In the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, the sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, we are introduced to the great Renaissance sage Giordano Bruno. The story depicts Bruno as a martyr for scientific reason against the backward reactionary forces of medieval Catholicism. It’s a nice tidy story of the rise of secular, scientific humanism against the evils of religion but unfortunately it’s pretty much entirely wrong. This piece will explore why Bruno, when studied in his actual fullness, turns out to deeply undermine the philosophy espoused by Sagan (and his disciple Tyson). In particular I will explore the notion that the inclusion of Bruno in the Cosmos sequel is a form of a limited hangout, an attempt that is, to limit the potentially explosive nature of Bruno’s true genius and bottle it up to be used in the ideological war of science vs. religion (of which Bruno was actually critical of both). By seeing through this psy-op, Bruno reveals the true nature of science’s deep mythology and spiritual core as a contemporary form of magical alchemy both potentially for good and for ill.
I need to begin by defining two key terms: limited hangout and scientism. With those terms clarified I can then turn to the depiction of Bruno in Cosmos and marshal evidence in support of the argument that it’s a scientistic limited hangout.
Scientism is the philosophical belief that science is the only way to gain valid information and the only useful model for creating judgments about how our world such operate. Notice the key words there being philosophical and belief. Compare that to it’s allied construct of materialism. Materialism is a mental construct that says only material things are real and therefore minds are illusory even though it’s a mind making the argument that minds aren’t real therefore refuting itself. In the same way scientism is a philosophical belief that argues that there is no such thing as valid philosophy nor are there any true beliefs. Philosophy is science. Science is philosophy. Science is the be all end all. As I’ll argue as we proceed, scientism is a front for the deeper occulted truth: namely science is a magical and alchemical technological natural religion. That latter view incidentally was exactly the real position of Giordano Bruno himself which brings us to the second term: limited hangout.
Limited Hangout is the name of this website, so it's us in this context of this piece is very intentional and very important. A limited hangout is a spy craft term whereby an intelligence agency realizes a covert operation is about to be publicized. So instead of waiting for someone to expose their secret, the intelligence agency will create a version of the story to their liking. This story will include partial elements of truth (“hangout”) but then keep hidden more important elements of the story thereby controlling the narrative/leak (“limited”). The resulting exposure of partial secrets focuses the media and public on those elements, keeping the other core elements hidden.
We chose that name for this site because we believe that more and more aspects of the veil are becoming thinner and as things get weirder and more transparent, the powers that be are resorting to forms of limited hangouts to deal with this new landscape. See the recent soft-disclosure around the UFO phenomenon as a perfect example of this. But rather than immediately be taken in and assume that what is being publicly revealed is the full and final story we need to be on the lookout for potential diversions and controlled/limited hangouts intended to occlude other key dynamics goings on in secret.
In this view a limited hangout can be seen as a doorway into a even deeper, and often stranger, reality. I posit that is precisely what is going on with the story of Giordano Bruno as told in Cosmos. It is a scientistic limited hangout. Bruno, as we’ll see, was a magician, an alchemist, a Neoplatonic-Hermetic spiritual realizer, and very possibly also the father of a political revolutionary occult philosophical sect. The depiction of Bruno in Cosoms is a very limited hangout. They reveal key aspects of the story—especially Bruno’s infinite worlds hypothesis—but then use that limited hangout to try to pigeonhole Bruno into an atheistic, humanistic, scientistic lens. If however we are aware of the limited nature of this hangout we can then peer through the true (but limited) aspects of the hangout and see much more clearly into the actual nature of things behind in the curtain.
To preview the argument in this case, what I believe we see when we peer through the limited hangout to the “fuller” hangout is that ultimately science is a contemporary version of the ancient practice of alchemical magic, thereby undercutting the entire edifice of scientism philosophically and revealing it as a secular front for a deeply occluded magical control of the forces of the universe.
So with our definitions clear we can proceed to the episode itself and it’s depiction of Bruno. It’s Episode One: Standing Up In the Milky Way. The context of the Bruno section (which starts about a third of the way into the episode) is about humanity growing out it’s childhood into a more adult view of the world.
This contextual clue is our first clue of the scientistic framing of the discourse. Whether intentional or not, Tyson’s description of humanity growing out of it’s childhood and into its adulthood is a direct reference to the philosophy of the godfather of scientism, Auguste Comte (1798-1857). Comte argued that the world existed in three progressively oriented epochs: tribal animism (childhood), traditional religious metaphysics (adolescent), and scientific reason/The Enlightenment (adulthood). In this regard Comte was arguing of course that reason was abolishing mythology and magic as immature forms of humanity leaving secularism and science to rule as the truly rational/mature disposition.
