Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paola Zambelli on Bruno as a reader of forbidden books

When a reader has a weakness for forbidden writings there is no way to curb him. Giordano Bruno had this weakness and the authors mentioned above did not account for all his forbidden and clandestine reading. One may almost say that the Index of forbidden books was his bibliographical guide.

This new emphasis does not lead to that substantial 'concordia' which Ficino and Pico, behind apparent divergences, had claimed to recognize and which could have the effect of bringing together different traditions of 'docta religio' and 'pia philosophia'.

Influenced by a strong preoccupation with religion, Ficino began by accepting, almost without noticing it, the distinction, dear to the gnostics and maintained by Averroes, between two types of humanity: simple, ignorant men who are not initiated into the sacred mysteries, and those who are able to reach the spirit under the letter, the philosophers.

Not so Bruno, for whom magicians were "contemplators of nature", simple men who had all lived the life of hermits, cutting themselves off from society: Pythagoras lived outside, "free" from the human community for twenty years; likewise Xalmoxis, Abbaris, Moses, the wise men of Egypt and Babylon, the Druids, Persian wizards, Pharisees, gymnosophists, Christian monks and Muslim babassi--had all developed their particular powers in a similar experience of solitary life. Also like them--in Bruno's opinion--was Jesus Christ, but only after the "conflict with the Devil that He had in the desert"; only then did he become powerful; it was owing to this fundamental experience and not to his relationship with God the Father that he began to "speak and perform wonderful things". In the Christian era there were two great inspired men: Lull, a self-taught man ("apprime stultus et idiota"), despised by learned men and the scholastics of his time, who having retired to his hermitage ("ex cremo") had shown his creative power through deep inventions of the Art; and Paracelsus, prince and founder of the new medicine, who "gloried in the title of hermit rather than in that of doctor". This version of the 'pia philosophia' and 'docta religio' tradition is no longer that of Ficino and Pico, though it was possibly influenced by the ideas and attitudes of the Nicodemites...

from White Magic, Black Magic in the European Renaissance

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