Bruno entered the Roman Catholic church’s Dominican order in Italy at the age of eighteen. As his thinking developed, it deviated from the norm. In 1576 he was indicted for heresy, but he escaped and spent sixteen years traveling throughout Europe. Meanwhile, he attracted wide attention for his philosophical positions. Bruno was an original thinker, capable of influencing in later years not only Baruch Spinoza but also German philosophers, such as Friedrich Jacobi, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Bruno was a philosopher of nature, part of the movement away from the domination of Aristotle. He embraced the Copernican system and developed it in metaphysical terms. For example, he held that God is infinite and unitary substance, while the effects of this substance (like people) are merely accidents. In this view, he anticipated Spinoza. Bruno concluded that there is an infinite number of worlds. Bruno’s hylomorphism was seen, variously, as pantheism and as materialism. Bruno was also fascinated by magical matters and the Hermetic cult of ancient Egypt. For example, he was famous for his mnemonics, which incorporated the mysticism and magic of Raymond Lull.
During the sixteenth century the Roman Catholic church was under attack by the growing Protestant Reformation. In 1591 Bruno was arrested by the church’s Venetian Inquisition. The burden was on him to prove his innocence, with no right to cross-examine witnesses....
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