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The Art's missionary aim

According to the Vita coetanea, Ramon formulated three proposals at the time of his conversion: 1. to try to convert unbelievers, Muslims above all, without fear of possible martyrdom; 2. to write a book - the best book in the world - against the errors of the unbelievers; and 3. to try to convince the pope, kings, and princes, to found monasteries for the instruction of missionaries. The manner in which Llull proposed to carry out the first intention of his new life, was by honouring, praising and serving God.

The ‘best book in the world’ against the errors of unbelievers issued in an extensive, varied and complex oeuvre, presided over by the Art. As a universal method, the Art was the foundation of all branches of knowledge (logic, metaphysics, philosophy, theology, law, medicine and the other natural sciences, the liberal and the mechanical arts, etc.); its status as a method of methods, superior to any previous doctrinal form, gave it a culturally neutral power as a tool of rational persuasion. Llull’s essential aim was to spread the Truth by making it immediately patent and active among believers and by imposing it upon unbelievers by force of evidence.

This missionary aim was situated at the heart of Ramon Llull’s works and conditioned many of its peculiarities such as, for example, that of avoiding the citation of authorities, a very uncommon phenomenon in the 13th century. So as to convince unbelievers of the truth of Christianity, Llull believed that it was impracticable to conduct debates upon the basis of the sacred texts of the Bible and the Qur’an, which was the usual manner of conducting debates. Discussions concerning the meaning of the texts went on interminably and distanced participants from the desired end. The Art was an art or method of disputation, which presented the Truth upon the basis of rational formulations which Llull called ‘necessary’ or ‘demonstrative reasons’.

The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men was the most literary of Llull’s works of religious polemic: the ‘flowers’ or conditions of the Art indicated by Dame Intelligence to the three wise men, permitted one to expound the principles of the three ‘laws’ (Judaic, Islamic and Christian) in accordance with reason. The gentile who listened to them had to be able to choose between them unencumbered by the possibility of error.