Skip main navigation

Llull in contemporary art

The video explains the basis of Lullian.
Llull did not want to convince the Jews and Muslims by force. How was he to do it, then? He invented a method, known as Ars magna, which is based on an intuition. This intuition, which he called ‘divine intuition’, explains that Jews, Christians and Muslims, the three communities in the book, that is to say, the three religions of Abrahamic tradition,
when they pray, when they address their god, do so always in the same or in a similar way:
They use the names of God: goodness, greatness, worship, eternity, glory… what the Greek philosophers, like Plato, for example, called ‘ideas’, a sort of archetype according to which if good things exist it is because there is goodness, if great things exist it is because there is greatness. Llull called that ‘dignities of God’. He believed that a universal grammar could be formed, the universal and rational principles of which were precisely the names of God goodness, greatness… as the principle of communication between one man and another, between a Jew and a Christian, between a Christian and a Muslim. Because, in fact, all three used the same language
not the same tongue, but the same language: the names of God. Before Llull, this had been used by the Jewish kabalists or mystics of Judaism, the Sufi or mystics of Islam and the Christian contemplative. So Llull’s system disposed of a series of geometric figures, and at the centre of the first of these figures, figure A, there is God, represented by the letter A,
God is being and around this letter are all the names of God: goodness, greatness, eternity… each of which was represented by a letter, that is to say, by means of an algebraic notation. Therefore, combining one letter with another we get that goodness is great, in the same way that the greatness is good. Llull believed that it was possible to form a universal language, through this combination of the names of God
and this combination was to be applied to the sciences: physics, astronomy, and medicine. We also find it in his literary works, novels or fiction, that in this way seek to convey this same doctrine. We are now in an area called ‘variations on the Ars magna’ which aims to show the application of this universal grammar, this Ars combinatoria, to the various disciplines. We thought it would be rather interesting to propose the interpretation made by some 20th century artists, such as Salvador Dalí, of whom we have a video and also an important painting. Salvador Dalí is considered a disciple of Ramon Llull, at the same time through some disciples of Llull, such as Juan de Herrera.
Juan de Herrera was one of the two architects of The Escorial. A mathematician and an architect, he also influenced Philip II to buy books for the library of The Escorial, meaning Philip II was also a great Llulist. There are those who say that the architecture of El Escorial is based on Lullian geometry. Llull also wrote books on geometry, such as the book On the quadrature and the triangulation of the circle. These followers of Ramon Llull, like Juan de Herrera, but also Salvador Dalí, are some of the disciples of Llull through the centuries. And they are the ones who give the tone of a Lullism that has not always been explicit, but implicitly displays the richness of the language of Llull.
Now we will see other examples of literature and music in which the Ars combinatoria is applied, that is, this language, invented by Ramon Llull, based on the combination of all the elements of reality, and that can be applied to various discourses.
In this video, Amador explains the basis of Lullian thought: God and his names (‘dignities’), used as the basis of logical-algebraic notation which facilitates the combinatoria.
The Lullian system is a universal language that can be applied to other disciplines, from the mathematics and architecture of Juan de Herrera to the art of Salvador Dalí.
This article is from the free online

Understanding Ramon Llull: ​Philosophy, Arts and Science through the Ars Combinatoria

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education