you asked me: what is the reason of local motion [?], and I say that the cause of local motion, both of the whole and of any of the parts, is the [very] goal of vicissitude [perennial transformation through birth and decay] not only [in the sense] that everything might be found [successively] in every place, but also [in the sense] that thereby everything might possess [successively] all dispositions and forms; thus, the local motion was esteemed, and most properly so, to be the principle of all change and form, and that once it is taken away, there can be no other such principle. Aristotle was able to gather information from change according to dispositions and qualities which are in all parts of the earth; but he did not mean that local motion which is the principle of these changes. 39 Still, in the end of the first book of his Meteors40 he spoke as one who prophesies and divines; though he himself did not in such cases really mean it; yet, he says by and large and by its principal part the truth, as if somewhat limping, and always adding something of his own error to the divine furor [inspiration]. Or let us recall what he says, and is true, and is worthy of consideration, and then let us add the causes of that which he could not know: 41 [']The same parts of the earth (he says) are not always moist or dry, but change [their character] according to the emergence or failure of rivers; therefore, what was and is sea, has not always been and shall be a sea. What shall be and has been a dry land, is not and was not always dry land; 37. The divergence of this view from the Christian tenet of creation should not be overlooked. 38. The earth. 39. Contrary to Bruno, Aristotle could not be more explicit in stating that local motion is the cause of all transformations in the sublunary region. 40. The reference is to the 14th chapter of Book I of the Meteorologica (351a353a). 41. As was the case with Bruno's quotation from Copernicus, his rendering of the subsequent passages from Aristotle is far from being scrupulously faithful to the original.


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but one must believe [suppose] that, through a certain vicissitude, [or] determined circle [cycle] and order, where there is now one, will be the other; and where the other is, will be the one. [']42 And if you ask Aristotle about the principle and cause of this: he answers that ['] the interior parts of the earth have, as do the bodies of plants and animals, their perfection [maturity], and then grow old. But there is a difference between the earth and the aforementioned bodies; because these have as a whole in all their parts at the same time their progress [growth], perfection [maturity] and decay, (or as he says) their [full] development and old age: but in the earth this happens successively from part to part; with the succession of cold and hot, which causes growth and decay, which [succession] in turn follows the sun and the gyration, through which the [various] parts of the earth acquire different complexions and abilities. Hence the watery places swell at certain times [intervals]; then again they dry up and grow old, [while] others become revitalized and rich in water in certain parts [places]. Thus, we see springs and rivers disappear, or from small [in size] become big, or from big [in size] become small and completely dry in the end. And from the fact that rivers disappear it follows as a necessary consequence that marshes too go, and seas change also. But all this, since it takes place successively around the earth in very long times and very slowly, can hardly be judged [observed] through our or our fathers' lifetimes; the fact being that much rather the lifetime and memory of all generations will be a thing of past, and that [much rather] there will come great decays and depletions, through wars, through pestilence, and through deluges; [and that much rather there will be] changes of languages and of writing, transmigrations and barrenness of places, than that we should be able to remember all these things from beginning to end through so long, various, and most turbulent ages.['] These great transformations are fairly evident in the past history of Egypt; 43 in the outlets of the Nile, which (with the exception of the outlet at Canobos44) are all made by manual labor; in the dwelling places of Memphis, 45 where the lower parts [levels] were inhabited 42. Bruno is, of course, right in presenting Aristotle as one who maintained the idea of cyclic returns, though he fails to note that Aristotle did this in several of his works. See on this Chapter V I in my work quoted in note 34 above. 43. Here Bruno merely sums up Aristotle. 44. Canobos, a city in lower Egypt, about 15 miles northeast of Aexandria. 45. Memphis, an ancient city of Egypt near the mouth of the Nile.

