His Life and Thought
With Annotated Translation of His Work

On the Infinite Universe and Worlds

by Dorothea Waley Singer.

Bold type print, [brackets] and red type are mine...Dwayne

For different subjects by Bruno, click on "Table of Contents" below.

f. Coincidence of Contraries

Giordano Bruno

Table of Contents

"For the further elements of Bruno's philosophy his most important source was Nicolaus Cusanus. Again we observe the same views submitted to the crucible of two very different minds. In both writers, closely associated with belief in the infinity of the universe was the doctrine of the Coincidence of Contraries

The subject-object relationship similarly was envisaged by both writers as a process of admixture culminating in identity. They both cite Pseudo-Dionysius (fifth century) who held that God transcends all contraries. [89] His work was commented on by Johannes Eriugena (d. 877); by St. Thomas (1225-1274); by Albertus Magnus (1193-1280); by Meister Eckhart (d. circ. 1327) and by Marsillio Ficino (1433-1499). All these writers except Eckhart are cited by Bruno. 

Cusanus gave the doctrine a new slant and a new emphasis. Following but developing the views of Pseudo-Dionysius on the Hierarchy of the Cosmos, Cusanus saw Salvation as the Line of Unification between Contraries [Embracing The Contradiction - making the two, one]. The usual mediaeval view of the Cosmos was a hierarchy from God, through the world of Pure Intelligences and Heavenly Powers (comprising the Circle of Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones; the Circle of Dominations, Virtues and Powers; the Circle of Principalities, Archangels and Angels) down to Man. All Being, it was conceived, radiates from God through the Intelligences and Heavenly Powers to Man, and thence back to God. 

This cosmic hierarchy is expounded in detail by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) from whom it is quoted by Albertus. It had, however, been set forth centuries earlier by Pseudo-Dionysius and interpreted by Eriugena. The cosmic hierarchy came to be regarded as the archetype of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Cusanus accepted this usual mediaeval view but here too we find the extraordinary dualism which pervaded his whole life. For he sought to combine the mediaeval conception of a cosmic hierarchy with an entirely different cosmic conception with which he came at last to be entirely imbued. In De docta ignorantia and in Deconiecturis he considers how man may attain to knowledge of God -- the Infinite, the Maximum. Between finite and infinite, he reiterates, there can be no proportional relationship. Therefore the finite intellect cannot attain to ultimate truth . [or, Man cannot see God etc. 1 Timothy 6:16.]

So Cusanus turned from the rational theology of the schoolmen to that mystical theology wherein he found expression for the poetical and emotional side of his nature. Yet he did not wholly submerge his powerful intellect in his ecstatic vision. "Wisdom is the son of God and where it is received there is received also Filiation to God." [91] He propounded the view that since infinity cannot be grasped by mere feeling, there is needed the amor dei intellectualis, the love of that which we have recognized and known as good. Thus, he says, knowledge and ignorance become One and at last by the Visio intellectualis we even attain to a glimpse of Infinity. [92] Now for Cusanus the instrument of this Visio intellectualis is Mathematics, which provides a new logic applicable to the infinite. [93]

As old at least as Aristotle is the problem: How can there be a relation between finite and infinite? Between physical and metaphysical, between experience and thought? Finite understanding, says Cusanus, can never reach absolute truth, but can approach ever nearer thereto even as a triangle by infinite multiplication can approach ever nearer to the perfection of circular form. [94] Empirical knowledge, he observes with Plato, is founded on ideal conception, yet it never comprises the whole truth of the ideal conception. The conditioned and finite tends toward the infinite which it never reaches. Thus may be realized "how the Providence of God uniteth Contraries." [ Thus, Embracing The Contradiction][95]

As regards theology, Cusanus found that this process leads to informed (that is conscious) ignorance; as regards experience, it leads to ignorant knowledge [2 Timothy 3:7]. For experience forbids true knowledge, and true knowledge is itself relative, always aiming at greater truth. Experience and [I think experience, here, is relative to ritual]  , says Cusanus, is really hypothesis, conjecture.

In this conception of Conjecture he finds the link between Creator and Creation, Idea and Manifestation. "Conjecture is a positive assertion in place of truth, having some part in truth." Single truth can only be manifested to us in difference, but there is no difference which does not in some sort attain to and have part in this unity.

[96] Thus instead of identity or opposedness, we have infinite interrelationship [unified field].
From these thoughts and not on physical but on metaphysical grounds, the De docta ignorantia and the De coniecturis develop the idea both of the motion of the earth and of the relativity of all motion. The infinity of the universe is envisaged as bound up with the identity of contraries. The same thought recurs repeatedly in his works. In the De pace fidei the conception is applied to differences of belief. Cusanus describes the vision "of a certain man in Constantinople" who prayed to the Creator that persecution on account of difference in religious rite should be moderated.

