23. Four representatives of change

1. Richard of St. Victor (died 1173)


The monastery of St. Victor, founded by Guillaume of Champeaux, was situated just outside the city-walls of Paris. The place represented in the Twelfth Century Renaissance an intellectual stronghold where the ideas of Plato in the tradition of Augustine were fostered. This choice implied a devotion to ‘wisdom’ in his most broadly sense and a search for ‘the eternal and unchanging truths concealed by the myriad deceptions and alterations of perception’ (PILTZ, 1981; p. 40).

Hugo of St Victor (who died in 1141) was one of the most prominent scholars and instigators of this school of thoughts in which – just like the contemporary cathedral school in Chartres – distinct overtones of early ‘scientific’ interest could be recognized, often still embedded in the tetradic way of thinking. His ‘Didascalicon’ (Eruditionis didascaliae libri VII) was a medieval guide to the arts and treated the division of knowledge (TAYLOR, 1961/1991).

Hugo of St. Victor initiated two forms of Bible study. The first type of study aimed at an extension of the symbolic meaning and the second type sought for in-depth knowledge of the literal meaning of Bible words. SOUTHERN (1985, p. 8, in WALSH & WOOD, 1985) remarked: ‘Richard of St. Victor undertook the first; Andrew (of St. Victor) the second. Richard’s work made him one of the great names of the Middle Ages; Andrew’s consigned him to almost total oblivion till he was rescued by Beryl (Smalley)’ (SMALLEY (1939, 1968).

The choices made by history are often inspired by the need of the day or curiosity based on opportunistic reasons. A good example is the abbot Trithemius, who experienced – around 1500 – this fate. His book ‘Steganographia’ pushed him into the dubious reputation of demon-conjuration, while the rest of his prolific literary output – including a short tract on the fourfold mode of Scriptural interpretation (‘Tractatus de investigatione sacrae scripturae’, 1486) and ‘De triplici regione‘ (1497), a kind of handbook of spiritual exercises – deserves far more credit.

Richard of St. Victor was probably born in Scotland in the first quarter of the twelfth century and moved to the continent. He became the abbot of the St. Victor-cloister in Paris in 1162. He died at this post in 1173. His best-known works are the book ‘De Trinitate’, an encyclopaedic ‘Liber exceptionum’, and meditations under the title ‘Benjamin minor’ and ‘Benjamin major’. Further small commentaries, like ‘De Tabernaculo’ (ZINN, 1979), an explanation of the apocalypse (KAMLAH, 1935) and a commentary on Ezekiel (CAHN, 1994).

Richard’s importance in the intellectual environment of his time was further underlined by his occurrence in Dante’s circle of wise man in the tenth hymn of The Paradise, side by side with Siger van Brabant. The symbol of the stairs (as representation of hierarchy) was prominent (DUNBAR, 1929; p. 78) and indicated that the future (of oppositional thinking) was drawing near. Richard had been close to the culmination of the tetradic way of thinking in the twelfth century (CAVINESS, 1983). He emphasized – in his ‘In Apocalypsim Joannis‘ (PL. 196; 686 – 687) – the four-fold ‘visio‘ as the standard in the exegesis of the Holy Bible (SMALLEY, 1931; DE LUBAC, 1959/1964).

The development of the theory of ‘visio’ between Rupert of Deutz (died 1129/1130) and Richard of St. Victor (died 1173) was clearly put forward by KAMLAH (1935). The ‘Bildvisionen‘ (graphic visions) of Rupert were based on a three-division and corresponded with the classical concepts of corpusspiritus and mens:

——————————-        visio corporalis

——————————-        visio spiritualis

——————————-        visio intellectualis

Rupert of Deutz was, first of all, an exegetic, who puts the ‘meditatio Scripturarum‘ in the centre of his thoughts. His search for clarity pointed to the future, the world of the tripartition, which sets in after the year 1200 AD.

Richard of St. Victor – who lived a generation later – represented in this comparison the past. He referred to the theory of the visions, which was expounded on in his ‘Sermones cent.’ (PL. 177; 920C): ‘Si … videremus istum taliter scientia saeculari doctum, sapientia divinae Scripturae peritissimum, doctum sc. in Veteri et Novo testamento, historia, allegoria, tropologia, anagoge..’

Four ‘modi visiones‘ were again mentioned in the introduction of the ‘Commentary of the Revelations of St. John’. These ‘modi‘ consisted of two ‘corporales‘ and two ‘spirituales‘. Richard used the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius (in particular of the ‘Celestial Hierarchy‘) to connect vision with understanding. Richard of St. Victor saw the exegesis as a stepping-stone for a ‘bildlose Kontemplation‘, to bring the observer in the realm of the invisible invisibility: ‘die Energien der Mystik kommen nicht der Exegese, sondern dem systematischen Denken zugute‘ (KAMLAH, 1935; p. 113) (The energy of mystical forces is not directed towards the exegesis, but to systematical thinking).

Richard of St. Victor was clear on this matter in his mystical treatise ‘De Quatuor Gradibus Violentae Charitatis‘ (‘On the Four Degrees of Violent Love’; KRAEBEL, 2011). This work was composed about 1170 and recounts the loving relationship between God and humanity. Richard recognized four types of metaphors: wounding love (amor insuperabilis), binding love (amor inseparabilis), languishing love (amor singularis) and weakening love (amor insatiabilis). Elena LOMBARDI (2012; p. 117ff) expounded on the last type of love, which reaches as a continuum into infinity (and is therefore never satisfied). Richard made a distinction between human and divine love and the progress on the ‘love ladder’ was just opposite. Human progress to the amor insatiabilis was bad, but reaching the fourth degree in the love to God was good (‘he who clings to the Lord is one spirit with him’).

