Lull, Ramon

views updated May 14 2018

Lull, Ramon

(b. Ciutat de Mallorques [now Palma de Mallorca], ca. 1232; d. Ciutat de Mallorques [?], January/March [?] 1316)


A Catalan encyclopedist, Lull invented an “art of finding truth” which inspired Leibniz’s dream of a universal algebra four centuries later. His contributions to science are understandable only when examined in their historical and theological context. The son of a Catalan nobleman of the same name who participated in the reconquest of Mallorca from the Moors, Lull as brought up with James the Conqueror’s younger son (later crowned James II of Mallorca), whose seneschal he became. About six years after his marriage to Blanca Picany (1257) he was converted from a courtly to a religious way of life, following a series of visions of Christ crucified. He never took holy orders (although he may have become a Franciscan tertiary in 1295), but his subsequent career was dominated by three religious resolutions: to become a missionary and attain martyrdom, to establish colleges where missionaries would study oriental languages, and to provide them with “the best book [s] in the world against the errors of the infidel.”1

Lull’s preparations lasted a decade; his remaining forty years (from 1275, when he was summoned by Prince James to Montpellier, where he lectured on the early versions of his Art) were spent in writing, preaching, lecturing, and traveling (including missionary journeys to Tunis in 1292; Bogie, Algeria, in 1307; and Tunis late in 1315), and in attempts to secure support from numerous kings and four successive popes for his proposed colleges. During Lull’s lifetime only James II of Mallorca established such a foundation (1276, the year of his accession); when he lost Mallorca to his elder brother, Peter III of Aragon, the college at Miramar apparently was abandoned (ca. 1292). In Lull’s old age his proposals were finally approved by the Council of Vienna (1311-1312); and colleges for the study of Arabic, Hebrew, and Chaldean were founded in Rome, Bologna, Paris, Salamanca, and Oxford after Lull’s death. Pious tradition has it that he died after being stoned by Muslims in Bogie (January 1316[?]), although his actual death is variously said to have occurred in Bogie, at sea, or in Mallorca; modern scholars doubt the historicity of his martyrdom. As for his third resolution, it led to the various versions of Lull’s Art—and all his scientific contributions were by-products of this enterprise.

James the Conqueror’s chief adviser, the Dominican Saint Ramon de Penyafort, dissuaded Lull from studying in Paris, where his age and lack of Latin would have told against him; he therefore studied informally in Mallorca (1265[?]-1273[?]). His thought was thus not structured at the formative stage by the Scholastic training which molded most other late medieval Christian thinkers; this fostered the development of his highly idiosyncratic system by leaving his mind open to numerous non-Scholastic sources. These included cabalism (then flourishing in learned Jewish circles in both Catalonia and Italy), earlier Christian writers discarded by Scholasticism (for instance, John Scotus Eriugena, whose ninthcentury De divisione naturae influenced Lillian cosmological works, notably the Liber chaos either directly or indirectly—and hence also his Art), and probably also Arabic humoral medicine and astrology. The Augustinian Neo-platonism of the Victories also proved important, partly because of its continuing prominence but mainly because its marked coincidences with both Islamic and cabalistic Neoplatonism favored the creation of a syncretistic which was firmly grounded in doctrines equally acceptable to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

This fusion occurred after the eight years Lull spent in Mallorca studying Latin, learning Arabic from a slave,reading all texts available to him in either tongue, and writing copiously. One of his earliest works was a compendium of the logic of al-G nasal! in Arabic (1270[?]); it has since been lost, although two later compendia with similar titles survive—one in Latin, the other in Catalan mnemonic verse. In all, Lull wrote at least 292 works in Catalan, Arabic, or Latin over a period of forty-five years (1270-1315); most of them have been preserved, although no Arabic manuscripts have yet been traced and many Catalan and Latin works remain unpublished. His initial awkwardness in Latin, coupled with his desire that knowledge be made available to non-Latin-speaking sectors of society, made Lull the first person to mold Catalan into a literary medium. He used it not only in important mystical works, poetry, and allegorical novels (none of which concerns us here) but also to deal with every learned subject which engaged his attention: theology and philosophy; arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy (often mainly astrology), which, together with music, formed the quadrivium (the higher division of the seven liberal arts); grammar, rhetoric, and logic (the trivium); law; and medicine. Thus, Lull created a fully developed learned vocabulary in Catalan almost a century before any other Romance vernacular became a viable scholarly medium. Almost all Lull’s works in such nonliterary fields were connected in some way with his Art, because the “art of finding truth” which he developed to convert “the infidel” proved applicable to every branch of knowledge. Lull himself pioneered its application to all subjects studied in medieval universities—except for music—and also constructed one of the last great medieval encyclopedias, the Arbor scientiae (1295–1296), in accordance with its basic principles.

Yet the Art can be understood correctly only when viewed in the light of Lull’s primary aim: to place Christian apologetics on a rational basis for use in disputations with Muslims, for whom arguments de auctoritate grounded on the Old Testament—widely used by Dominicans in disputations with the Jews-carried no weight. The same purpose lay behind the Summa contra gentiles of Aquinas, written at the request of his fellow Dominican Penyafort, whose concern for the conversion of all non-Christians (but particularly those in James the Conqueror’s dominions) thus inspired the two chief thirteenth-century attempts in this direction; the Summa contra gentiles was finished during the interval between Lull’s discovery of his own calling and his interview with Penyafort. But whereas Aquinas distinguished categorically between what reason could prove and that which, while not contrary to reason, needed faith in revelation, Lull advanced what he called necessary reasons for accepting dogmas like the Trinity and the Incarnation. This gave his Art a rationalistic air that led to much subsequent criticism. Lull himself described his Art as lying between faith and logic, and his “necessary reasons” were not so much logical proofs as reasons of greater or lesser congruence which could not be denied without rejecting generally accepted principles. In this respect they were not appreciably more “rationalistic” than Aquinas’s “proofs” that the truths of faith were not incompatible with reason. But the differences between the two apologetic systems are far more striking than their resemblances.

