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HomeNumeri74Who is Schelling’s Bruno?


Schelling argued that early modern science had discarded the ancient teaching of matter – the world soul (die Weltseele or anima mundi, the unity of soul and body, eternity and time, absolute possibility and existence) – «into the common grave they dug for nature and have brought about the death of all science». In order to put science on a more philosophical tract, Schelling retrieved the work of Giordano Bruno as part of his «handful» of thinkers who in a contemporary context appear on the border between an ancient but still vital sense of philosophy and the emerging scientific study of nature.

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Al tempo
Lente senex, idemque celer, claudensque relaxans,
anne bonum quis te dixerit, anne malum?
Largus es, esque tenax: quae munera porrigis, aufers;
quique parens aderas, ipse peremptor ades;
visceribus educta tuis in viscera condis,
tu cui prompta sinu carpere fauce licet.
Omnia cumque facis cumque omnia destruis, hinc te
nonne bonum possem dicere, nonne malum?
Porro ubi tu diro rabidus frustraberis ictu,
falce minax illo tendere parce manus,
nulla ubi pressa Chaos atri vestigia parent
ne videare bonus, ne videare malus.

To time
O old man, slow and swift, who opens and closes, must we speak well or ill of you? You are generous and stingy; the gifts you offer, you take back; you kill what you cause to be born, and what you generate from your bowels, in your bowels you devour, you to whom it is allowed to consume with your jaws the fruit of your bosom. You create all and destroy all: could I not, then, call you good, and call you evil? But when you will surprise me with your swift mortal blow, with your menacing scythe, let me stretch my hands forth to where there is no trace seen of black Chaos: thus, you will not appear good, nor appear bad. (Bruno 1998: 13-14)

  • 1 This was reported by the young German convert Gaspar Schopp of Breslau. See Singer 1950: 179.
  • 2 Quoted in Singer 1950: 201. Translation slightly altered.

1On the 17th of February 1600, when Giordano Bruno met the «menacing scythe» after Pope Clement VIII and his inquisitors ordered him to be stripped naked and burned alive in the Campo de’ Fiori as an «impenitent, stubborn and obstinate heretic», did this appear as a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, his fifty-two years of life, his work as a Dominican priest and radical philosopher and defender of an ancient European spiritual counterculture was a good thing – the slow but generous gift from the bowels of old man time. On the other hand, this was also a bad thing: the brutal execution of a great paragon of human learning, the horrible and utterly disloyal consumption of the fruit from time’s bosom. From the perspective of finitude, this is both its blessing – that it is at all – and its curse – that it is already on the way to not being at all. «You create all and destroy all: could I not, then, call you good, and call you evil»? Confronted with death, however, Bruno aspired to stretch his hands beyond the black chaos of good and evil, beyond the vicissitudes of time itself. Bruno’s capacity to break the hold of time and the vice grip of its Manichean polarities, was famously already suggested in his rebuke to his inquisitors after being condemned to death: «Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it».1 Or as Bruno exclaimed at the beginning of De immenso: «the wise soul does not fear death; rather she sometimes strives for death, she goes beyond to meet her. Yet eternity maintains her substance throughout time, immensity throughout space, universal form throughout motion».2

  • 3 A translation of this dialogue appears Singer, and the citation appears at Singer 1950: 378.
  • 4 See the classic study, Yates 1964.

2Bruno argued for both the infinity and the de-centered unity of the universe – «Dissolve» the notion that our earth is unique and central to the whole» we hear in De l’infinito universo et mundi (1584).3 His heretical conclusions were both prescient and ancient, with roots in the hermetic elements of the Neoplatonic tradition, including Pseudo-Dionysus and the Cabala,4 as well as in the emerging discoveries of Johannes Kepler and others. The Catholic church could not altogether crush Bruno’s thinking and his Wirkungsgeschichte has been vast and varied, including an extraordinary revival of interest in his writings as part of the emerging crisis surrounding the stakes of the Aufklärung in the German speaking world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His German admirers were inspired by his profound mixture of the ancient and the contemporary, including that singular Magus of the North, Hamann, as well as F.H. Jacobi whose Über die Lehre des Spinoza in Briefen an Herrn Moses Mendelssohn (1789), included translations of Bruno. But it was Schelling who most deeply embraced Bruno. He was Jacobi’s one time friend, who, contrary to Jacobi, had entered the Pantheismusstreit, in which everyone was scandalized by Jacobi’s accusation that Lessing had betrayed both the Aufklärung and Christianity by heretically embracing Spinoza, by more or less taking the side of Spinoza and defending a variation of pantheism recast in the critical mode.

