The Pope and the Heretic by Michael White

I first learned about Giordano Bruno through a tweeter thread about Shakespeare discussing his one of many influences, including this Don Quixote-like miscreant Dominican priest who wrote The Art of Memories, the subject I was and still am keen on to improve my regressing memory. Since then, Bruno has resided in my memory chamber as an enigmatic pariah, a formidable rebel without compromise. So when I came across this book by Michael White, a former member of the 80s pop group Thompson Twins, I knew I had to read it.

White describes Bruno as a martyr of enlightenment, thinking ahead of his time. Unfortunately, Bruno was born into the wrong place at the wrong time, so he suffered from the Catholic Church’s authoritarian rule that dominated the World’s knowledge. However, Bruno’s theory that Jesus was preternaturally a superb magician and therefore not the Son of God, not to mention that the Holy Ghost was the spirit of the World and that Satan would be saved, was sufficient to raise the eyebrows of the ecclesiastical figures. Also, he opined that the stars seen in night skies were actually suns and that there were other worlds in the universe where living beings like humans existed. I speculate such an opinion might have influenced a modern-day belief that we are not alone in this universe because there are extraterrestrial beings. All these ideas were indeed revolutionary. But unlike Galileo, who was said to murmur, “Still, the earth circles round the sun” after he was acquitted of heresy, Bruno was stubborn in his ideas. He proudly defied the Church’s intention to pardon him if he would recant before the death sentence. In his excellent lyrical portrayal of the dramatic confrontation, White sees it as the microscopic representation of the conflict between religion and philosophy, myth and truth, superstition and science.

Notwithstanding White’s admirable wealth of knowledge used in defense of Bruno, I cannot help but think that White’s stance on Bruno overlooks or connives at some facts. The Catholic Church put him at stake on account of his theological errors, deemed dangerous to the spiritual formation of the Church and the Faithful as a priest to the Church. Bruno was not a willing martyr of his ideas but a Simon Magus-like figure trying to trade his knowledge for recognition in the arms of different sects of Christianity, such as Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Episcopalianism, across Europe.

It’s an irony that rather than the man written about, the man writing about him turns out to be a genius in writing. Perhaps White, a former musician, attributes this to his lyrical rhythm of narration drawn from his emulous erudition. Moreover, he writes the language of the general reader in the panoply of academic disciplines, and the reader will find no time for disorientation or disinterest. This book carries a tone of what the Italian anti-Catholic activists campaigned against the Church, with Bruno as the symbol of persecution against what they believed in. Nevertheless, it is worth reading it if you are a proponent of Giordanism or just a curious bystander like me.

Aristotle in Plain Language

Introducing Aristotle: A Graphic Guide by Rupert Woodfin

Socrate was a liberal, Plato was a conservative, and Aristotle? Well, he was an educator, an academic, an intellectual with perks and passions who was never dull. His school of thought dominated western Europe during the Middle Ages. It became a foundation of Christian theology because of the conciliation of humanities with science, especially biology, to approach the hows in the quest of whys and whats.

But don’t be intimidated by the dauntingly impressive resume of the philosopher. You don’t have to strain yourself with a burden to know the wondrous truth of our human life and the universe beyond. Woodfin’s illustrated guide to Aristotle will become your scholarly and witty Virgil to his circles of knowledge as seen in his mind’s casements. Through them, you are welcome to appreciate the panorama of Teleology, Thinness, the Four Causes, Beauty, Ethics, and the Cosmos like you never realized in plain language.

Suppose you want to know more about the man who taught Alexander the Great and Thomas Aquinas, the top Doctor of the Church, and assured the distraught that excellence comes from habit. In that case, this book deserves your attention – with delightful Eureka!



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Live, Die, Repeat, Repeat…

Life is still beautiful, even if it deceives you.

I wanted to find the Church’s stance on reincarnation and, above all, what the Bible said about this seemingly endless shapeshifting until the purification of the soul is complete, so to speak. What about the Christian belief that we live only once and have no return of life?

According to “A Concise Dictionary of Theology,” reincarnation is the belief or metempsychosis (“animate afterward”) that the soul preexists its embodiment. After death, the soul exists in a ghostly state before animating one again, a body of the same in a different state, which sounds a lot like a demon or malevolent spirit possessing the body of the living. It is this very belief in resurrection and official rejection of the preexistence of wandering souls without corporeal substance that denies reincarnation itself. By maintaining an endless series of chances, the doctrine of reincarnation reduces the seriousness of God’s grace and, most importantly, human liberty exercised in one life that is ended by once-and-for all death.

Furthermore, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage. When the single course of our earthly life is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives as “it is appointed for men to die once” [Hebrews 9:27]. Christianity defends the duality of the body and the soul. However, reincarnation defends dualism that both beings exist separately and that the body is simply an instrument of the soul; existence by successive existence as an altogether different body is repeatedly assumed each time one recycles life. Thus reincarnation denies the idea of the resurrection of the body, as evidenced by the resurrection of Christ, and most primarily rejects the Christian doctrine of salvation. Therefore, there is no reincarnation after death.

I feel much better now than before. While I succumbed to the belief in reincarnation, I couldn’t accept the thought of my present life as punishment for my wrongdoings in my past lives. To think that I have to live in a miserable state of discipline until my subsequent due recycling puts me on the verge of lunacy in the form of murderous headache for which I recently found myself in the ER. Viktor E. Frankl, the survivor of concentration camps during World War 2 and the founder of Logotherapy, urged us to trust that there is meaning in suffering, which helps us lead to our purposes in life. Samuel Johnson, one of the most significant 18th-century English men of letters and the author of A Dictionary of the English Language, describes life as progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment. Forget the arguments about the religious dogma dictating an institutionalized belief for mass mind control. Or it so, then so be it. After all, reincarnation is also another offshoot of mysticism developed into religious thought. Then I will follow the light that gives me a sense of hope. And for this reason, I proclaim that my body and soul are inseparable and that I live only once, and that’s it.