The student's name is Bruno Borges (I wondered if his first name was in honor of Giordano, or whether it was a coincidence; of course, in the minds of the UFO conspiracy theorists, nothing is a coincidence). He apparently had a reputation as being a bit of an odd duck even prior to his disappearance. He was obsessed with aliens, and his fascination with the earlier Bruno came from the fact that the Italian philosopher/scientist was one of the first to speculate that other planets -- even planets around other stars -- might harbor life. Borges hinted that Bruno's execution at the hands of the Inquisition was to keep him silent about the reality of aliens, when in reality it was just your average charges of heresy. The church made eight accusations, claiming that Bruno was guilty of:
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus
- holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass
- claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity
- believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes
- dealing in magics and divination
Given the intolerance of the time, any one of these would be sufficient, but the Catholic Church is nothing if not thorough. Bruno was sentenced to be burned at the stake, and supposedly upon hearing his fate made a rude gesture at the judges and said, "Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam" ("Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it"), which ranks right up there with Galileo's "Eppur si muove" as one of the most elegant "fuck you" statements ever delivered.
I suppose it's understandable that Borges thought Bruno was a pretty cool guy. A lot of us science types do, although that admiration might be misplaced. Hank Campbell writes over at The Federalist:
Bruno only agreed with Copernicus because he worshiped the Egyptian God Thoth and believed in Hermetism and its adoration of the sun as the center of the universe. Both Hermes and Thoth were gods of…magic.
The church and science did not agree with Bruno that pygmies came from a “second Adam” or that Native Americans had no souls, but they were also not going to kill him over it. There is no evidence his “science” came up at any time. He was imprisoned for a decade because the church wanted him to just recant his claims that Hermetism was the one true religion and then they could send him on his way. When he spent a decade insisting it was fact, he was convicted of Arianism and occult practices, not advocating science.So right off, we're on shaky ground, not that this was ever in doubt. In any case, between Borges's devotion to Bruno and his fascination with aliens, he apparently went a little off the deep end. He left behind over a dozen bound books, mostly written in code, and only a few of which have been deciphered. Here's a sample passage from one of the ones that has been decrypted:
It is easy to accept what you have been taught since childhood and what is wrong. It is difficult, as an adult, to understand that you were wrongly taught what you suspected was correct since you were a child. In other words, if you fit into the system, your behaviour will be determined, making you at the mercy of beliefs already provided and well established in dogmas and rituals, with the masses.Which is standard conspiracy theory fare. He wouldn't tell his parents or his sister what he was up to, only that he was working on fourteen books that would "change mankind in a good way." Besides the symbols painted on his walls, he also had a portrait of himself next to an alien:
Borges's apartment wall, showing the symbols, writing, and the portrait of him with a friend
But the whole thing sounds to me like the story of a delusional young man whose disappearance is a matter for the police, not for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. It's sad, but I'm guessing that aliens had nothing to do with it. Of course, try to tell that to the folks over at the r/conspiracy subreddit, where such a statement simply confirms that I'm one of "the two s's" -- sheeple (dupe) or shill (complicit). I'll leave it to wiser heads than mine to determine which is most likely in my case.