The Art of Memory

I finished this book and to be honest it has been a bit of a “tostón”. I read it because was referenced from another book (I dont remember which right now) and I thought it should be interested.

The book starts in the Greece of Socrates/Plato times. Socrates didnt write anything and all his lessons/learning were oral. All we know come from Plato. So all teaching from Socrates was based on Memory. And obviously you had to memorize a lot and techniques to do that should exist (and of course were not written). The idea was to find a building and create a history from its features. Kind of mnemotechnics. As well, we have Aristotle.

I have been always more keen to understand things than memorize but there are cases where you have to memorize and the rules has been always repetition and brute force. But in some few cases, I have learned to use mnemotechnics and I dont know why this technique is not taught more often. I will always remember EIGRP parameters (bad dog loves red meat – b d l r m – bandwidth delay load reliability mtu) and BGP best path decision process (NWILLA OMNI – I have in my mind the spanish footballer David Villa playing in Africa)

So until that point the books was good as a history refresh.

Then we moved to the Middle Ages with St Thomas Aquinas, St Albert Magnus as next figures in the art of memory using the old Greek master. I always remember St Thomas Aquinas as the person who converted Aristotle writings to Catholic views. And St Augustine, who converted Socrates/Plato to Catholic. So the Church in those times could cope with the new threat of people using their brains. Here things get messy in the book and start losing track. Things looks a bit esoteric, magical, the ocult.

And when we reach Ramon Llull, I feel quite lost. The book start talking about Cabala and some other things. I had some reference from RL before (it is the main university in Majorca and wrote in catalan) but nor much more.

Moving forwards to the Renaissance, I hit two figures totally unknown to me: Giulio Camillo and Giordano Bruno. The first one, built a theater for the King of France as an example of memorizing the universe. And Giordano write several books about the art of memory that look quite complex due to esotericism, occultism, magic and references to Egyptian religions, etct.

In the last part we reach the Shakespeare times and the architecture of the Globe theatre as example of art of memory. Big debate if it is a circle or hexagon originally.

And finally, Leibniz, that refers to Ramon Llull as one of his references to create a common language that turned up to be Calculus.

It is like all this occultism, turned up as just Mathematics. In other references to Newton, he tried to convert lead into gold, and tried a lot of crazy stuff. So it looks like it makes sense that the begining of the science we know today was pretty much connected to esotericism, hermetic, occultism, etc.

I checked the author, Frances Yates and it seem she focused on esotericism.

Anyway, I tried to take positive things, mainly historic. And I learned from “new historical figures”.