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Ramon Lull


Ramon Lull

For other uses, see Ramon Llull (disambiguation).
Blessed Ramon Llull, T.O.S.F.
Doctor Illuminatus
writer, poet, theologian, mystic, mathematician, logician, martyr
Born ca. 1232
City of Mallorca (now Palma),
Kingdom of Majorca
Died ca. 1315
City of Mallorca,
Kingdom of Majorca
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
(Third Order of St. Francis)
Beatified 1847 by Pope Pius IX
Feast 30 June
Influences al-Farabi, Avicenna, Ibn Sabin
Influenced Giordano Bruno, Gottfried Leibniz[1]

Ramon Llull (Catalan: [rəˈmon ˈʎuʎ]; c. 1232[2] – c. 1315) (Anglicised Raymond Lully, Raymond Lull; in Latin Raimundus or Raymundus Lullus or Lullius) was a Majorcan writer and philosopher, logician and a Franciscan tertiary. He wrote the first major work of Catalan literature. Recently surfaced manuscripts show him to have anticipated by several centuries prominent work on elections theory. He is sometimes considered a pioneer of computation theory, especially given his influence on Gottfried Leibniz.[1] Llull is well known also as a glossator of Roman Law.

Within the Franciscan Order, he is honored as a martyr. He was beatified in 1857 by Pope Pius IX and his feast day was assigned to 30 June and is celebrated by the Third Order of St. Francis.

Early life

Llull was born into a wealthy family in Palma, the capital of the new Kingdom of Majorca founded by James I of Aragon to integrate politically the recently conquered territories of the Balearic Islands (nowadays part of Spain) in the Crown of Aragon. His parents had come from Catalonia as part of the colonizing efforts for the formerly Almohad island. As the island had been conquered militarily, all the Muslim population who had not been able to flee the conquering Europeans had been enslaved, even though they still constituted a significant portion of the island's population.

Llull was well educated, and became the tutor of James II of Aragon. He was conversant in Latin, Catalan, Occitan (both considered the same language at the time as "popular Latin") and Arabic.

By 1257 he had married Blanca Picany and they had two children, Domènec and Magdalena; yet despite his family he lived, as before, a troubadour's life. About this time he became the Seneschal (the administrative head of the royal household) to the future King James II of Majorca, a relative of his wife.

A key event in his early life was his religious conversion. In 1265 he had a religious epiphany which he narrates in the Vita coaetanea ("Daily Life"), an "autobiography" which he dictated circa 1311 to a Carthusian monk at the charterhouse near Paris:

Ramon, while still a young man and Seneschal to the King of Majorca, was very given to composing worthless songs and poems and to doing other licentious things. One night he was sitting beside his bed, about to compose and write in his vulgar tongue a song to a lady whom he loved with a foolish love; and as he began to write this song, he looked to his right and saw our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, as if suspended in mid-air.[3]

The vision came to him five times in all. As a consequence of this conversion experience, he took the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis the following year. He left his position and family to live a life of solitude and study for the next nine years. During this time, he learned Arabic from a Muslim slave he purchased.

His first major work Art Abreujada d'Atrobar Veritat (The Abbreviated Art of Finding Truth) was written in Catalan and then translated into Latin. He wrote treatises on alchemy and botany, Ars Magna, and Llibre de meravelles. He wrote the romantic novel Blanquerna, the first major work of literature written in Catalan, and perhaps the first European novel. Llull pressed for the study of Arabic and other then-insufficiently studied languages in Spain for the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity. He even wrote some books in Arabic.[4]

His mission to convert the Jews of Europe was zealous, his goal to utterly relieve Christendom of any Jews or Jewish religious influence. Some scholars regard Llull's as the first comprehensive articulation, in the Christian West, of an expulsionist policy regarding Jews who refused conversion. To acquire converts, he worked for amicable public debate to foster an intellectual appreciation of a rational Christianity among the Jews of his time. His rabbinic opponents included Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet of Barcelona and Moshe ben Shlomo of Salerno.[5]

Ars generalis ultima (Ars Magna)

Around 1275, Llull designed a method, which he first published in full in his Ars generalis ultima or Ars magna ("The Ultimate General Art", published in 1305), of combining religious and philosophical attributes selected from a number of lists. It is believed that Llull's inspiration for the Ars magna came from observing Arab astrologers use a device called a zairja.

It was intended as a debating tool for winning Muslims to the Christian faith through logic and reason. Through his detailed analytical efforts, Llull built an in-depth theological reference by which a reader could enter in an argument or question about the Christian faith. The reader would then turn to the appropriate index and page to find the correct answer.

Llull also invented numerous 'machines' for the purpose. One method is now called the Lullian Circle, each of which consisted of two or more paper discs inscribed with alphabetical letters or symbols that referred to lists of attributes. The discs could be rotated individually to generate a large number of combinations of ideas. A number of terms, or symbols relating to those terms, were laid around the full circumference of the circle. They were then repeated on an inner circle which could be rotated. These combinations were said to show all possible truth about the subject of the circle. Llull based this on the notion that there were a limited number of basic, undeniable truths in all fields of knowledge, and that we could understand everything about these fields of knowledge by studying combinations of these elemental truths.

The method was an early attempt to use logical means to produce knowledge. Llull hoped to show that Christian doctrines could be obtained artificially from a fixed set of preliminary ideas. For example, one of the tables listed the attributes of God: goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, will, virtue, truth and glory. Llull knew that all believers in the monotheistic religions - whether Jews, Muslims or Christians - would agree with these attributes, giving him a firm platform from which to argue.

The idea was developed further by Giordano Bruno in the 16th century, and by Gottfried Leibniz in the 17th century for investigations into the philosophy of science. Leibniz gave Llull's idea the name ars combinatoria, by which it is now often known. Some computer scientists have adopted Llull as a sort of founding father, claiming that his system of logic was the beginning of information science.[6][7]


First mission

Llull became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis founded by Saint Francis of Assisi for lay people. He was not only influenced by Saint Francis but also the Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas. Because he was married, he could never enter the Franciscans as a friar as some have believed.

Retiring to solitude, he spent nine years as a hermit. During that time he wrote on all branches of knowledge, a work which earned him the title "Enlightened Doctor." He traveled through Europe to interest popes, kings and princes in establishing special colleges to prepare future missionaries to convert the infidels of Tunis to Christianity.[8]

In 1285, he hoped to embrace a martyr's death and embarked on his first mission to North Africa; he wound up, instead, expelled from Tunis.

In 1297 Llull met Duns Scotus, after which he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus.[9] This is possibly in reference to the manner of his conversion.

Second mission

Llull travelled to Tunis a second time in about 1304, and wrote numerous letters to the king of Tunis, but little else is known about this part of his life.

While Llull was a member of the Franciscan Third Order, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi for lay people, he was not only influenced by Saint Francis and St. Bonaventure but also by the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas in his development of Scholastic Theology.

Third mission, Council, and death

In the early 14th century, Llull visited North Africa on a reconnaissance mission for a Crusade being planned by the Pope.[10] He returned in 1308, reporting that the conversion of Muslims should be achieved through prayer, not through military force. Llull finally achieved his goal of linguistic education at major universities in 1311 when the Council of Vienne ordered the creation of chairs of Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean (Aramaic) at the Universities of Bologna, Oxford, Paris, Salamanca, and at the Papal Court.

At the age of 82, in 1314, Raymond traveled again to North Africa and an angry crowd of Muslims stoned him in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca, where he died at home in Palma the next year.[11] Though the traditional date of his death has been 29 June 1315, documents have been found from him which date from December 1315.[12]

It can be documented that Llull was buried at the Church of Saint Francis in Mallorca by March 1316. Riber states that the circumstances of his death remain a mystery. Zwemer, the Protestant missionary and academic, accepted the story of martyrdom, as did the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1911 (see links in the Bibliography). Bonner gives as a reason for Llull's journey to Tunis being the information that its ruler was interested in Christianity—falsely given to the Kings of Sicily and Aragon.[13]

Reputation and reception after death

His rationalistic mysticism was formally condemned by Pope Gregory XI in 1376 and the condemnation was renewed by Pope Paul IV, though he himself remained in good standing with the Church. Despite this, 100 of his theories were condemned by the inquisitor general, Nicholas Eymerich.

Chairs for the propagation of the theories of Llull were set up at the University of Barcelona and the University of Valencia. He is regarded as one of the most influential authors in Catalan; the language is sometimes referred to as la llengua de Llull, as other languages might be referred to as la langue de Molière (French), la lengua de Cervantes (Castilian) or die Sprache Goethes (German).

The logo of the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas ("Higher Council of Scientific Research") is Llull's Tree of Science. Ramon Llull University, a private university established in Barcelona in 1990, is named for the philosopher.

Mathematics, statistics, and classification

With the 2001 discovery of his lost manuscripts Ars notandi, Ars eleccionis, and Alia ars eleccionis, Llull is given credit for discovering the Borda count and Condorcet criterion, which Jean-Charles de Borda and Nicolas de Condorcet independently discovered centuries later.[14] The terms Llull winner and Llull loser are ideas in contemporary voting systems studies that are named in honor of Llull. Also, Llull is recognized as pioneer of computation theory, especially due to his great influence on Gottfried Leibniz. Llull's systems of organizing concepts using devices such as trees, ladders, and wheels, have been analyzed as classification systems.[15]

Mysticism and the occult

Ramon Llull also had a strong mystical side, instanced in his work The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, written in order to illuminate weary, sterile souls. He was also interested in, and wrote about, astrology.

A synthesis of Llull's work was made by his disciple Thomas Le Myésier, in his Electorium. In the early modern period Bernard de Lavinheta connected Llull with contemporary hermeticism.

Art and architecture

The inspiration by Ramon Llull's mnemonic graphic cartwheels, reaching into contemporary art and culture, is demonstrated by Daniel Libeskind's architectural construction of the 2003 completed Studio Weil in Port d'Andratx, Majorca. „Studio Weil, a development of the virtuality of these mnemonic wheels which ever center and de-center the universal and the personal, is built to open these circular islands which float like all artwork in the oceans of memory."[16]

Modern fiction

Paul Auster refers to Llull (as Raymond Lull) in his memoir The Invention of Solitude in the second part, The Book of Memory. Llull, now going under the name 'Cole Hawlings' and revealed to be immortal, is a major character in The Box of Delights, the celebrated children's novel by poet John Masefield. He is also a major influence on the fictional character Zermano in Thomas Salazar's The Day of the Bees, and his name, philosophies, and quotes from his writings appear throughout the novel. In Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666, Amalfitano, a Chilean professor, thinks about "Ramon Llull and his fantastic machine. Fantastic in its uselessness."[17] Adán, Leopoldo Marechal's protagonist of the novel Adán Buenosayres (1948), mentions Ramon Lulio when he walks by the "curtiembre" (leather-tanning shop): He says: "Ramon Lulio, que aconsejaba no rehuir del olor de las letrinas a fin de recordar a menudo lo que da el cuerpo de si mismo en su tan frecuentemente olvidada miseria" (Edición Crítica, Colección Archivos, 1997. Page 312) ("Ramon Llull advised not to shy away from the smell of outhouses, in order not to forget that which the body gives out in its often forgotten misery.") In William Gaddis' first novel, The Recognitions, the final paragraph of Chapter II alludes to "Raymond Lully", as a "scholar, a poet, a missionary, a mystic, and one of the foremost figures in the history of alchemy." Llull is also mentioned in passing in Neil Gaiman's comic-book Calliope, an issue of the DC/Vertigo series The Sandman. In The Commodore, the 17th book in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, Stephen Maturin remarks that his daughter "...will learn Spanish, too, Castellano. I am sorry it will not be Catalan, a much finer, older, purer, more mellifluous language, with far greater writers — think of En Ramón Llull — but as Captain Aubrey often says, 'You cannot both have a stitch in time and eat it.'"

Harry Harrison, in Deathworld 2, has his protagonist, Jason Din Alt, use the Book of the Order of Chivalry, along with others, to disable the engines of the spaceship on which he is being held. As the ship starts to blow up, he remarks "I should not have thrown in the Lull book, it is more than even the ship could stomach." This comes at the end of an argument with his kidnapper, in which Din Alt attacks the idea that there are universal laws which apply to all humans for all time.


Llull is known to have written at least 265 works, including:

  • The Book of the Lover and the Beloved
  • Blanquerna (a novel; 1283)[18]
  • Desconort (on the superiority of reason)
  • L'arbre de ciència, Arbor scientiae ("Tree of Science") (1295)
  • Tractatus novus de astronomia
  • Ars Magna (The Great Art) (1305) or Ars Generalis Ultima (The Ultimate General Art)
  • Ars Brevis (The Short Art; an abbreviated version of the Ars Magna)
  • Llibre de meravelles
  • Practica compendiosa
  • Liber de Lumine (The Book of Light)
  • Ars Infusa (The Inspired Art)
  • Book of Propositions
  • Liber Chaos (The Book of Chaos)
  • Book of the Seven Planets
  • Liber Proverbiorum (Book of Proverbs)
  • Book on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Ars electionis[18] (on voting)
  • Artifitium electionis personarum[18] (on voting)
  • Ars notatoria
  • Introductoria Artis demonstrativae
  • Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men
  • Llibre qui es de l'ordre de cavalleria (The Book of the Order of Chivalry written between 1279 and 1283)
  • Le Livre des mille proverbes (2008), ISBN 9782953191707, Éditions de la Merci,
  • Vademecum, quo sontes Alchemica Art (cited by Arthur Dee in his Fasciculus Chemicus

About another 400 works are doubtfully or spuriously attributed to him.


  • William Theodore Aquila Barber, , London: C.H. Kelly, 1903.
  • Anthony Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus. A Ramon Llull Reader (Princeton University 1985), includes The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men, The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, The Book of the Beasts, and Ars brevis; as well as Bonner's "Historical Background and Life" at 1-44, "Llull's Thought" at 45-56, "Llull's Influence: The History of Lullism" at 57-71.
  • Anthony Bonner, The Art and Logic of Ramon Llull: A User's Guide, Leiden: Brill, 2007.
  • Alexander Fidora and Josep E. Rubio, Raimundus Lullus, An Introduction to His Life, Works and Thought, Turnhout: Brepols, 2008.
  • Martin Gardner has written extensively about Llull. His analyses can be found in Logic Machines and Diagrams and Science - Good, Bad and Bogus.
  • J. N. Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lullism in Fourteenth-Century France (Oxford University 1971).
  • Antonio Monserat Quintana, La Visión Lulliana del Mundo Derecho (Palma de Mallorca: Institut d'Estudis Baleàrics 1987).
  • Lorenzo Riber, Raimundo Lulio (Barcelona: Editorial Labor 1935, 1949).
  • William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc (1940). ISBN 0-89555-326-0
  • Frances Yates includes a brief chapter on Lull in "The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age" (London, Ark Paperbacks 1979).
  • Frances Yates, "Lull and Bruno" (1982), in Collected Essays: Lull & Bruno, vol. I, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • ISBN 978-1-84685-301-2

See also


External links

  • Who was Ramon Llull? Centre de Documentació Ramon Llull, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Raymund Lull: First Missionary to the Muslims by Samuel M. Zwemer
  • Ramon Llull at the AELC (Association of Writers in Catalan Language). Webpage in Catalan, English and Spanish.
  • Ramon Llull in LletrA, Catalan Literature Online (Open University of Catalonia) (English) (Spanish) (Catalan)
  • Site with fulltexts of Raymond Lull's books. Also music based on Lullian arts.
  • English translations of lullian works, freeware version of Ars Magna
  • Ramon Llull Database, University of Barcelona
  • Patron Saints Index
  • article of 1911
  • Ramon Llull at Lletra, espai virtual de literatura catalana) (Catalan)
  • Càtedra Ramon Llull (in Catalan)
  • Blessed Raymond Lull
  • The Ultimate General Art
  • Esteve Jaulent:The Theory of Knowledge and the Unity of Man according to Ramon Llull
  • Online Galleries, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries High resolution portrait of Ramon Llull in .jpg and .tiff format.
  • .

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