Lull, Ramón (c. 1232–1316)

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(c. 12321316)

Ramón Lull (or Llull), the Franciscan philosopher, was born in Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. Lull received the education of a rich knight of the period, but was converted from dissipation to a devout life in about 1263. At that time Majorca was largely populated by Muslims, and Islam was still the great rival of Christianity. Lull resolved to dedicate himself to the conversion of Muslims and to seek martyrdom for their sake. After selling almost all his possessions and undertaking various pilgrimages, Lull spent nine years (c. 12651274) in Majorca, acquiring a profound knowledge of Arabic. In 1274 he had a vision that revealed to him the Principles on which his combinatory Art should be based. In 1275 James II of Majorca had Lull's early writings examined for orthodoxy, and in 1276 James founded at Miramar in Majorca a monastery where Franciscans could study Arabic and Lull's Art to prepare for missions to Islam.

Lull appears to have divided his time in the years 12761287 between Miramar and Montpellier. In 1287 he began a series of journeys to the courts of kings and popes with the hope of persuading them to support his missionary, his reforming, and (later) his crusading projects. Lull placed his hopes principally in the papacy and in the kings of France and Aragon. His only apparent success was when the Council of Vienne (13111312) ordained the creation of chairs for Hebrew, Arabic, and "Chaldean" in five centers. Lull also undertook missions to Tunis (1293), to Bougie, in Algeria (1307), and again to Tunis (13141315). The traditional account of his martyrdom at Bougie cannot be sustained. He seems to have died in Majorca before March 25, 1316. He has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.

In the years 12881289, 12971299, 13091311, and probably 1306, Lull taught at the University of Paris; he also lectured publicly at Naples and Montpellier. Starting about 1272, he began to write incessantly. Some 240 of his approximately 290 works have survived. About 190 are only preserved in Latin (over 100 of these Latin works remaining unpublished until recently), although most of them were originally written in Catalan. Some of his works were originally written in Arabic; all these Arabic versions, however, are lost.

The desire to bring about the conversion of Muslims and Jews, as well as pagan Tartars, which inspired Lull's ceaseless activity, also inspired his writings. The desire for the reunification of the church (divided into hostile East and West), and for the complete reunification of humankind, through Christianity, dominated Lull's life. Lull's Art and his whole philosophy are apologetic and Franciscan, aimed at conversion by peaceful persuasion. Lull's advocacy of an armed crusade came late in his life; it was intended as subsidiary to missions. Lull's life was a continual battle with Islam, not only in Spain and North Africa, but also, from 1298, in Paris, with the "Averroists." In opposition to the "double-truth" theory imputed to such rationalist philosophers as Boethius of Dacia and Siger of Brabant, whose master was Aristotle as interpreted by Averroes, Lull sought to reestablish the unity of truth in philosophy and theology.

The Ars Combinatoria

According to Lull, God, insofar as he can be known to men, consists of a series of divine attributes, or "Dignities," which are also the absolute Principles of Lull's Art. These Dignities (in the later works goodness, greatness, eternity, power, wisdom, will, virtue, truth, glory) are the instruments of God's creative activity, the causes and archetypes of all created perfection. The essence of the Art does not (as is often thought) consist in demonstration, but in the metaphysical reduction of all created things to the Dignities, which are Principles of knowing as well as of Being, and in the comparison of particular things between themselves in the light of the Dignities, by means of such relative predicates as difference, agreement, contrariety, beginning, middle, end, majority, equality, minority. The absolute and relative predicates together form the self-evident principles common to all the sciences. These principles are combined in circular figures, where letters are substituted for their names (B = goodness, and so on).

Lull's treatises on different sciences (cosmology, physics, law, medicine, astronomy, geometry, logic, psychology) are applications of his general Art. Lull made continual efforts to simplify and popularize his Art, from the primitive version in the Ars Magna of about 1274 to the final Ars Generalis Ultima of 1308. The latter work and also the Arbre de ciència (Arbor Scientiae ) of 1296 are more philosophical and less polemical in purpose than the original Art. A vast encyclopedia that found favor in the Renaissance, the Arbre is an attempt to classify all knowledge under a unified plan. Lull's influence was acknowledged by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in the later philosopher's search for the caracteristica universalis and ars combinatoria, which he hoped would make possible the deduction of all truths from basic concepts. Despite the clear analogies between the two systems, Leibniz only took over part of Lull's ideas, omitting Lull's original purpose of the Art as a means of converting infidels.

Lull was the first Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages to use a language other than Latin for his major works. Although he did not receive a university training, he enjoyed advantages denied to the great Scholastics. Of the three Mediterranean cultures of his time he knew Latin Christianity and Islam well and was aware of Greek Christianity. The basis of Lull's philosophy was Neoplatonic realism as transmitted through the Augustinian tradition: his exact use of John Scotus Erigena, Anselm, the Victorines, Bonaventure, and Roger Bacon is still debated. Lull was also familiar with the writings and beliefs of his Jewish and Muslim contemporaries.

All Lull's contemporaries shared a vision of the world based on Neoplatonism. The common belief in a hierarchy, or ladder, of creation, the theories of the four elements and of the spheres, the organization of reality by numerical-geometrical symbolism, the idea of man as a microcosm, were all incorporated by Lull into his system. That excellent scholars have seen the inspiration of Lull's theory of the Dignities in the Muslim hadras or in the Jewish kabbalist sefirot (both terms for the divine attributes) shows that Lull's doctrine (although of Christian derivation) provided a reasonable basis for a dialogue with the Muslim and Jewish elites. Much the same is true of the doctrine of correlative principles, developed in Lull's later works, by which each attribute unfolds into a triad of interconnected principles, agent, patient, and the action itself, expressing the relations between God, a creature, and God's action. Lull probably took this doctrine from the Arabic writer al-Ghazālī, whose Logic he translated. It is more probable that Lull derived the idea for the figures that illustrate his Arts from contemporary Spanish kabbalists or from the circular figures of Isidore of Seville's well-known cosmological treatise De Natura Rerum than from Ibn al-ʿArabī of Murcia, who has been suggested as his source.

Two of the most striking characteristics of Lull's philosophy and theologyhis "rationalism" and his emphasis on the importance of action, shown in his constant appeals to Christian rulesowe their prominence in his system to its polemical inspiration. Lull's "necessary reasons," by which he proposed to "prove" the articles of faith, are reasons of congruence and analogy, not purely deductive principles. In opposition to Islamic scholastic theology (the kalam ), which tried to demonstrate the Faith, Lull sought to show that the Muslim, who began with a belief in monotheism and the divine attributes, must proceed to Christianity. Despite the nondeductive character of his works, Lull's thought is deeply rational. Only seldom in his mystical writings does love eclipse the intellect or obscure its powers. For him, contemplation issues in action. Blanquerna and Felix are the first philosophical-social novels of Europe. In Blanquerna Lull sketched his plan for a Pax Christiana, a society of nations presided over by the papacy.

See also al-Ghazālī, Muhammad; Anselm, St.; Aristotle; Augustinianism; Bacon, Roger; Boetius of Dacia; Bonaventure, St.; Erigena, John Scotus; Ibn al-ʿArabī; Islamic Philosophy; Jewish Philosophy; Kabbalah; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Logic, History of; Medieval Philosophy; Neoplatonism; Realism; Siger of Brabant.


Lull's Latin works may be found in a new critical edition, Raimundi Lulli Opera latina (vols. 15, Palma, 19591967; vols. 6, Turnhout, Belgium, 1978; at present 28 vols. have appeared). Reprint editions have made two important earlier collections of Lull's Latin works available, one by the printer Zetzner, Raimundus Lullus, Opera (2 vols., Strasbourg, 1651; reprinted, Stuttgart, 1996), another by Ivo Salzinger, Raymundi Lulli Opera omnia (8 vols., Mainz, 17211742; reprinted, Frankfurt am Mainz, 1965). Dr. Viola Tenge-Wolf has undertaken the digitalization of the over 2,000 microfilms of Lullian manuscripts in the Raimundus-Lullus-Institut of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau.

Editions of Lull's Catalan works include Obres de Ramón Lull (21 vols., Palma and Barcelona, 19061950) and the supplementary Nova edició de les obres de Ramon Llull (Palma, 1990, in progress). A handy edition is Ramon Llull, Obres essencials (2 vols., Barcelona, 19571960). Selected Works of Ramon Lull have been translated into English by Anthony Bonner (2 vols., Princeton, NJ, 1985; who has also published the Catalan texts in 2 vols., Palma, 1989; these volumes include an important chronological catalog of Lull's Works, pp. 12571304 in the English edition). A complete catalog of the printed editions of Lull's works has been published by Elíes Rogent and Estanislau Duràn, Bibliografía de les impressions lul.lianes (Barcelona, 1927).

For studies of Lull's life and work see Tomás y Joaquín Carreras y Artau, Historia de la filosofía española, vol. 1 (Madrid: Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, 1939) pp. 231640; vol. 2 (Madrid, 1943) contains a valuable history of Lullism. For an English biography of Lull see E. Allison Peers, Ramon Lull: A Biography (London, 1929), which should now be supplemented by Jocelyn N. Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lullism in 14th-Century France (Oxford, 1971). A general introduction to Lull's worldview is provided by Robert Pring-Mill, El microcosmos lul.lià (Palma: Editorial Moll, 1962; in German, Stuttgart, 2001). For the intellectual and religious context in which Lull's Art developed see Harvey J. Hames, The Art of Conversion: Christianity and Kabbalah in the 13th Century (Leiden, 2000). For Lull's influence in the sixteenth century see Frances A. Yates, Lull & Bruno: Collected Essays (2 vols., London, 1982).

Rudolf Brummer has published a Bibliographia lulliana: Ramon-Llull-Schriftum, 18701973 (Hildesheim, 1976); which has been supplemented for the years 19741984 by Marcel Salleras i Carolà in Randa (Barcelona) 19 (1986): 153198. Current bibliography may also be found in the review Estudios lulianos (now Studia lulliana ), published in Palma since 1957.

Jocelyn Nigel Hillgarth (1967)

Bibliography updated by Charles Lohr (2005)