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after the upper parts [levels]. [']And in Argos 40 and Mycenae 47 of which the former, in the times of the Trojans, was marshy and very few people lived there, [while] Mycenae, being the more fertile, was much more honored; [but] of which in our times the very opposite is true: because Mycenae is all dry [desertlike], and Argos became temperate and rather fertile. Or just as this happens in these smaller places, we should assume the same about large [and] entire regions:['] therefore, as we see that many places, which formerly were watery and are now continents [dry lands], so the sea flooded over many other continents [dry lands]. We see the same transformations occur little by little, just as the ones described above and illustrated by corrosions of very large mountains and very distant from the seas, which show the traces of powerful waves, as if they [those mountains] had been freshly washed over. 48 And it is clear from the legends of Felix, the Nolan martyr, 49 which declare that in his time (which occured more or less a thousand years ago 50 ) the sea was near the city walls, where there is a temple which keeps the name Porto 51 [harbour]: while at the present time it is twelve thousand paces away [from the sea]. Is the same not seen in the whole of Provence? All the stones that are scattered across the fields do not indicate that at one time they were tossed around by the waves ? Does the temperature of France appear to you as having changed but little from the times of Caesar up to our times? Well, no vineyards were cultivated then in any part [of France], but at the present as delicious wines are being sent out from there as from other parts of the world; and in the nothernmost parts of France grapes are being harvested. And in this very year I have eaten grapes from the gardens of London which, though not as perfect as are the worse kinds from France, nevertheless are such, the like of which, as th'ey claim, had never [before] been produced on English soil. 52 From this fact that the Mediterranean, in going toward [in the 46. Argos, an ancient Greek city in the eastern Peloponnesus. 47. Mycenae, an ancient Greek city in the northeastern Peloponnesus. 48. Bruno might be referring to scenery in the Alps which he passed through. 49. Saint Felix of Nola suffered martyrdom during the closing decades of the first century. 50. Rather, 1500 years ago, as Bruno should have written. 51. The church, Santa Maria del Porto, is referred to also in Bruno's De magia. 52. Bruno's readiness to delve into these conjectural and incidental details is rooted in the preferences of his times, although the complete absence of such, diversions in Copernicus' book should serve as a powerful reminder that writing a strictly scientific book was not wholly out of style even then.


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direction of] Libya,53 leaves France and parts of Italy drier and hotter, as I have seen with my own eyes, it follows that in coming [in the opposite direction] Italy and France are warmer, and England rather temperate; we should judge [think] that in general the conditions of a region change with [the fact] that the cold disposition [temperature] decreases [becomes colder] toward the Arctic pole. Ask Aristotle: how does this happen? He repliesf:] from the sun and from gyration.54 Not so confusedly and obscurely as rather divinely, deeply, and most truly was this stated by him. But how? as perhaps by a philosopher? No! But rather as by a seer. Or as by one who intended but did not dare to say it, as perhaps one who sees but does not believe what he sees, and even as he believes it, hesitates to state it, in fear that someone should come and press him to give that very explanation which he does not have. He informs, but in such a manner as to close the mouth of the one who wants to know more. Or perhaps here is a manner of speaking taken from the ancient philosophers. For he says that the hot, the cold, the dry, the humid increase and decrease over all parts of the earth; in which all things have their renewal, permanence, aging and decay: and in wishing to give the cause of this he says: PROPTER SOLEM ET CIRCUMLATIONEM [Because of the sun and of the gyration]. Now why does he not say propter 53. The following passage, which is particularly careless and obscure in its original wording, should mean simply the gradual decrease of the average temperature from south to north. 54. Bruno now begins a willful manipulation with the Aristotelian text which clearly refers to the sun's circular yearly motion within the zodiac as the cause of the changes in the temperature of the earth's interior which in turn produce the cyclic climatic changes. The various critical editions and translations of the Meteorologica published during the sixteenth century were unanimous in translating Sia rov rjhov y_ai rrfv Tiegitpogdv not as Bruno did (Ja qua! seguita il sole et il giro - which follows the sun and the gyration), but by taking the juxtaposition in a possesive sense, 'because of the sun's gyration'. With his radical departure from the consensus on this point Bruno wanted to satisfy heliocentrism on the one hand and to secure Aristotle's support to his own cyclic theory steeped in solar and astral mysticism on the other. Bruno, therefore, assigned an independent status to xctl rryc jzegHpopav (and because of gyration). To justify this manipulation, he claimed that from the conceptual viewpoint Aristotle could not even write 'because of the sun's gyration' since Aristotle had to perceive that the confinement of the sun's motion within the zodiac could not produce periodic, climatic changes all over the world (earth). Bruno then triumphantly declares that the juxtaposed 'and because of gyration' should read 'and because of motion', and this, according to him, could only mean the quasi-mystical influence of the sun upon the earth and vice versa. The intrinsic merit of such reasoning consists only in the light which it throws on the strange working of Bruno's thinking.