Lull regarded his Art as divinely inspired and hence infallible (although open to improvement in successive versions). Its first form, the Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem or Ars maior2 (1273–1274[?]), was composed after a mystical “illumination” on Mount Randa, Mallorca, in which Lull saw that everything could be systematically related back to God by examining how Creation was structured by the active manifestation of the divine attributes—which he called Dignities and used as the absolute principles of his Art. Examining their manifestations involved using a set of relative principles; and both sets could be visualized in combinatory diagrams, known as Figures A and T. The original Figure A had sixteen Dignities, lettered BCDEFGHIKLMNOPQR; the original Figure T had five triads, only three of which (EFG + HIK + LMN) were strictly principles of relation, the others being sets of subjects (God + Creature + Operation, BCD) and possible judgments (Affirmation + Doubt + Negation, OPQ). All early versions had a proliferation of supplementary visual aids, which always included diagrams showing the four elements, and—with the obvious exception of Figure T—most features of the system were grouped into sets of sixteen items, lettered like the Dignities.

This quaternary base seems to provide the key to the origins of the Art’s combinatory aspect, apparently modeled on the methods used to calculate combinations of the sixteen elemental “grades” (four each for fire, air, water, and earth) in both astrology and humoral medicine. A major simplification in the Ars inventiva (ca. 1289) eliminated the elemental features, reduced the diagrams to four (unchanged thereafter), reduced Figure T to the nine actual relative principles

(Difference + Concordance + Contradiction, Beginning + Middle + End, and Majority + Equality + Minority) and the sixteen original Dignities to the nine shown in Figure 1. In still later versions the symbolic letters BCDEFGHIK acquired up to six meanings that were ultimately set out in the gridlike “alphabet” of the Ars generalisultima and its abridgment, the Ars brevis (both 1308), from which Figure 2 is reproduced. The traditional seven virtues and seven vices have been extended to sets of nine, to meet the requirements of the ternary system; the last two of ten quaestiones (a series connected with the ten Aristotelian categories) had to share the same compartment, since the set of fundamental questions could not be shortened and still be exhaustive.

The most distinctive characteristic of Lull’s Art is clearly its combinatory nature, which led to both the use of complex semimechanical techniques that sometimes required figures with separately revolving concentric wheels-“volvelles,” in bibliographical parlance (see Figure 3)-and to the symbolic notation of its alphabet. These features justify its classification among the forerunners of both modern symbolic logic and computer science, with its systematically exhaustive consideration of all possible combinations of the material under examination, reduced to a symbolic coding. Yet these techniques taken over from nontheological sources, however striking, remain ancillary, and should not obscure the theocentric basis of the Art. It relates everything to the exemplification of God’s Dignities, thus starting out from both the monotheism common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their common acceptance of a Neoplatonic exemplarist world picture, to argue its way up and down the traditional ladder of being on the basis of the analogies between its rungs-as becomes very obvious in Lull’s De ascensu et descensu intellectus (1305). The lowest rung was that of the elements, and Lull probably thought that the “model” provided by the physical doctrines of his time constituted a valid “scientific” basis for arguments projected to higher levels. Since this physical basis would be accepted in the scientific field by savants of all three “revealed religions,” he doubtless also hoped that the specifically

Christian conclusions which he drew in the apologetic field would be equally acceptable. It even seems likely that what hit him with the force of a divine “illumination” on Mount Randa was his sudden recognition of such a possibility.

There is no evidence that Lull’s Art ever converted anybody, but his application of the combinatory method to other disciplines (begun in the four Libri priticipiontm, ca. 1274–1275) was followed by numerous later Lullists; the Art’s function as a means of unifying all knowledge into a single system remained viable throughout the Renaissance and well into the seventeenth century. As a system of logical inquiry (see LuIl’s Logica nova [1303] for the strictly logical implications, disentangled from other aspects), its method of proceeding from basic sets of preestablished concepts by the systematic exploration of their combinations—in connection with any question on any conceivable subject—can be succinctly stated in terms taken from the Dissertatio de arte combinatoria (1666) of Leibniz, which was inspired by the Lullian Art: “A proposition is made up of subject and predicate; hence all propositions are combinations. Hence the logic of inventing [discovering] propositions involves solving this problem: 1. given a subject, [finding] the predicates; 2. given a predicate, finding the subjects [to which it may] apply, whether by way of affirmation or negation.”3

Recent research has concentrated on the clarification of Lull’s ideas, the identification of their sources, and the nature of their influence on later thinkers— especially Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno. Major advances in all these fields have taken place since the 1950’s, but much more research is still required. The specific origins of Lull’s doctrines regarding the elements, whose importance has been fully recognized only since 1954 (see Yates), are particularly significant. A proper exploration of the antecedents of his Opera medica is a prerequisite for establishing Lull’s final place in the history of Western science. In this connection it must be mentioned that although Lull himself was opposed to alchemy (but not to astrology, a “science” he sought to improve in the Tractatus novus de astronomia [1297]), his methods had obvious applications in the alchemical field-and they were so applied in a host of pseudo-Lullian alchemical works, most of them composed more than fifty years after his death. These works explain the traditional (but false) “scientific” view which made him “Lull the Alchemist.”