  • 5 Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things, Schelling 1984. Although this remains (...)

3In hearkening back to Bruno,5 Schelling was also retrieving and reinvigorating a subculture that somehow had persevered through a «decline» that had its «roots in the decline of philosophy itself» where the «true idea of matter was lost» and eventually known only to a «handful» of philosophers (I/4, 310; Schelling 1984: 205). This handful included not only Bruno, but also folks like J.G. Hamann, Jakob Böhme, Meister Eckhart, Paracelsus, the Cabalists, and others. Although it is true that Bruno anticipated modern science, it is also true that his sense of what is really at stake in science – the mystery of the life of matter – largely disappeared with the advent of modern science and its early penchant for positivism, materialism, and mechanism, all symptoms of a lifeless, inanimate, and fragmentary universe. Early modern science had flung the ancient teaching of matter – die Weltseele, the anima mundi, the unity of soul and body, eternity and time, absolute possibility and existence – «into the common grave they dug for nature and have brought about the death of all science» (I/4, 315; Schelling 1984: 209). In order to put science – indeed knowing as such – on a more philosophical tract, Schelling retrieved Bruno as part of his «handful» of thinkers who in a contemporary context appear on the border between an ancient but rare sense of philosophy and the contemporary scientific study of nature.

4So who is Schelling’s Bruno? How are we to understand this relationship? How did he, like Spinoza, become both the promise of a liberated science and the specter of an ancient relationship to matter and nature?

  • 6 See especially, Darstellung des Systems meiner Philosophie (1801), Fernere Darstellungen aus dem Sy (...)
  • 7 See the posthumously published Würzburg lectures on Die Philosophie der Kunst (1802–1803) as well a (...)

5The chief text, whose title evokes the two kinds of cosmological-ontological principles investigated in the Timeaus, is the 1802 dialogue, Bruno oder über das göttliche und natürliche Prinzip der Dinge. It appeared at a time when Schelling’s own thinking seemed prima facie to be pushing in two different directions: 1) the long, systematic, difficult and sometimes somewhat dry reconsideration of Naturphilosophie from the perspective of the identity, inseparable unity, or «indifference» of identity and difference6 and 2) the often sparkling and concrete studies of the nature and history of art as well as academic life.7 Straddling this seeming divide is a dialogue, which, along with the posthumously published Clara (c. 1810), written after the death of his first wife, Caroline, and the early epistolary work (the 1795 Philosophische Briefe über Dogmatismus und Kriticismus), comprise the few works that Schelling wrote in this form, despite dramatically extolling it.

6Why a dialogue? Although I return to this issue in my conclusion, we can already appreciate some considerations.

  1. In this work, Schelling conspicuously evokes not only the Platonic dialogue but also more obviously Bruno’s dialogues. Schelling insinuates that neither Plato nor Bruno wrote almost exclusively in the dialogue for accidental reasons. Philosophical thinking is not simply the rational presentation of ideas, but the dialogical emergence of ideas.

  2. The dialogue is not only between the four interlocutors (Alexander, Anselm, Lucian, and Bruno) but also between a) an ancient hermetic insight into philosophy and the emergence of natural science; b) the recondite argumentation of the systemic identity philosophy and the natality that is the life pulse of the ongoing history of art; c) Schelling and Fichte, a relationship that had already become fraught after the appearance the year before of Hegel’s so-called Differenzschrift in which he defends Schelling’s Naturphilosophie as breaking free from the confines of Fichte’s subjective idealism.

    • 8 See for example Schelling’s introduction to Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature: «Nature should be vis (...)

    Finally, as Schelling holds both in his Naturphilosophie8 and in his challenge to Fichte, what is true in consciousness (mind, spirit, Geist), is no more so, but also no less so, true of being (nature) as such. Philosophical dialogue is a repetition in thinking of the genetic life and creativity of nature itself. This is not, however, as Hegel would triumphantly proclaim in his 1807 Phenomenology, the revelation of the dialectic at the end of history. As Schelling distanced himself from this position in Die Weltalter:

This cision [Scheidung], this doubling of ourselves, this secret circulation in which there are two beings, a questioning being and an answering being, an unknowing being which seeks knowledge and an unknowing being which does not know its knowledge, this silent dialogue, this inner art of conversation, is the authentic mystery of the philosopher. From the outside this conversation is thereby called the dialectic and the dialectic is a copy of this conversation. When the dialectic has become only form, it is this conversation’s empty semblance and shadow. (I/8, 201)

7Although Hegel is not named, it is clear that Schelling had him in mind and that he did not think that the dialectic is «the authentic mystery of the philosopher». The Bruno is not merely an athletic demonstration of dialectical thinking. What is it then?

8The Naturphilosophie belongs to what Schelling later called negative philosophy – philosophy that can be done with reason alone and which does not require historical or scientific research. This does not mean, however, that it lacks creativity, novelty, and surprise. When Schelling ascended to Berlin in 1841 as an old man in order to replace Hegel, who had died a decade earlier, he accepted the proximity of Hegel’s thinking to his own negative philosophy but then conceded that negative philosophy was perhaps just a «poetic invention, a poem that reason itself poeticized» (Schelling 1977: 115) and «the whole only happened in thought [das Ganze war nur im Gedanken vollzogen]» (Schelling 1977: 116).

9With this concession and his turn to positive philosophy, Schelling was not rejecting negative philosophy. One could say that he remained in dialogue with it and that the dialogue continued to enable the emergence of new permutations and folds of thinking. Moreover, in calling it a poem authored by reason, he is not repeating the sin of «Platonism» and elevating philosophy over art and consequently denigrating his earlier thinking to the purportedly inferior status of art. Schelling always maintained the highest respect for art and, at times, hybridized philosophy and art.

10Is not the dialogue itself such a hybrid?

11Clues that Schelling thought so can be found in the Bruno itself, which begins with a lively discussion between Anselm and Alexander about art and philosophy and the relationship between beauty and truth. They had been discussing the rites of the ancient Mystery religions (early versions perhaps of what came to be venerated in hermetic philosophy) and, following a line of thought that first emerged in the 1800 System, truth and beauty, philosophy and art, are discovered to be both inseparable and inversely related. Anselm observes that the «artists most fit to produce beautiful works are often those least in possession of the idea of absolute truth and beauty. They lack the idea precisely because they are possessed by it» (I/4, 231; Schelling 1984: 131-132). Inspiration is a necessary condition for art, not mastery of the salient arguments that comprise a philosophy of art. Philosophically one does not have to know what one is doing in order to create.

12But where does art come from? This is the mystery at the heart of inspiration. God, as Schelling dramatically formulates it in the Philosophy of Art, is the immediate cause of all genuine works. Art is exoteric, matter expressing or explicating itself, taking form, the mystery showing itself while remaining at its ground mysterious. Art begins where philosophy concludes: the mystery at the heart of matter. Philosophy inversely is esoteric «by its very nature. There is no need to try and keep it secret, for, instead, it is essentially mysterious» (I/4, 232; Schelling 1984: 133). If truth is matter insofar as it is esoteric – a sacred mystery rite devoted to the absolute at the ground of human knowing – and if beauty is the truth of matter as it once again exoterically expresses itself, one could say that truth and beauty express the same unity at its opposite poles. Beauty is the ongoing mystery of truth and truth is the secret of all beauty. The dialogue as simultaneously emergent and reflective, esoteric (of the dark ground of truth) and exoteric (the natality, the coming to existence, of the dark ground), is the capacity to participate knowingly yet genetically in the whole.

13So once again, who is Schelling’s Bruno? Who is this figure at the dialogical heart of this philosophical retrieval and artistic deployment of both ancient wisdom (the remnants of the mystery religions in some of the Neoplatonic aspects of the hermetic tradition) and contemporary forces (the emergence of natural science)?

  • 9 See the invaluable work, Schelling 2012.

14We can first say that Schelling’s Bruno is not Fichte, with whom, as we now know, Schelling was in epistolary contact and with whom he would soon break9. It is not that Schelling argued that Fichte was simply wrong and that his claims about the subjective self are unwarranted. As Schelling later claimed in the 1821 Erlangen lectures, «Each proposition in this system is correct in what it asserts and it only errs in that it excludes other propositions» (Ipu, 11). No philosophical proposition, provided that it is genuinely philosophical and as such has emerged from philosophy’s genetic processes, is in itself utterly false; each proposition is true in its own way. Error is therefore to overemphasize a truth to the point of its exclusivity. It is to halt the progress of dialogue and to come to a conclusion beyond which one refuses to budge. In this sense, errors are less an issue of failed intelligence and more an issue of stupidity in the sense that Flaubert later defined it: «the need for conclusions».

15In the dialogue, Fichte appears as the interlocutor Lucian who «wanted to confine the identity of the ideal and the real to a single determinate point [consciousness]» (I/4, 291; Schelling 1984: 189). As Bruno tells Lucian: «I will not believe you truly understand the real nature of absolute identity or that you possess intellectual intuition of it until you are free from this exclusive reference to consciousness» (I/4, 256; Schelling 1984: 157). What is true of human consciousness is true of nature as such and «the abundance of the whole universe is stored in individual beings too» (I/4, 291; Schelling 1984: 188). Unlike Fichte, who would break with Schelling the following year, Fichte’s persona agrees with Bruno, confessing that «we have restricted philosophy to the domain of consciousness only to express the insight that you too maintain» (I/4, 257; Schelling 1984: 157).

  • 10 This translation is from Iain Hamilton Grant’s unpublished version of this text.

16In a way one would have to say that Schelling’s Bruno pays deep and detailed homage both to the actual texts of Giordano Bruno and to the Plato of the Timaeus. Both belong to that secret strain that retained insight into the mystery of matter, what Schelling later called in his 1806 addendum to the Weltseele «the darkest of all things, darkness itself according to some, is matter. Yet all the forms and living phenomena of nature result from the involution or squaring [Erhebung] of this unknown root» (I/2, 359).10

17As we have already seen, the unity of matter is two-fold: the absolute and the holding forth of existence, the ideal and the real, the abyss of ground and the clarity of existence, the repressed and the manifest. In the Freedom essay, Schelling calls this abyss the «wild, unruly matter or nature» (I/7, 326), its primal chaos, and he likens it to Plato’s χώρα. In the Bruno it is the «sacred abyss from which everything springs forth and to which everything returns» (I/4, 258; Schelling 1984: 158). The interlocutor Dicsono in Bruno’s De la causa, principio e uno (1584-1585) speaks of «the matter that is hidden and that can be known only in analogical terms».

Of the divine substance, therefore, because it is both infinite and extremely remote from those effects which constitute the outer limit of the path of our discursive faculty, we can know nothing, except by means of vestiges, as the Platonists say, or of remote effects, as the Peripatetics have it, or by means of garments, as the Cabalists say, or of dorsal and back parts, as the Talmudists say, or of a mirror, shadow and enigma, as the Apocalyptics claim. (Bruno 1998: 35)

18How then do we think the relationship between the mystery of matter and the appearance of actual forms of matter? Ideas are not freestanding a priori fixed rules or archetypes that play themselves out recursively in the sensuous realm. This also holds for the Kantian forms of intuition as well as the rules that govern the understanding. Forms are not hanging out in eternity, waiting to appear in history. They do not exist prior to their manifestation nor are they wholly separable from their manifestation. They are not fixed a priori rules of subjectivity waiting to instantiate themselves in human experience. Beauty and goodness, for example, are immanent within sense itself, and as such creative, progressive, and evolving. In art this comes to be associated with genius. In the Methods of Academic Studies lectures, Schelling argues that we can discern philosophically what operates unconsciously in genius, that is, philosophy can «know» the «autonomy» or «absolute legislation [Gesetzgebung] of the genius» (I/5, 349). Kant in the first Kritik had argued that the orderly and necessary realm of representation (Vorstellung), formed according to space and time as the pure forms of intuition, was the consequence of the transcendental legislation of nature. For Schelling, the genius demonstrates that this legislation is sovereign, that is, free from the rules that it imposes. This is not to say, however, that the genius is a sovereign subject. Creativity is not the result of the caprices and eccentricities of the artist-subject – freedom has the human; the human does not «have» freedom. Genius is rather «animated [beseelt]», simultaneously sovereign and necessitated, creating «in a freedom akin to the gods and at the same time the purest and highest necessity [in einer gottähnlichen Freiheit zugleich die reinste und höchste Notwendigkeit]» (I/5, 349). It is the sovereign presentation of form.

19Nonetheless, the archetypes, manifesting in the vicissitudes of experience, still carry the mark of eternity. Where are the archetypes, the primordial images (Urbilder) of experience, if they do not exist in a separate realm, waiting to appear? They are eternal, but this is not to say that they therefore exist for an infinite duration. Eternity is not an order of time at all and hence the forms do not exist prior to historically existing. To cite an obvious example, it makes no sense to say that the archetype of time exists before the manifestation of time because it is the manifestation of time that makes a before and after possible. The archetype of time is eternal, but that is simply to say that time and therefore manifestation was an eternal possibility.

  • 11 Schelling: «considered from the side of possibility, all things are identical in infinite thought, (...)
  • 12 For Bruno’s Teofilo, a soul is a «formal principle which becomes and informs everything, that they (...)
  • 13 For Bruno’s Teofilo, matter «is deprived of forms and without them, not in the way ice lacks warmth (...)

20Prior to existence, the Urbilder, like the universe itself, sleep «in an infinitely fruitful womb, as it were, along with the profusion of its shapes and forms, the kingdom of life, and the totality of its developments; all of its forms, inexhaustible within time, are here simply present in the eternal identity» (I/4, 258-259; Schelling 1984: 159). Hence Schelling claims that at the level of the universe, the χώρα or «sacred abyss» is an «infinite fullness where nothing is divorced or excluded from anything else, where everything is absolutely integrated into one, in the image world it is forced to spread itself out over a boundless expanse of time». It is pure non-existent possibility for in God «these temporal distinctions we make have no intrinsic meaning» (I/4, 251; Schelling 1984: 151). As an eternal identity, this is matter or substance not in the sense of something that exists11, «not a substance in the sense of something (a body), but rather the unity of soul and body and, as such, it is everything, but nothing in particular» (I/4, 313; Schelling 1984: 207).12 The soul of things, Bruno’s anima mundi and Schelling’s Weltseele, in the words of Bruno’s Teofilo, «comprises all the qualities [but] is itself none of them; that which comprises all figures does not itself possess any; that which possesses all sensible being is not, for that reason, accessible to the senses» (Bruno 1998: 79). «Each thing separates itself from the totality of things by actualizing the relative opposition of the finite and the infinite» yet the individuated thing «carries within itself the stamp of the eternal, an image of eternity» (I/4, 260; Schelling 1984: 160). The image of eternity is not the image of something, but rather the eternity of the shapes and forms of history.13 Dark matter manifests as the clarity of appearance, but the latter retains its gravitational pull to its dark source. «Light is the day of matter, and gravity the night. And just as its day is infinite, so too is its night» (I/4, 313; Schelling 1984: 208).

  • 14 Bruno continues: «The hermeticists say that it is ‘most fecund in seeds’ or yet that it is the ‘see (...)

21Rather than rules manifesting as the forms of experience in some kind of mechanical schematism, Schelling, like Fichte before, speaks of the sovereign creativity of die Einbildungskraft, imagination, the force of possibility informing existence. Unlike Fichte, however, both Bruno and Schelling hold this to be true not only of consciousness, but of nature itself. Bruno’s Teofilo speaks of the Platonic «world artificer who proceeds from the higher world, which is indeed one, to this sensible world, which is divided into many, and where, because of the separations of its parts, both harmony and discord reign. This intellect, infusing and instilling something of its own into matter, while itself remaining immobile and undisturbed, produces all things» (Bruno 1998: 41).14

22Once the teaching of the unity of genetic matter was lost, tossed in the same grave as nature itself (I/4, 315; Schelling 1984: 209), the ground was set for the emergence of the two worlds theory at the heart of hylomorphism and the disaster of the earth bereft of its imminent eternal creativity: unchanging forms (eternity itself to infinite duration) externally imposed on to the passive «thing» or «stuff» or ὕλη or ultimate raw materials called matter. «And since forms were thought to be purely eternal, and since there was thought to be nothing eternal over and beyond them, the forms had to poisted as unchangeable» which destroyes the possiblity of a genetic, creative universe and therefore destroys the life of art itself because the «world» is «fragmented into an endless aggregate of fixed differences». This is the emergence of the delusion of pure Cartesian space, a receptacle where things are atomistically arranged. Matter is «dead» and hence «death was the principle gverning all things» while «life» becomes merely «derivative», consisting of dead mechanical (Newtonian) motions (I/4, 315; Schelling 1984: 209). The splendor of living matter became the lifeless chamber of maerialism and bodies in mechanical motion.

23Finally, we might say that the Bruno is also a retrieval of the genetic power and unified matter of dialogue itself. Even in the famous Freedom essay, Schelling maintained in a deceptively simple footnote that «the author will also maintain in the future the course that was taken in the present treatise in which, although it lacks the exterior form of a dialogue, everything comes into being as in a dialogue [wie gesprächsweise]» (I/7, 410).

24God «never steps forth from his eternity, yet in one and the same act of divine intellection He comprehends and contains both the finite and the infinite». This is for Schelling the «suffering God» (Philippians 2: 6-8): the unity of eternity and time, ground and existence, in God. (I/4, 252; Schelling 1984: 152). In this sense, we could say that the sacred mystery of both philosophy and art united as dialogue is to suffer with God as God suffers with us. Or, because time bears the seal of eternity and, as such, is «infinite finitude» (I/4, 312; Schelling 1984: 207), a «continuously moved, eternally novel, harmoniously flowing image of infinite thought» (I/4, 265; Schelling 1984: 164), we could say that dialogue is the temporal becoming of truth (ground) and beauty (existence), eternity and image, the divine and the natural principle, a poem that reason itself poeticizes in the paradox of creative reflection.

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Bruno, G. 1998. Cause, Principle and Unity (1584-1585), ed. by and tr. by R. de Lucca, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Schelling, F.W.J. 1984, Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things (1802), tr. by M. Vater, Albany, State University of New York Press.

Schelling, F.W.J. 2012, The Philosophical Rupture Between Fichte and Schelling, ed. by and tr. by M. Vater, D.W. Wood, Albany, State University of New York Press.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1977, Philosophie der Offenbarung (1841-1842), M. Frank (ed.), Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1927-1959, Schellings Werke: Nach der Originalausgabe in neuer Anordnung, M. Schröter (ed.), München, Beck.

Singer, D.W. 1950. Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought, New York, Henry Schuman.

Yates F.A. 1964, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Chicago-London, University of Chicago Press.

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1 This was reported by the young German convert Gaspar Schopp of Breslau. See Singer 1950: 179.