Richard of St Victor main work ‘De Trinate‘ seemed to be written towards the end of his life (BURGESS). The three-division was the guiding motif in this structured book with a prologue and six books of twenty-five chapters each. The third book (plurality and Trinity in God) deals again with love (to the three persons in the Godhead). The book indicate – if the dating is correct – that Richard had given up his four-fold ideas and moved in line with the spirit of the time, which headed towards lower division thinking.


2. Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179)


The German mystic Hildegard of Bingen was – with many other representatives of the Twelfth Century Renaissance – a transitional figure. This observation points not only to the important cultural changes, but also to the gradual shift from the fourfold to lower forms of division thinking. Hildegard lived from 1098 to 1179 and wrote her most important work between 1163 and 1173 (MEIER, 1987). The ‘Scivias‘ (Know the ways) is her best known book, but she also wrote the ‘Liber vitae meritorum’ and the ‘Liber divinorum operum’, divided in six and ten books respectively. Her hymns are still being performed.

BOELAARS (1986), in his attractive edition of the ‘Scivias‘, dated the work in 1151. Nine manuscripts of the work are preserved, of which four are from the same period, and two are illustrated. The visual representation of Hildegard’s ideas was preserved in the thirty-five illustrations of the Rupertberger Codex in the Wiesbadener Landesbibliothek, made by seven artists (BÖCKELER, 1954; FÜHRKÖTTER, 1977) and in the explanatory miniatures in the Lucca-Codex. The book is composed of three parts, describing twenty-six visions, which can be captured as follows:

—————————-   1. Under the curse of sin            ( 6 visions)

—————————-   2. The work of redemption        ( 7 visions)

—————————-   3. The end of times                      (13 visions)

Hildegard composed her work in a holy inspiration, using the ‘Seven Steps to Heaven‘ (of Eriugena) in an active way: the three division was used in the contemplation to symbolize God’s view and the four-division was seen as the human approach to the universe. Consequently, she distinguished four stages in the division of history:

—————————–  1. Status before the creation of the world;

—————————–  2. Time before the incarnation;

—————————–  3. Status of the incarnation;

—————————–  4. Turning point of the end of time and history of salvation.

The ‘trinitarisch-tetragonische Wirksamheit des Schöpfers‘ (BRONDER, 1972) is the all-embracing entity in the representation of the cosmos of Hildegard of Bingen. Mystical thoughts, as an extreme form of self-consciousness, aim at the approach of the ‘holy’ world of three-division by following a trinitary formula of senses: 1. potestas; 2. sapientia and 3. caritas. The three major symbols in the mystic world of contemplation are the cosmos of creation, an ethical cosmos and the history of grace. This (holy) trinity is reflected in the human world by theology, philosophy and poetry.

DE LUBAC (1959/1964, II, II, p. 40) ended his summary of the symbolic numbers with the following observation: ‘Il n’est pas indifferent, neanmoins, que la formule doctrinale du quadruple sens s’exprime dans le nombre de la solidite, ni que la formule contemplative du triple sens adopte le nombre du rythme spirituel‘ (It is not immaterial, however, that the doctrinal formula of the four senses is expressed in the figure of solidity, and also that the contemplative formula of the three senses adopted the figure of spiritual rythm). Here, in Hildegard of Bingen mystical exercises, we encounter Eriugena’s ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ in its original, unaltered form: a human fourfold system followed by a holy threefold system. It was only in a (later) state of oppositional thinking, that an inversion of the systems took place.


Fig. 145 – Two examples of a tetradic imagery in the work of Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179), a German Benedictine abbot and mystic. Left: The world egg, represented as a four-fold entity with a central earth, water, air and fire in a square frame. Right: A human being as the centre of a cosmos, which is ruled by Christ and God, embracing the outer sphere of fire. From the ‘Liber Divinorum Operum’ in the Biblioteca Governativa, Lucca (Italy).

It is not surprising, that the illustrations of tetradic features in the work of Hildegard of Bingen mainly occur, if she turns her attention to the position of the man in the cosmos (fig. 145). This element – of the meeting point of the holy and the human – was highlighted in the square shape of the Holy City within a circle (of perfection), encadred in another square (of rightness) (fig. 146). The conquest of Jerusalem in the First Crusade (1099) had sparked an interest in the city, and its representation was placed in the conceptual (division) system of the day (twelfth century).


Fig. 146 – An illustration of the Holy, four-walled city of God in the ‘Scivias’ of Hildegard of Bingen (T. 21 – Vision III.2) in the Rupertsberger Kodex at Wiesbaden (Germany). Lieselotte SAURMA-JELTSCH (1998) concluded after a detailed study that the thirty-five illustrations dated from the decennium after the death of Hildegard (after 1180) and were not made by herself. In: BÖCKELER (1954)/FÜHRKÖTTER (1977).

The ‘higher’ contemplative aims of Hildegard of Bingen reduced the influence of the tetradic way of thinking in favor of the trinity. This simplification implied a devotion to God, to provide him with more power and identity. Soon it was discovered, that the same process (of lower division thinking) could be successfully employed for mankind itself, in its search for influence, material wealth and power: a new humanism was born.


3. Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135 – 1202)


The contemplative development – in the newly-coined ‘Tetractus‘-age – can further be traced to Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135 – 1202): ‘Joachim hat als erster der Zukunft-gespannheit christlichen Glaubens ein geschichtliches Ziel gegeben‘ (KAMLAH, 1935; p. 117)(Joachim has been the first to give the expectations of the future of the Christian belief a historical aim). He pointed to the effects of a full understanding of tetragonic thinking in time.

Joachim of Fiore was born around 1135 in Celico (near Cosenza in Calabria), in the southern part of Italy, and died in 1202. His work was fairly typical for the teratological excesses, which might occur at the end of a development and on the boundary of great changes. All types of numerological interpretations of division-elements can be seen: three-, four-, six-, seven- and even twelve- (7 + 5) partition is presented without any apparent preference.

His biographers WEST & ZIMDARS-SWARTZ (1983) pointed to the cultural melting-pot of his place of birth: Latin, Lombardic, Norseman and Greek heritages made themselves known and had a possible influence on his work. McGINN (1979, p. 127) said: ‘Joachim broke with the traditional theory of the four senses of Scripture to create an idiosyncratic scheme of twelve in which seven ‘typical’ senses manifest the action of the Trinity throughout the course of history’. He was typecasted, in an elucidative article of BLOOMFIELD (1957), as ‘a lyrical, not a systematical thinker’.

It is possible to construct, in a cyclic framework of time, a new understanding based on the premises in the area of visible visibility (Third Quadrant). This could lead to a ‘Vorstoss der Weissagungsapokalyptik‘ (a sudden expansion of the prediction of revelation): ‘diese Weissagung führt zu einem neuen Begreifen der geschichtlichen Situation des Auslegers, die gedeutet etwas anderes ist als ungedeutet‘ (this prediction leads to a new understanding of the historical position of the observer, which is different before and after the denotation). However, the extension of the known into the unknown always requires an element of faith, which brings us closer to the realm of the invisible invisibility (or First Quadrant).

About fifty books are attributed to Joachim, but actually sixteen are written by himself. Four books are of prime importance: the ‘Liber Concordie Novi ac Veteris Testamenti’ (a comparison between texts in the Old and New Testament, making it a first philosophy of history), an ‘Expositio in Apocalypsim’ (written around 1183/1185), the ‘Psalterium Decem Chordarum‘ and the ‘Tractatus super Quatuor Evangelia’ (shaping the doctrine of the Trinity).

A number of pseudo-Joachimitic books were published in the thirteenth century – like the ‘Interpretatio in Hiereriam prophetam’, ‘Scriptum super Esaiam prophetam’, ‘Expositio Sibyllae et Merlini’ and the ‘Vaticinia Pontificum’ – which are typified by BETT (1931) as ‘some of the wildest and weirdest reading to be found anywhere in the world’. These books, even if he was not the author, added to the fame of Joachim.

The base of his system of thought was dichotomous, the ‘concordance‘, the literal comparison between the Old and New Testament and the overthrow of the Antichrist, bringing an ‘ordo novus’, which will establish – in the future – a tripartion. The third age of the Holy Spirit is the Third Testament and due to come soon.

An important chapter in the history of division thinking was the controversy between Joachim of Fiore and Petrus Lombardus, because it offers a rare glimpse in the fundamental operations of human thought.

The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 supported the view of Petrus Lombardus and condemned the (lost) work of Joachim (‘De Unitate seu de essentia Trinitatis’). Joachim accused Petrus Lombardus of being a ‘quaternator’, who made God into a quaternity (DANIEL, 1980).

The above-mentioned tract of Joachim was probably written during the Third Lateran Council in 1179, when the discussion over Petrus Lombardus’ point of view was at its highest: ‘Joachim accused Peter Lombard of Sabellianism and Arianism, of overemphasising the unity of God at the expense of His threeness to such an extent so as to make a quarternity of persons by separating the ‘deitas‘ or ‘essentia‘ of God too distinctly from the persons’ (BLOOMFIELD, 1957).

Joachim-the-trinitarian accused Lombardus-the-quaternarian of specifying an explicit place for (the invisible invisibility of) God and adding therefore an (extra) part to the trinity of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. The same was expressed by Gautier (Gualtieri) of St. Victor in his writings ‘Contra quatuor labyrinthos‘ (1177/78, PL. 199 – 1127). DOOB (1990, p. 164/200) pointed out that the word ‘labyrinthos‘ must be seen in a metaphorical sense to indicate persons who had lost the right way in a labyrinth of error, ‘or those whom Walter of Saint Victor (died c. 1190), in a futile protest against Aristotelianism, labels the “four labyrinths of France” (Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, Peter Pictaviensis, and Gilbert of Poitiers).’

These accusations were fully justified: this was a historical dividing line between the old (quaternarian) and the new (trinitarian) way of thinking in the cultural history of Europe. The so-called trinitarian discussion at the end of the twelfth century was about the fundamental width of thinking and its far-reaching implications: of the acceptation of the absolute unknown  (including the knowledge of God) or not. Emotions, therefore, could flare up high. BLOOMFIELD (1957) remarked that ‘Quaternity was a common counter-word and term of abuse in the Trinitarian disputes of the period‘.

Joachim of Fiore’s ‘Enchiridion super Apocalypsim’ – written around 1183/1185 (BURGER, 1986) and intended as a ‘liber introductorius‘ to the ‘Expositio in Apocalypsim‘ – was an exposé of symbolic-numerological divisions: a general history of the Old Testament, four individual stories (quattuor speciales junguntur: Job, Tobias, Judith, Ester), the seven seals (de septem sigillis), three phases in world-history, eight divisions of the Apocalypse and the perfection of the number five (and seven). In short, an unsorted collection of numerological elements. It had all the characteristics of a teratological development at the end of an era.

The ‘Tractatus super Quatuor Evangelia’ gave an exegeses of the four gospels. All sorts of oppositions were highlighted, like the fact that two of the gospels were written by apostles (Matthew and John) and two by medical man (Mark and Luke). MOTTU (1977, p. 78) noticed that the scheme of the ‘Tractatus‘ was based on allegory (spirituality) and typology (historicity). Furthermore there are now five ‘senses‘:

————————————-     historicus

————————————-     moralis

————————————-     tropologicus

————————————-     contemplativus

————————————-     anagogicus

The new emphasis on opposition and two-fold division (called the ‘nouvelle herme-neutique‘ by van ESBROECK, 1968) aimed deliberately at the old division of the four ‘senses‘ (‘pour effet manifeste de disloquer, en profondeur, l’usage classique des quatre sens, litteral ou ‘historique’, allegorique ou doctrinal, moral ou tropologique, eschatologique ou anagogique‘). The balance in the (fourfold) mediaeval exegeses was disturbed and substituted by an explanation based on contraries and a search for opposites.

In the erudite work of Henri de LUBAC (1959/1964) on the ‘Exégèse Médiévale’ – which is the indisputable standard work on the four-fold exegesis – was sought for the roots of the ‘Quatre sens de l’ecriture‘ (Four senses of the Scriptures). The Churchfathers – and more specific Cassiodorus (died 583) – played a mayor role. His book ‘Institutiones divinarum et saecularium lectionum (litterarum)‘ (MIGNE (1844/64), PL. 70) pointed the way of a four-fold exegesis. This book belongs to the celebrated ‘top-four’ of books with the most decisive influence in the Middle Ages – as proposed by PARÉ et al. (1933) and CHÂTILLON (1968). They were all devoted to the four-fold way of thinking:

 CENTURY                                        AUTHOR                                                TITLE


1. sixth                                                    Cassiodorus                                            Institutiones

2. seventh                                              Isidorus of Seville                                 Etymologies

3. nineth                                                Rabanus Maurus                          L’Institutio clericorum

4. twelfth                                               Hugo of St. Victor                                 Didascalicon

The five types of text-explanations of Joachim were again specified in the ‘Concordia‘: ‘Allegorici intellectus multe sunt species. Est enim harum prima hystorica, secunda moralis, tertia tropologica, quarta contemplativa, quinta anagogica‘ (Book V, Ch. 1-2, folio 60c in the Venice-edition of the ‘Liber Concordiae Novi ac Veteris Testamenti‘ from 1519; there is a facsimile edition of Minerva Publishers in Frankfort, 1964). The sequence (of the ‘senses‘) used by the allegorical mind, was in both books the same: beginning with the factual (hystorica) and ending with the invisible experience (anagogica). A hierarchical frame of thoughts, based on a two-fold division of low and high, is evident.

The ‘Tractatus super Quatuor Evangelia’ (original title: ‘Concordia Evangeliorum‘) was searching for the order of things. This order was established in a field of tension between the historical and actual facts, which gave room to create new values. Joachim’s book ‘Concordia novi et veteris Testamenti’ was wholly based on this principle. The parallels offered new meaning and a sense of continuity. The correlation conveyed a sphere of hitherto unknown values. Joachim called this ‘new world’ the ‘intelligentia spiritualis‘. It indicated the direction of philosophy in the next six centuries of the European cultural development.

MOTTU (1977, p. 98) placed the emphasis on the ‘concordia‘ as the most important element in the allegorical system of Joachim, because it pointed to the inner connection of things. ‘Concordia‘ could be seen from four different angles:

1. The ‘concordia‘ or harmony of texts (in particular between the four Gospels). In the modern sense this would be called synoptic;

2. The similarity in parallels between persons, occurrences and places in the Old and New Testament;

3. The correlation which proves, that there is a structural resemblance between different events in the course of history;

4. The compensation of addition of different facts.

The last meaning of ‘concordia‘ (as addition) seems to be less important, but is essential for the depth of thinking.

Finally, the importance of a meaning (‘sens‘) in relation to a place in a text was indicated. Joachim proved to be still close to the four-fold way of thinking in the application of this dynamic concept. It is the definition of place (as the position of an observer) in a communication, derived at in ‘concordia‘, which determines the ultimate possibilities for comparison. The occasional representation of ‘concordia‘ in the ‘emblemata‘ as four birds (see also fig. 48) – in the sixteenth and seventeenth century – could well be a long-forgotten reminiscence of the four-fold way and the dissolution of the double pair of opposites.

Joachim went further into the wonderland of numerology. He distinguished seven ‘species’ (aetates) in his typological description of history. Together with the five allegorical ‘senses’ he arrived at a twelve-division: ‘un de ces nombres sacres chers aux apocalypticiens de tous les temps‘ (one of the holy numbers favoured by believers of the apocalypse of all times).

These few examples show that Joachim was not a determined advocate of tetradic thinking, but rather someone who was obsessed by division-thinking-in-general. His followers, indicated as ‘pseudo-Joachites’, had ample opportunity to be eclectic and choose what fitted best in their narrower frames of mind.

The ‘Liber Figurarum’ (1227 – 1239, composed after his death) provided an example of Joachim’s conceptualism (REEVES & HIRSCH-REICH (1972). The work was important  for the propagation of his ideas (WILLIAMS, 1980), but it must be questioned of his ideas were always rightly understood in terms of division thinking. The emphasis is on the pivotal idea – the arrival of Christ as a central point in history – and there are associations with the dichotomous division of history: before and after Christ.

Joachim put the emphasis on the position of the observer, as an active contributant to the communication. Christ was the first marker-point and the human observer the second: the (linear) time could now be divided in three parts or periods (fig. 147/148 as an interpretation):


Fig. 147 – Three stages in history. One of the ‘figurae‘ of the Tree of Trinity in the ‘Liber figurarum’ of Joachim of Fiore, thirteenth century (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome). The tripartition is made up by the Father (Pater), Son (Filius) and Holy Spirit (Spiritus sanctus). The symbolism of the intertwined branches is similar to the well-known motif of the intertwined snakes. The shape is understood to mean ‘reconciliation’ or ‘unity of opposites’ in the eastern cultures.


Fig. 148 – An interpretation of the Tree of History, as originally given in the ‘Liber figurarum’ of Joachim of Fiore (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome). This figure is an adaptation of an illustration in: VON FRANZ (1978). Time: Rhythm and Repose.

1.  The First Age;   Symbolized by the Father (God); Duration: from Abraham unto Christ, comprising forty-two generations (St. Matthew 1: 17: ‘So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations)’;

2. The Second Age; Symbolized by the Son (Christ); The ‘Middle Ages’, referred to by Tertullian in the second century AD as ‘tempus medium‘. Duration: again forty-two generations of approximately thirty years (‘filii spirituales‘) pointed to the year 1260 AD. There was, according to Joachim, a preparation-time of two generations, therefore the year 1200 was crucial for the beginning of the:

3. The Third Age; Symbolized by the Holy Spirit. Indicating a new order of freedom as an Everlasting Gospel.

Joachim’s theory is one of the first examples of the general guideline that non-cyclic, tripartite thinking can lead to eschatological visions and special interest in the end of the world. This psychological position could be achieved by experiencing time-consciousness in a rigid scheme of past, present and future and to apply a fixed position of the observer in time.

The First Age was the past. Time and history were lost. The second phase (Second Age) comprised the present, the ‘hic at nunc‘ (here and now). The current moment could be experienced as a reality, which is – in the view of the observer – all-important. The third phase (Third Age) was the unknown world of things to come, the future. Problems will arise as the observer – in the high-strung expectations of his physical presence – looses sight of the relativity of his position (and division).

The Third Age was called the ‘Eternal Evangel’ or ‘Everlasting Gospel’ in the eschatological view of Joachim (and in the writing of his followers). This name was often associated with a book, but it is doubtful if such a publication ever existed. DUNBAR (1929) attributed the ‘Everlasting Gospel’ to Joachim of Fiore, but more recent investigations by HEER (1961) and REEVES & GOULD (1987) point to Gerard of Borgo San Donnino as the author of an ‘Introduction to the Everlasting Gospel’, written in 1254 as a pamphlet of the University of Paris.

The position of Joachim of Fiore in the ‘Tetractus Age’ (1000 – 1350) can be typified as a pivotal figure, which had direct access to past and future of different types of division thinking. His life was – on a micro-scale – an example of the mega-process of a growing consciousness of Europe as a cultural unit. It was necessary, for Europe just as well as for Joachim, to lower the width of thinking and reduce the number of divisions to ‘see more clearly’ the outlines of its own identity.

This development reached its own point of visibility after some three hundred years in the Reformation of Luther (1517). The unity of (Christian) belief was irreparably broken and a time of controversy, strife and disorder marked the supremacy of the two-fold way of thinking in the European cultural history.


4.  Ramon Lull (1232 – 1316)


The Catalan monk and scholar Ramon Lull (1232 – 1316) was the first representative of the ‘New Era’ (fig. 149). This time span in the European cultural history was characterized by a simplification in abstract processing of information. The life and work of Ramon Lull were exemplary for this practice, although history has done all sorts of efforts to obscure his intentions. The statement of RENAN (1861, p. 259) about Lull: ‘La rationalisme le plus absolu et les extravagances du mysticisme se succedaient comme un mirage dans les hallucinations dialectiques de ce cerveau trouble‘ (the most severe rationalism and extravaganzas of mysticism followed each other like mirages in the dialectic hallucinations of this disturbed mind), can hardly be called unbiased.


Fig. 149 – Raymond Lull (1232 – 1316). Courtesy of the Prentenverzameling Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Bloemgracht 19, Amsterdam 1016 KB.

HILLGARTH (1971) gave a more positive and balanced view of this intriguing personality. Ramon Lull was born in Palma on the isle of Majorca in 1232 and married Blanca Picany in 1257. He served as a seneschal for James II of Mallorca. In 1263 followed his conversion from a courtly to a religious way of life, and he made pilgrimages to Compostella and Rocamadour. The years from 1265 to 1274 were devoted to study in Latin and Arabic, which he learned from a slave. From 1270 onwards, he wrote a great number of books. Lull was, according to YATES (1954, p. 133) ‘one of the most prolific authors who ever lived’.

