The emanation

Step by step, but not without straying sometimes into the ‘thick
jungle’ of symbolism, we have drawn near to our objective. We have,
in fact, recognized that the Unity was the source of the manifold, that
both the Soul and Matter were immediately derived from it, and that
power was inseparable from the act in this first principle. It is already
possible to guess what kind of cosmogony can be constructed on such

Seeing that matter has sprung from God, we must in the first place
rule out the hypothesis of a creation that would be only the organization
of a pre-existing chaos, of a genesis that would be the upthrow of
a cosmos starting from an cmeiptDv, of a victory over the uncreated.
This ancient concept (but it still survived with one Leo, the Hebrew)
was contrary to that of the orthodox theologians and Christian philosophers (down to Nicholas of Cusa and Marsilio Ficino), who
established God at the centre of creation and ascribed it to Him entirely.
To the extent that he denies the existence of uncreated matter on
which the creative act was performed, Bruno does not depart from
the Christian point of view. On the other hand, he dissociates himself
from it completely when he rejects the possibility of a creation a
nihilo. The creative act, for him, is no more a victory over the uncreated,
than a victory over naught. Having assumed in principle that
the power and act are merged into one another in the prime Unity, he
is led to conclude that the distinction between cause and principle,
which is valid when dealing with natural objects, loses all logical value
on the plane of the divine.


When asked what differences there is between
cause and principle, Theophilus replies: ‘When we say that
God is the first principle and the first cause, we understand the same
thing in different senses; when we speak of principles and causes in
nature, we speak of different things in different senses.’


On the plane of nature, the principle is in the object, the cause produces the object
‘but remains distinct from it’. On the other hand, God ‘producing
things as the first cause, remains in them as the first principle’.



If He were solely the cause, His creation would be cast out of Him and
affected with a certain contingency, He could have created another
universe. Now, this ‘ability-not-to-be’ rightly ascribed to the finite
objects that come under our senses would not be able to influence the
total universe. Consequently, Bruno shows his aversion from Duns
Scotus—who thought the universe could have been different from
what it is—whereas he is satisfied with the formulas of Amaury of
Bene (everything is God, omnia esse Deum) and of David of Dinant
(God is the principle of everything, Deum esse principium materiale
‘The essence of neo-Platonism is to represent the real as a hierarchy
of all the forms of existence that are disposed between the
absolute Unity and the indetermination of matter. There is a superabundant
richness in the Unity by which it is compelled to spread itself
by a kind of emanation.’

These few lines summarize what Bruno
rejects from neo-Platonism and what he retains. In so far as the
Plotinian movement is a necessary emanation, Bruno is akin to
Plotinus. On the other hand, he discards all idea of hierarchy. Matter
is no longer the final term of a degradation. Matter proceeds from
God, without an intermediary, for the same reason as form. The emanation is purer and more direct.

The universe is one aspect of God, or preferably a ‘reflection’, or even a ‘shadow’. The universe is therefore co-eternal with God who nevertheless remains its source
so that identification of the universe with God remains incomplete
and it is possible to speak of creation, provided we do not understand
thereby a creation ab aeterno, the antecedence of the creator becoming
purely logical. All these views are set forth on a remarkable page
of the third dialogue, Concerning the Cause:


“The universe, which is the great simulacrum, the great image and only
begotten nature (unigenita natura), is itself [like the first principle], all
that it can be, in these same species and principle parts [which were dealt
with above], and continuity of all matter, to which nothing is added and
from which nothing is lacking from its complete and unique form; but
it is not all that it can be through the same differences, modes, attributes
and characteristics. Furthermore, it is none other than the shadow of
the first act and the first power; yet the power and the act in it are not
absolutely the same thing, because not one of its parts is all that it can
be . . . the universe is all that it can be according to a mode of explication,
dispersion and distinction. Its principle is in union and in indifference;
because everything is whole and the same in simplicity,
without difference and distinction.” (Bruno, Causa III)


–The Cosmology of Giordano Bruno by P-H. Michel