Ramon Lull

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Ramon Lull was one of the most energetic and versatile characters of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, as well as one of the most enigmatic. He was born in Palma on the island of Majorca, and remains the patron saint of that city. Having spent his youth as a libertine and pleasure-loving courtier composing the long love poems in Catalan which make him a prominent figure in the history of Spanish literature, he like Saint Francis, underwent a conversion at about the age of thirty and thenceforth devoted himself to learning and religion.

The two driving forces in his life after this conversion were the method of his 'Art' (ars nova) and his urge to convert the Muslim world to Christianity and secure

Jerusalem for Christendom. In pursuit of the latter objective he persuaded the King of Aragon to establish a school for the study of Arabic in Majorca, and the Pope himself to authorize chairs in Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean and Arabic at Rome, Paris, Oxford, Bologna and Salamanca. This considerably accelerated the translation of valuable Greek and Arabic works into Latin. Further, in the pursuit of his aim to convert the whole Muslim world, he travelled extensively through Cyprus, Armenia and three times in north Africa. On his last trip to north Africa he achieved martyrdom by being stoned to death.

It was however for his 'Lullian Art' that the medieval world remembered him. This art is something which recurs again and again throughout the following centuries, as a theme or technique referred to by a number of different writers. Thorndike has explained it as 'the invention of a logical machine which would constitute the same sort of labour-saving device in a scholastic disputation or medieval university as an adding machine in a modern bank or business office'.16 In fact it was an elaborate system of logic which could be applied mechanically by properly arranging concepts in categories, subjects and predicates in such away that 'computer-like', by the intermeshing of geared wheels upon which the categories were written, the answers of theological arguments would be derived. Lull even thought that such a machine might be able to convince a sceptical Muslim of the 'mechanical truth' of Christianity in a way that no missionary could. The Art was applied to every art and science Lull could lay his hands on, theology, medicine, logic, philosophy . . . even astrology and, of course, geomancy. The possibilities of combining Lullian wheels with geomancy might in fact prove a fruitful field for speculation, especially as twentieth-century French writers on geomancy have used such circles to explain the complementary and opposing relationships between the different geomantic figures.

Lull's treatment of astrology is typical of his desire to encompass all arts and sciences within his own scheme or ars nova. As Sarton says: 'It is clear that he had no real grasp of either mathematics or astronomy; he treated these subjects with the habitual conceit of a philospher who believes he can dominate them without detailed and intimate knowledge.'17

Despite the fact that many of Ramon Lull's wheels and 'logic machines' look like geomantic wheels, often being divided into sixteen chambers, he talks slightingly of the art of geomancy and its practitioners. His wheels, however, are of interest to the geomancer. They are made of a number of card or wooden discs stuck with the same central pin, rotating independently but sometimes linked to other wheels by cogs. Each is marked with different categories or:18

sixteen 'chambers' representing kindness, grandeur, eternity, power, wisdom, will, virtue, truth, glory, perfection, justice, beneficence, pity, humility, dominion and patience. One hundred and twenty more 'chambers' were formed by combining pairs of the foregoing. Another circle shows the rational soul in the center represented by four squares and has its circumference divided into sixteen compartments representing appropriate qualities. A third circle, devoted to principles and meanings, enclosed five triangles in a circumference of fifteen compartments; while a fourth circle divided fourteen compartments of its circumference between the seven virtues and seven vices respectively rendered in blue and red. Other 'figures' dealt with predestination, fate, and free-will, truth and falsity. The following is a specific instance of the way in which these were combined. When the rational soul is troubled and uncertain in the circle of predestination, because the chambers of ignorance and merit, science and fault, mingle together, it forms a third figure representing doubt.

A similar arrangement can be used by a geomancer with the sixteen figures marked on four discs of different sizes. When any combination of four Mother figures come into line a Judge is revealed without the necessity of drawing up a full geomantic figure. Similarly, 'machines' for judging the figures generated in a horoscope have been used. The present writer has reconstructed several such 'Lullian geomantic machines'.

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