A ‘Compendium on the Logic of Al-Ghazzali’ was one of his earliest works. Al Ghazzali (1058 – 1111) was a Muslim theologian and Sufi mystic of Persian origin. He rejected the teachings of Aristotle and refuted Neo-Platonism.  Lull’s book has since been lost, but two later compendia with similar titles survived. He aimed in the ‘Book of Contemplation’ (‘Liber Contemplationis in Deum’, a ‘stupendously long work’; YATES (1982), at an encyclopedic survey of the whole creation and the development of a syncretistic system grounded in doctrines equally acceptable to Christians, Jews and Muslims (PRING-MILL, 1973; p. 547).

Ramon Lull visited Paris from 1287 to 1289 and came in contact with Thomas Le Myesier. The latter, who died in 1336, was the first to compile his writings in, originally, a quadripartite setting: the ‘Electorium‘ consisted of a ‘magnum‘ (Bibl. Nat., Paris), a ‘medium‘ (lost), a ‘parvum‘ (Breviculum, Karlsruhe) and the ‘minimum‘ (lost).

Le Myesier hinted, in his ‘Introductio‘, to the importance of the ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ in the work of Lull: ‘Man is divided into soul and body. The soul, in turn, is divided into its three powers, will, intellect, and memory, while the body has four constituents, imagination, sensation, vegetation and the elemental plane’ (PROBST, 1914). The three powers of the soul – Intellectus, Memoria en Voluntas – were earlier chosen as a focus point by Augustinus in his ‘De Trinitate’.

The first task of Lull was therefore to understand the forces of the soul, united in the Trinity, and secondly to interpret the Incarnation in a quaternary way. His work was ‘an art of finding truth’.

In 1289 he stayed in Montpellier, where the ‘Ars inventiva’ was written. Two years later he traveled to Rome and Genoa, where he suffered a depression. His psychological crisis was reflected in the poem ‘Desconort’ (Disconsolateness). This event marked, in the division of Lull’s life – as given by BONNER (1985) – the change from the quaternary to the ternary phase:

The main stages in THE LIFE OF RAMON LULL, based on the prominence of division-thinking, according to BONNER (1985):


 1. PRE-ART PHASE  (1272 – 1274) – Book of Contemplation

‘Liber Contemplationis in Deum’, around 1272, encyclopaedic work dealing with the creation. 1274 – Reclusion and ‘illumination’ on Mount Randa, Mallorca. He was then forty-two years old.

 2.  QUATERNARY PHASE (1274 – 1289)  –   Arts (groups of sixteen).

 Ars generalis; Ars magna; Libre del Ordre de Cavalleria (around 1274); Doctrina pueril (educational book for his son); Liber chaos (1275); Felix or Libre de Meravelles (c. 1284, encyclopaedic work), Blanquerna(1283-85); over virtues and vices.

3. TERNARY PHASE (1290 – 1308)  – Algebraic notation (cyclic groups of  nine);

Logica nova (1303); Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus (1304); Ars generalis ultima (1308); Ars brevis (1308).

 4. POST-ART PHASE (1308 – 1315) Departure of mechanical/ numerological thoughts.

Further visits to Paris followed between 1297 and 1299 and in 1306. In the meantime, he traveled extensively: 1301 found him in Cyprus, 1302 in Armenia (and maybe Jerusalem), 1303 – 1305 return to Genoa and Montpellier. After his fourth visit to Paris (1309 – 1311) he started an Anti-Averroist campaign, aiming at the followers of the Arab scholar Averrois. This is a curious target, which only could have been chosen in a spirit of close recognition.

Averrois, or in his Arab name Ibn Roesjd, was born in Cordoba in 1126 and died in Marrakesj in 1198. He wrote his most important books between 1169 and 1182 as a commentator of Aristotle (‘Commentary on the Physics’). His ideas are often characterized as ‘radical Aristotelian’, because he disposed of Neo-Platonic additions and emphasized the tetradic aspects of Aristotle’s work: creation is a continuous process and truth depends on the position in a communication.

Truth, as an indication for the indisputable or symbol of the ultimate vision, is – in quadralectic thinking – related to the number of initial divisions in a communication. In a four-fold setting, it is possible to imagine a theological truth (situated in the First Quadrant) and a philosophical truth (positioned in the Third Quadrant). For those who have abandoned, in the case of Lull, or lost the tetradic way of thinking in favor of trinitary or dualistic forms, this is hard to accept or to visualize.

The search for synthesis – which is a typical indication of lower division thinking – aims at a combination of ‘credere‘ (belief or theological truth) and ‘intellegere‘ (knowing or philosophical truth) into one. The ‘naturalism’ of the Arabs, framed in the fourfold division of nature, was attacked by the ‘supra-naturalism’ of Lull and his followers. By neglecting the boundary (or differences) between belief and knowledge they reached into the realms of mysticism and theosophism. Here, in the total devotion to the One, the human mind is bound to get lost in its own submission and generated power.

The battle of Lull against Averroism was basically a fight against his own past ideas of division and mechanization of thoughts. He realized towards the end of his life, that any division or compartmentation in the mental structure of man is only a specific way to understand one’s own existence. In the final preparation for the world of the invisible invisibility, any division seems superfluous and unnecessary. This message was probably conveyed by Lull in his later years. He died, after further wandering, in Majorca in 1316, although another version had him stoned to death in Tunis.

Cabalists and alchemists looted Lull’s extensive oeuvre – as YATES (1982) called it the ‘huge unclimbed mountain of Lullian thought’ – for centuries after his death. A whole series of so-called ‘pseudo-Lullian’ writings under the celebrated name of the ‘Doctor Illuminatus’ emerged. About twenty-one of such works appeared in print between 1541 and 1578.

