ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

440. Pantheistic Naturalism. -- Of all the conceptions that emphasize the esthetic optimism of Nature, pantheism is the most alluring. The deified cosmos is endowed with one all-embracing life, and all the palpitations of this colossal organism are explained on the ancient theory of the world-soul.

PATRITIUS (Patrizzi, 1529-1597) was a Platonist, and one of Aristotle's most implacable adversaries. But the Platonism, or rather Neo-Platonism, which he advocated, was in the main a theory in explanation of the physical universe. Accusing scholasticism of doing ill service to the Catholic faith, he went so far as to request Pope Gregory XIV. to impose on the Christian Church the new philosophical synthesis of which he himself was the author. His principal work, Nova de Universis Philosophia, is divided into four parts: Panaugia, Panarchia, Panpsychia, Pancosmia, devoted respectively to the study of light, of first principles, of life, and of the order of the cosmos. The Absolute One, Unomnia, Sole Reality and Supreme Goodness, produces within Himself the Blessed Trinity, and without Himself the universe, invisible and visible. In this process of descending emanation (Plotinus) the world-soul is one of the stages. Creation is meaningless, since the creature is a continuation of the Being of the Creator. It is the world-soul that communicates life and movement to terrestrial beings, man included. Patrizzi explains all the phenomena of physical Nature by a theory of light (Panaugia) analogous to that of Telesius.

GIORDANO BRUNO (1548-1600) was another ardent champion of pantheism. He wrote many works in Latin and Italian: the principal are Dialoghi della Causa Principio ed Uno; Degli Eroici Furori; Dell' Infinito Universo e dei Mondi. He was influenced by Raymond Lully and still more by Nicholas of Cusa.

The entire immanence of God in the world is the fundamental thesis in Bruno's philosophy. God is the complicatio omnium, the coincidentia oppositorum (418); and the ever-changing flow of phenomena is but the explicatio of an eternal monist force, invariable in its substance, omnibus praesentissimus. The "accidents" of this substance spring from one original, underlying matter, which is the passive basis of all possibility. One single form, the world-soul -- a universal intelligence which is the active principle of all possibility -- vivifies this matter (as formal cause) and produces by its own internal plasticity (as efficient cause) the diversity of beings in the universe. At bottom, the original matter and the primitive form coincide, for they are only two aspects of the same reality. The matter is God by the same right and title as the form: in accordance with the teaching of David of Dinant, whose authority is invoked by Bruno (208). The world-soul plays the role of final cause also. The term of its evolutions, through which it passes consciously, is the realization of the best world possible. Everything in Nature is beautiful, because everything there lives with a Divine life.

Bruno explains in detail how this world-soul, identical with the Deity, comes to communicate itself to Nature. In his Physics he follows Telesius; in his account of the universe he avails himself of the new Copernican theory. Psychology holds a secondary place in his system. Man is no longer the centre of philosophy, any more than the earth he inhabits is the centre of the universe. His soul, like his body, is an offshoot of the Divine, and if it is immortal, its immortality consists in its uniting with new material components after each successive dissolution. Needless to say, there is no place for free-will in this dynamic evolution of the Divine. The process of cognition is modelled after the general theory of the world, and, in its highest stage, it gives the mind an insight into the monism we have just outlined.

In his Latin writings Bruno toned down this pantheism somewhat, without, however, abandoning its main principles.

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