Ramon Llull: Wikis


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Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull
Born 1232
Palma de Mallorca, Crown of Aragon
Died June 29, 1315
Palma de Mallorca, Majorca
Occupation Writer, philosopher

Ramon Llull (1232[1] – June 29, 1315) (anglicised Raymond Lully, Raymond Lull, in Latin Raimundus or Raymundus Lullus or Lullius, in Spanish Raimundo Lulio) was a Majorcan writer and philosopher. 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. Llull is well known also as a glossator of Roman Law. He has been beatified by the Catholic Church and carries the title "Blessed".


Early life

Life of Raymond Lull. 14th century manuscript.

Llull was born into a wealthy family in Palma, the capital of the new Kingdom of Majorca founded by James I to integrate politically the recently conquered territories of the Balearic Islands (nowadays part of Spain) in the Crown of Aragon.

He was well educated, and became the tutor of James II of Aragon. He was conversant in Latin, Catalan, Occitan (both the same language at the time and considered "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 key event in his early life was his religious conversion. In the Vita coaetanea, an "autobiography" of Ramon Llull which he dictated circa 1311, there is a description of his conversion. "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 midair." The vision came to him five times in all.[2]

Very much to the contrary, Schopenhauer, the pessimistic philosopher, in 1819 gave another description of Llull's religious conversion. "Hence men who have led a very adventurous life under the pressure of passions, men such as kings, heroes, or adventurers, have often been seen suddenly to change, resort to resignation and penance, and become hermits and monks. To this class belong all genuine accounts of conversion, for instance, that of Raymond Lull, who had long wooed a beautiful woman, was at last admitted to her chamber, and was looking forward to the fulfillment of all his desires, when, opening her dress, she showed him her bosom terribly eaten away with cancer. From that moment, as if he had looked into hell, he was converted; leaving the court of the King of Majorca, he went into the wilderness to do penance." He became a hermit for the next nine years.[3]

In 1265 he had a religious epiphany, and became a tertiary Franciscan. 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]

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 "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.



First mission

Llull 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. In 1285, he embarked on his first mission to North Africa but was violently expelled from Tunis. On his return, Llull began to preach for a unification of the three monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam--which together, he hoped, would be able to defeat the Asian invaders then threatening Europe and the Middle East.

Llull became a Secular Franciscan, but remained a lay person. He was certainly influenced by the doctrine Francis of Assisi, but also by the religious style of the Dominican Order. Despite what is generally believed, he at no point in his life entered the Franciscan Order to become a priest.

In 1297 Llull met Duns Scotus, after which he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus.

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.

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.[5] He returned in 1308, reporting that the conquest 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 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 or Béjaïa in present-day northern Algeria. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca where he died at home in Palma the next year.[6] It is said that before evangelizing he would openly denounce Islam in areas dominated by Islam.[4]

Reputation after death

Posthumously, Llull became celebrated as a great alchemist, although he had been opposed to occult beliefs. At one time he was credited with discovering ether, in about 1275, although there is no contemporary evidence for this.

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. Later, the Catholic Church beatified Llull, when his cult was confirmed in 1858 by Pope Pius IX. He has not been canonized, and while he has been called Doctor Illuminatus, Llull is not one of the 33 Doctors of the Church.

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) or la lengua de Cervantes (Castilian).

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.

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.

Mathematics and statistics

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 Marquis de Condorcet independently discovered centuries later.[7] 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.

References In 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.


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

  • The Book of the Lover and the Beloved
  • Blanquerna (a novel; 1283) [1]
  • Desconort (on the superiority of reason)
  • 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 [2] (on voting)
  • Artifitium electionis personarum [3] (on voting)
  • Ars notatoria
  • Introductoria Artis demonstrativae
  • Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men
  • Libre qui es de l'ordre de cavalleria (The Book of the Order of Chivalry written between 1279-1283)
  • Le Livre des mille proverbes (2008), ISBN : 978-2-9531917-0-7, Éditions de la Merci, editions@orange.fr

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


  • 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.
  • Martin Gardner has written extensively about Llull. His analyses can be found in Logic Machines and Diagrams and Science - Good, Bad and Bogus.
  • Antonio Monserat Quintana, La Visión Lulliana del Mundo Derecho (Palma de Mallorca: Institut d'Estudis Baleàrics 1987).
  • J. N. Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lullism in Fourteenth-Century France (Oxford University 1971).
  • Lorenzo Riber, Raimundo Lulio (Barcelona: Editorial Labor 1935, 1949).
  • William Theodore Aquila Barber, Raymond Lull, the illuminated doctor : a study in mediaeval missions, London : C.H. Kelly, 1903.
  • Samuel Marinus Zwemer, Raymund Lull, first missionary to the Moslems, New York and London : Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1902; reprinted by Diggory Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1846853012


  1. ^ Born 1232 per Mark D. Johnston in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1998. Older sources (such as versions of Encyclopædia Britannica at least up to 1955, give 1235; the current Britannica gives 1232/33.
  2. ^ Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (an annotated Vita coaetanea) at 10-11, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  3. ^ Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (1819), Vol. I, § 68, as translated by E.F.J.Payne (The Falcon's Wing Press 1958, reprint by Dover, New York, 1966) at 394-395. Schopenhauer cites to the Lutheran minister Johann Jakob Brucker's Critical History of Philosophy [Hist.Philos.], Book IV, Part I [pars I], page 10. While neither Brucker nor Schopenhauer claimed special expertise in Spanish studies or literature, and the details are suspect, Schopenhauer's theory in general runs parallel to other accounts, e.g., the story told by St. Augustine in his Confessions.
  4. ^ a b Covenant Worldwide - Ancient & Medieval Church History
  5. ^ The Vita coaetanea [Contemporary Life] (circa 1311), the "autobiography" of Llull, does not mention such motive, but rather infers Llull's missionary quest, describing his high profile public preaching in the main square of the city of Bougie, the edgy adverse reaction, his quick arrest, beating, likely execution, intervention by Genoese and Catalans, six months in jail, and eventual release. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (the Vita coaetanea augmented and annotated) at 10-11, 34-37, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  6. ^ Bonner states that his journey was to Tunis not Bougie, and dates it from autumn of 1314 until at least December of 1315 [42-43]. Bonner also notes that, according to modern scholarship, it was in the mid 15th century that "the legend of Llull having been martyred in Bougie spread." [44,n138]; Llull was buried at the church of San Francisco in Palma by March of 1316 [43-44]. Riber states that the circumstances of his death remain a mystery [220-221]. Zwemer, the Protestant missionery 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 the information that its ruler was interested in Christianity falsely given to the kings of Sicily and Aragon [42-43]. Riber, Raimunco Lulio (1935, 1949); Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" in his Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  7. ^ G. Hägele and F. Pukelsheim (2001). "Llull's writings on electoral systems". Studia Lulliana 41: 3–38. http://www.math.uni-augsburg.de/stochastik/pukelsheim/2001a.html.  

External links


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