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so/is circulationem [because of the sun's gyration] ? because it was resolved by him, and admitted by all philosophers of his time and of his persuasion, that the sun with its motion cannot cause this diversity, because to the extent that the ecliptic departs from the equinoctial [circle], the sun forever turned between the two tropical points and, therefore, it was impossible that another part of the earth be warmed; but rather [and thus] the zones and climates should forever remain in the same disposition. Why does he not say, because of the gyration of other planets? because it was already resolved that all these should move (if indeed some of them do not move slightly beyond) only as far as is the width of the zodiac, called the trodden path of the wandering stars [planets]. Why does he not say, because of the gyration of the first mobile [sphere of the fixed stars] ? because he did not know other motion than the diurnal, and there was in his time [but] small suspicion about a motion of retardation similar to that of the planets. Why does he not say, because of the gyration of the heavens? because he could not say how and what it could be. Why does he not say, because of the gyration of the earth? because he had it as an assumed principle that the earth is immobile. Why then did he say it? [because he was] forced by the truth. Which through its natural effects makes itself heard. It remains, therefore, that it should be because of the sun and because of motion. Because of the sun, I say, because it is the only one which diffuses and communicates the vital force. Because of motion also, because if there were no motion [influence] either from the sun toward the other [celestial] bodies, or from the other [celestial] bodies toward the sun, how could that be received which one does not possess, or to give what one does possess? It is, therefore, necessary that there should be motion, and that it should be such which is not partial; but with that reason by which it [the sun] causes the renewal of certain parts, it comes to bring it to those other parts, which, since they are of the same condition and nature, have the same passive potency to which (if nature is not injurious [unjust]) active potency should correspond. But with this [in mind] we shall find it much less reasonable55 that the sun and the whole universality of stars should move around this globe [the earth], rather than, on the contrary, that it should 55. The foregoing exploitation by Bruno of an innocent expression of Aristotle becomes a 'reason' for justifying the Copernican turn in the universe!


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rotate with respect to the universe, while making its annual circle around the sun, and [that it should] variously turn and incline with certain regulated successions from every direction toward it, 56 as to the living element of fire. There is no reason whatever [to suppose] that, unless there was a certain goal and urgent occasion [necessity], the innumerable stars which are as many worlds, even larger than this one [earth], should have so violent a relation [motion] with respect to only this one [the earth]; there is no reason which should rather make us say that the pole of the world trepidates, that the axis of the world nutates, that the corners of the universe stumble, and that so many innumerable, greater and more magnificent globes that may exist, do shake, turn, twist, fragment and, in contempt of nature, arrange themselves in such a way that the earth so awkwardly (as the subtle opticians and geometers can show) should obtain the center, as a body which alone is heavy and cold; it, however, cannot be shown to be dissimilar to any other body which shines in the firmament whether in regard to its substance and material, or in regard to its manner of situation [location];57 because if that body can be supported by that air [ether] in which it is fixed [located], those too can be supported by that [air] which surrounds them. If those bodies can of themselves, as if by their own soul and nature, go around some center cutting through the air [ether]; then the earth [also can do this] not in the less. SMI. I beg you to set forth this point here and now. Indeed, insofar as I hold it for most certain that rather the earth should move necessarily, than this slating and nailing of lamps [the fixing of stars] be possible; indeed, also in regard to those who did not understand this, it is more expedient to set it forth as a principal topic rather than to touch on it in a way of digression in another topic. Therefore, if you want to please me, come and specify for me right away the motions which belong to this globe [earth]. THE. With pleasure, since this digression would have very much postponed the completion of what I wanted to say about the fact that all parts of the earth should necessarily take on all aspects [posi56. The ultimate motivation of all this is now becoming evident as Bruno begins to steer the discourse toward the stupefying climax of his work, the four motions assigned by him to the earth. 57. Clearly, it was one thing to reject the Aristotelian dichotomy between the earth and the celestial bodies and another to abolish any basic difference between the earth (planets) and the stars.

