Link between Lullism and the Jesuits’ descent into the particular

While reading The Art of Memory by Frances Yates, I ran across the phrase “descending from ‘generals’ to ‘specials'”and it reminded me of the Jesuit idea of “descending into the particular”.

Yates indicates, I think rightly, that this is:

a notion implicit in Lullism as it ascends and descends on the ladder of being [scala naturae] from specials to generals and from generals to specials. This terminology is specifically used of memory in Lull’s Liber ad memoriam confirmandam in which it is stated that memory is to be divided into specials and generals, the specials descending from the generals.

This seems like it is very closely associated with the Jesuit’s concept of “descending into the particular” (or the specials) within their teaching on thinking. (For those unfamiliar, I recall that Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting podcast episode within Revisionist History on this area of moral reasoning.)

Given that Raymond Lull (c. 1232 – c. 1315) has significant philosophical and religious sway in his lifetime, it is highly likely that the Jesuits (founded 1535) may have picked up the foundation of the concept from him. Yates writes this section in Chapter X, in relation to the ideas of memory with respect to Lullism which assuredly influenced Peter Ramus (1515-1572) and his ideas of memory.

I can’t help but think about why the Jesuits didn’t also include the idea of ascension into their philosophy? Perhaps some additional research into the topic will reveal some more direct associations. I think Yates’ link between Lullism and Ramism are pretty solid. I’d like to see some more direct evidence between Lullism and the Jesuits. I’d love to delve into the use of the art of memory within the Jesuit tradition as well.

The scala naturae or great chain of being has had a profound effect (not necessarily a positive one) on religion and modern culture. Far too many people are completely ignorant of what it is or what it entails, yet it underpins a huge swath of Western thought.

Miniature in an illuminated manuscript of Raymond Lull next to a ladder indicating the the levels of being
Scala Naturae or Ladder of Being in Breviculum ex artibus Raimundi Lulli electum – St. Peter perg. 92 [page 13 (5r)]
Read Opinion | I Helped Fact-Check the 1619 Project. The Times Ignored Me. by Leslie M. Harris (POLITICO)
The paper's series on slavery made avoidable mistakes. But the attacks from its critics are much more dangerous.

Beginning in the last quarter of the 20th century, historians like Gary Nash, Ira Berlin and Alfred Young built on the earlier work of Carter G. Woodson, Benjamin Quarles, John Hope Franklin and others, writing histories of the Colonial and Revolutionary eras that included African Americans, slavery and race. A standout from this time is Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, which addresses explicitly how the intertwined histories of Native American, African American and English residents of Virginia are foundational to understanding the ideas of freedom we still struggle with today. 

These could be interesting to read.
Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 09:12PM

Scholars like Annette Gordon-Reed and Woody Holton have given us a deeper understanding of the ways in which leaders like Thomas Jefferson committed to new ideas of freedom even as they continued to be deeply committed to slavery. 

I’ve not seen any research that relates the Renaissance ideas of the Great Chain of Being moving into this new era of supposed freedom. In some sense I’m seeing the richest elite whites trying to maintain their own place in a larger hierarchy rather than stronger beliefs in equality and hard work.
Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 09:22PM