I am in the process of memorizing the entire New Testament and I just wanted to share my approach to memorizing extended texts verbatim.
Memory Palace Construction and Loci
I take the approach of Alex Mullen and create memory palaces as I am memorizing rather than constructing them in advance in a detailed fashion as to reduce the amount of mental energy. Typically, one is instructed to put 1 verse in each locus and to have 5 loci per room so one could navigate through loci and if were called to recite a particular verse they could easily find the number because each room consists of 5 loci. I think this approach is fitting for poetry with shorter lines like La Divina Commedia but it is more difficult with approaching other types of texts like the Bible. Personally, I have found disadvantages in this approach when it comes to memorizing certain religious texts or poems that have longer lines. If the mnemonist puts more than 3 images in a locus I find that the location becomes too crowded and if you are not careful you can reduce the speed of recall if you do not have strong and orderly linkage between images. Evidence for the problem of overcrowding may be seen where memory athletes have reported to put a black card pair in the next locus with a mental note if a particular locus becomes too crowded in the Shadow System.
In order to solve this problem of overcrowded loci I use the Major System in conjunction with the Memory Palace. So, to create images for verse 4 of James chapter 1 I may need several loci to accomplish the task. Therefore, when verse 4 starts I include the image for 004 (Scissor) in that location. So even though verse 4 may start at locus 13 I will know that it verse 4 because I have included 004 (Scissor) in that particular location. So, I am still able to jump around verses and easily recite them forwards and backwards.
Division of Lines and Image Construction
I have found breaking the verse into small chunks to be more effective. For example, if have the verse “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” I will divide the verse as the following.
Division 1: "If any of you lacks wisdom
Division 2: “let him ask God”
Division 3: “who gives generously”
Division 4: “to all without reproach”
Division 5: “and it will be given him.”
I would NOT divide it into two larger chunks such as the following:
Division 1: “If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously”
Division 2: “to all without reproach and it will be given him”
I would NOT have one verse in a locus with multiple images connected with a sequential story.
Image(s): “If any one of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him”
I would divide them into smaller parts as demonstrated in the first example. I have borrowed this approach from Hugh of St. Victor who taught his students techniques for memorizing the Psalter. I have found that having one image per locus to be much easier to remember than multiple images and exerts less mental energy. I am also able to quickly navigate the text and even recite it backwards more easily because there are smaller chunks. I am capable of saying, “generously gives who” just as much as “who gives generously.”
Memorization Process: Outline and Shadowing
Memorizing the New Testament takes a long time so I cannot take too long memorizing a verse so I do what I call “Outline and Shadowing”, which is a two step process. In drawing, artists make an outline of the figure and then shadow to make it more realistic. In the same manner, I outline the text with quick memorization, approaching each chunk with the same speed as I would with the Random Words event. I visualize the first association that comes to mind and treat it as a memory competition. After I have created all the images, I go back to each chunk and shadow with deeper visualization by strengthening and adding more sensory details such as color, taste, touch and smell.
Use of Loci: Mental Space and Navigation
When approach long and extended texts one needs a lot of loci and there is the temptation to cram images in locations and creating unnatural and non-intuitive journeys. I try to make sure that the objects are medium-large and I do not zoom in on a desk to create a locus on the alarm clock, pen cup or drawer. I simply use the desk itself which is medium sized. I have found that when I use medium-large objects I am able to more quickly navigate through passages and there are less confusion in terms of the direction of the journey. I try to have the same-general direction: counter-clock-wise, always moving in the same direction and I do not zig-zag across loci but I try to make it as an intuitive movement as possible.
One may make the argument, well don’t you need hundreds of palaces to memorize the entire New Testament? Why not zoom in and use more loci on objects within a room? I would argue that having more mental-space two to five-steps is more advantageous in terms of the amount of mental energy that is exerted and it makes for quicker navigation and recall. It is one thing memorizing a book, it is another thing memorizing 20 + books. The key to memorizing long passages is perseverance so I try to make the journeys as “stress-free” and “easy” as possible. So, I continually collect palaces. I try to make a list of 10 places per week, even visiting downtown restaurants or traveling for the sole purpose of gathering palaces.