1.Vida coëtanea. The Latin (dictated by Lull [?], probably 1311) says “book,” which doubtlessly agreed with Lull’s original resolve; the plural, in the fourteenth-century Catalan text (modernized in Obres essentials, see I, 36), would better fit the series of “improved” versions of the Art itself, which first took shape almost ten years after Lull’s conversion.

2. References to an Ars magna in later centuries are usually either to the definitive Ars magna generalis ultima(1308) or to Lull’s system in general. The alternative title of the first version recalls Roger Bacon’s Opus mains (1267); the connections between Lull and Bacon have yet to be investigated, but many resemblances may well be due to common Arabic sources.

3. “Propositio componitur ex subiecto et praedicato, omnes igitur propositiones sunt combinations. Logicae igitur inventtvae propositionum est hoc problema solvere: 1. Dato subiecto praedicata. 2. Dato praedicato subiecta invenire, utraque cum affirmative, turn negative” (G. W. Leibniz, op. cit, [in text], no, 55, in Sämtliche Schriften und Briefen, 2nd ser., I [Darmstadt, 1926], 192).


I. Original Works. The larger of the standard eds. in Catalan is Obres de Ramon Lull, 21 vols., with 9 more planned (Palma de Mallorca 1901- ), cited below as ORL. Obres essentials, 2 vols. (Barcelona, 1957-1960), cited below as Ob es, contains the chief literary works; the modernized text has many errata, but there are excellent general introductions and a select bibliography.

Collections in Latin are Beati Raymundi Lulli, Opera omnia, I. Salzinger, ed., vols. I-Vl, IX(VII and VIII unpublished) (Mainz, 1721-1742), contains 48 works, repr. Minerva GMBH, cited below as MOG; reprint of Quattuor libri principiorum from MOG I (Paris-The Hague, 1969), cited below as QLP; Opera porta, 3 vols. (Palma, 1744-1746), 15 works, 12 of which are not in MOG; and Opera medico (Palma, 1742)—it and Opera parva, are to be issued in Gerstenberg Reprints. A modern critical ed. is Raymundi Lulli Opera latino, 5 vols., of 30 planned (Palma, 1961- ), thus far previously unpublished works, cited below as ORL.

Major scientific works and versions of the Art are Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem/Ars maior (1273-1274[?]), MOG I; Ars Universalis (1274–1275[?]), MOG I; Liber prineipiorum theologiae Liber prineipiorum philosophiae, Liber prineipiorum juris. Liber prineipiorum medicinae (1274–1275[?]), MOG I, QLP; Liher chaos (1275-I276[?])t MOG III; Ars compendiosa medicinae (1275–1276[?], Opera medica; Logica Algazalis (ca. 1281), which is related to the Catalan verse Logica del Gatzel (after 1282[?]), ORL XIX; Ars inventiva[veritatis] (1289L?]), MOG V; De levitate et ponderositate elementorum (1293), Opera medica; Arbor scientiae (29 Sept. 1295-1 Apr. 1296), in various rare eds., in Catalan as Arbre de ciencia (simultaneous[?]), ORL XI-XIII, Ob es I; Tractalus novus de astronomia (1297; unpublished), Latin text discussed in Yates (1954; see below), Catalan MS is British Museum, Add. 16434, to appear in ORL; and Liber de geometria [nova et compendiosa] (1299), ed. by J. M, Millas-Vallicrosa (Barcelona, 1953), considered unreliable—see R. D. F. Pring-Mill, “La geometria Juliana,” in Estudios Ltdianos, 2 (1958), 341-342.

Other works by Lull are Liber de natura (1301) (Palma, 1744); Logica nova (Palma, 1744); Liber de regionibus sanitatis et inJirnnitalis (1303), Opera medica; De ascensu et descensu intelleetits (1305) (Palma, 1744); Ars brevis (1308), Opera parva I; Ars gemratis uititml Ars magna [generalts ultima] (1305-1308), in L. Zetzner, Raynmundi Lulli opera ea quae ad.,, artem.., pertinent (Strasbourg, 1598, 1609, 1617, 1651); and Vita coētanea (dictated [?] 1311), B. de Gaiffier, ed., in Analecta Bottandiana,48 (1930), 130-178, in Catalan as Vida coëtania,Ob es.

II. Secondary Literature. See E. Colomer, S.J., Nikolaus Kites und Raimund Lull (Berlin, 1961); C. E. Dufourcq, L’Espagne catalane el fe Maghreb aux XIIIe et XIVe siecles (Paris, 1966); J. N. Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lidiism in Fourteenth-Century France (Oxford, 1971); Erhard-Wolfram Platzeck, O.F.M., Raimund Lull, seine Leben, seine Werke, die Grundlagen seines Denkens 2 vols. (Dusseldorf, 1961-1964), vol. II contains the fullest bibliography of Lull’s writings and Lullian studies; and Frances A. Yates, “The Art of Ramon Lull: An Approach to It Through Lull’s Theory of the Elements,” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes,17 (1954), 115-173; and “Ramon Lull and John Scotus Erigena.” ibid.,23 (I960), 1-44; but see R. D. F. Pring-Mill, in Estudim Lulianos.7 (1963), 167-180.

