Memory Palaces Breed Wicked Thoughts

" A different memory system, the method of loci, was taught to schoolchildren for centuries, at least until 1584, “when Puritan reformers declared it unholy for encouraging bizarre and irreverent images.”[13] The same objection can be made over the major system, with or without the method of loci. Mental images may be easier to remember if they are insulting, violent, or obscene (see Von Restorff effect)."

You know who you are!


Okay, you got me… :joy:

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I’ve heard this posited for one of the many reason why mnemonics went into decline. My question is how did the art die in Catholic communities? I’ve been to Catholic schools for 12 years of my life and I can say that the art has died, but why?

Hi ehcolston,

The art of memory DIDN’T die in Catholic communities. It’s always been embedded where it was:
Franciscans, Dominicans, and the Jesuits too.

It was people who took it outside of the monastic system and monastic pursuits that made it the “memory systems” we see today.
It probably first started when a parishioner spoke with a monk and the parishioner wrote it down and/or spoke to another person about it.
It subsequently became printed material and diffused because of the printing press.


Although vulgar or lewd images involving women were not recommended for those who loathed women or lacked self control.

I mean… 801 - 66 - 191
Jesus violently murdering a scientist with whatever loci he ends up at.

Or lets try one better, 909 - 08 - 180
Pope Francis, undressing and prostitute. You do the imagining.

I also dedicated part of my PAO to demons and the likes… And I may or may not imagine Chris Evans as mainly his butt and pecs only… For reasons…


I would say, “No more so than it’s died in general public education.” Memory techniques have not been an integral part of an American public-school curriculum for over 100 years—if they ever were.

On the one hand, it’s baffling. There have been proponents of memory techniques—many of them popular performers—all along. And there have been a number of books written by and about them that describe their techniques; it’s not like memory techniques are some big secret or some kind of witchcraft. So why haven’t these techniques ever become a part of what it means to be educated in America? (I say “America” because that’s where I live and what I know. And it’s possible that mnemonics are part of the curriculum in other countries.)

On the other hand—and this is probably true for other countries as well—it can be very difficult to change the way children are taught. There’s fear that our “experiments” will somehow wreck a generation.

So the responsibility seems to fall with interested parents and the efforts of those few “memory missionaries” willing to take their message to the classrooms.



My immediate family has had parts of their education in about 10 different countries, not all European. In addition we have met and studied with students from all over the world. During all that time, the only mention I ever encountered of the systematic use of mnemonics in a curriculum were the now defunct mnemonic strings that are sprinkled through the Talmud.

It’s just gone and like you I don’t understand why. The techniques are well described, nor are they complicated or difficult. You can demonstrate their effectiveness in a single hour.


Yes: Mnemonic phrases seem to be perfectly acceptable… but there it stops. I mean, ask anyone who’s had even a slight brush with music instruction and they’ll probably be able to tell you that “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” recalling the five notes on the lines of a treble clef.

To me, these kinds of memory aids should be the gateway drugs to memory techniques. But those next steps never happen.