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Catalan mystic, poet, philosopher, and missionary, the Blessed Ramon Llull (or Lully) was born c. 1235 in Majorca. Educated as a knight, he became seneschal to Prince James (later James II) of Majorca; Llull married and had two children. He lived a profligate life at court until he had a vision of the cross at 30, after which he dedicated his life to the conversion of the Muslims. On the advice of St. Raymond of Pe˝afort, Llull spent nine years studying the Arabic language as well as Muslim and Christian thought. St. Raymond believed that missionaries needed to speak to Jews and Muslims in their own languages, and Llull believed that in addition, missionaries needed to understand the thought of those to whom they were preaching. He believed missionaries needed to cast their arguments in terms that Muslims and Jews could easily understand. Many of Llull's mystical works resemble the writings of the Sufis.
In 1272, while he was meditating on Mount Randa, Llull had a series of visions that led to his philosophy of knowledge. The universe reflects divine attributes which can be understood by purifying the memory, the underestanding, and the will. Because the universe is a reflection of the divine, it is unified. To see the unity, one must reduce specifics to first principles, all of which are similar and unified. His Ars Magna, influenced by the writings of Anselm of Canterbury, expresses his theory and was disseminated in the Muslim world.
Llull left Majorca in 1287 to persuade the pope to establish language schools for the training of missionaries; Honorius IV heeded his advice and set up schools for the study of Oriental languages. Llull taught at a number of schools, including Montpellier, where he refuted AverroŰs, and he later travelled as a missionary to North Africa and Asia.
An excellent logician, Llull wrote a Compendium of the Logic of Al-Ghazzali, which he translated from his Latin text into Catalan. His handbook on chivalry, perhaps a reaction to his early life, proposes the formation of military/religious orders similar to the Knights Hospitaller. Among Llull's other works are Blanquera (a novel written in Catalan); The Book of the Lover and the Beloved (aphorisms translated from Sufi thought and Al-Ghazzali); the Book of Contemplation (seven volumes on conveying Christian truth through contemplation); and Vita coŠtanea (A Contemporary Life, his autobiography). Llull wrote in Latin, Arabic, and Catalan; his writings in the vernacular influenced the development of Catalan language and literature.
In the Renaissance, Llull was thought to have been the author of several widely-available alchemical treatises, the first of which appeared 16 years after his death. The Testamentum, which bore his name, is now thought to have been the work of an unknown Catalan who lived in London. Legends say that Llull came to England to make gold from base metals for Edward III (1312- 1377), who would use the gold to finance a crusade. Llull kept his part of the bargain; Edward did not. Llull departed without revealing the process.
Llull died in 1315/ 16. Legends say he was granted his wish to be a martyr and was stoned to death in Tunis. Scholars find no contemporary evidence of his martyrdom. They believe that he died of natural causes on the boat returning from Tunis or on Majorca. Llull, who may have been a Franciscan tertiary, was buried in the church of San Francisco, Palma, Majora.
Pope Gregory XI condemned Llull's thought in 1376 because the pope thought that Llull confused reason with faith. Nicholas of Cusa (1401- 1464) incorporated Llull's emphasis on the co÷peration of faith and intellect into his thinking, and Liebniz based his quest for the universal calculus on Llull's system of knowledge. Pius IX beatified Llull in 1847.
Karen Rae Keck
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