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tions] and relations with respect to the sun, and thus become subjects of all complexions and habits. Now, therefore, to this end it is a convenient and necessary thing that the motion of the earth should be such58 by which, through certain vicissitudes, the continent be [once] located where the sea is, and contrarily [vice versa]; where it is hot, there it be cold, and contrarily [vice versa]; where it is more suited for habitation and [is] more temperate, it should be less suited for habitation and [be] less temperate, and contrarily [vice versa]; in sum, each part should come to have all those relations which all the other parts have with respect to the sun, so that all parts should participate in all life, in all generations [becomings], in all happiness. First, therefore, for its own life and for the life of things which are contained in it, and as if to give [perform] inhalation and exhalation59 with its daily hot and cold, light and darkness, the earth moves in the space [period] of twenty-four equal hours around its proper center [axis], exposing as much as it can its back [surface] to the sun. Second, for the renewal of things that live and dissolve on its back [surface] it moves with its center around the luminous body of the sun in 365-j days in such a circle where from the four points of the ecliptic60 there goes forth the proclamation of generation, adolescence, maturity and decline of its things. Third, for the renewal of [cosmic] ages,61 it participates in another motion by which the relation, which the upper hemisphere of the earth has to the universe, will be transferred to the lower hemisphere,62 so that this will succeed to the relation of the upper hemisphere. Fourth, for the changes of the aspects and complexions of the earth there necessarily belongs to it another motion by which the relation, which that vertex [pole] of the earth has toward the Arctic [North Star], changes [simultaneously] with the relation, which that other vertex [pole] has toward the opposite point 58. Here Bruno openly declares the 'full truth' about the earth's motion, namely, that it is a derivative of the 'correct idea' of the cyclic returns in a universe, which has for its goal the realization of an all-pervading happiness. Hermetic mysticism now reigns supreme over science. The result is as debilitating as was the idea of the Great Year in so many great cultures. 59. The grafting by Bruno of a biological analogy on each of the four motions of the earth bespeaks a decisive feature of his thinking. 60. The vernal and autumnal equinoctial points and the winter and summer solstices. 61. The spans of the Great Year. 62. A good evidence of the extent to which Bruno was abusing the science of the earth's motion in order to give to his Hermetic cosmology a scientific veneer.


The Ash Wednesday Supper

of [by] the Antarctic pole.63 The first motion is measured by [the motion of] a point of the equinoctial [line] of the earth until it [re]turns to itself or around itself. The second motion is measured by an imaginary point of the ecliptic (which is the path of the earth around the sun), until it returns to itself or around the sun. The third motion is measured by the relation, which is had by a hemispherical line of the earth that serves as the horizon with its differences toward the universe, until it turns to the same line, or proportional to it, to the same relation.64 The fourth motion is measured by the progress of a polar point of the earth, which through a straight line of some meridian going through the other pole, returns to itself or around the same aspect [relation] where it was before.65 And about this it is to be noted that although we speak of four motions, nevertheless all concur in one composite motion. Consider that of these four motions the first derives from that [circumstance] that in one natural day it appears that all things move around the earth above the poles of the world, as they say it. The second motion derives from that it appears that the sun in one year goes around the whole zodiac, making [advancing] each day, according to Ptolemy in the third diction [book] of the Almagest, 59 minutes [of an arc], 8 seconds, 17 thirds, 13 fourths, 12 fifths, 31 sixths. According to Alphonse, 59 minutes, 9 seconds, 11 thirds, 63. The reader does not need to waste any effort to relate to sound astronomical lore the third and fourth motions of the earth as proposed by Bruno, who clearly felt that a 'divine' entity like the earth could move, twist, tumble and trepidate in any way suitable to her inner impulses. The best one can say about those motions is that they are utterly confused replicas of the third and fourth motions ascribed to the earth by Copernicus, as suggested some eighty years ago by V. Schiaparelli, the noted Italian astronomer, to F. Tocco, one of the editors of Bruno's Latin works. See F. Tocco, L.e opere latins di Giordano Bruno esposte e confronts con le italiane (Florence, 1889), p. 314 note. Bruno must have received strong criticisms on this score, because in his De immenso he set forth the four motions of the earth in much the same sense as described by Copernicus. 64. In accordance with the Ptolemaic notion of circular motion, Copernicus believed that the axis of the earth had to point always toward the center of its orbit, the sun, in some oblique way, tracing out, so to speak, the surface of a cone during a year's period. But to account for the four seasons Copernicus had to attribute to the earth the third motion in question, by which the earth's axis remained parallel to itself throughout the entire period of its revolution around the sun. This third motion turned out to be unnecessary as people began gradually to assume, from the early seventeenth century on, that rotating celestial bodies tended to retain the original direction of their axis of rotation. 65. The fourth motion of the earth, wholly different from the one imagined by Bruno, was proposed by Copernicus to reconcile the heliocentric system with some observations of Ptolemy and others.