See also Estudim Lulianos, which began publication in 1957, and E. W. Platzeck’s comprehensive survey of research from 1955 to 1969 in Atitonianum,45 (1970), 213-272.

R. D. F. Pring-Mill

Lull, Ramon

views updated May 14 2018


(also known as Ramon Llull)

(b. Ciutat de Mallorques [now Palma de Mallorca], c. 1232; d. Ciutat de Mallorques [?], January/March [?] 1315),

polymathy, alchemy. For the original article on Lull see DSB, vol. 8.

The Catalan Lull left a magisterial work in both the philosophic and spiritual domains. His aura was such that a large number of apocryphal texts appeared after his death. In the field of alchemy these texts constitute one of the most important corpora of this medieval science so often disdained and misunderstood. The pseudo-Lullian texts, exhumed and studied by Michela Pereira and others, have illuminated fourteenth-century alchemy whose influence in its domain and in others was decisive.

Even though Ramon Lull in his De ente reali stigmatized the foolishness of alchemists who thought they could create gold from silver and silver from mercury, a large number of alchemical texts were attributed to him in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This pseudepigraphical vein dates from about 1370: The alchemist Sedacer cited Lull among the authorities of this art in his Sedacina totius artis alkimiæ (circa 1378). Such a profusion (one-hundred forty-three texts) can be explained as much by the affinity that certain of these texts manifest with those of the historic Lull (alphabets, diagrams) as by the transmission of similar alchemical doctrines and techniques, or quite simply by an effect of contagion, an isolated text in a mainly pseudo-Lullian manuscript being sometimes then recopied with this attribution. There are sixty-five pseudo-Lullian treaties, forty-nine occasionally attributed to Ramon Lull, and twenty-eight that should be excluded from the corpus, attributed to Lull in only a single manuscript or in no manuscript at all, only printed materials. The tradition begins with the Testamentum, the first alchemical text accepted as pseudo-Lullian.

The Testamentum . Between 1330 and 1332 a Catalan alchemist wrote in Latin, then translated into his own language (Catalan) a summa divided into three parts (Theory, Practice, and Liber mercuriorum) to which was attached a poem defining alchemy as a virtuous and eminently Christian science (Cantilena). In 1443 John Kirkeby translated the book into Latin.

Although it is the work of an anonymous master, the Testamentum contains enough Lullian elements to initiate a tradition of alchemical texts called pseudo-Lullian. In addition to citing two authentic works of Ramon Lull, it uses the figures of the Lullian Ars combinatoria and alphabets as ways to implant the alchemical process in the memory. Lull is not the only authority to whom this important work refers; the physician Arnald of Villanova is also one of its major sources, in particular his determinative book of medieval medicine, the Aphorismi de gradibus.

The Testamentum, following the example of the Rosarius philosophorum of the pseudo-Arnald of Villanova, is as much a book of alchemy as it is a medical book. It proposes an efficacious way, founded on a sound philosophic doctrine, to produce an elixir as effective in multiplying gold or in creating precious stones as it is in treating the human body. This is no miracle, the pseudo-Lull was careful to state, nor is it a magical act, but the simple effect of natural heat “concentrated [he says] in its humid radical” (“Istud vero, fili, non est nisi calor naturalis infixus in suo humido radicale,” Pereira and Spaggiari, eds, Testamentum, II, §30, 31, 378). More precisely, the plan of the Testamentum is rooted as deeply in the tradition of Roger Bacon seeking to “prolong life” by alchemy as it is in that of the medicine taught at Montpellier with the ideal of creating a universal “medicina,” the sign of the perfection of matter. In this respect, it marks an important date in the history of alchemy, for it places the elixir of metals, obtained through the science of the pseudo-Geber, in a principally therapeutic perspective.

The success of the Testamentum inspired the writing of other alchemical texts. Among these, the most important are the Liber de intentione alchimistarum (also linked to Arnald of Villanova), the Epistola accurtationis (dedicated to King Robert of Naples), the Clavicula, the Testamentum ultimum (a commentary to the Testamentum), and the Codicillus. Others that might be mentioned are the treatises on the ars lapidifica, devoted to the making of precious stones, an original aspect of this corpus. All these texts have in common the presentation of an alchemical theory that is relatively complex from the point of view of its ideas. For example, in the case of the ars lapidifica accomplished by using human urine, it can appear as an attempt to integrate via the concept of man as a microcosm the basest material reality into thoughts of the most sublime philosophy. Moreover, because these treatises developed in the South of France and in Catalonia, they came into direct contact with other alchemical works such as those of the pseudo-Arnald of Villanova and of Jean de Roquetaillade, thus bringing to prominence a group of related texts. In this regard one might even speak of a veritable alchemical school.

The Liber de secretis … . The production of pseudo-Lullian alchemical texts culminated at the end of the fourteenth century with an important work, the Liber de secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia. At that time the formation of this corpus of texts entered a second stage. In the Liber de secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia the alchemical practice of the Testamentum becomes linked to the fifth essence of wine, a distillation technique popularized in by Jean de Roquetaillade in 1350. Moreover, its author said on several occasions that he relied on the Testamentum and other alchemical texts, thus recognizing Lull as an alchemist. If the Liber de secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia seems to be a medical book guided by the thought and the style of Lull, it is also notable for its author’s interest in turning matter into gold, unlike John Roquetaillade who for religious reasons was not mainly interested in such transmutation. It begins with a prologue consisting of a conversation between Lull and a monk, then come the two books paraphrasing Roquetaillade’s De quinta essentia. It ends with a Tertia distinctio devoted to an alchemical application of the Lullian method (alphabets and trees). Even if the Liber de secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia suffered, like a number of alchemical works, from a very unreliable textual tradition in both manuscript and printed form, it enjoyed great success in the sixteenth century.

