THE POPE AND THE HERETIC: The True Story of a Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition

Michael White, Author . Morrow $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-018626-5

What is remarkable about Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) is less his execution for heresy by the Catholic Church than the philosophy that led to his death. White, who has written biographies of Galileo, Newton and Leonardo, offers a fast-paced account of the development of Bruno's thought and the reasons why the Church considered these ideas heretical. As White points out in an account that is part history of philosophy, part biography and part church history, Bruno drew on the atomistic philosophy of Democritus, the ancient occult rituals of Egypt and other magi, and the teachings of Jesus to develop a philosophical system that challenged traditional Christian doctrines. Drawing threads from each of these disparate traditions, Bruno became the first modern pantheist, contending that every individual is a part of God and that God is in every individual. He argued that individuals could use mnemonic occult rituals to discover this unity. Bruno also believed that the universe was infinite and filled with inhabitable worlds. The philosopher was so convinced that his ideas would allow individuals to seek God that, as White demonstrates, he was mystified at being charged with heresy. Bruno influenced numerous thinkers from Galileo, Leibniz and Spinoza to Coleridge and Hegel. Although White's tightly focused study offers a nice overview of the conflict between religion and philosophy in the Renaissance, Frances Yates's splendid Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition remains the standard account of Bruno's life and work. Agents, Russ Galen and Peter Robinson. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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