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Art of Memory? Specific Visualization Training Programs?

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I've known about "art of memory" for awhile, having skimmed Dominic O'Brien's book. I recently started Josh Foer's book and I've been considering its relation to meditation. Is anyone else interested in this overlap? I've Googled and searched the DhO and found surprisingly little. It would seem to be up this site's alley. AoM has historical overlap with Hermeticism, but none explicitly with Buddhism as far as I see (mandalas?).

It occurred to me that this would be a case where meditation can be said to lead to objective, real-world results (insofar as AoM is a type of meditation): ability to memorize absurd amounts. I would expect a hardcore meditation communtiy to be clamoring to claim AoM as a form of meditation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_of_memory

Related: does anyone know of a training program specifically for improving visualization skill? I know that improving general concentration skill thru, for example, the fire kasina will work but I'm wondering if something more specific exists. Crowley has a basic form of this http://www.sacred-texts.com/oto/lib9.htm#5 but I would think there are better programs.

RE: Art of Memory? Specific Visualization Training Programs?
Answer
9/17/17 6:17 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Dada Kind:
Is anyone else interested in this overlap?
Ooh me! A few random memory-related points spring to mind that might spark other ideas:
- Meditation does not appear to be something that depends greatly on memorisation. Meditators often seem to aim to let go of things rather than acquire huge amounts of data.
- Memory techniques, especially of complex stuff, require concentration, e.g. I find it hard to construct a memory palace if I get distracted. So like you say, a concentration technique like the fire kasina would probably be great not only for developing visualisation skills, but also the concentration required.
- The suttas were apparently not written down for many years after they were made, meaning monks would have had to remember them. I don't know of any techniques they used, other than the repetition used in the suttas, and how discourses occasionally have a structure of initial presentation, then deeper details, or are numbered lists. Also, the discourses include phrases like "As the Blessed One explains it to you, so you should remember it."
- Zen koan: "There is no time. What is memory?"
- Not quite sure if this is directly related to memory, but Nan-in asks Tenno where he left his umbrella, on the left or the right side of his clogs, which suggests to me that through constant awareness of every moment, recall is strengthened: http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/35everyminutezen.html

That's all I have to say about that, for the moment.

RE: Art of Memory? Specific Visualization Training Programs?
Answer
9/19/17 2:11 AM as a reply to junglist.
iirc Daniel talked about the relation between meditation and memory power in one of his Robert Wright interviews. He mentions that meditation can help or hurt memory, respectively, because sensory awareness/appreciation is elevated (your last point) and because emotional charge is down.

I am guessing that the kind of hyper-vivid visualization described by Daniel et al in the Fire Kasina material would be highly conducive to success in the Art of Memory. Trying to win a title, anyone?

Thanks for replying. I'm gonna make another post here with some stuff I found about visualization. Otherwise, on AoM, I found this https://www.reddit.com/r/Meditation/comments/343kz9/mind_palace_and_meditation_also_a_bunch_of_stuff/

RE: Art of Memory? Specific Visualization Training Programs?
Answer
9/19/17 2:18 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
So I've searched around the DhO for visualization stuff and it seems Pawel is the resident enthusiast on that matter. I've been reading his threads.

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5638963
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5810928

Besides that I recalled Franz Bardon had a section on visualization in his occult training manual thingie so I found that,

On the first step of our magical mental training, we have learned how to control and master our thoughts. Now let us go on to teach you how to raise the capacity of mental concentration in order to strengthen the willpower.

Put some objects in front of you, say, a knife, a fork, a pencil, and a box of matches, and fix your eyes on these objects for a while. Try to remember their shapes and colours exactly. Then close your eyes and endeavour to imagine a certain object plastically, in exactly the same form, as it is in reality. Should the object vanish from your imagination, try to recall it again. In the beginning you will be successful in this experiment only for a few seconds, but when persevering and repeating this exercise, the object will appear more distinct, and disappearance and reappearance will take place more rarely from one exercise to the next. Do not be discouraged by initial failures, and if you feel tired, change to the next object. At the beginning, do not exercise longer than 10 minutes, but after a while you may extend the exercise little by little up to 30 minutes. In order to check disturbances, use the string of beads or knots described in the chapter about autosuggestion. Move one bead at every disturbance or interruption. Thus later you will be able to tell how many disorders happened in the course of an exercise. The purpose of the exercise is completed if you can hold onto one object for 5 minutes witho ut any interruptions.

If you have gotten to this point, you may pass on to imagining the object with your eyes open. Now the object ought to make the impression of hanging in the air and be visible before your eyes in such a plastic shape as to seemingly be tangible. Apart from the one object you imagined, nothing else of the surroundings must be noticed.

