Tag Archives: divine providence

Giordano Bruno and the one hundred twelfth thrust

It’s been a while since a piece of writing has given me so much pleasure.

The text that caused this merriment is Giordano Bruno‘s satire on divine providence in The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast(1584).

It had me sniggering all the way through.

Especially this excerpt:

“Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted.”

But really, the whole passage is excellent in its power of imagination, in its ability to trivialize providence and omnipotence, in making it ridiculous by giving inane details, which seem like endless digressions à la Tristram Shandy. If you’re curious, you can read the rest of that passage here.

I wondered what the exact nature of the ‘triumphant beast’ of the title of the text was, and why, if so triumphant, it needed to be expelled. Some googling learnt that the beast is the the Pope or the Catholic Church.

Sadly, the wit in this text was fatal for Giordano. After a trial that lasted eight years, Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 for his derision. He was barely 52.

PS. I came upon Giordano Bruno by studying De rerum natura, that breviary of atheism, which can be briefly summarized by reading the following three passages: 1)on the helplessness of the human infant, 2) on the inability to reach bodily satisfaction and 3) on the pleasure of standing on shore watching a shipwreck.

Image: Woodcut from ‘Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos’ by Giordano Bruno.