The King of Heaven and Earth spoke, saying that the groans of the oppressed had reached him as sad ambassadors from the kingdom of this world. The Archangel pointed out that the whole earth is populated by the descendants of one man:
"There cannot be a great multitude without great diversity.... Thou didst send to the nations various Prophets and masters, some at one time, some at another." [97]

In the vision, representatives of many peoples speak in turn, and finally there is concluded a "concord of the mode [rationis] of all religions." [98] Several times Cusanus refers to the promise that through Abraham [meta:= faith] all peoples of the earth [meta:= law] shall be blessed: "Therefore the children of Abraham are those who believe in God in so much as they are justified by Faith." [99]The identity of contraries culminating in the godhead is set forth again and again by Cusanus. [100] He found in the Christ idea the reconciliation between all contraries, between finite and infinite, between sense-perception and soul. "Unus Christus ex omnibus," he exclaims. [101]

Bruno's teaching on the coincidence of contraries was closely similar to that of the Cusan, though presented without mystic theological interpretation: Our philosophy ... reduceth to a single origin and relateth to a single end, and maketh contraries to coincide so that there is one primal foundation both of origin and ultimately it is divinely true that contraries are within contraries; [allegory, parables, metaphor, symbolism, paradox etc., all make up the "veil" or "cocoon" that protects the "inner" truths] wherefore it is not difficult to compass the knowledge that each thing is within every other -- which Aristotle and the other Sophists could not comprehend. [102]

All power and act which in origin is complicated, united and one is in other things explicate, dispersed and multiple. The universe, the great image, the figure, the only-begotten nature, is also all that it can be through the species and principal members and content of all matter; to which naught can be added and from which naught is wanting, of form complete and unique. But it is not yet all that it can be owing to differences, modes, qualities, individuality: [103] indeed it is but an umbra of the primal act and primal power. Wherefore power and act are not in it absolutely the same, for no part thereof is all which it can be.... [104]

Among many passages we may recall from the De immenso Bruno's magnificent lines proclaiming that the potentiality of all parts is in the Whole and in each part ("All things are in all"). [105] This is the real basis of his view of the Identity of Opposites, and he fortifies himself with the support of such names as Anaxagoras,
Anaxamines and "the divine Parmenides," as well as of Plato's Timaeus and the Neo-Platonists. We have seen that various works current in Paris during Bruno's first visit were in harmony with the doctrine of the coincidence of contraries. [106]

Light is thrown on Bruno's doctrine of the Identity of Contraries also by his cosmological speculation. At the close of Dialogue I of the work here translated, he contrasts terrestrial motion derived from the infinite First Cause with terrestrial motion from motive impulse intrinsic to the finite earth herself. The former is instantaneous and therefore, being circular, is indistinguishable from complete stillness; the latter, being "within time and in a certain succession, is distinct from immobility." He adds, "Thus it is that we can say that God moveth all: and thus should we understand that He giveth the power of self motion to all which moveth."

Now the first half of the explanation would seem to suggest that the effects of God as First Cause are fused into an infinite effect which comprises all possible change or motion and is thus equivalent to no change or motion. The second half expresses the more usual view of God, the creator of Nature and of immutable Natural Law. In the second Dialogue of the same work, the implications of this twofold conception are further developed. Bruno refers to his work On Cause, Prime Origin, and the One which is concerned with the relation between Finite Cause and Infinite First Principle, the two attributes being fused in the Divine Creator. [107]

Drawing mathematical analogies, Bruno claims (for example in On Cause, Prime Origin and the One) that corruption of one is generation of another , hatred of opposition is no other than love of the convenient, heat and cold are merely relative terms; while the physician seeks ever the contrary antidote to arrive at health:
In conclusion, he who would know the greatest secrets of nature should regard and contemplate maxima and
minima of opposed bodies. For profound magistery [magia] it is to be able to reach the contrary, after having
found the point of union.[108]

The One Infinite is perfect; simply and of itself nothing can be greater or better than it. This is the one Whole everywhere, God, universal nature. Naught but the infinite can be a perfect image and reflection thereof, for the finite is imperfect; every sensible world is imperfect, wherefore evil and good, matter and form, light and darkness, sadness and joy unite, and all things are everywhere in change and motion. But all things come in infinity to the order [rationem] of Unity, Truth and Goodness; whereby it is named universum.... Wherefore as rational and irrational in the animal are indifferent, being a single truth, so in the infinite, in the maximum, hot and cold are assuredly one throughout the universe; and we have often shewn them coincident in the minimum as in the maximum." [109]

Below, is another way of saying the same thing.


by Jacob Behmen (Jakob Boehme) 1575-1624,

The Teutonic Theosopher





And here's two paragraphs by Thomas Troward. ( Click )

I have recently (as of 3/20/2002) come across some of  G.W.F. Hegel's   work and have discovered in his explanation of what he calls The Inner and The Outer, is, in its totality, an express exactness of the way the scriptures function as an entity in relationship with universal laws. To those who have followed me through my site should readily see the relationship of the TWO principles of the Operation Of Energy In Matter or The Two principles Of  the Operation Of  Spirit (energy) in the literal interpretation of the scriptures, i.e. the image (matter). What an exactness it is! I plan on adding some more of his works as soon as I can study them for their relativity. There are some e-links to official sites of his on this next page..

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