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Raymond Lull

Raymond LullAKA Ramon Llull

Born: 1232
Birthplace: Ciutat de Majorca, Spain
Died: 29-Jun-1315
Location of death: Tunis, Tunisia
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion, Philosopher, Poet

Nationality: Spain
Executive summary: Catalan mystic

Raymond Lull, also called Lully, a Catalan author, mystic and missionary, was born at Palma (Majorca). Inheriting the estate conferred upon his father for services rendered during the victorious expedition (1229) against the Balearic Islands, Lull was married at an early age to Blanca Picany, and, according to his own account, led a dissipated life until 1266 when, on five different occasions, he beheld the vision of Jesus Christ crucified. After his conversion, he resolved to devote himself to evangelical work among the heathen, to write an exposure of infidel errors, and to promote the teaching of foreign tongues in seminaries. He dedicated nine years to the study of Arabic, and in 1275 showed such signs of mental exaltation that, at the request of his wife and family, an official was appointed to administer his estate. He withdrew to Randa, there wrote his Ars major and Ars generalis, visited Montpellier, and persuaded the king of Majorca to build a Franciscan monastery at Miramar. There for ten years he acted as professor of Arabic and philosophy, and composed many controversial treatises. After a fruitless visit to Rome in 1285-86, he journeyed to Paris, residing in that city from 1287 to 1289, and expounding his bewildering theories to auditors who regarded him as half insane. In 1289 he went to Montpellier, wrote his Ars veritatis inventiva, and removed to Genoa where he translated this treatise into Arabic. In 1291, after many timorous doubts and hesitations for which he bitterly blamed himself, Lull sailed for Tunis where he publicly preached Christianity for a year; he was finally imprisoned and expelled. In January 1293 he reached Naples where tradition alleges that he studied alchemy; there appears to be no foundation for this story, and the treatises on alchemy which bear his name are all apocryphal. His efforts to interest Pope Clement V and Boniface VIII in his favorite project of establishing missionary colleges were unavailing; but a visit to Paris in 1298 was attended with a certain measure of success. He was, however, disappointed in his main object, and in 1300 he sailed to Cyprus to seek support for his plan of teaching Oriental languages in universities and monasteries. He was rebuffed once more, but continued his campaign with undiminished energy. Between 1302 and 1305 he wrote treatises at Genoa, lectured at Paris, visited Lyons in the vain hope of enlisting the sympathies of Pope Clement V, crossed over to Bougie in Africa, preached the gospel, and was imprisoned there for six months. On being released he lectured with increasing effect at Paris, attended the General Council at Vienne in 1311, and there witnessed the nominal adoption of his cherished proposals. Though close on eighty years of age, Lull's ardor was unabated. He carried on his propaganda at Majorca, Paris, Montpellier and Messina, and in 1314 crossed over once more to Bougie. Here he resumed his crusade against Mahommedanism, raised the fanatical spirit of the inhabitants, was stoned outside the city walls and died of his wounds on the 29th of June 1315. There can be no reasonable doubt that these events actually occurred, but the scene is laid by one biographer at Tunis instead of Bougie.

The circumstances of Lull's death caused him to be regarded as a martyr, local patriotism helped to magnify his merits, and his fantastic doctrines found many enthusiastic partisans. The doctor illuminatus was venerated throughout Catalonia and afterwards throughout Spain, as a saint, a thinker and a poet; but his doctrines were disapproved by the powerful Dominican order, and in 1376 they were formally condemned in a papal bull issued at the instance of the inquisitor, Nicolas Emeric. The authenticity of this document was warmly disputed by Lull's followers, and the bull was annulled by Martin V in 1417. The controversy was renewed in 1503 and again in 1578; but the general support of the Jesuits and the staunch fidelity of the Majorcans saved Lull from condemnation. His philosophical treatises abound with incoherent formulae to which, according to their inventor, every demonstration in every science may be reduced, and posterity has ratified Bacon's disdainful verdict on Lull's pretensions as a thinker; still the fact that he broke away from the scholastic system has recommended him to the historians of philosophy, and the subtle ingenuity of his dialectic has compelled the admiration of men so far apart in opinion as Giordano Bruno and Gottfried Leibniz.

The speculations of Lull are now obsolete outside Majorca where his philosophy still flourishes, but his more purely literary writings are extremely curious and interesting. In Blanquerna (1283), a novel which describes a new Utopia, Lull renews the Platonic tradition and anticipates the methods of Sir Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella and Harrington, and in the Libre de Maravelles (1286) he adopts the Oriental apologue from Kalilah and Dimnah. And as a poet Lull takes a prominent position in the history of Catalan literature; such pieces as El Desconort (1295) and Lo Cant de Ramon (1299) combine in a rare degree simple beauty of expression with sublimity of thought and impassioned sincerity.

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