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The Pope and the Heretic
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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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Australian journalist White, who has written popular biographies of Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, and Leonardo da Vinci, here presents the story of ex-priest and natural philosopher Giordano Bruno in the context of the Roman Inquisition. White provides a lucid description of 16th-century life-the wrong time for Bruno, an intellectual who was a blend of mystic, philosopher, and scientist who studied, explored, and lectured throughout Europe. The Catholic Church's suppression of what it deemed heretical thought led to Bruno's arrest, eight years of imprisonment and torture, and, finally, his burning at the stake. His real crime, in Rome's eyes, was his belief in "free inquiry" and spiritual exploration. White's book is exemplary for its discussions of the period's intellectual beliefs and social structure and for its vivid detail and illuminating look at Bruno's trial and subsequent death. White also captures the influence Bruno had on later followers such as Galileo, Shakespeare, and Goethe. Many more academic books examine Bruno's influence in various spheres of Renaissance thought, but this is the only biography available that is aimed at the general reader. Recommended for all libraries.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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