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Llull's mysticism

The Art was equally an art of conversion and of demonstration and an art of contemplation. Llull’s mysticism, from the time of the Book of Contemplation to that of the Art of Contemplation, developed the second aspect of the Art and was essentially a method of prayer and contemplation, whose back-bone was the theory of the divine dignities: it was a question of considering them in their reciprocal circularity, each one in the others, in the degree to which they constituted a single thing among themselves and with God. In the Book of the Lover and the Beloved and in the Tree of the Philosophy of Love they are supplemented by a beautiful and subtle doctrine of love. ‘“Tell us, fool, what is love?” He answered that love is that which puts free men into bondage and gives liberty to those in bonds. And the question is, which is closer to love: liberty or bondage?’ (Verse 295). ‘Love has made its home between fear and hope, where it lives on its thoughts but dies from forgetfulness…’ (Verse 17).

Llull’s mysticism was based upon knowledge, but culminated in love. Memory, understanding and will, always in play, formed the centre of action for the lover and, in him, for the beloved also. Understanding and will, science and ‘amància’ [‘the art of loving’] –a newly-coined word which Llull contrasted to that of ‘ciència’ [‘science’ or ‘knowledge’] and by which he expressed his theoretico-practical conception, of love– complemented each other dialectically, though the two former were placed in the service of the two latter. The understanding, which prepared the lover’s way, and the will, which carried it out, took part, at the same time, in the lover’s ‘journeys’ towards the beloved: ‘The lover asked Understanding and Will which one was closer to his beloved. They both started running, and Understanding reached his beloved before Will.’ (Verse 19). It was the role of the intellect, therefore, to guide the lover towards God. But once it had lead the soul to the threshold of divine mystery, the understanding withdrew and let the will take over. Then the discourse ended and love remained alone. ‘Love lit up the cloud placed between the lover and the beloved, and made it as bright and shining as the moon by night, and the morning star at dawn, the sun by day, and understanding in the will. And it is through this shining cloud that the lover and beloved speak to each other.’ (Verse 123).

The contemplation of creatures played a rather secondary role in Llull’s mysticism. Creatures, of course, created in the image of the divine dignities, signified the Creator’s perfections. But the soul should not cease its activities there but rather, should strive to leave them behind and to elevate itself towards God: ‘The lover saw a beautiful flower that his beloved had created, and he said to the flower that its beauty impelled him to think about the beauty of his beloved; and for this reason the flower said to the lover that he did not have great and lasting thoughts towards his beloved, for the person who thinks of his beloved alone, according to the conditions of the beloved and the nature and essence of love, has greatly loving thoughts’ (Tree of the Philosophy of Love).

Source: Eusebi Colomer, El pensament als Països Catalans durant l’Edat Mitjana i el Renaixement (Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 1997), pp. 27-28.