All-around interesting character that had an influence on the likes of Martin Luther and Gottfried Leibniz.
Listen to our Podcast episode on Llull here:
- Influenced by:
- Join the “Religions of the Books”
- Christian Cabala
- Martyr’s death
- Mathematics, statistics, and classification
- Modern fiction
Llull invented a proto-computer to figure out the nature of matter.
Ramon Llull is such an interesting figure, he was the first person I wrote about way back when I made a prototype for the historyofalchemy website.
He was far before his time and influenced such great thinkers later on – that to me, it was Llull that made it clear that modern thinkers didn’t get their ideas in a vaccuum, but sometimes were inspired by people with cooky ideas from the deep middle ages.
I consider it a great privilege to finally share with you the life and works of Ramon Llull and hope you especially enjoy this episode.
Ramon Llull lived from around 1232 to 1315
In English he’s often called Raymond Lully, Raymond Lull;
Sometimes latinized as Latin Raimundus or Raymundus Lullus or Lullius)
He’s from Majorca… which has greatly raised my opinion of that horrible party island.. though I still don’t think I’d ever go there.
He’s a Franciscan tertiary. Meaning a member of the Third order of St. Francis. Not monks, but they lived normal lives and could marry etc. They’re still around and have some 2.5 million members.
To give you an idea of what we’re about to get into he had ideas about or invented:
He’s also honored as a Catholic Martyr
Wrote the first European novel.
And what makes him interesting to us
Wrote treatises on alchemy – and one of the alchemists who supposedly found the philosopher’s stone.
And he influenced folks like
He was born in Palma, on Majorca. So in the Kingdom of Majorca, which was just recently reconcerred from Muslims.
This is important because of the significant Muslim and Jewish population present there. This would influence him greatly.
became the tutor of James II of Aragon. Married one of his relatives and then became he became the Seneschal (the administrative head of the royal household)
He was sort of a bard or troubadour, composing songs and whatnot, and it he was composing one of these songs when he looked over and saw Jesus hanging from the cross in mid air… just hanging in his room like that.
This wouldn’t be the last time he saw that vision.. but that was enough for him to join the Third order of St. Francis
Join the “Religions of the Books”
He questioned why Jews, Muslims and Christians don’t get along better (don’t we all?) since they have the same patriarchs and worship the same God.
He pushed for arabic education, so to be able to easier convert Muslims. He even wrote some of his works in Arabic.
He encouraged religion debates with Jewish leaders to try to get them to convert to Christianity.
There’s a picture inspired by Llull of a Pagan or Gentile, a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian, each sitting in a row underneath a tree.
He tried to find common ground.. and this where we get into his work on the theory of the elements. All three religions accepted the Aristotelian view of the elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). So this is an attempt to use the science of the time to find a common ground.
He would build on the elements with the dignities of God.. So far, so good. Jews, Muslims and Christians would all follow him to this point too.
Llull is so much fun to read about… so he would then assign a letter to each dignity (like qualities of “Good” and “Virtue.. see historyofalchemy.com for the full list) and then arrange those letters on a wheel along with the zodiac, planets and elements (and the attributes of the elements like “moist, hot” etc).. and when you turn the wheel, you get the makeup of all matter.
For a full list of the dignities etc, browse my website, and for the wheel itself, well, you’ve seen it. It’s the logo of this podcast. I told you Lull was here since the beginning.
But then he would go a step further and use that “Scientific” foundation to prove the trinity, and therefore that Christianity was the true logical conclusion of science.
This work is actually built on Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Augustine. Who we talk about in other episodes.
Also, if it sounds neoplatonic. It is.
This “Scientific Foundation” was later used by alchemists as the scientific backing of their work. And the sense of reproducibility, one could argue (and I do) that it’s one of the tenants that had an influence on the scientific method.
One could also argue, that this system of logic was the beginning of information science, and his wheel was a proto-computer.. we at history of alchemy wouldn’t go that far. Astrolabes are way cooler and older.
This premise of combining simple things to get more complex ones was taken up by Gottfried Leibniz in his De Arte Combinatoria.
But this wasn’t Llull’s only influence, another attempt to use a borrowed philosophy and prove Christianity came from the Cabala.
We’ll break down the cabal much more thoroughly in it’s own podcast. And when we do we’ll use people Llull influenced (like Johann Reuchlin) as the basis.
But proving the messiah the Jews are waiting for was actually Jesus.. well that comes from Llull.
In short, you need the 10 Sephirath, the names of God mentioned in the bible (which has an overlap with the dignities of God mentioned above.. and that was part of his unifying theory) and you need the 22 letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Since God created the world using Hebrew (stay with us here) contemplating Hebrew was both contemplating God and his creation.
And now we get to Llullist Cabala, which is the basis for Medieval Christian Cabala (but not always the same)
Lull used the latin alphabet instead of Hebrew, but the idea of permutation of letters stays the same, but wont reveal the secrets hidden in the old testament. This is often different from later Christian Cabala, and again, that’ll be it’s own episode.
The aim was still the same though: to prove Jesus was the messiah using cabalistic principles.
He travelled around, but that’s kinda boring, so we’ll just go into one part of it:
His first trip to Tunis was as a missionary and he accpepted a martyr’s death as the outcome, he just got run out of town though, the 2nd trip was more-or-less as a spy for the pope who was planning a crusade, and when he returned he suggested prayer instead of swords.
On his 3rd (or so) trip to Tunis:
At the age of 82, in 1314, Raymond traveled again to North Africa and an angry crowd of Muslims stoned him in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca, where he died at home in Palma the next year.
Mathematics, statistics, and classification
In 2001 with the discovery some of his lost manuscripts 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.
These both have to do with election theory.
The terms Llull winner and Llull loser are ideas in contemporary voting systems studies that are named in honor of Llull.
We mentioned his “work” in computation theory, especially due to his great influence on Gottfried Leibniz.
Llull is mentioned in fiction quite a bit. I’ll just mention he is also mentioned in passing in Neil Gaiman’s comic-book Calliope, which is an issue of The Sandman.
Francis Yates: The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz