Ars Brevis, Ramon Lull: Combinatory Wheel, Quarta Figura


Commentary on Combinatory Wheel, Quarta Figura

  1. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    The combinatory wheel in Ramon Lull’s Ars Brevis represents a sort of Kabbalistic algorithm for scientifically drawing conclusions about the attributes of God. The figure involves three concentric wheels which revolve independently, each divided into compartments labeled B-K. Each letter represents one of the names or attributes of God: bonitas (goodness), Magnitudo (greatness), Eternitas (Eternity), Potestas (power), sapientia (wisdom), voluntas (will), virtus (virtue), veritas (truth), gloria (glory).

  2. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    In the Ars Generalis Ultima, Lull expands on the notation used in the A Figure, noting that each positive attribute also implies its opposite:

    Here is the alphabet of this art:
    B. stands for goodness, difference, whether? God, justice, avarice
    C. stands for greatness, concordance, what? angels, prudence, gluttony
    D. stands for duration, contrariety, of what? heaven, fortitude, lust
    E. stands for power, beginning, why? man, temperance, conceit
    F. stands for wisdom, middle, how much? imagination, faith, acedia
    G. stands for will, end, what quality? senses, hope, envy
    H. stands for virtue, majority, when? vegetation, charity, wrath
    I. stands for truth, equality, where? elements, patience, lies
    K. stands for glory, minority, how and with what? instruments, compassion, inconstancy

    The artist must know the alphabet by heart, for without this, he cannot practice this art. The alphabet signifies the principles and the questions that provide information for solving specific problems with tried and true understanding free of doubt.

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Ramon Lull's Ars Brevis is an abridged version of his Ars Generalis Ultima, a medieval treatise describing a mnemonic system that also serves as a means for deducing new information from methodological recombinations of memorized material. The manuscript of the Ars Brevis is housed at Biblioteca El Escorial, Madrid, Ms. f.IV.12.