Bruno, Giordano

Bruno, Giordano (1548–1600) was an Italian Hermetic philosopher. Giordano Bruno was influenced by the works of Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Pico de Mirandola, and Marsilio Ficino, and he presented a new vision of cosmology during the Renaissance. He was persecuted by the Inquisition.

Bruno was born in Nola, Italy, near Mount Vesuvius, in 1548. At age 15, he entered a Dominican monastery near Naples but had difficulty conforming to their dogmatic ideas. In 1576 he was forced to leave under a cloud of heresy for his unorthodox ideas on the magical art of memory, cosmology, and magic. He traveled around Europe, giving lectures. He was not always welcome.

In 1581 he moved to Paris, where he attracted the favour of King Henri III, who, as a patron of Nostradamus, appreciated revolutionary thinking. Bruno became known for his knowledge of Egyptian religion and philosophy and soon was the advocate of a reformed religion based on the Egyptian mysteries. He claimed he received divine revelations. He wrote two books on the magical art of memory, including one dedicated to the king, De umbris idearum (On the shadow of ideas), published in 1582.

In 1583 Bruno went to England to lecture at Oxford. His ideas were not universally well received—for example, he favoured a heliocentric solar system, not because it was mathematically correct, but because it fit his magical scheme of things. He wrote, “We are no more the center than any other point in the universe.” This was a dangerous view during a time when the Ptolemaic view prevailed— that the Earth was the center of the universe, around which all things revolved. He held that humans could enter into a “cooperation” with nature through the power of numbers; geometric figures are numbers made visible.

Like Paracelsus, Bruno was known for bombast and arrogance, and his satires of fellow academics earned him animosity. He openly argued against the “tyranny of the pope.”

Bruno left England and traveled to Germany. From there he returned to Italy. In 1592 the Inquisition arrested him in Venice on charges of heresy. He was imprisoned and interrogated, and finally in 1600 he was condemned to death and burned at the stake.


  • Yates, F. A. Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972.

The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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