The Legend of Lull as Alchemist . Numerous legends proliferated around Lull, whose life and works were far from ordinary. One of the most persistent is that Ramon Lull devoted himself to alchemy. In some works of the corpus, it is reported that Lull was introduced to this science by Arnald of Villanova who had met Lull through King Robert of Naples. The most prominent legend—one even mentioned in Peter Acroyd’s book on London (London the Biography, 2000)—pertains to a trip to England. There Ramon Lull supposedly undertook some transmutations into gold on behalf of Edward III. Troubled by the inappropriate uses that the King made of the alchemical gold, Lull is reputed to have protested and been thrown into prison. This legend was nourished on by the mention of King Edward and the city of London in the colophon of the Testamentum, by the historic interest that English princes showed in alchemy, and by their disappointment in it, which they manifested by incarcerating alchemists. It should be noted that if the first legend shows an Arnald of Villanova bequeathing to Lull an alchemy of distillation whose purpose is the quest of the elixir, the English legend emphasizes the transmutatory character of his alchemy. In the fifteenth century Guillaume Fabri de Dye, in his Liberde lapide philosophorum (Chiara Crisciani edition, 2002), combined the elements of the two legends into a single one, grouping Arnald of Villanova, Ramon Lull, and John Dastin together as three alchemists working under the protection of good King Edward for the fulfillment of the opus and writing books.

The Success of the Pseudo-Lull . The pseudo-Lullian alchemy arose initially in Catalonia and in the South of France. It achieved a remarkable breakthrough in England as evidenced by the translations of John Kirkeby, by the works of the pseudo-Lullian George Ripley (fl. 1476), and by the fact that it is in England that one finds the oldest manuscript copies. From there, the movement reached the continent, Italy (Venice, Florence, Naples), Germany, and France where it attracted interest in alchemical and medical circles. In the Renaissance the pseudo-Lullian alchemy was regarded as highly as was the Ars combinatoria of Lull, which was particularly in vogue among Italian humanists. The Venetian Pantheus then produced a work, the Voarchadumia (1530), in which the pseudo-Lull’s combinatory art in the service of alchemy mixes with the cabala, a prelude to the encyclopedic works of the mathematician and astrologer John Dee. Moreover, the alchemical legend attached to Lull’s name, which became in the course of centuries increasingly complex and embellished, contributed greatly to the success of the pseudo-Lullian corpus, which continued to grow until the eighteenth century.

Despite the critics who, beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century, doubted the authenticity of the corpus, the success of the published editions of the pseudo-Lullian alchemical corpus, especially that of the Testamentum and the Liber de secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia, and the interest accorded to the treatises on distillation were influential in preparing minds for the alchemical medicine of Paracelsus. In the eighteenth century, Ivo Salzinger, the inventor of a new system of musical harmony and the publisher of the Lullian Opera omnia (Mainz, 1721–1742), placed alchemy at the heart of the Lullian system, sweeping away all objections and demonstrating that the inspired doctor knew, practiced, and taught in his books the great work. Even Newton possessed in his library six alchemical works attributed to Ramon Lull.


Besides the editions of the Renaissance already cited and accessible on the Internet, see also the Ramon Lull Databse (Base de Dades Ramon Llull) at the Universitat de Barcelona, available online from It contains a bibliographic list of all the works in the apocryphal alchemical corpus, the principal manuscripts and editions (both ancient and modern) that have transmitted them, as well as catalogues, articles, and books where Lull’s work is mentioned. This is a complete scholarly tool that is extremely useful.


Apertorium, Compendium animæ transmutationis metallorum, etc. Johann Petreius gathered these into a first collection in 1546: Raimundi Lullii Majoricani, De Alchimia Opuscula. Nuremberg, 1546.

Apertorium, Ars intellectiva, Liber de intentione alchimistarum …: Veræ alchemiæ artisque metallicæ. Basel, G. Grataroli, 1561. Available from, Dióscorides: The great collections of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were obviously fond of pseudo-Lullian texts.

Raymundi Lullii, Libelli aliquot Chemici. Basel, Michael Toxites, 1572. This contains Cantilena, Codicillum, Elucidatio Testamenti, Epistola accurtationis.

Artis auriferae quam chemiam vocant, 3 vols. Basel, 1572, 1593, 1601, 1610.

Testamentum, De secretis naturæ sive de quinta essentia. Reprinted in the collections of Zetzner (Theatrum chemicum, I-V, Strasbourg, 1659–1661, repr. Turin: La Bottega d’Erasmo, 1981).

Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa, I. Edited by Jean-Jacques Manget. Geneva, 1702 (repr. Bologna, 1976).

Catalogue of Latin and Vernacular Alchemical Manuscripts in Great Britain and Ireland Dating from before the XVI Century. Edited by Dorothea Waley Singer. Brussels: Union Académique Internationale, 1928–1931.