Fifth Dialogue


37 fourths, 19 fifths, 13 sixths, 56 sevenths. According to Copernicus, 59 minutes, 8 seconds, 11 thirds. 66 The third motion derives from that it appears that the eighth sphere moves according to the order of signs opposite to the daily motion over the poles of the zodiac, so slowly, that in 200 years it does not move more than one degree and 28 minutes, so that it completes the circle in 49,000 years; the principle [reason] of that motion is attributed to a ninth sphere. The fourth motion originates from the trepidation, back and forth, which the eighth sphere is said to make over the two equal circles that are imagined in the concavity of the ninth sphere above the starting points of Aries and Libra of its zodiac. It follows from what are seen that it is necessary that the ecliptic of the eigth sphere would not always want to intersect the equinoctial [circle] at the same point, but at times this [intersecting point] be in the head [beginning] of Aries, at other times beyond that on this or the other side of the ecliptic. From what is seen, the greatest declinations of the zodiac are not always the same: hence, it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices should vary continually. As effectively has been stated since very long past times. Consider [first] that although we say that there are four of these motions, it is to be noted nonetheless that all concur in one composite motion. Second, although we call them circular, none of them is really circular. Third, although many have wearied themselves [in trying] to find the true rule of such motions, they did so in vain, as will those who shall weary themselves [to that end], because none of these motions is in fact regular and capable of [being worked upon by] the geometrical file.67 There are, therefore, four, and there should not be more or fewer motions (I want to say differences of the local change in the earth) of which one [which is] irregular, necessarily makes the others irregular, 68 which I want to be described by the 66. This sudden striving at an extreme exactness should contrast sharply with Bruno's systematic resentment of quantitative precision. 'According to Alphonse' refers to the improvement of the Ptolemaic tables by some fifty astronomers engaged for that purpose by Alfonso of Castile around 1250. The expressions third, fourth etc., indicate subsequent subdivisions of a second by a factor of 60. 67. Here Bruno unwittingly coins a phrase which should be remembered as a classic expression of his and of any anti-scientific mind. The quest for precision has been one of the principal sources of progress in science, which would have been greatly retarded, especially in Bruno's time, had it not been for the heroic efforts of Tycho Brahe and Kepler to achieve the greatest possible precision both in observations and in the correlation of quantitative data. 68. Bruno, clearly, wanted no part of any geometrical regularity, be it a circle or an ellipse, in the actual shape of the orbit of planets.


The Ash Wednesday Supper

motion of a ball thrown up into the air.69 This first moves [see Fig.9]70 with its center from A to B; second, insofar as it moves with its center from up to down, or from down to up, it turns around its proper center, moving the point I to the place of the point K, and the point K to the place of point I. Third, turning little by little and advancing

[Fig. 9]

along the line and velocity of a circle, losing and diminishing [in its velocity] up high and descending (as it happens to a ball which, when rising high, at first moves very fast, then more slowly, and then [turning] in the opposite direction, goes to return below, and in me69. A pathetic conclusion to a pathetic book. 70. The figure and its lettering, or rather its defects, are as incomprehensible as is the accompanying text.

Fifth Dialogue


diocre [the same] proportion through the same distances by which it ascends and descends) in the same relation, which is held by that half of the circumference, which is marked by 1, 2, 3, 4, it will traverse that other half, which is [marked] 5, 6, 7, 8. Fourth, because this conversion is not straight, since it is not like a wheel which runs with the impetus of a circle in which the momentum of gravity is present, but moves obliquely, because it is of a globe which can easily incline in all parts [directions]; therefore, the points I and K do not always transform by the same rectitude [line], whence it is necessary that whether it is long, or short, or interrupted, or continuous in its advance, it should become so great as to complete that motion by which the point O should move where point V is, and vice versa. Of these motions, one of which is not regular, is enough to cause that none of the others should be regular. One ignorant makes all others ignorant.71 For all that, they have a certain order by which they approach, more or less, or deviate from regularity.12 Thus, in these differences of motion the more regular which is closest to the most regular is that which is the motion of the center. Next to this is that motion which is around the center along the diameter, [and] is [also] the faster. The third is that [motion] which through the irregularity of the second (which consists in increasing velocity and slowness) gradually changes the whole aspect [face] of the hemisphere. The last, the most irregular, and most uncertain motion is that which changes sides; because at times, instead of going ahead, it turns to the right, and with the greatest inconsistency changes [replaces] in the end the place of an opposite point with the place of another. Similarly, the earth; first, it has the motion of its center, which is annual, more regulated than all, and more than the other motions is similar [conform] to itself. Second, less regulated is the diurnal; we call the third irregular motion hemispherical; the fourth [and] most irregular motion is the polar over the colures.73 71. A fitting summary of Bruno's dicta on science, which represent a long chain of absurdities, deriving from his initial Hermetic postulates about reality, physical and spiritual. 72. This principle of decrease of regularity from the center is a tacit restatement of the Aristotelian tenet (see On the Heavens: 292a-b) that the farther a celestial body is from the sphere of fixed stars, the more irregularity should be in its motion. 73. Either of two imaginary circles of the celestial sphere intersecting each other at right angles at the poles. One passes through the ecliptic at the solstices, the other at the equinoxes.


