By Lucy Gillis © 2012
“I cleave the heavens and soar to the infinite
And while I rise from my own globe to others
And penetrate ever further through the eternal field,
That which others saw from afar, I leave far behind me.”
– Giordano Bruno
The statue featured on the cover of this issue is of Giordano Bruno. It has stood in the Campo de Fiori, Rome for over 120 years; a monument to free-thinkers everywhere. Imprisoned and branded a ‘heretic’ for holding and publicising beliefs ‘contrary to doctrine‘ (as well as such beliefs that the universe is infinite, the sun is a star, there are other worlds circling other stars, there is intelligent life on these other worlds, to name only a few), former Dominican Friar, Giordano Bruno was confined, interrogated, and tortured for seven years at the hands of the Roman Inquisition.
Steadfastly refusing to renounce his writings and recant his beliefs, in February of 1600, he was turned over to Civil Authorities and was burned at the stake, only metres away from where his statue stands today.
Bruno, a native of Nola, near Naples, lived in the 16th century, during a time when the Hermetic Tradition was flourishing. It was a time when many of those who were searching for knowledge and enlightenment believed that the very secrets of the universe could be found in looking back into our ancient past. Hermeticism, the study of ‘occult‘ sciences and alchemy, which drew largely from ancient and obscure texts, most notably ancient Egyptian, was thought to be the pathway to this enlightenment.
Though Bruno had a fascination with the subject, he was many centuries ahead of his peers in his understanding that such studies provided an effective way to open new vistas of thought and exploration of the psyche. He was well aware that ritual, incantations, and other mystical practises associated with Hermeticism were not calling upon magical forces outside oneself, but were ways of focussing intent and harnessing the power of one‘s own mind. As to the alchemists and their search for the Philosophers Stone, he said that no one would ever find such a thing, but that many great things would be discovered from the attempts made.1
Giordano Bruno was a charismatic and eloquent speaker as well as a prolific writer, determined to put forth and promote his ideas (which he came to call the Nolan Philosophy), sometimes to his own detriment. Instead of simply blindly following the status quo, Bruno challenged the concepts before him, he questioned, he reasoned, and he debated with anyone who would engage him, but more often that not, his passion for his beliefs would end up getting him in trouble with local religious and academic authorities of whichever European city/country he was happened to be in.
He lectured widely at some of the most prestigious universities in the world on a variety of topics mostly within philosophy, cosmology, and ontology. But perhaps the subject that he was most noted and celebrated for was the Art of Memory.
In today‘s world, information is literally at our fingertips; on our computers, our phones, our tablets, etc. Since we don‘t have the need to memorise vast amounts of information, it can be difficult for us to appreciate the value that was placed on a good memory before our technology existed.
But during the time of the Renaissance, an exceptional memory was a prized and precious attribute and those who possessed such a gift were respected and revered. During his lifetime Bruno wrote several books on memory enhancement techniques and his personal tutoring in this acclaimed art was sought after by royalty and the nobility.
Even as a child age he demonstrated a talent for memory recall, and later, while he was still a young Novitiate of the Dominican Order, he was sent by his superiors to Rome to perform his remarkable talent before the Pope as well as Cardinal who was also in attendance. It is said that after reciting Psalm 86 forwards and then backwards – in Hebrew – he then proceeded to instruct his hosts on his mnemonic techniques of memory enhancement.2
Besides obvious practical uses that a good memory provided, Bruno believed that ‘an enhanced memory could boost the power of the individual psyche so that the human mind, and with it the spirit, could tap into the greater imprint of the universe’.3
Experienced lucid dreamers can attest to the fact that improving dream recall is one of the basic keys to increasing the chances of becoming lucid. Also, many ‘mental’ induction techniques (such as MILD, WILD, DILD, reality testing, dream triggering (like the frequently looking at your hands method) etc.) have proven successful in the initiation and improvement of recall of lucid dreaming. Some of these exercises (particularly MILD, or Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) are not unlike some of the mental techniques that Bruno himself practised and taught.
Given the undeniable evidence of Bruno‘s relentless pursuit of knowledge and truth, coupled with his highly developed memory, it hardly takes a leap of faith to assume that he didn‘t limit his quest to purely physical examination.
If he was studying ancient occult texts, particularly the ancient Egyptian traditions, he would certainly have been aware of out-of-body or ‘astral‘ travel, and other altered states of consciousness. With his hunger for knowledge, and his remarkable mental skills it seems highly likely, if not inevitable, that he would explore the farthest reaches of his inner world, his dreaming world, with as much curiosity and passion as he pursued his outer interests.
Of what little of his writings are translated and published in English, there are some passages that are very evocative of lucid dreaming or out of body experiences. The quote presented at the start of this article could represent a valid OBE or lucid dream experience, though most scholars would likely argue that and regard it as merely metaphorical, or perhaps just poetic prose. Regardless as to whether or not there exists evidence to suggest that Giordano Bruno was a lucid dreamer, he certainly displayed qualities and aptitudes of the diligent lucid dreamer.
Seen today as a martyr for freedom of thought, of imagination, and of expression, it seems rather fitting that Giordano Bruno could also symbolize the spirit of the pioneering lucid dreamer, sharing in common a desire to explore the mental landscape of dreams, to move beyond the limitations of ‘common‘ thought, to break through and push past inner boundaries, to freely explore and experience the mental universe within each of us.
Whether you‘re searching for knowledge, truth, healing, spiritual experiences, or just plain fun, don‘t rest content with the status quo of your lucid dreaming. In the spirit of Giordano Bruno,
challenge yourself to go beyond current limitations, boldly reach ever further into your own inner universe and enjoy the wonder and knowledge you will find there.
And remember to rejoice in your freedom to do so.