Ramon Llull

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Blessed Ramon Llull, T.O.S.F.
Ramon Llull.jpg
Doctor Illuminatus
writer, poet, theologian, mystic, mathematician, logician, martyr
Born c. 1232
City of Mallorca (now Palma),
Kingdom of Majorca
Died c. 1315
City of Mallorca,
Kingdom of Majorca
Venerated 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, T.O.S.F. (Catalan: [rəˈmon ˈʎuʎ]; c. 1232[2] – c. 1315; Anglicised Raymond Lully, Raymond Lull; in Latin Raimundus or Raymundus Lullus or Lullius) was a philosopher, logician, Franciscan tertiary and Majorcan writer. He is credited with writing the first major work of Catalan literature.[3] Recently surfaced manuscripts show his work to have predated by several centuries prominent work on elections theory. He is also considered a pioneer of computation theory, especially given his influence on Gottfried Leibniz.[1][4][5]

Within the Franciscan Order he is honored as a martyr. He was beatified in 1857 by Pope Pius IX. His feast day was assigned to 30 June and is celebrated by the Third Order of St. Francis.[6]

Early life and family

Life of Raymond Lull. 14th-century manuscript.

Llull was born into a wealthy family in Palma, the capital of the newly formed Kingdom of Majorca. James I of Aragon founded Majorca to integrate the recently conquered territories of the Balearic Islands (now part of Spain) into the Crown of Aragon. Llull's 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.[citation needed]

In 1257 he had married Blanca Picany, with whom he would have two children, Domènec and Magdalena. Although he formed a family, he lived what he would later call a licentious and wasteful life of a troubadour.

Llull served as tutor to James II of Aragon and later became Seneschal (the administrative head of the royal household) to the future King James II of Majorca, a relative of his wife.


In 1263 Llull experienced a religious epiphany in the form of a series of visions. He narrates the event in his autobiography Vita coaetanea ("Daily Life"):

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.[7]

The vision came to him six times in all, leading him to leave his family, position, and belongings in order to pursue a life in the service of God. Specifically, he realized three intentions: to die in the service of God while converting Muslims to Christianity, to see to the founding of religious institutions that would teach foreign languages, and to write a book capable of overcoming any objection when using it to convert someone.

Nine years of solitude and early work

Following his epiphany Llull became a Franciscan tertiary (a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis), taking inspiration from Saint Francis of Assisi, and, after a short pilgrimage, returned to Majorca where he purchased a Muslim slave from whom to learn Arabic. For the next nine years, until 1274, he engaged in study and contemplation in relative solitude. He read extensively in both Latin and Arabic, learning both Christian and Muslim theological and philosophical thought.

Between 1271 and 1274 he wrote his first works, a compendium of the Muslim thinker Al-Ghazali's logic and the Llibre de contemplació en Déu (Book on the Contemplation of God), a lengthy guide to finding truth through contemplation.

In 1274, while staying at a hermitage on Puig de Randa, the form of the great book he was to write was finally given to him through divine revelation: a complex system that he named his Art, which would become the motivation of most of his life's efforts.

Llull's Art

His first elucidation of the Art was in Art Abreujada d'Atrobar Veritat (The Abbreviated Art of Finding Truth), in 1290.[8]

After spending some time teaching in France and being disappointed by the poor reception of his Art among students, he decided to reform it. It is this version that he became known for, most clearly presented in his Ars generalis ultima or Ars magna ("The Ultimate General Art", published in 1305).

The Art operated by 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.[9]

The Art 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 theosophic reference by which a reader could enter any argument or question (necessarily reduced to Christian beliefs which Llull identified as held in common with other monotheistic religions). The reader would then use visual aids and a book of charts to combine various ideas, generating statements which come together to form an answer.

In 1297 Llull met Duns Scotus, after which he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus.[10] This is possibly in reference to the manner of his conversion.

Mechanical aspect

One of the most significant changes from the original to the second version of the Art was in the visuals used. The early version used 16 figures presented as complex, complementary trees while the system of the Ars Magna featured only 4, including one which combined the other three. This figure, a "Lullian Circle," took the form of a paper machine operated by rotating concentrically arranged circles to combine his symbolic alphabet which was repeated on each level. These combinations were said to show all possible truth about the subject of inquiry. 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, the most essential table 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 for more Esoteric purposes by Giordano Bruno in the 16th century, and in the 17th century by the "Great Rationalist" Gottfried Leibniz, who wrote his dissertation about Llull's Art and integrated it into his metaphysics and 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.[4][5]

Literature and other works

Llull was extremely prolific, writing a total of more than 250 works in his lifetime, written in Catalan, Latin, and Arabic, and often translated from one to others. While almost all of his writings after the revelation on Mt. Randa connect to his Art in some way, he wrote on diverse subjects in diverse styles and genres.