The Ash Wednesday Supper

SMI. I would like to know, with what order and rule does the Nolan make these motions understood? PRU. Ecquis erit modus, novis usque, et usque semper indigebimus theoriis [Shall there be no end to, and shall we forever need new theories] ? THE. Do not doubt, Prudenzio, that anything is wanting in you for being a good oldster. To you, Smith, I recommend that dialogue of the Nolan which is called Vurgatorio de Vinferno11 [The Purgatory of Hell], and there you will see the fruit of redemption. You, Frulla, keep secret our discourse, and see to it that it may not reach the ears of those whom we have bitten, lest in the end they should become angry with us, and provide new cases to fare worse and to receive better [more] punishment. You, Master Prudenzio, do the conclusion, and an exclusively moral epilogue about our tetralogue, because the speculative topic taken from the Ash Wednesday supper is already concluded. I adjure you, Nolan, by the hope you have in the most high and infinite unity, which keeps you alive, and which you worship. By the eminent divine spirits that protect you, and whom you honor; by your divine Genius, which defends you, and in which you trust, that you be on your guard against vile, ignoble, barbarous and unworthy conversations, lest you should somehow come up against such madness and shame, and you may, thereby appear as a satirical Momus' 5 among the gods, and as a misanthrop Timon76 among men; stay rather close by that most illustrious and generous soul of Lord Mauvissiere (under whose auspices you began to publish so solemn a philosophy) whoperhaps will sight some most sufficient means by which the stars and most powerful gods might guide you toward that point from where you can view, as from afar, similar brutalities. And you other noble personalities, be adjured by the scepter of the fulminating Jove, by the famous civility of the Priamids.77 By the magnanimity of the Senate and People of the Quirinal. And by the nectarean repast which the gods have above boiling Ethiopia, that if it should happen PRUDENZIO

74. One of Bruno's lost works, revealing by its sarcastic title. 75. Mummus is a deity of the Babylonian pantheon. 76. As related by Plutarch, Timon was a rich Athenian who turned into a suspicious misanthrop, following his experience of having been abandoned by his friends when he was temporarily without money. 77. The fifty sons of Priamus, king of Troy,

Fifth Dialogue


another time that the Nolan should, by doing you service, favor and pleasure, come to spend the night in your house; act in such a way that he be protected by you from similar encounters. And should he be forced to return under a dark sky to his lodging, if you do not want him to be accompanied by fifty or hundred torches (which, though he should need walk in midday, would not be lacking to him, were he to die in Roman Catholic soil), let him at least be accompanied by one such torch. Or if this seems to be too much for you, lend him a lantern with a candle of animal fat, so that we may have fertile material to talk about his lucky return to home from you. About this nothing can be said now. Adiuro vos [I adjure you] O Doctors Nundinio and Torquato by the meal of the anthropophags [cannibals]. By the mortar of the cynic Anaxarchus.78 By the enormous snake of Laocoon. 79 And by the trembling wound of Saint Rocco, 80 that you recall that boorish and impolite teacher of yours (were he in the profound abyss, and should he be on the day of judgment), who did your training, and that other chief jackass and ignoramus who taught you how to dispute; so that they may repay you the futile expenditures, and the interest [on them] for time, and the brain they let you lose. Adiuro vos [I adjure you] boatsmen of London, who with your oars hit the waves of the proud Thames. By the honor of Evenus81 and Tiberinus,82 after whom two famous rivers were named; and by the celebrated and spacious tomb of Palinurus,83 that you take us for our money to [our] port [destination]. And you other boorish Trasonii [mercenaries], and wild Mavorii [warriors] of the villainous people. Be adjured by the [ferocious] caresses which the Strymonites had for Orpheus;84 by the last service which the horses rendered to Diomedes;85 and to 78. Anaxarchus of Abdera (fl. 350 BC), a Cynic philosopher, was crushed in a mortar mixer at the order of the Satrape, Nicocreantes. 79. Priest of Troy, who according to Greek mythology, was destroyed together with his two sons by two huge sea serpents after he had warned the Trojans against the wooden horse. 80. Saint Rocco of Montpellier (1295-1327), who contracted a pestilence in caring for the victims of epidemics and was represented with a swelling wound on his thigh. 81. Evenus, son of Mars, was the mythological king of Etolia. 82. Tiberinus, the divinity associated with the Tiber. 83. An allusion to Aeneid, VI: 379-81. 84. An allusion to Ovid's Metamorphoses, XI: 1. 85. Hercules gave to the horses the body of th? Thracian king, Diomedes, who to feed them human flesh,


The Ash Wednesday Supper

the brother of Semeles,86 and by the strength of the petrifying buckle of Cepheus 87 that, when you see and encounter foreigners and travelers, if you do not wish to abstain from [making] those grim, infuriating faces, at least let the abstinence from blows be recommended to you. I turn [now] to conjure [you] all together, some by the shield and lance of Minerva. 88 Some by the generous offspring of the Trojan horse. Some by the venerable beard of Aesculapios. 89 Some by the trident of Neptune. 90 Some by the kisses [bites] which the horses gave to Glaucus91; that you make at another time an anatomy of your deeds with better dialogues; or at least be silent.