Catalogue des manuscrits alchimiques latins, manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de Paris, antérieurs au XVIIe siècle (Catalogue of Latin Alchemical Manuscripts, Pre-Seventeenth Century Manuscripts in the Public Libraries of Paris). Edited by James Corbett. Brussels: Union académique Internationale, 1939; James Corbett, Catalogue des manuscrits alchimiques latins, Manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques des départements français antérieurs au XVIIe siècle, (Catalogue of Latin Alchemical Manuscripts, Pre-Seventeenth Century Manuscripts in the Public Libraries of French Departments). Brussels, 1951.

Pereira, Michela. “Un lapidario alchemico, il ‘Liber de investigatione secreti occulti’ attribuito a Raimondo Lullo. Studio introduttivo ed edizione” (“An Alchemical Lapidary, the ‘Liber de investigatione secreti occulti’ attributed to Ramon Lull: An Introductory Study and Edition”). Documenti e Studi per la Tradizione Filosofica Medievale (Documents and Studies for the Medieval Philosophical Tradition) 1 (1990): 549–603.

———, and Barbara Spaggiari. Il “Testamentum” Alchemico attribuito a Raimondo Lullo (The Alchemical Testamento Attributed to Ramon Lull). Florence: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzo, 1999. An edition of the Latin Testamentum with the parallel Catalan text on the facing page.


Crisciani, Chiara. Il Papa e l’Alchimia: Felice V, Guglielmo Fabri e l’Elixir (The Pope and Alchemy: Felix V, Guillaume Fabri and the Elixir). Rome: Viella, 2002.

Pereira, Michela. The Alchemical Corpus Attributed to Raymond Lull. London: The Warburg Institute, 1989. This is the most complete study to date on the pseudo-Lull alchemist.

———. L’oro dei filosofi. Saggio sulle idee di un alchemista del Trecento (The Philosophers’ Gold: Essay on the Ideas of a Fourteenth-Century Alchemist). Spoleto, 1992.

———. “Maestro di segreti o caposcuola contestato? Presenza di Arnaldo da Villanova e di temi della medicina arnaldiana in alcuni testi alchemici pseudo-lulliani” (“A Master of Mysteries or the Controversial Leader of a School? The Presence of Arnald of Villanova and of Themes of Arnaldian Medicine in Some Pseudo-Lullian Alchemical Texts”). Arxiu de Textos Catalans Antics, 23/24: II Trobada Internacional d’Estudis sobre Arnau de Vilanova (Archives for Ancient Catalan Texts: II International Congress for Studies on Arnald of Villanova) (2004–2005): 381–412.

Szulakowska, Urszula. “Thirteenth Century Material Pantheism in the Pseudo-Lullian ‘S’-Circle of the Powers of the Soul.” Ambix 35, no. 3 (1988): 127–154.

Thorndike, Lynn. A History of Magic and Experimental Science. New York: Columbia University Press, IV, 1934: 3–64, 619–652.

Waley Singer, Dorothea “The Alchemical ‘Testamentum’ Attributed to Raymond Lull.” Archeion 9 (1928–1929).

Antoine Calvet

Lull, Ramón

views updated May 21 2018


LULL, RAMÓN (c. 12321316), Catalan philosopher, poet, and missionary. Lull was born in Majorca shortly after the Arab occupation of the island had ended. He certainly was acquainted with spoken Arabic, but must have known classical Arabic as well. In his youth he was interested in chivalry and courtly occupations, but the visions of Christ that he experienced around 1265 transformed him into an ardent missionary whose aim was to create an understanding between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and to resolve their differences. To this end he composed a great number of books in his native Catalan and is said to have traveled to various Islamic countries. Among Lull's works, his Libre del contemplacio en Deu (originally written at least partly in Arabic; see Obres, vol. 8, p. 645) is a seven-volume encyclopedia in which he sets forth his idea that by contemplation the truth of the Christian religion would be revealed to everyone.

In a vision in 1272 Lull saw the whole universe reflecting the divine attributes, a vision reminiscent of Islamic traditions. There has been much scholarly debate on the extent to which Lull was conversant with Arabic sources. His great novel, Blanquerna, best expresses his attitude to and understanding of Islam. Here, as in other early works, he expresses his concern for those who are lost despite many good aspects of their faith and life; he praises the Muslims' faith in the unity of God, which he views as the basis on which the three "Abrahamic" religions could understand one another; he acknowledges the importance of the ūfī practice of dhikr ("recollection of God") and describes it as a useful step on the way to God; finally, he expresses the opinion that Muslims are closer to Christians than are other nonbelievers because Muslims accept the virgin birth of Mary. The novel Blanquerna closes with the "Book of the Lover and the Beloved," a collection of 365 aphorisms, many of which can be found verbatim in Arabic ūfī sources and may come partly from al-Ghazālī, whose works Lull apparently knew well (he is even said to have translated one of his books) and who may have strengthened Lull's aversion to "philosophy," that is, to Averroism. Again, some of the symbols, his images, letter mysticism, and the use of prose rhyme are reminiscent of Arabic ūfī works, especially of some of Ibn al-ʿArabī's writings.

On the other hand, Lull was very critical of the Muslims in other regards and repeated the traditional medieval accusations against them, such as the sensual image of Paradise, polygamy, and so forth. His attitude hardened over the years, and in the place of his earlier irenic attitude an increasingly militant missionary zeal fills his later works. He requested the church to emphasize the study of Arabic so that disputations with Muslims could be carried out more successfully and he succeeded in persuading James II of Aragon to establish a school of oriental languages in Miramar on Majorca. Later, in 1312, the Council of Vienne decided to found chairs for Arabic in several universities to train missionaries. In 1316, on one of his trips to North Africa, Lull was imprisoned and probably stoned to death. Many years later, in 1376, some of his teachings were condemned by Gregory XI.