Check disturbances with the aid of the string of beads. If you have succeeded in holding on to any object hanging plastically in the air for 5 minutes without the least incident, the task of this exercise has been fulfiled.

After the visual concentration, let us make an inquiry about the auditory concentration. At the beginning, the creative imagination has to perform a certain role. It is, as it were, impossible to say, “Imagine the ticking of a clock” or something like that because the concept of imagination generally involves a pictorial representation, which cannot be said about auditory exercises. For the sake of better understanding we ought to say: “Imagine you hear the ticking of a clock”. Therefore let us employ this kind of expression. Now imagine that you are hearing the ticking of a clock on the wall. You will succeed in doing so only for a few seconds at the beginning, just as in the previous exercises. But by persisting in your exercise, you will hear the sound more and more distinctly, without any disturbance. The string of beads or knots will be beneficial here also for checking the disturbances. Afterward, try to listen to the ticking of a pocket-watch or a wristwatch, or the chime of bells in various harmonies. You may also practice other auditory concentration experiments such as the sounding of a gong, the different noises of hammering, knocking, scratching, shuffling, thunderclaps, the soft rustling of the wind increasing to the howling of the storm, the tunes of a violin or a piano or other instruments. When doing these exercises, it is most important to keep within the limits of auditory concentration, not allowing for pictorial imagination. Should such an imagination emerge, banish it immediately. The chiming of the bell must never evoke the imagination of the bell itself. This exercise is completed as soon as you are able to keep this auditory imagination for 5 minutes.

Another exercise is the sensory concentration. Try to produce the sensations of cold, warmth, gravity, lightness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness, and hold on to this feeling for at least 5 minutes without the slightest visual or auditory imagination. If you have acquired the faculty of concentration in such a degree as to be able to produce any sensation you like and hold it fast, you may pass on to the next exercise.

Now let us throw some light upon the olfactory concentration. Imagine that you are smelling the scent of various flowers such as roses, lilacs, violets or other perfumes, and hold on to this imagination without allowing a pictorial image of the respective flower to emerge. Try to practice with disagreeable smells of different kinds. Exercise this kind of concentration until you are able to imaginarily bring about any scent at will and keep it for at least 5 minutes.

Our last exercise will deal with the taste concentration. Without thinking of any food or drink or without imagining the same, you have to concent rate on taste. Choose the thumping sensations of taste such as sweet, bitter, sat and acid to begin with. Having got some certain skill herein, you may carry out an experiment on the taste of divers spices, at your discretion. If you have succeeded in producing any sensation of the chosen taste and holding onto it for at least 5 minutes, the purpose of this exercise is fulfiled.

One or another trainee will meet with smaller or greater difficulties in practicing these concentration exercises. This means that the cerebral function with respect to the concerned taste has been neglected or imperfectly developed. Most of the teaching systems will pay attention only to one or two, or three functions at best. Concentration exercises performed with all the five senses strengthen your mind, your willpower, and you learn not only how to control all senses, but also to develop and finally tem perfectly. A magician’s senses must all be developed equally, and he must be able to control them. These exercises are of paramo unt importance for the magical development, and therefore should never be omitted.


What he says about isolating the sense-doors in imagination seems to contradict Pawel's advice. Maybe their goals are different.

In Josh's book he did mention trying to imagine every object in the memory palace with as many sense doors as possible.

To Pawel or anyone reading this that might know, is it best to try to imagine with all sense-doors at once, or maybe two at once, or only one?

RE: Art of Memory? Specific Visualization Training Programs?
Answer
9/19/17 4:46 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Dada Kind:
So I've searched around the DhO for visualization stuff and it seems Pawel is the resident enthusiast on that matter. I've been reading his threads.
...
What he says about isolating the sense-doors in imagination seems to contradict Pawel's advice. Maybe their goals are different.
...
To Pawel or anyone reading this that might know, is it best to try to imagine with all sense-doors at once, or maybe two at once, or only one?

Seems like you found the other two things that occurred to me after posting before - Daniel's interview and Pawel's visualisation thread.

Also what you mention about goals should be made very clear: what are you trying to remember? It's probably not enough to say "improve general memory". As I'm sure you know, peg, loci, chain story or whatever systems have different strengths.

The text you quoted is very interesting, and the isolating of each sense door seems to simply aim at strengthening each one specifically, like isolating a specific muscle in strength training in the gym, rather than advocating the use of one - obviously when you move around in the real world, you don't use just one muscle. From what I've read and from what works for me, when trying to remember something, the more senses the better, as well as the magnitude of these sensations. As Daniel and other texts on memory say, emotional involvement is important. This would especially be the case when attempting to memorise by association, so the links to the information to be recalled would have some emotional content - I read somewhere that Cicero used to imagine items from his speeches in his memory palace covered in blood for extra shock value.