Copernicus〖See “The Song of Roland” in H. C., xlix, 95ff.〗 ventured to assert that the earth moved. He could scarcely have astonished and disturbed men more if he had actually set it moving. The belief in the earth as the firm center of creation, lighted by sun and moon, encircled by celestial spheres, and furnished for the great drama of man’s fall and redemption—this belief was itself the firm center of all human belief. It seemed impossible to move it without bringing down in ruin that whole grand scheme of things to which man had been fitting himself for centuries, and where he had at length come to feel himself at home. How shall one find a place for God, and a place for man, and how shall they find one another, in a universe with neither beginning nor end, neither center nor boundaries? This was the problem to which the great martyr Bruno devoted himself, and his death in 1600 may well serve as a monument to mark the beginning of modern philosophy.

Bruno saw that the world can no longer be divided into terrestrial and celestial regions, with the empyrean beyond. There can be no God above nature, or before or after nature, because nature itself is infinite. The universe is a system of countless worlds, none more divine than the rest. God is therefore not local, but universal; he is the life and beauty of the whole. This idea, recovered by Bruno from Stoicism and Neo-Platonism, and appropriated to the needs of the age which Copernicus had robbed of its ancient landmarks, persisted in the latent pantheism of Descartes and his followers, and in the avowed pantheism of Spinoza, was suffered to lapse during the eighteenth century, was revived again by Lessing〖H. C., xxxix, 20ff.〗 and Herder, and became one of the central ideas of the great Romantic and Hegelian movements in Germany in the nineteenth century.

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