Raymond Lull and his Llibres


Why am I opening this thread?

In a nutshell, many if us possibly hope to find an as-yet undiscovered document that predates the first extant deck or tarot reference but nonetheless suggests it. Of the thousands of manuscripts, perhaps there may be one (or some) from relatively unknown authors... though perhaps, too, one of the more famous and influential authors has written a tract that has thus far been overlooked by its scholars otherwise unfamiliar with tarot, and thus missing the connection.

Of all the early authors, Raymond Lull seems like a prime candidate for this possibility.

Raymond Lull (also written as 'Raymon Lully') was born at one of those cross-currents of culture, within normal travel to Marseille and the western Italian peninsula's coast, in one of those glorious islands off the coast of Spain: Majorca.

His father had been granted a fiefdom for his part in liberating the island from the Moors.

Without going into his biography (about the only item easily found both online and off), he lived between 1235 and 1315, intent on trying to 'save' (ie, convert) as many fellow human beings as possible, and was eventually stoned to death in North Africa.

His writings amount to over 300 volumes (though about 3000 have at various times been attributed to him - most very unlikely), including perhaps his more famous references to the Ars Magna and his kabalistically oriented book Arbor Scientiae.

He is of course influential with all those who in many ways bring to light the Renaissance, including Pico della Mirandola, Agrippa, John Dee, Giordano Bruno and Nicholas of Cusa. He is also said to have influenced the likes of Bacon, Descartes and Newton.

What interests me here is whether anyone has had occasion to read his more popular allegorical novels, especially the first (1284) Blanquerna and the second, dealing with an initiatory journey, Felix.

In it, we have a few elements that already sound like they may have tarot reference (or influence - and this is perhaps an undiscovered territory). For example, 'Ramon the Fool' instructed in the 'Ars Magna' and sent to the Pope by the Emperor - tarot connections would here very much depend on the other elements of the allegory, for these three are simply too common in terms of characters.

But to leave it here as simply an opening post on the possible influence on tarot by Lull, in his third novel The Book of the Lover and his Beloved, he writes:
'Say, O Fool, hast thou riches?'
He answered 'I have my beloved.'
'Hast thou lands, castles, cities, provinces, or kingdoms?'
He answered 'I have thoughts of love, and tears, and desires, and trials and griefs, which are better than kingdoms or empire'.​

Having only a few references and only minor extracts from his works, I have but a paucity of resources to draw from... yet... perhaps... especially one of his popular novels may shed another link or key.


Thank you JMD.
Lullus is a philosopher I am very interested in, but I never read any of his works.
The first paragraphs of this page give an excellent introduction to the most important aspects of his works. The page provides links to beautiful images from ancient editions of the Ars Magna. For instance: http://www.c3.hu/scca/butterfly/Kunzel/foot/images/plate01.jpg

I think these images are both highly magical (as you pointed out, Kircher and Bruno were influenced by them) and conceptually similar to tarot. Lull's idea was to design a logical system that would explain the universe as the combination of a small number of elementary principles. I think this point of view has analogies with tarot as a combinatorial device (in games, divination or "Tarocchi appropriati").

I will follow this thread with the greatest interest, and I hope I will be able to contribute more in the future.


John Meador

Some years ago, following conversations with Bob O'Neill about a possibility of Joachite (ie: derivations from the works and pseudo-works of Joachim of Fiore) influence in the structure and demeanor of Tarot trumps, my research led me to Ramon Llull and his friend Arnold of Villanova whom I deemed a more likely source. I posted loads at TarotL on the subject before the atmosphere there became entirely too inhospitable. Very briefly, Arnold fostered Beguin groups, providing them with materials from his own scriptorium, and he too was fascinated with the "Key of David", which pops up again as Guillaume Postel's Clavis of 1546.
Robert Lerner's "Ecstatic Dissent" has some pertinent info if I remember correctly, however the entire article needs permission to access:
Actually, Robert Lerner has much material on the Spiritual Franciscans and Beguins and the Key of David elsewhere but I will have to go into my catacombs to find references.

Arnold believed he and Llull were the heralds of a new age.

