--Giordano Bruno, The Heroic Furies, 1585
Dear Fra Bruno,
It’s been four hundred and eleven years, to the day, since the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church burned you at the stake, and I just wanted to tell you: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were burned alive, which, amongst many horrible ways to die, must have been truly horrible. I’m sorry that someone of your Intelligence and Broad-Mindedness and Curiosity had to live a life wandering in the shadows, and then face persecution and torture.
I understand that among your supposed heresies (which included pantheism), you believed in the existence of an infinite Universe, and that neither the Earth, nor even the Sun (as Copernicus held), sat at its center. You were right, Filippo. Just as a spoiled child eventually learns the world does not revolve around him, the Church, thanks to the efforts of later mathematicians and astronomers much like you, had to admit you had the entire Truth, as supported by Reason. They had only dogma, and the desperation of despots. Today the Church admits you were right, but it still defends your torturers.
As someone who has, at least metaphorically, also wandered from my spiritual home, much as you wandered Europe, and whom I’m sure would have been thrown into the pyre many times over, I just wanted to thank you for your example of Courage. You believed in a Universe of Infinity--many worlds around many suns. (You will be gratified our scientists have now confirmed the existence of 529 such worlds, not to mention 7 or 8 around our own sun; hundreds more await confirmation.)
And I believe that in a Universe of infinite Possibility, even things improbable inevitably wax to the mathematically definite. And so I can believe that you can hear me, however unlikely that might seem. And I believe that somewhere, the Divine rests a hand on your shoulder and points out the other planets, where other Gods manifest, where other faces of Love bloom. I hope you feel Vindication. Even more, I hope you have Peace and Joy.
If a friend were to ask me, “What is the virtue of Infinity?” I would tell her: It is to cast one’s eyes into the endless Cosmos, and know that we are not diminished by the Vastness, but that it in fact confirms our souls’ Magnificence.
May we see the gates of Infinity, and perhaps make a home there.
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First image is Giordano Bruno, a painting by artist Zdenek Janda.