Last time I wrote about Giordano Bruno (1568-1600), the Italian philosopher and proto-scientist of the Early Renaissance who was burned at the stake for his “heretical” ideas. And, in my last column, I said that he was murdered for no other reason than that he believed in science and rationality.
The trial of Giordano Bruno. This is a bronze relief done by the artist Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929). Source: Wikipedia
And that’s true. But I also feel a little unsatisfied with the statement. There is a bit more to the story. He was killed at least partly because his speculations threatened those who were in power.
Which is not to say he meant to threaten them. He was no early secularist or republican demanding the end of the Church and the Feudal monarchy. But what he did was…from the perspective of Church and King…far worse. He said that ideas, and ideologies, should be supported by evidence.
Which was dangerous. It meant that people would ask thinks like, “What evidence to you have that, say, the Pope really and truly is empowered by God to say what is the will of God? What evidence is there, other than unsubstantiated hear-say, that there is a will of God, and that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what that will might be?”
And kings and princes and, as the oath has it, foreign potentates? They didn’t get off any better: “Explain to me…again…why it is that any one individual, because of accident of birth, or a willingness to use the battle-ax without mercy, is given a divine right to live in luxury…even though they may be wholly incompetent in every way…while the rest of us struggle in poverty and want?”
Is it any wonder that lords temporal…in their palaces…and lords spiritual…also in palaces…would have ordered his death?
Is it wonder, too, that today’s Kings and Potentates regard education and questions…those incessant, ill-mannered, and unanswerable questions…with fear and loathing?
Oh, one final aside…
When they took Bruno to his execution, they fastened his tongue with a wooden vice so that he couldn’t speak.
Thus, even in the spare few moments before his death, as he traveled his last mile…
They feared not his actions…
But his words.
Until next time…
Onward and Upward.
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker