Raimon Lull, the Early Years
Ramundo was a bright kid... a child of a new-rich family whose grandfather
had won by blood and steel and fire the gratitude of his feudal lord. This
gratutide was expressed in the gift of a hereditary fief on the lovely and
haunted balearic isle Majorca.
Ah! How the blood grows thinner!
Loll, the brave and bloody man won the land by courage and warfare. Loll's
son won the land by patient cultivation, planting vines, planting olives,
lifting stones on his own shoulders out of the path of the gentle plough.
Loll's grandson lived to enjoy the fruits of his ancestors' labours. Not
for him the sword or plough; he would never need bandage the stump of a
wounded comrade or staunch the sap should the storm tear a limb from a
Raimond, light of the world, had a pen, which he employed in writing
successfully seductive sonnets to a succession of seducible paramours. This
was courtship - a flirtation with alliteration.
In his dryer moments he wrote for merchants. He had acquired the mysterious
art of Arabic book-keeping. His consumption of sensual herbs, narcotic
flowers, must-fermented liquors, distillates and potions from poison rot
rye to mandrake root to dead man's buttons mushrooms was, to be wry, a
legend in his own lunchtime.
He was a greedy child, a superbly self-indulgent brat. The
consequences are predictable.
Voltaire once noted sagely that: "The prerequisite of a life of debauchery
is an iron constitution".
Raymund had not died before his 19th birthday, to the astonishment of all,
and in particular the astonishment of the local witch wet-nurses who had
been feeding the little parasite raw strichnine, arsenic, belladonna and
arnica since his first whelp.
The boy got flashes - unsolicited and unprovoked hallucinatory images,
synaesthesiac whispers in the corner of his eye, pictures at the back of
his ear that spun his head like a whipped top. Awful thoughts interrupted
his pleasures and his pursuit of pleasure. He lost his appetite, as he lost
his appetites, compounding his psychedelic existence with the massive
psychotropic effect of anorexic fasting.
Raymondo puts it more gently: he says that, a dozen times the hideous
figure of Christ crucified appeared just out of his field of vision until
the reproach of those patient eyes became unendurable. The reproach of the
"Right", said Raimund, "I've had enough... I'm going to have a word with
The extended synaptic connections of his own preternaturally endowed brain
had been stretched and disciplined from birth by astonishing intoxication.
As he became "clean and sober", the unsettled cognitive pathways confirmed
themselves into an extraordinary configuration. Ramund became an Alien, as
if he were the caricature of a little green man with an "H" shaped aeriel
sprouting from the fontanelle.
His brilliant and exceptional mind became for a brief eternal instant an
antenna, a receiver, a cat's whisker crystal - a tuning fork ringing to the
harmonics of the universe, and the pitch of the voice of God.
Total "Grand Mal" epileptic seizure, collapse and coma. They thought he was
dead. By the time they had imported a suitably senior priest to perform the
funeral obsequies, Ramon had lain in state untouched for a week. The priest
refused to bury him on the very proper grounds that a week old corpse in
Balearic high summer will be a festering mass of blow-flies and Raymon's
body didn't stink at all.
I speculate that the priest had dreams of transporting the fragrant,
undecomposed body around like the miraculously preserved body of a saint.
Where one putative miracle goes, why should not others follow? I think the
good bishop was discouraged from promoting Ramondo as a Saint when he got
up like Lazarus (a hard act to follow, don't you agree?) and probably said
something unsuitable like: "Oh wow man - bitchin' shit - what a fucking
trip - Hey man, this you will never believe!"
RAIMUNDO'S INTERVIEW WITH GOD
R: God!... God!... This is Ray speaking. Don't hide behind that cloud. I
know You're in there. [Pause] Look, just come on out with your hands...
well... visible, and there won't be any trouble.
G: All the universe is yours to play with and you still want something.
R: You bet I do. I want to register a complaint.
G: Raymond, if it's the thing about forbidden fruit, you cannot be serious.
It's never applied in your case has it ¿ [NB God, being omniscient, can only
ask rhetorical questions]
R: Cut the cackle. Come on out.
G: Sure ¿
R: Sure I'm sure!
[God draws back the shutters of the Firmanent - it creaks like a sash
G: Well ¿
R: What, in the name of all that's... er...
G: Expletives deleted by divine dispensation. Continue. Pray continue.
R: Well God, what do you want from me?
G: What do I want from you ¿¿
R: Well yeah... kind of... Yeah!
G: Ramond my child, it's your life. Do what you can with it.
[The crack of a dry sash window warns us that God is putting up the
R: Whoa... Hey... Hang on. [The creaking pauses] I mean, look here. You
don't know the trouble I've been through to arrange this interview.
[Pause] On second thoughts, sorry, I'm sure you do - but really - this is
your divine injunction: "Do what you can"? Have you invented Christmas
Crackers or Fortune Cookies yet?
G: Not yet, but I shall if you feel they are needed.
R: What? Look I didn't expect you to have a corner on the terminally trite,
but now I see - I shouldn't be surprised.
G: Be very careful kid.
R: I refuse to accept such a silly commandment. "Do what you can". Oh
really. [Pout and shrug]
G: You would prefer something a little more... demanding ¿
G: More... profound ¿
G: Sure ¿
R: Sure I'm sure...
G: OK kid - Here it comes -
[The voice of God loses its diffident and avuncular tone and becomes Grade
A, Old Testament thunderclap and burning bush..]
G: [Continued] DO WHAT YOU CAN NOT DO ¡¡¡
The bishop, whom you will recall, has been contemplating the mileage he
might get from Raymun's catatonia, vaguely hears a sound like a creaky
sash window slamming shut and sees his dreams shatter as Raymundo lifts
R: "Oh - wow man! - what the... You will not believe this..."
Perhaps the bishop had hoped a fragrant corpse would so impress the
Christian peasantry that war against the Saracen would seem preferable to
their smelly lives. The residue of this thought may have inspired his
answer to Ramun's first question.
R: "Hey man... Tell me something that can't be done."
B: "Well... the chance of converting Islam to Christianity is beginning to
look pretty dismally remote."
R: "You mean it can't be done?"
The bishop sadly nods. [Pout and shrug]
R: "Not even by me?"
B: "No! Never! In no circumstances. Not by you!"
R: "Cool man... That is definitely what I'm gonna do!"
Raimun Lull lived to a very ripe old age still trying half-a-dozen
impossible things every day before breakfast. He died in Islamic North
Africa, still trying to change peoples' minds at the age of 92 (+/-).
According to all available reports: "They stoned his brains out".
Interpret that as you will.
In the interim he travelled widely, learned what people could teach, and
taught what people could learn. He made many friends and noticed no enemies.
His contribution to the world of ideas, his fluent glide between worlds of
faith and realms of truth are beyond a simple description. There is only
one great Art, in which all things are involved. We call it Ars
Magna (the name of the book by which he is remembered) because it is
superior to the knowledge of names.
His is still a name to conjure with - A name to swear by.
- Jamie Chadwick (July 94)