In a highly strange fashion Comte however was inverting and secularizing a mystical notion of Three Ages from the 12th century Catholic apocalyptic visionary Joachim of Fiore. Fiore’s vision also consisted of Three Ages: The Ages of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. The age of the Spirit, for Fiore, was marked by the destruction of clerical authority and the free sovereign spiritual expression of each individual. Fiore postulated this vision some seven centuries before Comte and without the materialist nonsense.
That’s our first scientistic limited hangout. The attempt to commander Fiore’s Three Ages to a secularized narrative.
In the episode the section begins with Bruno secreting away in the night to read books on the medieval Church’s forbidden list. The commentary to the episode mentions one of those texts by name: Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, a long form poem designed to teach the principles of (Greek) Epicurean philosophy to a Latin-speaking audience.
From Lucretius Bruno took the following major points:
The gods are a subspecies of a larger Cosmic Principle and Force
Misery comes largely from the dread humans have towards the gods and superstitious feared punishments, whether in this life or the life after.
Therefore the key was to abolish such fear by embracing the Creative Order of all things.
Now what’s not covered in the episode is that at the same time Bruno was also reading Erasmus, the great Christian humanist. Where Lucretius did indeed teach an ancient species of naturalism and even atomism, Erasmus, on the other hand, was clearly a religious thinker. And his influence on Bruno is equally important but it doesn’t fit a scientistic narrative of Bruno being a martyr for science, hence it’s not mentioned.
Erasmus tutored young Bruno in his critique of rote formalism. Whether that was the rote repetition of medieval Scholastic theology or rote (and therefore mindless) repetition of religious ritual without understanding the deeper intention behind it (e.g. much piety towards the saints in late medieval Catholicism). Erasmus put a great emphasis on individual liberty and free will and the choice of following a path of one’s own, particularly for Erasmus by returning to the teachings of Christ and seeking to live them out oneself.
A third and crucial influence on Bruno (also unmentioned in the episode) is of course Hermeticism and Neoplatonism. Arguably this is the most powerful influence on his thinking and by a significant measure. During Bruno’s life the writings of Hermes Trismegestus were believed to have been of an ancient Egyptian pedigree. In Bruno’s case he would believe them to reveal an older form of wisdom that Moses (i.e. The Hebrew Bible) learned from. The writings of the Thrice Great Hermes (or Thoth in Egyptian religion) were massively influential in the rise of The Renaissance through Hermeticists like Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino.
It’s now understood the writings attributed to Hermes/Thoth were mostly likely written sometime between 300 BCE - 300 CE and very likely in Alexandria, though they could well be reflecting much older strains of knowledge.
From Hermeticism there is a strong notion that the natural forces (Nature) can be effected by human consciousness, particularly by magical and astrological means. Bruno later in life developed a memory system which was itself a limited hangout to an occult magical system (more on that later).
From Neoplatonism Bruno took the key concept of the “seamless gradation of emanation.” In Neoplatonism all of Life emanates from The One (To Hen). As manifestation emanates however it never “leaves” The One. To paraphrase the great Neoplatonist Iamblichus: “Everything flows out from The One while never leaving. It flows back without never having left.”
In that flowing out there are no gaps anywhere in creation. The flowing out is an overabundant, munificent outpouring of an omni-generative One. Everything is equally a reflection and manifestation of The One. Though the forms of those manifestations may be distinct from one another and graded along a spectrum of mineral or animal or vegetable to human, the underlying, essential substrate of all Reality is one non-separate Whole. This outlook lead precisely to Bruno’s famous declaration on the infinity of worlds.
I want to turn to that next but here we see a second layer of the scientistic Limited Hangout where only Lucretius’ work is named as influential on Bruno because Lucretius is the most friendly to an atheistic scientistic outlook. We see again the way in which Bruno is being partially revealed but in other ways deeply hidden, with of course the parts being hidden being those that are critical of an atheistic, scientistic outlook.
The episode next turns to Bruno’s famous vision of an infinite cosmos and infinite series of planets, sun, stars, and potential life on other planets.
Bruno, as the episode helpfully shows, had a mystical dream wherein he first found himself trapped inside the then dominant medieval Scholastic-Ptolemaic-Aristotelian geocentric cosmology with the Earth stationary encased by the perfectly concentric circular orbits of the luminary cosmos.