Curiously, I just stumbled on this:
"Traces of an organised body are to be found in the Rosary of Arnold de Villanova, circa 1230, inasmuch as the Cabalistic term of "Sons of the Order" is used. In the Theoria of Raymond Lulli circa 1322 there is a passage in which mention is made of a "Societas Physicorum," and also of a "Rex Physicorum." "



historical research

I have read Lull's novel. It is in places hard to take because the hero goes through a process of extreme self-denial giving up nearly everything we desire such as love, wealth, and even minimal comforts. The virtues acting as characters lead him through episodes in which a lesson related to that particular virtue is demonstrated. No doubt the Tarot is a form of Lullism, but it is more than that. There are two promising areas for the hidden document. One is the commentary on the Timaeus by Calcidius. I have read pieces of this in Stephen Gersh's out of print book From Iamblichus to Eriugena. Calcidius also wrote a book on demonology. In my opinion the Tarot is a game based on Timaeus and so it would make sense that the Latin translater Calicidius would form part of that foundation. Calcidius's commentary was lost for centuries. But for the look of the Tarot as it appears in Lull's art there is also the magical instrument also mentioned in Stephen Gersh's book called "Hecate's top" which "he describes (Michael Psellus) as a golden disc with a sapphire set in the centre and engraved with symbols to be rotated by the magician with a leather thong while making his invocations." I have not investigated "Hecate's top" if such a thing is possible.

John Meador

kapoore said:
"...there is also the magical instrument also mentioned in Stephen Gersh's book called "Hecate's top" which "he describes (Michael Psellus) as a golden disc with a sapphire set in the centre and engraved with symbols to be rotated by the magician with a leather thong while making his invocations." I have not investigated "Hecate's top" if such a thing is possible.

This is known as a strophalos:



Hi John,
Thank you for the information on 'Hecate's top', which in your reference seems to be more of a sphere than a "disc." A "disc" shape would be closer to Lull's rotating circles, so maybe the idea of "Hecate's top" (which is really not a top but a ball?) would not be at all like a revolving disc or spindle with paper records that combine and recombine information. I follow Ouspensky that Lull's "art" works like Tarot in its style as a philosophical machine. The Tarot randomizes information through shuffling and then is read through correspondences. Probably Frances Yates intuition was right that Llull's ideas derived from Eriugena, which then connects well with the early Latin Platonists such as Calcidius.


Perhaps food for thought but historically improbable. I think coins were suits in the Chinese playing cards that go back to the 9th century. Coins also are a suit in the antique Muslim cards that supposedly came into Europe via the Mamluk's in the 14th Century. Since this is a history thread I think one can ask what interpretation coins would have had to the 15th Century Latin. Mathew 22:21 mentions the coin as an image of Caesar so the Latins used the symbol of the coin as an image--give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. But what is God's? That would be the psyche or the soul or perhaps nature, and so I think a valid interpretation of the coin from the 15th Century Latin perspective would recall the image, the visible symbol or reflection. The numbers 22:21 are key numbers in the Tarot since there are 22 Trump cards and 21 if the Fool is 0. Also, the Tarot is based on triangular numbers. 78 is the triangular number of 12, and 21 is the triangular number of 6. The formula for a triangular number is n(n+1)/2 so 21(21+1)/2 is 231 or the triangular number of 21. All this is also food for thought.


I suspect that if there was some relation to Lull's works, despite his incredible brilliance with cyphers, that it would be rather evident in some of his works - or so it seems to me, and something that seems unlikely to be the case for the novel read by kapoore (welcome to AT, by the way!) - but what of the others from Lull?.

If shaped numbers are to be influential (despite the four 'suits' in Chinese and Mamluk earlier decks), then perhaps this basis of four is more important than triangular numbers per se, or in isolation to other considerations.

With regards to 231, it is of course also clearly stated within Hebrew 'Chariot' (Merkabah) Mysticism, being mentioned in, apart from other places, the Sefer Yetzirah. But I do not see it as having stated applications in tarot. Rather, the four suits of ten depicted implements brings the other important number of 220 (4 X base10 triangles).

What is mathematically perhaps more significant, and that I pointed out in another thread replying to another post, is that the 4, 10, 16, and 22 are ALL base four numbers: 4 suits, base-4 triangle = 10 pips (per suit), base-4 square = 16 courts, and base-4 pentagon = 22 atouts.

Still, I am left to wonder whether there is a specifically Lullist work from which is reflected tarot as it developed... and am simply insufficiently familiar with his works (that I have only read snippets of in any case) to be able to properly dismiss the possibility - and am of course curious as to whether this even has proper merit.

John Meador


kapoore said:
Perhaps food for thought but historically improbable. .

I was referring in particular to Ross's observation that a spinning disc appears to be a sphere. Two subjects perhaps bearing some relation to 'Hecate's top'
are the appearance of volvelles in Lullian works:
the other subject is the Iynges (Iynx=wryneck) of the Chaldean oracles
which reminds one also of Visnu's whirling discus personified by Sudarsana-
oy, outta sorrowful repect a mention goes:
http://www.mara.org.uk/John Lennon UFO.htm

sure why not,