The romantic novel Blanquerna is widely considered the first major work of literature written in Catalan, and possibly the first European novel.

Missionary work and missionary education

Llull pressed for the study of Arabic and other then-insufficiently studied languages in Europe for the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity[citation needed]. He traveled through Europe to meet with popes, kings, and princes, trying to establish special colleges to prepare future missionaries.[11]

In 1285, he embarked on his first mission to North Africa but was expelled from Tunis[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

Later North African missions, Council of Vienne, and death

In the early 14th century, Llull again visited North Africa.[12] He returned in 1308, reporting that the conversion of Muslims should be achieved through prayer, not through military force. He 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, and Salamanca as well as at the Papal Court[citation needed].

At the age of 82, in 1314, Llull traveled again to North Africa and an angry crowd of Muslims stoned him in the city of Bougie[citation needed]. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca, where he died at home in Palma the next year.[13] Though the traditional date of his death has been 29 June 1315, documents have been found from him which date from December 1315.[14]

It can be documented that Llull was buried at the Church of Saint Francis in Mallorca by March 1316[citation needed]. Riber states that the circumstances of his death remain a mystery[citation needed]. Zwemer, a Protestant missionary and academic, accepted the story of martyrdom, as did the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1911 (see links in the References section). 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.[15]

Reputation and posthumous reception

The Roman Catholic inquisitor Nicholas Eymerich condemned 100 theories or ideas of Llull as errors in 1376. Pope Gregory XI also formally condemned 20 of his books in 1376[16] and the condemnation was renewed by Pope Paul IV,[17] although Pope Martin V reversed the condemnation of Pope Gregory XI in 1416.[16] Despite these condemnations, Llull himself remained in good standing with the Church.

Chairs for the propagation of the theories of Llull were established 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 "Shakespeare's language" (English), la langue de Molière (French), la lengua de Cervantes (Spanish) 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 after the philosopher.

Mathematics, statistics, and classification

With the discovery in 2001 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.[18] The terms Llull winner and Llull loser are ideas in contemporary voting systems studies that are named in honor of Llull.[citation needed] Also, Llull is recognized as pioneer of computation theory, especially due to his great influence on Gottfried Leibniz.[19] Llull's systems of organizing concepts using devices such as trees, ladders, and wheels, have been analyzed as classification systems.[20]

Art and architecture

The inspiration of 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."[21]

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."[22] 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 Ramon 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.

W. B. Yeats refers to Llull twice in Rosa Alchemica, first published in 1897 ("I turned to my last purchase, a set of alchemical apparatus which, the dealer in the Rue le Peletier had assured me, once belonged to Raymond Lully";[23] and "There were the works [...] of Lully, who transformed himself into the likeness of a red cock"[24]). It is also interesting to note that his "first eight poems in The Green Helmet and Other Poems were published under the general title 'Raymond Lully and his wife Pernella'; an erratum-slip corrected this: 'AN ERROR By a slip of the pen when I was writing out the heading for the first group of poems, I put Raymond Lully's name in the room of the later Alchemist, Nicolas Flamel'".[25]

Gordon R. Dickson has the protagonist, Hal Mayne, in the book The Final Encyclopedia, (1984) refer to Lull and his combination-of-wheels device, which Hal states is ″nothing less than a sort of primitive computer.″

Disposition toward Judaism

Llull's mission to convert the Jews of Europe was zealous, his goal was 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.[26]



A considerable body of work on esoteric subjects was misattributed to Llull in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The oeuvre of the pseudo-Llull and then, by extension, his true works, were influential among Hermeticists, Gnostics, and other Esoterics. Llull himself explicitly condemned many of the subjects, such as alchemy, that he is purported to have written about.[citation needed]