Bruno touches the edge of this cosmic fabric and its wobbles slightly. Bruno mentions a deep sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach yet he nevertheless pushes through the edge of the known universe. As he does so (as clearly depicted and narrated in the show), Bruno astral travels out beyond the known borders of the Milky Way into an Infinite Cosmic terrain where he saw others suns, other Earths, and later postulated that there would very likely be other creatures, perhaps even other intelligent life forms, on these “other Earths.”
The view Bruno describes is that of a cosmonaut in space where there is no (absolute) up or down, center or boundary. The famous final scene in Truman Show where Truman journeys by boat “to the end of the world” and then walks through the edge of his “universe” into the Real is a re-play of Bruno’s famous nocturnal journey.
Bruno therefore came by his knowledge of the infinite worlds by two key ways: 1. his Hermetic Neoplatonic philosophy and 2. by personal mystical revelation. There’s a mutually reinforcing dynamic between those two as the personal experiential realization confirmed the view of the Hermetic/Neoplatonic philosophy while the philosophical study prepped him to be open to the mystical experience which then afterwards helped Bruno conceptualize and make sense of the experience.
Please Note: The mystical revelation came by way of what is traditionally known as astral traveling or in more modern parlance remote viewing. Project Stargate was the CIA’s investigation into the validity and its possible weaponization of remote viewing. As detailed in the recent documentary Third Eye Spies crazier than the CIA studying remote viewing is that the process worked. Remote viewers were able to accurately assess remote locations (including off-Earth). Giordano Bruno learned about the infinity of the universe and it’s multiple worlds because he remote viewed them. They were a clear and direct experiential sighting that he then interpreted within a framework that already predicted such a thing (i.e. Neoplatonism).*
Tyson in his final wrap up comments around Bruno then (and you can’t take this up) says:
“Bruno was no scientist. His vision of the cosmos was a lucky guess because he had no evidence to support it. But like most guesses it could have been wrong. But once the idea was in the air it gave others a target to aim at, if only to disprove it. Bruno glimpsed the vastness of space but he had no inkling of the staggering immensity of time.”
This paragraph really crystallizes the core of the scientistic limited hangout. Just after a scene showing in grueling detail Bruno’s torture and public execution by the Inquisition we are left feeling Bruno was a martyr for science. But then immediately after that Tyson inserts an atheistic materialist spin in order for Bruno’s deeper insights to really spill out beyond the control of the scientistic elite.
Public science, like the kind expound by deGrasse Tyson himself, is now the Inquisition in our day. So Bruno’s actual ideas would stand in criticism of both religious and scientific Inquisitorial regimes. It’s not a science vs. religion thing as the deeper truth of science is it’s a religion and the mystical core of religion is it’s own kind of science. In Bruno’s case that would be a Neoplatonic and Hermetic one.
Bruno had evidence just not the kind of evidence that is counted by someone like deGrasse Tyson. As the episode itself just showed Bruno made no “lucky guess" about the multiplicity of worlds. He saw it through his own cosmic voyages. He “glimpsed it” in Tyson’s own words.
Bruno undertook the experiment of hermetic practice, recorded the data of his experience (the infinity of worlds and space), and interpreted the data within a coherent overall framework (Hermetic-Neoplatonism). Like any scientist nowadays he worked within an existing paradigm which predicted certain results. In Bruno’s case that Hermetic-Neoplatonic framework predicted the results of no gaps in creation and therefore, in Bruno’s language, the multiplicity (or infinity) of worlds. He then went about testing that hypothesis through his inner voyages and found that his experience confirmed the existing paradigm’s cosmological theory.
Bruno practiced science in other words. It’s just (unfortunately for Tyson) that science shows that consciousness is real, including certain intensified forms of consciousness like psi phenomena, remote viewing/astral traveling, as well as magic (we’re almost there I promise).
As previously noted, the scientistic perspective is that all of magic and myth is from the age of human childhood and adolescence. But, as Bruno’s insight reveals, magic is real and myth is often a mythologized form of an ancient understanding and practice of science, especially when it comes to cosmology (see the pioneering work of Laird Scranton on precisely this point.)
Tyson points out that ten years after Bruno’s execution, Galileo looked through his telescope and confirmed Bruno’s multiple worlds idea. For Tyson this is the “real science” but another way of interpreting that same fact is that Galileo simply had a different technology (telescope) than Bruno (remote viewing). Both Bruno and Galileo arrived at the same conclusions though by different means. For Tyson’s scientistic bias Galileo’s technology because of it’s physical sensory nature is the only valid form of science. That of course is again a mental philosophical viewpoint which is supported by no physical data. Physical data arrived at through physical technology only reveals that there is physical data which can be learned about and contacted through physical tech. It doesn’t have anything to say about other potential technologies (e.g. inner technologies) nor the nature of the conscious experience. Again actual science, as in scientific method and open inquiry, has repeatedly shown that psi phenomena and therefore consciousness are real, a direct contradiction of Tyson’s ideological philosophical (and hence mental) viewpoint.