The End of the Ash Wednesday Supper.

86. An allusion to Metamorphoses, XI: 273-76. 87. The mythological husband of Cassiopeia and the father of Andromeda. The allusion is to Metamorphoses, VI: 216-17. 88. The ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, identified with the Greek Athena, who was represented with a shield and a lance. 89. Son of Apollo, and the god of medicine and healing. 90. The god of seas, represented with a three-pronged fish spear. 91. The mythical founder of the games of the Isthmus of Corinth who was devoured by his horses, either because he failed to feed them properly or because he lost the race,


Bacon, F., 33, 44 Bailey, C., 101 al-Battani 65 Baronius, C., 12 Basil, Saint 125 Bayle, P., 35 Belo, F., 26 Bene, P. del 16 Berni, F., 43 Bildad of Shuah 129 Blumenberg, H., 25 Borei, P., 35 Brahe, Tycho 116, 125, 150, Brictanus, J., 22 Bruno, Giordano passim Buckhurst, Lord, see Sackville Butterfield, H., 37 Burton, R., 8

Aeneas 75 Aesculapios 170 Ahasuerus 43 Alexander of Aphrodisias 121 Alexander the Great 65 Alfonso of Castile 165 Amphitrite 119 Anaxarchus 169 Andromeda 170 Anphion 76 Apianus, P., 95 Aquilecchia, G., 25, 74 Aristarchus of Samos 57, 98 Aristarchus of Samothrace 69 Aristotle 9,11,14,15,17,18,29-32, 44, 65-67, 79, 98, 105, 107, 111, 113-14, 118, 121, 130-32, 137, 138, 145, 148, 152, 153, 155, 157, 158, 160, 167 Apelles 58, 59 Apollo 74, 170

Caesar, Julius 56, 87, 159 Calippus 65 Casaubon, I., 12, 17 Cassiopeia 170 Cato, M. P., 48 Cepheus 170 Charlewood, J. 25 Charon 76 Christ, Jesus 86 Cicero 98

Aquinas, Thomas, Saint 10, 22, 35 Archimedes 152 Ariosto L., 60, 75 Astianatos 49 Astolfo 86 Atanasijevic, K., 20 Atreus 43 Augustine, Saint 23, 125, 126 Averroes 130 171

172 Ciotto, G. B., 20, 22 Clement VIII, Pope 21 Colombini, Giovanni, Saint 44 Columbus, C., 59 Copernicus, N., 7-9, 26-29, 31, 32, 45, 46, 55-57, 63, 65, 94-99, 102, 111, 118, 125, 138, 140-43, 157, 159, 164, 165 Corsano, A., 37 Croesus 49 Cusanus, see Nicolas of Cusa Cyrano de Bergerac 35 Danaee 86 Democritus 44,101,148 Denomy, A. J., 126 Descartes, R., 34, 36,123 Digges, L., 142 Digges, T., 142 Diogenes 50 Diogenes Laertius 101 Diomedes 169 Doland, E., 94 Donne, J., 8 Drake, S., 34 Dreyer, J. L. E., 125 Dudley, R., 28, 83 Duhem, P., 94,123 Duns Scotus, John 35

Ecphantus 98 Elizabeth I, Queen 16, 28, 83 Ellis, R. L., 33 Epicuro, A. M., 79 Epicurus 101,104,148 Erasmus, D., 64, 135,141 Euclid 35 Eudoxus 36, 56, 65 Evenus169

