Ramon Llull

For other uses, see Ramon Llull (disambiguation).
Blessed Ramon Llull, T.O.S.F.
Doctor Illuminatus
writer, poet, theologian, mystic, mathematician, logician, martyr
Born c. 1232
City of Mallorca (now Palma),
Kingdom of Majorca
Died c. 1315-1316
Mediterranean Sea (aboard a ship bound for 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 Sab'in
Influenced Peter of Limoges,[1] Giordano Bruno, Leibniz[2]

Ramon Llull, T.O.S.F. (Catalan: [rəˈmon ˈʎuʎ]; c. 1232[3] – 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.[4] 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 Leibniz.[2][5][6]

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.[7]

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 effort to colonize the formerly Almohad ruled island. As the island had been conquered militarily, all the Muslim population who had not been able to flee the conquering Christians had been enslaved, even though they still constituted a significant portion of the island's population.

In 1257 he married Blanca Picany, with whom he had two children, Domènec and Magdalena. Although he formed a family, he lived what he would later call the 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.[8]

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 on how to overcome someone's objections to being converted.

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. After a short pilgrimage he returned to Majorca, where he purchased a Muslim slave from whom he wanted 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 behind 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.[9]

After spending some time teaching in France and being disappointed by the poor reception of his Art among students, he decided to revise it. It is this revised version that he became known for. It is 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.[10]

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 being held in common with other monotheistic religions). The reader then used visual aids and a book of charts to combine various ideas, generating statements which came together to form an answer.

Mechanical aspect

One of the most significant changes between the original and 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 four, 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 notion on the idea that there were a limited number of basic, undeniable truths in all fields of knowledge, and that everything about these fields of knowledge could be understood 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.[5][6]

Llull and the Immaculate Conception

Following the favorable attitude of some Franciscan theologians to this truth, Llul's position on this subject was of great importance because it paved the way for the doctrine of Duns Scotus, whom he met in 1297, after which he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus,[11] even if it seems that he had not direct influence on him. In any case Llull is the first author to use the expression "Immaculate Conception" to designate the Virgin's exemption from original sin. [12] He appears to have been the first to teach this doctrine publicly at the University of Paris.

To explain this Marian privilege, he resorts to three arguments:

1. The Son of God could not become incarnate in a mother who was stained by sin in any way:

God and sin cannot be united in the one and same object... Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary did not contract original sin; rather she was sanctified in the instant in which the seed from which she was formed was detached from her parents. [13]

2. There had to be a certain likeness between the Son's generation without sin and the generation of his Mother:

The Blessed Virgin Mary should have been conceived without sin, so that her conception and that of her Son might have a like nature. [14]

3. The second creation, that is the Redemption, which began with Christ and Mary, had to happen under the sign of the most total purity, as was the case with the first creation:

Just as Adam and Eve remained in innocence until the original sin, so at the beginning of the new creation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son came into existence, it was fitting that the man and the Woman should be found in a state of innocence simpliciter, in an absolute way, without interruption, from the beginning until the end. Should the opposite have been the case, the new creation could not have began. It is clear, however, that it did have a beginning, and therefore the Blessed Virgin was conceived without original sin. [15]

In a sermon entitled The Fruit of Mary's Womb, Llull states that,

The blessed fruit of our Lady's womb is Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man. He is God the Son, and he is man, the Son of our Lady. The man, her Son, is the blessed fruit because he is God the Son; for it is true that the goodness of the Son who is God and the goodness of the Son who is man are joined together and united in one person, who is Jesus Christ. And the goodness of the man, Mary's Son, is an instrument of the Son, who is God. [16]

Missionary work and education

Llull urged the study of Arabic and other then-insufficiently studied languages in Europe for the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity. He traveled through Europe to meet with popes, kings, and princes, trying to establish special colleges to prepare future missionaries.[17]

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

Later North African missions, Council of Vienne, and death

In the early 14th century, Llull again visited North Africa.[18] 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.

In 1314, at the age of 82, Llull traveled again to North Africa where he was stoned by an angry crowd of Muslims in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca, where he died at home in Palma the following year.[19] Though the traditional date of his death has been 29 June 1315,[20] his last documents which date from December 1315 and recents researchs point to first quarter of 1316 as most probably death date.[21]

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, a Protestant missionary and academic, accepted the story of martyrdom, as did an 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 the information that its ruler was interested in Christianity—false information given to the Kings of Sicily and Aragon and relayed to Llull.[22]

Literature and other works

Llull was extremely prolific, writing a total of more than 250 works in Catalan, Latin, and Arabic, and often translating from one language to the 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 a variety of 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.