Which brings us (finally) to the magical portion. Bruno initially gained notoriety in his day for his work on the Art of Memory. Officially on the surface the texts are straightforward guides to the development of incredible powers of memory through the use of memory palaces and Bruno’s famous memory wheels.** Deeper down however these texts were their own form of a limited hangout. Bruno's works on memory were a public facing exoteric form of his thought hiding the inner esoteric core. On the surface they are memory improvement texts—there were many around in Bruno’s day but deeper down they are clearly the first process for Bruno in a larger magical process detailed in his later texts (e.g. On Cause, Principle, and Unity). The great Renaissance historian Francis Yates brought forward this aspect of Bruno in her classic text Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. For those interested diving deeply into this dimension of Bruno her work is indispensable.
For Bruno the mind needed to first be trained in the ability to hold multiple images in clarity and proper relation to each other. His wheels are the most advanced version of that process. In other words, the process by which one developed the acute memory skills turns out to be exactly what is needed to be a highly skilled magical practitioner. The concentrative powers gained through the memory practice was the first step. Then once that concentration had been sufficiently developed the next and more specifically magical phase of the process ensues.
The images held in the mind can then be visualized in alternative or transformed shape. Different combinations of multiple images could be moved in the mind’s space into new relationships and configurations or constellations of meaning. Contemporary readers familiar with the practices of visualization in The New Thought/Science of Mind tradition will see them as a contemporary (and more popularized) versions of the same magical mind practice as Bruno.
Moreover, consider the overlap between Bruno’s wheels and Tibetan Buddhist cosmological wheels. By learning to spin the wheels in various rotations (and counterrotations) Bruno argued the magical practitioner could begin to alter reality. It was here that we see the alchemical transmutational nature of Bruno’s memory practice.
Again, contrary to Tyson, this alchemical-Hermetic-Neoplatonic framework was the framework for science. This perspective was not some random peculiarity of Bruno’s. Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and Isaac Newton were all alchemists.
Here it’s worth mentioning the strangely relevant Epic Rap Battle of History between Bill Nye and Newton (brilliantly performed by none other than Weird Al). At first this seems an odd pairing. Shouldn’t it be a scientist vs. a creationist/religious literalist? But more subtly we have two different visions of science battling for supremacy. In the midst of the battle a deGrasse Tyson character (aka “astrophysics black guy”) jumps into defend Nye against Newton. That is the Tyson stand in is there to attack Newton’s hermetical science against Nye’s materialist science. The attack is on the philosophical framework within which the science takes place. Scientistic Limited Hangout in other words, keep the science, hide the magic.
Tyson says of Newton that he was:
“hiding up in his attic on some Harry Potter business”
That of course is a dig on Newton’s magical process. Newton believed there was a secret message in The Book of Revelation which he could decode to help bring about the apocalypse. Newton was on quite the ontological flood, particularly as for Newton his gravitational theories and his biblical hermeneutics were for him, both rooted in the same methodology, simply applied in different contexts. In terms of a scientistic Limited Hangout it’s worth mentioning that Newton’s writings on the apocalypse are stashed away in Israel (no seriously, once again you can’t make this up.)
The Hermetic-Neoplatonic revival was the core animating principle of the Renaissance and therefore the development of modern science. It was only in the 19th century that the Hermetic-Neoplatonic philosophical context of science was overthrown (in what amounted to a kind of an intellectual coup) and replaced with a scientistic, materialist philosophy, a la Comte.*** Hermeticism wasn’t some random “Harry Potter business” that can be thrown aside. It was core to the very process itself. The Weird in Weird Al/Newton here standing for weird naturalism.
As scientistic materialism became the overt form of science, the hermetic-magical tradition of science went covert and transformed into it’s shadow/dark/“black magic” side, re-emerging in the 19th and early 20th centuries as first eugenics and in the 21st century as transhumanism. Recall that Julian Huxley coined the term transhumanism in order to rebrand eugenics after the Nazis gave it a bad name. The dark alchemical undercurrent of modernist science was brilliantly captured by Goethe’s Faust and Shelley’s Frankenstein (and then later in 20th century science fiction). Geoengineering, GMOs, cyborg/transhumanism, genetic engineering, animal chimeras are all, at root, unconscious or dark/black magic alchemical processes given cover by officially atheistic science.
The magic in other words is intrinsic to the science. As Dean Radin’s meticulous research has shown magic (aka psi phenomena) are real. It is very possible and natural and real to use visualization and conscious intentionality to effect materiality. It’s not omnipotent in its effects but it is nevertheless real. The only question is what kind of magic and which agenda will it serve?
Scientism overtook the magical-psi-Hermetic-Neoplaontic framework not from any more “scientific” principle or data—as the science is on the side of the hermetic magical tradition—but due in fact to social and political forces.
POLITICAL, THEOLOGICAL, AND ASTRONOMICAL REVOLUTIONS
That brings us to our last element in the scientistic limited hangout of Giordano Bruno: the hidden social and political hand of power. Bruno, towards the end of his life, began suggesting he was interested in forming a secret philosophical-political sect whose purpose would be to overcome the Catholic-Protestant divide in Europe and to establish conditions for human liberty. In this he foreshadowed later movements like the Rosicrucians. Bruno even took the plenitude/overflowing abundance element of Neoplatonism and began to use it as a ground to attack the oligarchs of the day, including the rising banking system of Venice, where he was originally arrested and turned over to Rome. The Neoplatonic overflow in this case was an argument by Bruno for an alternative economic system built out of free flowing abundance. In hermetic-magical terms he conceived of economic produce growing out of conscious intent (aka “manifestation”) that could therefore not be controlled or monopolized by, for example, a banking cartel. This economic view constituted an equally dangerous threat to the powers of the day as did Bruno’s most heretical religious views.
As Joseph Farrell has noted, Bruno thereby managed to directly attack the major religious powers of the days (Catholicism and Protestantism) as well as the major political and financial oligarchical powers. Those twin attacks sealed his fate as an alliance was formed between both powers for his removal.
The Cosmos episode framed Bruno as a proto-martyr for science against the evil reactionary forces of the church. Bruno receives the proto-martyr distinction of course because he’s not seen as a “true scientist” according to the secularist, materialist bias of the episode. Regardless, the binary the episode sets up is between science (and the forces of reason) against religion (reactionary faith/belief). What this binary leaves out of course is the power of the state as well as the financial system to which the state is tied.
The Inquisition in Rome found Bruno guilty and then handed him over to the governmental authorities for execution. As the Reformation took hold the political authorities sought to place themselves above the clergy and have the clergy exist to support them. Luther’s relationship with the German princes is a notable example. Henry VIII declaring himself the Head of the Church of England would be another. The religious institutions of Bruno’s day were all in the process of becoming subservient to the ruling political authority.
Scientism and materialist philosophy would of course eventually supplant the church as the guiding arbiter of truth and meaning in the Western world. In so doing, science replaced the Christian church and installed the scientistic church to exist in subordinate relationship to the political elite. Out of which we get science’s co-opting by the military-industrial-technocratic complex.
By framing the debate as simply that between religion vs. science, the political-economic-military side is left completely occulted, free from the critique that Bruno leveled at it. Then secondarily the magical roots of science is suppressed from science’s official self-history and identity, thereby leaving the magical process to similarly become occulted, go into the shadow, and to be taken up in secret by the political elite to be used on the populace, like say on Facebook.
In an earlier piece I wrote I explored the difference between being awake (spiritual realization) and woke (political/social) and argued that typically they were distinct processes. Bruno is the rare case of a person uniting both in one. The rare cases of those who are both awake and woke usually end up like Bruno martyrs to their own cause, which was definitely not the cause of scientism.
* Which leaves open the question of whether the great Neoplatonists like Plotinus, Iamblichus, Porphyry themselves remote viewed multiplicity more than a millennium before Bruno.
** Memory palaces were of course deployed by the archetype of scientism: none other than Sherlock Holmes himself. Holmes, while officially being the ultimate arch-rationalist smoked opium in order to have premonitory dreams to solve cases. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, was a Theosophist and central member of the Society for Psychical Research, an ancestor of ontological flooding if there ever was one.
*** Again a whole other piece could be written on this point but this transfer to a materialist science is profoundly influential in the debate over biological evolution. The co-architects of biological evolution Alfred Russell Wallace and Charles Darwin represent each of those two schools of thought. Wallace: Hermetic-Neoplatonic and Darwin: Materialist. Which helps explain why Darwin is the more famous of the two.