Notable works

Illustration from a 1505 edition of L'arbre de ciència

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

  • The Book of the Lover and the Beloved
  • Blanquerna (a novel; 1283)[27]
  • Desconhort (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[27] (on voting)
  • Artifitium electionis personarum[27] (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, editions@orange.fr
  • Ramon Llull's New Rhetoric, text and translation of Llull's 'Rethorica Nova', edited and translated by Mark D. Johnston, Davis, California: Hermagoras Press, 1994
  • Selected Works of Ramon Llull (1232‑1316), edited and translated by Anthony Bonner, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 1985, two volumes XXXI + 1330 pp. (contains: vol. 1: The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men, pp. 93–305; Ars Demonstrativa, pp. 317–567; Ars Brevis, pp. 579–646; vol. 2: Felix: or the Book of Wonders, pp. 659–1107; Principles of Medicine pp. 1119–1215; Flowers of Love and Flowers of Intelligence, pp. 1223–1256)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The History of Philosophy, Vol. IV: Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Leibniz by Frederick C. Copleston (1958)
  2. 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.
  3. Tisdall, Nigel (2003). Mallorca. Local Heroes – Ramon Llull – reference to his life and work. Thomas Cook Publisher. p. 40. ISBN 9781841573274.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Anthony Bonner (2007), The art and logic of Ramon Llull, Brill Academic Pub, p. 290, ISBN 978-90-04-16325-6<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Donald Knuth (2006), The Art of Computer Programming: Generating all trees, 4–4, Addison-Wesley Professional, p. 56, ISBN 978-0-321-33570-8<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Habig, Marion. (Ed.). (1959). The Franciscan Book Of Saints. Franciscan Herald Press.
  7. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (an annotated Vita coaetanea) at 10-11, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  8. Kurian, George Thomas; Smith III, James D., ed. (2010). "Ramon Llull". The Encyclopedia of Christian Literature, Volume 2. Scarecrow Press. p. 433.CS1 maint: multiple names: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. AmericanCatholic.org "Blessed Raymond Lull"
  10. Paul Richard Blum: Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance. Ashgate 2010, 1-14
  11. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (the Vita coaetanea augmented and annotated) at 10-11, 34-37, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  12. Bonner states that his journey was to Tunis not Bougie, and dates it from autumn of 1314 until at least December 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].
  13. Who was Ramon Llull? Centre de Documentació Ramon Llull, Universitat de Barcelona [1]
  14. Riber, Raimunco Lulio (1935, 1949) [220-221]; Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" in his Doctor Illuminatus (1985) [42-44].
  15. 16.0 16.1 Dictionary of World Biography, edited by Frank N. Magill and Alison Aves, page 610 | [2]
  16. Turner, William. "Raymond Lully." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 5 Dec. 2013 [3]
  17. G. Hägele and F. Pukelsheim (2001). "Llull's writings on electoral systems". Studia Lulliana. 41: 3–38.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 'Knowledge representation: logical, philosophical, and computational foundations, by J.F. Sowa. Brooks/Cole, 2000 (page: 7)'
  19. T.D. Walker (1996). "Medieval Faceted Knowledge Classification: Ramon Llull's Trees of Science". Knowledge Organization. 23/4: 199–205.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Libeskind, Daniel. "Studio Daniel Libeskind:Studio Weil". Studio Daniel Libeskind. Retrieved 2011-03-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Bolano, Roberto. 2666. Trans. Natasha Wimmer, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008. 207.
  22. W. B. Yeats, Stories of Red Hanrahan & The Secret Rose & Rosa Alchemica, Serenity Publishers, 2009, pp. 110-111
  23. ibid., pp. 119-120
  24. W. B. Yeats, The Poems, Everyman, 1996, p. 502
  25. Libre de Contemplacio 287.9, 2:887 in The friars and the Jews: the evolution of medieval anti-Judaism. Cohen, Jeremy. Cornell University Press, c. 1982. see chapter: "The Ideology in Perspective: Raymond Lull", esp. pp. 222-225.
  26. 27.0 27.1 27.2 math.uni-augsburg.de


  • William Theodore Aquila Barber, Raymond Lull, the illuminated doctor : a study in mediaeval missions, 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).
  • Mark D. Johnston, The Spiritual Logic of Ramón Llull, Oxford: Clarenden Press, 1987.
  • Antonio Monserat Quintana, La Visión Lulliana del Mundo Derecho (Palma de Mallorca: Institut d'Estudis Baleàrics 1987).
  • Pereira Michela, The Alchemical Corpus attributed to Raymond Lull, London: The Warburg Institute, 1989.
  • 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.
  • Samuel Marinus Zwemer, Raymund Lull, first missionary to the Moslems, New York and London : Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1902; reprinted by Diggory Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-84685-301-2

External links