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[23] and the condemnation was renewed by Pope Paul IV,[24] although Pope Martin V reversed the condemnation of Pope Gregory XI in 1416.[23] 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 proposed centuries later.[25] 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 a pioneer of computation theory, especially due to his great influence on Gottfried Leibniz.[26] Llull's systems of organizing concepts using devices such as trees, ladders, and wheels, have been analyzed as classification systems.[27]

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."[28]

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."[29] Adán, Leopoldo Marechal's protagonist of the novel Adán Buenosayres (1948), mentions Ramon Lulio when he walks past a curtiembre (a 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";[30] and "There were the works [...] of Lully, who transformed himself into the likeness of a red cock"[31]). 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'".[32]

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.[33]



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.

Notable works

Illustration from a 1505 edition of L'arbre de ciència

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


See also


  1. Anthony Bonner (ed.), Doctor illuminatus: A Ramon Llull Reader, Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 82.
  2. 1 2 The History of Philosophy, Vol. IV: Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Leibniz by Frederick C. Copleston (1958)
  3. 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.
  4. Tisdall, Nigel (2003). Mallorca. Local Heroes – Ramon Llull – reference to his life and work. Thomas Cook Publisher. p. 40. ISBN 9781841573274.
  5. 1 2 Anthony Bonner (2007), The art and logic of Ramon Llull, Brill Academic Pub, p. 290, ISBN 978-90-04-16325-6
  6. 1 2 Donald Knuth (2006), The Art of Computer Programming: Generating all trees, 4–4, Addison-Wesley Professional, p. 56, ISBN 978-0-321-33570-8
  7. Habig, Marion. (Ed.). (1959). The Franciscan Book of Saints. Franciscan Herald Press.
  8. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (an annotated Vita coaetanea) at 10-11, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  9. Kurian, George Thomas; Smith III, James D., eds. (2010). "Ramon Llull". The Encyclopedia of Christian Literature, Volume 2. Scarecrow Press. p. 433.
  10. AmericanCatholic.org "Blessed Raymond Lull"
  11. Mary in the Middle Ages: the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Thought of Medieval Latin Theologians, Fr. Luigi Gambero, S.M., Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2005.
  12. Disputatio Eremitae et Raimundi super aliquibus qustionibus Sententiarum Magistri Lombardi, q. 96, I; Opera Omnia, vol. 4, Mainz, 1737, pp. 84-84
  13. Ibid., q. 96, 3; Opera Omnia, 4:84
  14. Ibid., q.96, 4; Opera Omnia, 4:84
  15. Liber de Ave Maria, sermo 5, I; Corpus Christianorum Mediaevalis 76, 95-96
  16. Paul Richard Blum: Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance. Ashgate 2010, 1-14
  17. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (the Vita coaetanea augmented and annotated) at 10-11, 34-37, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  18. 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].
  19. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1913. p. 670. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  20. Who was Ramon Llull? Centre de Documentació Ramon Llull, Universitat de Barcelona
  21. Riber, Raimunco Lulio (1935, 1949) [220-221]; Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" in his Doctor Illuminatus (1985) [42-44].
  22. 1 2 Dictionary of World Biography, edited by Frank N. Magill and Alison Aves, page 610 |
  23. Turner, William. "Raymond Lully." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 5 Dec. 2013
  24. G. Hägele & F. Pukelsheim (2001). "Llull's writings on electoral systems". Studia Lulliana. 41: 3–38.
  25. 'Knowledge representation: logical, philosophical, and computational foundations, by J.F. Sowa. Brooks/Cole, 2000 (page: 7)'
  26. T.D. Walker (1996). "Medieval Faceted Knowledge Classification: Ramon Llull's Trees of Science". Knowledge Organization. 23/4: 199–205.
  27. Libeskind, Daniel. "Studio Daniel Libeskind:Studio Weil". Studio Daniel Libeskind. Retrieved 2011-03-14.
  28. Bolano, Roberto. 2666. Trans. Natasha Wimmer, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008. 207.
  29. W. B. Yeats, Stories of Red Hanrahan & The Secret Rose & Rosa Alchemica, Serenity Publishers, 2009, pp. 110-111
  30. ibid., pp. 119-120
  31. W. B. Yeats, The Poems, Everyman, 1996, p. 502
  32. 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.
  33. 1 2 3 math.uni-augsburg.de


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