2 Quoted in Singer 1950: 201. Translation slightly altered.

3 A translation of this dialogue appears Singer, and the citation appears at Singer 1950: 378.

4 See the classic study, Yates 1964.

5 Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things, Schelling 1984. Although this remains an excellent translation, for purposes of consistency with the language of this essay, I occasionally modify it. The work is cited in the standard notation established by Karl Schelling and modified by Manfred Schröter (division one, volume 4, hence I/4) followed by the Vater citation.

6 See especially, Darstellung des Systems meiner Philosophie (1801), Fernere Darstellungen aus dem System der Philosophie (1802), as well as System der gesammten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere (1804). These are signature works in what is called Schelling’s «Identity Philosophy».

7 See the posthumously published Würzburg lectures on Die Philosophie der Kunst (1802–1803) as well as Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studiums (given in 1802 and published in 1803).

8 See for example Schelling’s introduction to Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature: «Nature should be visible spirit, spirit should be invisible nature» (I/2, 56).

9 See the invaluable work, Schelling 2012.

10 This translation is from Iain Hamilton Grant’s unpublished version of this text.

11 Schelling: «considered from the side of possibility, all things are identical in infinite thought, with no distinction of times or kinds of objects; but considered from the side of actuality, they are not all one, but are many, and necessarily and endlessly finite» (I/4, 249; Schelling 1984: 149).

12 For Bruno’s Teofilo, a soul is a «formal principle which becomes and informs everything, that they call ‘fountain of forms’; there is matter, out of which everything is produced and formed, and which is called by everyone the ‘receptacle of forms’» (Bruno 1998: 61).

13 For Bruno’s Teofilo, matter «is deprived of forms and without them, not in the way ice lacks warmth or the abyss is without light, but as a pregnant woman lacks the offspring which she produces and expels forth from herself, and as the earth is without light at night in our hemisphere, which it can reacquire by its turning» (Bruno 1998: 81).

14 Bruno continues: «The hermeticists say that it is ‘most fecund in seeds’ or yet that it is the ‘seed sower,’ because it impregnates matter with all forms, which, according to their nature and manner of being, succeed in shaping, forming and weaving matter in ways that are so remarkable and numerous that they cannot be ascribed to chance, nor to any other principle incapable of differentiation and arrangement. Orpheus calls it ‘the eye of the world,’ because it sees both the inside and outside of all natural things, in order that they may succeed in producing and maintaining themselves in their proper proportions, intrinsically as well as extrinsically. Empedocles calls it ‘the differentiator,’ since it never tires of distinguishing the forms confused within nature’s bosom, and of summoning the generation of one from the corruption of another. Plotinus says it is ‘the father and progenitor,’ because it distributes seeds in nature’s field and is the proximate dispenser of forms. As for us, we call it the ‘internal artificer,’ because it shapes matter, forming it from inside like a seed or root shooting forth and unfolding the trunk, from within the trunk thrusting out the boughs, from inside the boughs the derived branches, and unfurling buds from within these. From therein it forms, fashions and weaves, as with nerves, the leaves, flowers and fruits, and it is from the inside that, at certain times, it calls back its sap from the leaves and the fruits to the twigs, from the twigs to the branches, from the branch to the trunk, from the trunk to the root. It seems to me that those who will not understand or affirm that the world and its parts are animated detract from the divine goodness and from the excellence of this great living being and simulacrum of the first principle; as if God were jealous of his image, as if the architect failed to love his own work – he of whom Plato [Tim. 29e] remarks that he appreciated his creation for its resemblance to himself, for the reflection of himself he sees in it. And, indeed, what could be presented to the eyes of the divinity which is more beautiful than this universe» (Bruno 1998: 41)?

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Jason M. Wirth, «Who is Schelling’s Bruno?»Rivista di estetica, 74 | 2020, 181-190.

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Jason M. Wirth, «Who is Schelling’s Bruno?»Rivista di estetica [Online], 74 | 2020, online dal 01 février 2021, consultato il 18 septembre 2021. URL:; DOI:

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