Lull was a complex figure, and he himself complained of not being properly understood; this attitude is typically expressed in his Disputatio clerici et Raymundi phantastici, in which he portrays himself as the eccentric idealist. Lull's philosophy is based on the mystery of the Trinity: the three powers of the soul reflect the trinitarian principles. He tried to achieve a reduction of all knowledge to first principles so as to establish perfect unity as the underlying structure of the universe. Among his numerous books, the Ars magna; the Arbor scientiae (The Tree of Knowledge), with its mysterious diagrams; and the Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus (Book of Intellectual Ascent and Decline) best reflect his philosophical ideas and his way of using the various branches of medieval science, from mathematics to alchemy. Some of his ideas were later taken over and elaborated by Nicholas of Cusa.

In each of his writings Lull strove to show that faith and intellect must work together to prove that Christianity is the true religion. His ardent striving to lead to the true faith those who knew it only fragmentarily, and to whom he himself was indebted to a certain degree, is summed up in an aphorism from the "Book of the Lover and the Beloved," which translates an old ūfī saying: "The ways in which the lover seeks his Beloved are long and dangerous; they are populated by meditation, sighs, and tears, and illuminated by love."


Lull's works have been printed from the sixteenth century onward; the latest edition is Obres: Edició original, 20 vols. (Palma de Mallorca, 19061936). The best biography is still E. Allison Peers's Ramon Lull: A Biography (London, 1929). Peers has also translated Blanquerna: A Thirteenth Century Romance (London, 1925), and its last chapter, published separately, The Book of the Lover and the Beloved (New York, 1923). Jean Henri Probst's La mystique de Ramon Lull et l'arte de contemplació (Münster, 1914) and Otto Keicher's Raymundus Lullus und seine Stellung zur arabischen Philosophie (Münster, 1909) are both critical of the extent of Lull's knowledge of classical Arabic. A good selection from Lull's works is Selected Works of Ramon Llull, edited and translated by Anthony Bonner (Princeton, 1985), which is well-balanced and readable.

Annemarie Schimmel (1987)

Lully, Raymond (or Ramon Lull) (ca. 1232-1315)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Lully, Raymond (or Ramon Lull) (ca. 1232-1315)

An alchemist believed to possess titanic physical and mental energy, who threw himself heart and soul into everything he did. Lully's father was a Spanish knight, who won the approval of John I, king of Arragon, and was granted an estate on the island of Majorca, where Lully was born about the year 1232. His father's royal privilege earned the very young Lully the appointment of Seneschal of the Isles, but he embarrassed his parents soon thereafter by living a life of debauchery. He consorted with women of all sorts, especially the married woman Eleonora de Castello, whom he followed wherever she went, making no attempt to conceal his illicit passion. On one occasion he actually sought the lady while she was attending Mass. And so loud was the outcry against this bold, if not sacrilegious act, that Eleonora found it essential to write in peremptory style to her cavaliere servente, and bid him desist from his present course.

The letter failed to cool the youth's ardor, but when he learned that the lady was smitten with a deadly cancer, Lully's frame of mind began to alter speedily. Sobered by the frustration of his hopes, he vowed henceforth to live differently, consecrating his days to the service of God.

Lully took his holy orders, but his active and impetuous temperament left him little inclined for monastic life. Aiming to carry the Gospel far afield to convert the followers of Mahomet, he began to study Arabic. In 1276 Lully founded Trinity College of Majorca and trained other men in Arabic and prepared missionaries for service in Islamic lands. Soon Lilly proceeded to Rome to enlist the pope's sympathy in his project. Lully failed to get the pope's support, yet, undaunted, he embarked on his own from Genoa in about 1291, and when he reached Tunis, he commenced his crusade. His ardor resulted in fierce persecution and ultimate banishment, so he returned for a while to Europe, visiting Paris, Naples, and Pisa, and exhorting all good Christians to aid his beloved enterprise.

In 1308 he went to Africa, and at Algiers he made a host of converts, yet was once more forced to flee for his life before the angry Moslems. He traveled to Tunis, thinking to escape from there to Italy, but his former activities in the town were remembered, and consequently he was seized and thrown into prison. Here he languished for a long time, preaching the gospel at every opportunity that presented itself. At last some Genoese merchants procured his release, and so Lully sailed back to Italy. In Rome he worked strenuously to get the pope's support for a well-equipped foreign mission, but after he failed, he rested briefly in his native Majorca, then returned to Tunis.

Proclaiming his presence publicly, he had scarcely begun preaching when he was savagely attacked, left lying on the seashore, his assailants imagining him dead. He was still breathing, however, when some Genoese found him, and they carried him to a ship and set sail for Majorca. But the zealot did not rally, and he died in sight of his home June 30, 1315.

Lully's proselytizing ardor made his name familiar throughout Europe, and while many people regarded him as a heretic for undertaking a mission without the pope's sanction, others admired him so much that they sought to make him a saint. He was eventually canonized as a martyr, and a mausoleum was erected to him. Meanwhile he also attained some notoriety as an alchemist and was reported to have made a large sum of gold for the English king. There is really no proof that he ever visited Britain, but the remaining part of the story holds a certain significance. It is said that Lully made the money on the strict understanding that it should be utilized for equipping a large and powerful band of missionaries. There is some reason to believe that he thought to employ his alchemical skill on behalf of his missionary object. Possibly he approached some European sovereign with this goal in view, thus giving rise to the tradition about his dealings with the English monarch.

