Historically Method of Loci Banned? Any sources? Giordano Bruno Experts?

Thanks to anyone with a good memory or access to sources:

I am tryign to see whether there is any truth in the story that MoL had been banned…

Derren Brown in one of his books mentions that historically MoL was banned by ‘Puritans’. And I think my memory is playing a trick on me - I seem to remember that in a book I read last year about Giordano Bruno The Tower by Allessandro Gallenzithere was reference to MoL being banned by the Church
I have done a Google search but can’t find anything definitive.

Thanks in advance to anyone who could help. Need it for a reason.

I read quite a lot about this in ‘Art of Memory’ by Shakespeare scholar Frances Yates; you’d have to grab a copy yourself to check her sources. She has another book which goes over similar material called ‘Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition’.

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I have a copy of the book that you’re referring to (Tricks of the Mind), and here’s a passage on the book concerning the ‘Puritans’.
There’s no mention of the Catholic Church banning MoL, but they may have at one point. Mnemonics was a dangerous thing back in the medieval world. It was seen as magical (read heretical) and many people thought that use of the imagination caused one to think of sinful thoughts. This hysteria was soo bad that many mnemonics practitioners had to constantly justify using mnemonics (Aquinas & Peter of Ravenna).


Thanks so much for that info. Much appreciated. K

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Thanks for that - I already did a wee search through Yates stuff but it was pretty crude looking for “ban” - but I think you might be right - I’ll have a better look.

So is the reason why MoL is no longer taught in schools date back to the event in 1584? Knowledge of it’s use just became lost because of this or are there other reasons why it’s no longer taught?

I don’t think the knowledge ever became lost, as you can find a number of books on memory throughout each century after the 16th century, but it does seem like it became less prevalent overall. Near the end of her book, Frances Yates states that the Art of Memory became less of a factor in basic European development after Leibniz.

The way I interpret this is that the Art of Memory just fell out of use naturally in places where it wasn’t banned since it was no longer the cornerstone of European society, much in the same way that society abandons certain practices when they are no longer necessary to keep society going.

@MMScotofGlasgow, Hopefully it’s not too late…

Francis Yates discusses Petrus Ramus as an educational reformer in Chapter 10 and onward in The Art of Memory. There she outlines Ramus’ crusade against images (based in part on the admonition from 4 Deuteronomy about graven images) and on their prurient use (sex, violence, etc.) which were meant to make things more memorable. Ramism caught on in the late 1500’s and essentially removed memory by the root from the subject of rhetoric of which it had been an integral part. Ramus felt that structure and rote memorization would suffice in its stead. As a result the method of loci decreased in prominence in schools and disappeared from the scene based on educational reform which was primarily pushed by Huguenot/Protestants. I’ve not read anywhere that the practice was ever banned, it just fell out of fashion due to these reforms.

I’m sure it didn’t help that printed books became ever cheaper during/after this time and so the prior need to memorize for those reasons wasn’t helped either.

I’m sure another confounding factor was Erasmus’ Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style (1512) which dramatically popularized the keeping and use of commonplace books by the learned and literate. These became a regular place in which people collected and kept their thoughts and ideas rather than memorizing them as they may have done in the past.

Bruno was not a Jesuit and was not a monk. Was a Dominican, and a friar.

Mnemonics were widely used in the medieval world. Giordano Bruno was not burned for using mnemonics.

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While Brown was wrong to call Bruno a Jesuit, I don’t think that Brown is saying that Bruno was burned for using mnemonics. What Brown is saying was that Bruno’s memory work delved into topics that were considered blasphemous to the Catholic Church at the time.

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