A serious attempt to understand his work was made by Giordano Bruno, who edited in 1582 in Paris a book called  ‘De Architectura Lulliana (De Compendiosa Architectura et Complemento Artis Lullii)’. This publication  was a genuine effort to describe the dynamic system of Lull as faithful as possible. In 1587 he repeated his mission (in Wittenberg) with an edition of ‘De Lampade Combinatoria et de specierum scrutinio’, which gave again a survey of the combinatory possibilities of Lull’s system of thought (TOCCO & VITELLI, 1890/facs. edition (1962).

‘The quaternary base seems to provide the key to the origins of the Art’s combinatory aspect, apparently modelled on the methods used to calculate combinations of the sixteen elemental ‘grade’ (four each for fire, air, water, and earth) in both astrology and humoral medicine’ said PRING-MILL (1973; p. 548) with regard to the earlier work of Lull, like his ‘Ars compendiosa inveniendi (or ‘Ars maior’, dated 1273/74).

YATES (1954), in one of her earlier explorations in the work of Lull, also emphasized the elemental nature of his basic work. She followed Salzinger in his reference to the ‘Arbor Elementalis‘ and the ‘Arbor Celestialis‘ in the ‘Arbor Scientiae‘, a tractate written between 29 Sept. 1295 and 1 April 1296. Here, as well as in the ‘Tractatus de Astronomia’ and in some of his medical work (Opera medica) a ‘Aristotelian’ model of concords and contrast of elements is envisaged in a geometrical pattern (fig. 150).


Fig. 150 – An outline of the logic world view of Lull as described in his ‘Tractatus de Astronomia‘ and interpreted by YATES (1954). The four elements are figured in the ‘elementa‘ in the figures of a square and a circle. The square figure (ABCD) has the sequence air – fire – earth and water. This sequence is dissimilar from the Tetrasomia (Doctrine of the Four Elements) of Empedocles: air (Zeus), earth (Hera), fire (Hades) and water (Nestis, Persephone). It is also differing from the ‘Aristotelian’ sequence of fire – air – water – earth and from the ‘quadralectic’ succession of fire – air – earth – water. The latter is the only one in which the sequence is connected with forms of visibility.

The ‘Liber Principiorum Medicinae’, as given in the edition of the ‘Raymundi Lullii Pera Omnia‘ by Ivo Salzinger (the ‘Mainz-edition’ from 1721 – 1742), was illustrated by a diagrammatic ‘Tree of the Principles and Grades of Medicine’ (pl. 9 in: YATES, 1954) (SÁNCHEZ MANZANO, 2006) (fig. 151).


Fig. 151 – The ‘Tree of the Principles and Grades of Medicine’ as given in the ‘Liber Principiorum Medicinae’ of Raymond Lull in the edition of the ‘Opera omnia’ by Ivo Salzinger (Mainz, 1721 – 1742). The ‘rota’ gives the four ‘humores’ with a dual four-fold subdivision of the characters: A – hot (calor), B – dry (siccitas); C – wet, moist (humiditas) and D – cold (frigaditas). The ‘Lullian’ series is not directly connected to the elements, but could be interpreted as the ‘Aristotelian type’: fire – air – water – earth.

The ‘arbor‘ (tree) and its branches (ramifications) provides a good insight in Lull’s position as a transitional figure between the ‘old’ (left branch, Res contra Naturam) and the ‘new doctors’ (right branch, Quadrangulus). The classical division of the four temperaments, based on ‘humores‘ (Cholera, Melancholia, Phlegma and Sangius) hides the trunk as a ‘rota‘. The subdivision in four circles reflects Lull’s own ‘mathematical’ approach based on a dynamic shift of a four-division.

The ABCD-sequence in the four inner circles are explained in the central stem: A (calor/hot), B (siccitas/dry), C (humiditas/moist) and D (frigiditas/ cold). They refer to the dynamic character of the elements within the four major temperaments. Note that the sequence does not correspond with the one given by YATES (1954) in fig. 150.

The primary combination of the choleric temperament is AB (calorsiccitas or warm and dry), but other combination are also possible, like AC, CD and DB. The same holds for the melancholic character, which is primary BD (siccitasfrigaditas or dry and cold), secundary BA, tertiary AC and quaternary CD. The sanguine character is primary CA (humiditascalor or moist and hot), secundary CD, tertiary DB and quaternary BA. And finally the phlegmatic character is primary DC (frigiditashumiditas or cold and moist), secundary DB, tertiary BA and quaternary AC.

The four combinations of each major temperament are indicated on the branches to the right of the main stem: the choleric (A/Calor) can be fully developed with its four combinations (circles), which gives a character E with four possibilities (1 – 4), a character F with three possibilities, a character G with two possibilities and a character H with only one option. It is not exactly clear (to me) what these diminishing prospects mean (would it be a decreasing division thinking?).

The same subdivision can be made for the melancholic temperament (B/Siccitas, leading to the characters K, L, M and N), the sanguine character (C/Humiditas, given in the characters O, P, Q and R) and the phlegmatic character (D/Frigiditas, indicated with the letters S, T, V and Y). All subtypes have a decreasing number, from four to one, written around the individual letters.