Lully's writings include a number of works on alchemy, most notably Alchimia Magic Naturalis, De Aquis Super Accurtationes, De Secretis Medicina Magna and De Conservatione Vitoe. It is interesting to find that several of these won considerable popularity and were repeatedly reprinted, while as late as 1673, two volumes of Opera Alchima purporting to be written by him were issued at London. Five years before this, a biography by De Vernon had been published at Paris, while at a later date a German historian of chemistry named Gruelin referred to Lully as a scientist of exceptional skill and mentioned him as the first man to distill rosemary oil.


Waite, Arthur E. Raymond Lully, Illuminated Doctor, Alchemist, and Christian Mystic. London, 1922. Reprint, London, 1939. Reprint, New York: David McKay, 1940.

Raymond Lull

views updated May 11 2018

Raymond Lull

A Spanish theologian, poet, and missionary to the Arabs, Raymond Lull (C. 1232-1316) was one of the foremost apologists for the Christian faith in his time.

Raymond Lull was born at Palma in Majorca. Through family connections and his own ability he began a career as a courtier, first at the court of King James I of Aragon and then at the court of King James II of Majorca. Lull's love of poetry seems to date from this period, when he came under the influence of the troubadour tradition. In 1263 he experienced a religious conversion. He left his wife (whom he had married in 1256), and began the study of Arabic and philosophy with the intention of helping to convert Moslems to Christianity and fighting Averroistic tendencies in Western philosophy.

Lull's study of philosophy and his religious experience culminated in a vision which he had on Mt. Randa in 1272. In that vision he saw a system for the reduction of all knowledge to a series of basic principles associated with the nature of God. Beginning in 1274, he described his system in a series of works, many of which bear the title The Art. He stressed that certain principles of philosophy and theology (which for Lull could never contradict each other) are self-evident and common to all sciences. By a combination of these principles (represented by symbols or numbers) one could be led to the principles of every science and even to the discovery of new truths. For Lull, this method, especially as it used symbols representative of these basic principles in various combinations to express the basic truths, was an aid for exposition and explanation or a device to aid the memory. It did not constitute a means of deducing the universal truths according to algebraic signs, as it did later for Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.

In 1276 Lull founded the College of Miramar in Majorca, which trained men in the study of Arabic and prepared missionaries for service in Islamic lands. He made repeated missionary trips to these lands and also continued writing. Altogether, he wrote some 150 or 200 works in Latin, Arabic, and Catalan on such diverse subjects as theology, philosophy, logic, and poetry. Most of them were apologies for the faith and indicate not only his primary desire to convert the infidel but also his attempt to make philosophy subordinate to theology in order to obtain that goal. The Augustinian elements in his thought are quite strong: his rejection of the concept of creation from eternity and his adoption of the ideas of the universal hylomorphic composition of all creatures, the plurality of substantial forms in man, and the primacy of the will over the intellect.

Lull's reputation was so great that he was allowed to teach his system at the University of Paris from 1287 to 1289 without holding a degree in theology. In Paris again, from 1297 to 1299, he lectured against the adoption of pagan concepts by Christian thinkers and, in particular, the total separation of philosophy and theology. In 1298 he wrote a book on the errors of Boethius of Dacia and Siger of Brabant, two of the leading Latin Averroists at Paris, and refuted 219 propositions that had been condemned in Paris in 1277.

After missionary activity in Armenia (1302) and Africa (1306), Lull returned to Paris in 1309 and for another 2 years continued his attack on the Latin Averroists, this time on the teaching of Averroës and a contemporary exponent of Averroism, John of Jandun. During this period he wrote 17 tracts against the teaching of the Averroists.

In search for more official support for his program, Lull attended the Council of Vienne in 1311, where he presented a petition calling for the prohibition of Averroistic teaching, the beginning of another crusade, a fusion of the military orders, and the creation of a college for the study of Oriental languages. In 1314 he returned to his missionary activity in North Africa, and while preaching in Tunisia he was stoned by a crowd at Bougie and later died aboard a ship that had rescued him. His mutilated body returned to Majorca on that same ship.

Further Reading

The best general study of the life and works of Lull is E. Allison Peers, Ramon Lull: A Biography (1929). Peers is also author of a shorter, popular biography, Fool of Love: The Life of Ramon Lull (1946). Some aspects of the literary side of Lull's career were the subject of a study by Miriam T. Olabarrieta, The Influence of Ramon Lull on the Style of the Early Spanish Mystics and Santa Teresa (1963). □

Lull, Raymond

views updated May 21 2018

Lull, Raymond or Ramón Lull (c.1233–1315). Christian missionary, mystic and philosopher. At the age of 30, following a vision of the crucified Christ, he gave himself wholly to Christ's service as a Franciscan tertiary, and he sought in particular the conversion of Islam. He studied Arabic, went on various missionary journeys, and wrote. His system of thought is contemplative and Neoplatonic, and may owe something to Sufism. Among those he influenced was Nicholas of Cusa. The Book of the Lover and the Beloved describes how the lover (the faithful Christian) cannot reach the Beloved (God), except through love.