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Image from a 1505 edition of Arbre de ciència by Ramon Llull (1232?-1316). Printed in Barcelona.[1]

Lullism or llullism (Catalan: Llullisme) is an esoteric philosophy originally developed by Ramon Llull (1232-1316). Based on a search for truth in all areas of knowledge, Lullism stems from the belief that both mundane secrets and celestial levels of existence can be deciphered by manipulating the letters of the alphabet.[2] In addition to his philosophies of mysticism, manuscripts show that Llull anticipated prominent work on elections theory several centuries ahead of his time. Further, he is considered a pioneer of the computational theory due to his influence on Gottfried Leibniz.[3]

Due to his mystical and theoretical work, Llull's overall reception in the 14th century was diverse but limited. Llull's transformation into a mystic figure began in 16th century Europe and became even more prominent three hundred years after his death. At the time, Europeans valued his works as a method for integrating many different types of knowledge, including the works of Peter Ramus and Guillaume Budé.

Llull's Experiences[edit]

In 1263, Llull experienced a religious epiphany that manifested itself through a series of visions. He narrated the event in his autobiography, Vita coaetanea ("Daily Life"):

Ramon, while still a young man and Seneschal to the King of Majorca, was very focused on composing worthless songs and poems, as well as 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 midair.[4]

At the age of 82, Llull visited North Africa, possibly on a missionary quest. While there, he engaged in high-profile public preaching in the main square of the city of Bougie, in present-day Béjaïa in northern Algeria. This caused an adverse reaction that led to his arrest and beating. Llull was likely to have been executed, but Genoese and Catalan merchants intervened on his behalf, and instead of being executed, he served six months in jail.[5] After his release, Llull was stoned by an angry crowd in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca where he died at his home in Palma the next year.[6] According to a different account, Llull journeyed to Tunis, not Bougie, because he was erroneously informed that its ruler was interested in Christianity, and "the legend of Llull having been martyred in Bougie" only spread in the mid-15th century.[7]


Lullism incorporates aspects of Christian theology and Muslim philosophy and has been seen as a bridge between Christianity and Islam.[8] More specifically, Lullism was influenced by Franciscan mysticism and Troubadour poetry[9] and many of Llull's works, such as the Llibre d'Amic e Amat, contain Sufi ideas and allegories and show an appreciation of Islamic mystical expressions.[10]

In addition to Lullism's relationship with Christianity and Islam, the philosophy was also influenced by Judaism. Llull's geographical proximity to Judaism provided him with the fertile ground where he could develop his theories regarding the relationship between God and man as well as the search for truth.[10] Because the Jews incorporated Muslim philosophy and Sufi ideas into their books, Dominique Urvoy suggests that they provided a source of information about Islam that influenced Lullism.[11]

Lullism and Kabbalah[edit]

Christian and Jewish scholars have debated the connections between Lullism and Kabbalah with mixed results.[10] According to Frances Amelia Yates, "Llull himself was almost certainly influenced by Cabala which developed in Spain at the same time as his art. In fact, the art is perhaps best understood as a medieval form of Christian Cabala".[12] Adolphe Franck and Christian David Ginsburg also referred to Lullism as Kabbalistic in their works,[13][14] but this was based on the erroneous belief that the Opusculum raymundinum de auditu kabbalistico was a Lullistic work.[15] Arthur Edward Waite and Joseph Leon Blau did not endorse a connection between Lullism and Kabbalah.[16][17][18]

The aforementioned works approached the subject through the studies of Pico della Mirandola, an Italian Renaissance philosopher who drew a connection between the Lullism and Kabbalah.[19] These works, however, anachronistically presented Lullism as a Renaissance understanding and use of Kaballah.[20]

Further reading[edit]

  • Batllori, Miguel (1943). El lulismo en Italia. Ensayo de síntesis, «Revista de Filosofía» 2, pp. 255- 313; 479-537.
  • Blau, Joseph Leon (1944). The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance. New York.
  • 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.
  • Bonner, Anthony (2007). The Art and Logic of Ramon Llull: A User's Guide. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-16325-5. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  • Franck, Adolphe (1967). The Kabbalah: The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews. New York.
  • Hames, Harvey J. (2000). The Art of Conversion: Christianity and Kabbalah in the Thirteenth Century. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-11715-6. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  • Guinsburg, Christian David Ginsburg (1920). The Kabbalah: Its Doctrines, Development, and Literature. London.
  • Leighton, Lauren G. (1 November 2010). Esoteric Tradition in Russian Romantic Literature: Decembrism and Freemasonry. Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-04153-6. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  • Rossi, Paolo (2000). Logic and the Art of Memory. The Quest for a Universal Language. Trans. S. Clucas, Chicago (Milan 1960).
  • Urvoy, Dominique (1980). Penser l’Islam: Les présupposés Islamiques de l’ "Art" de Lull, (Etudes Musulmanes, 23). Paris.
  • Waite, Arthur Edward (1929). The Holy Kabbalah: A study of the secret tradition in Israel. London.
  • Yates, Frances Amelia (1982). ‘Ramon Lull and John Scotus Erigena’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 23, (1960) pp. 1–44 [reprinted in F.A. Yates, Lull and Bruno: Collected Essays, vol. 1, London 1982].


  1. ^ *SC.L9695.482ab, Houghton Library, Harvard University
  2. ^ Leighton 2010, p. 22.
  3. ^ Bonner 2007, p. 290.
  4. ^ Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (an annotated Vita coaetanea) at 10-11, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  5. ^ The Vita coaetanea (Daily Life) an "autobiography" which he dictated circa 1311. Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" (the Vita coaetanea augmented and annotated) at 10-11, 34-37, in Bonner (ed.), Doctor Illuminatus (1985).
  6. ^ 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].
  7. ^ Riber, Raimunco Lulio (1935, 1949) [220-221]; Bonner, "Historical Background and Life" in his Doctor Illuminatus (1985) [42-44].
  8. ^ Urvoy, Penser l’Islam: Les présupposés Islamiques de l’ "Art" de Lull
  9. ^ A. Bonner (trans. and ed.), Doctor Illuminatus: A Ramon Llull Reader [including E. Bonner (trans.) The Book of the Lover and the Beloved], (Princeton 1993) pp. 175-84
  10. ^ a b c Hames 2000, p. 118.
  11. ^ Urvoy, Penser l’Islam, pp 91-118
  12. ^ Yates, Llull and Bruno: Collected Essays, vol. 1, p. 6
  13. ^ Franck, The Kabbalah: The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews, p. 223 (translated from the French published in Paris in 1843, with a second edition in 1889, 1892)
  14. ^ Guinsburg, The Kabbalah: Its Doctrines, Development, and Literature, pp. 83, 200-1
  15. ^ Hames 2000, p. 119.
  16. ^ Waite, The Holy Kabbalah: A study of the secret tradition in Israel, pp. 438-42
  17. ^ Waite, Three Famous Alchemists (Raymund Lully, Cornelius Agrippa and Theophrastus Paracelsus), p. 39
  18. ^ Blau, The Christian interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance, pp. 17, 117-18
  19. ^ Pico della Mirandola, Conclusiones, in Opera omnia, vol. 1, p. 108
  20. ^ Serouya, La Kabbale. Ses origines, sa psychologie, sa mystique, sa métaphysiqée, p. 473