The first section of the fifth part of the Book of Evast and Blaquerna consists of a collection of ‘moral metaphors’, that is to say, aphorisms with a religious content, expressing the protagonists experiences of contemplation once he has become a hermit. The composition of the Book of the Lover and the Beloved (Llibre d’amic e amat) reveals a didactic pretext in Chapter 97 of the novel: certain disciples ask master Blaquerna to teach them his method of raising the spirit and he, while recalling the extraordinary devotion of those Muslim mystics known as Sufis, decides to compress into as many lines of verse as the year has days, a conceptual and literary distillation of the life he has devoted to the love of God.
The most recent critical edition of the Book of the Lover and the Beloved shows that the number of lines does not correspond exactly to the number of days in a year. It is a minor detail which reveals to us the ‘practical’, that is to say, speculative and poetic, nature of the collection; in the fifth part of Blaquerna it is accompanied, in fact, by a theoretical treatise, the ‘Art of Contemplation’.
The aphorisms in the Book of the Lover and the Beloved are not organised thematically, and they display a variety of literary forms: dialogue, questions, descriptions, definitions, and narrative. The central theme is the relationship between the religious man, the lover [‘l’amic’], and the transcendent being, the beloved [‘l’amat’], in the light of the bond which unites them, namely, love.
Llull’s Art, which is inventive, demonstrative, contemplative and also ‘amative’, explains how the process of seeking out God operates in a technical sense: for this reason, an important part of the Book of the Lover and the Beloved is devoted to commentating upon the behaviour of the three faculties of the rational soul (understanding, memory and will) during the amorous leap from creature to Creator. Another section of the versicles sets out reflections upon the divine essence: the Dignities, the Trinity, and the Incarnation are always viewed in terms of the precise idiom of Llull’s Art. Behind the apparent looseness of its literary motives, this short work, therefore, has, a solid structure of thought and a strict coherence with regard to the meaning of mystical union: the intellect opens the way towards comprehension of God, but the loving will is what drives the lover, if his memory has not forgotten his beloved.
The most celebrated aspects of the Book of the Lover and the Beloved are those which describe the (always secondary) role played by creatures (the sun, stars, clouds, birds, paths…) in stimulating love for God, and the emotional condition of the enamoured soul, buffeted by desire, forgetfulness, suffering, the search for God, longing and tears. It is here that Llull’s writing echoes themes from universal love poetry, from the Song of Songs to the Occitan troubadours, and always from the particular standpoint of the impulse towards the transcendent. It is not easy to specify parallelisms with great Sufi mystical literature, just as possible borrowings from the Judaeo-Christian tradition also remain unclear. The formulations put forward by Llull in place of the old reasons of universal scope are powerfully personal.