The previous approach was an addition to the ‘old school’ of medicine. Lull emphasized the mathematical nature of the combinatory possibilities in the ‘new school’ of the ‘Quadrangulus‘. The ‘new doctors’ were calculators rather than vague observers of the ‘Res Innaturales‘. The historic world of four-fold (division) thinking, which had lost its dynamism, was restated in the factual-mathematical language of the ‘Quadrangulus‘. The quadrants were characterized as Perfectio, Esse, Defectus and Privatio.

However, to experience the ‘exactness’ to the full, required a modern, lower – type of division thinking (‘Triangulus’). The world of facts could be hostile to the ‘Quadrangulus‘. Facts were seldom perfect, although they should be. An efficient way to circumvent this difficulty was a narrowing of division thinking. ‘Scientific’ observations were made in the world of the ‘Triangulus‘, in the tri-partition of Principium, Medium and Finis. In terms of quadralectic thinking, there was a shift from the unity of the First Quadrant to the unity of the Third Quadrant.

The illustration of Lull’s ‘Tree of the Principles and Grades of Medicine’, gave an example of the transitory situation of his time: from the old world of static and stale tetradic thinking in terms of elements to the universe of dynamic calculations in a human-centred, tripartite setting.

Lull’s life and work was a reflection of this change. He started in the old, quadripartite frame of mind, but found that the ‘Triangulus’ approach offered far more ‘proof’. The elemental features were reduced, first in the ‘Ars inventiva (ca. 1289) and later in the ‘Ars generalis ultima‘ or its abridgement ‘Ars brevis’ (1308), and the ternary system became dominant. Even the traditional seven virtues and seven vices had to be extended to sets of nine to meet the requirements of the system.

The dynamic character – which is a natural constituent of the tetradic way of thinking, but becomes static in a numerological approach – was carried forward by Lull in the ternary phase by  ‘volvelles‘. These concentric wheels or ‘rota‘, appeared in his later Art (fig. 152). It is a striking example of cyclic thinking in which ‘everything is connected to everything’. Communication is a matter of turning the concentric circles (and their division) to the appropriate setting.


Fig. 152 – The ‘Prima Figura Lullii A’, the central figure in Lull’s dynamic system. Turning the wheels forms combinations: Bonitas, Magnitudo, Duratio, Potestas, Sapientia, Voluntas, Virtus, Vertas and Gloria. The illustrations are from Giordano Bruno’s edition of ‘De Lampade Combinatoria‘, Wittenberg, 1587.

The great French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) wrote – in March 1619 – to his Dutch friend Isaac Beeckman (1588 – 1637) that his system of knowledge, based on analytical geometry, would be a replacement of the ‘Art‘ of Ramon Lull (KUBBINGA, 1989; ADAM & TANNERY (Ed.), 1908; Vol. X, pp. 156/157).

The logical system of Lull, as put forward in his ‘Logica nova’ (1303), was the subject of a university thesis by the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646 – 1716) (fig. 153). His ‘Dissertatio de arte combinatoria‘ was submitted in 1666 at the end of his study in law at the University of Altdorf. Leibniz restated the main thesis of Lull: ‘A proposition (statement) is made up of subject and predicate (a judgement of the subject); hence all propositions are combinations. Hence the logic of inventing (discovering) propositions involves solving this problem: 1. given a subject, (finding) the predicates  (Dato subiecto praedicata); 2. given a predicate, finding the subjects (to which it may) apply, whether by way of affirmation or negation (Dato praedicato subiecta invenire, utraque cum affirmative, tum negative)’ (PRING-MILL, 1973).


Fig. 153 – Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz’s university thesis ‘De Dissertatio de arte combinatoria’ (1666) was an appraisal of the work of Ramon Lull. Leibniz mentioned Lull only once in the synopsis of the ‘Arte Combinatoria’ together with the scholar Athenasius Kircher (1602 – 1680). The dissertation started with a ‘Demonstratio Existentiae Dei’. The diagram shows the relation between the four elements and the qualities, which were described by Aristotle in his ‘De Generatione et Corruptione’. It was added in a later print of the dissertation.

Lull’s work is important as a transition of the tetradic way of thinking (as ‘Quadrangulus‘) into a lower frame of mind (the ‘Triangulus‘) and can be seen as an anticipation of the ages to come.

A memorial, near the pilgrimage place of Montserreat (west of Barcelona, Spain), was inspired by his ‘Liber de Ascensu et Descensu’ (1304), written in the ternary (third) phase of his life, according to BONNER (1985). The monument consists of eight concrete blocks stacked in a spiral (fig. 154). It is called in Catalan the ‘Escala de l’Enteniment’ (Scale of Knowledge). The concept of the progress of understanding was later advocated by the British philosopher  Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) (BACON, 1815).

montserrat2Fig. 154 – The author on the first step (Pedra) of the statue dedicated to Ramon Lull, near Montserrat (Spain); August, 1991. The eight steps to Heaven (of Ramon Lull) referred to his ‘Liber de Ascensu et Descensu’ (1304).

The cubic pieces symbolize the ‘scala intellectus‘: Deus; Angelus; Coelum; Homo (Imaginativa); Bestia; Planta; Flama and Pedra. The last four are also known as: Sensitiva; Vegetativa; Elementativa and Instrumentativa. Their symbolism was a modification of the ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’, formulated by John Eriugena some four and a half century earlier.

Eriugena’s interpretation aimed at a unification of the three- and four-division (4 + 3 = Deus), in a movement upwards. Raymond Lull’s double-four approach to Heaven (4 + 4 = Deus) was, in essence, a duality.

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