Index of Names Fellmann, F., 25 Felix of Nola, Saint 159 Ficino, M., 12 Florio, J., 27, 55, 74, 91 Fludd, R., 32 Folengo, T., 77 Fontenelle, B. de, 35 Fortunatus of Aquileia, Saint 91 Galileo, G., 6, 17, 33, 34, 94, 111, 123, 125, 138 Gentilis, A., 18 al-Ghazali 127 Giese, T., 95 Glaucus 170 Godwin, F., 34 Goethe, J. W., 36 Greenberg, S., 15 Greville, F., Sir 27, 28, 44, 55, 73, 75, 91,136 Gwinne, M., 27, 55, 74, 75 Hainzell, J., 20 Hannibal 76, 87 Harmon, A. M., 115 Hawkins, D. J. B., 98 Heath, D. D., 33 Heath, T., Sir 99 Hector 87 Heinrich Julius, Duke 19 Henri III, 12,13,19, 26, 50 Henri de Navarre 16, 20 Heraclides of Heraclea (Heraclitus) 44, 98, 148 Heraclitus of Ephesus 101, 104 Hercules 75, 169 Hermes Trismegistus 12, 14, 16, 19 Heron, G., 98 Hipparchus 56, 65 Homer 69

Index of Names


Horrocks, J., 33 Huet, P. D., 34 Huygens, C , 35

Menelaus 65 Menut, A. D., 126 Mercati, A., Cardinal 23 Mercury 86 Mersenne, M., 32, 37 Michel de Castelnau, see Mauvissière Michel, H-P., 36 Miller, F. J., 56 Minerva 141, 170 Mocenigo, J., 20-22 Molière, J-B. P., 35 Momus, see Mummus Mordente, F., 17 Moses 127-30 Mummus 168

Imerti, A. D., 15 Jaki, S. L., 94,114,155 Johnson F. R., 142 Jupiter Qove) 43, 82, 168 Juvenal 77 Kant, I., 8 Kepler, J., 33, 37, 95, 111, 116,165 Koestler, A., 37 Lactantius 125 La Faye, A. de, 11 Lagarde, P., 25 Landi, O., 8 Laocoön 169 Larkey, S. V., 142 Laski, A., 13, 30,136 Leucippus 101, 148 Lindsay, J., 15, 37 Lucian of Samosata 29, 115, 117 Lucretius 15, 34, 101, 107 Lucullus 43 Lycaon 43, 132 Maestlin, M., 95 Manto 55, 56 Maschler, C., 94 Mauvissière, Marquis 13,16,41,43, 168

McColley, G., 35 McLean, A., 142 Meier, A., 123 Melissus 148

Namer, E., 25 Neptune 170 Nereus 119 Newton, I., 8,14,123 Nicetas 98 Nicolas of Cusa 15, 29, 34, 98, 109, 110, 111 Oresme, N., 125 Orpheus 169 Osiander, A., 95, 96, 99, 101, 102 Ovid 131,169 Palmer, G. H., 81 Permenides 148 Patrizi, F., 21 Paul III, Pope 97 Pausanius 64 Perseus 86 Petrarch 76, 79 Petreius, J., 95 Petruccio, U., 53 Phidias 59

Index of Names

174 Philolaus 98 Phoebus 55, 74 Pius V, Pope 10 Plato 48, 56, 67, 94, 98, 118, 119, 130, 138,145,148, 156 Plutarch 168 Pollio, C. A., 53 Poseidon 119 Priamus 168 Ptolemy, C., 32, 55, 56, 57, 99, 138, 140,164 Pulci, L., 54 Pyrrho 68 Pythagoras 44, 52, 66, 138, 148 Regnault, N., 35 Rheticus, G. J., 95 Rocco, Saint 169 Rouse, W. H. D., 102 Rudolph II, 19 Sackville, T., 75 Sacrobosco 10,11 Sassetto, T. di Vincenzo, 53 Schelling, F. W. J., 36 Schiaparelli, V., 164 Schreiber, H., 95 Semeles 170 Seneca 59 Shilleto, A. R., 8 Sidney, P., 28, 44, 84 Singer, D. W., 8, 37 Smith, J., 26 Spampanato, V., 10, 22 Spedding, J., 33 Spinoza, B., 35 Stimson, D., 7

Tansillo, L., 58, 62, 78 Tantalus 43 Teilhard de Chardin, P., 36 Teofilo de Vairano 26 Tertullian 125 Tethys 59 Thiestes 43 Theophrastus 98 Tiberinus 169 Timon 168 Tiraboschi, G., 20 Tiresias 55, 56 Tocco, F., 164 Tomasevich, G. V., 20 Turner, G., 44 Typhon 59

Underhill, J., 44, 136

Virgil 71, 81

Wagner, A., 25 Wallis, C. G., 95 Walsingham, F., 28, 83, 136 Wilkins, J., 35 Williams, L., 16 Williams, T. C. 81

Yates, F., 8, 9,12,13, 35

Zeus 43, 69, 86