AGAPOLIS: THE PALACES OF THE CITY OF THE MIND

AGAPOLIS: THE PALACES OF THE CITY OF THE MIND

In my early twenties I read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. (I actually first read it because I was studying to be a priest at the time and wanted information on early missionary efforts in China, India, and Japan. Though I discovered the book wholly by accident in a rare book store.) Which I then added to my personal library.

Thereafter I began to research and collect other Medieval and Ancient methods of memory, including many of the works describing them. Eventually I built my own Memory Palace, and then several, allowing me to memorize all kinds of things even if only briefly exposed to them and for all kinds of purposes – evidence examination, study (this helped me in college immensely), scientific experiments, memorizing books I had read, memorizing conversations, learning new languages and terms, mastering advanced mathematics, etc.

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In my opinion, good mnemonic techniques combined with good self-education techniques will increase your own natural IQ by 10 to 15 points (in the average person). Because, put realistically and pragmatically, neither intelligence nor Wisdom can exist without true memory.

Later on, within the past 20 years or so I greatly expanded my Memory Buildings eventually connecting them all together and building my own internal “Memory City” or as I later called it, the Polis Memoria, or the Mind City. Then I added things similar to the mental studio/laboratory of Archimedes. Among other things.

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It is populated with many things, all of the things one might find in a real city, such as businesses, markets, stores, forums, laboratories, temples and churches, parks, residences (I have several in and around the city), hospitals, studios, theaters, concert and performance halls, work stations, cemeteries, etc, etc.

If I wish to write a sermon I go to one of the churches. If I want to conduct an internal scientific or thought experiment I go to one of my labs. If I want to practice a speech or sing a song I go to a performance hall. If I am sick or injured I go to a hospital or house of healing to make an internal diagnosis and to treat myself. If I want to physically train I go to one of the athletic fields to mentally master new techniques, to box, climb, etc. If I want to compose music, write poetry, work on my novels, visit a library containing a book I have already read and memorized then I go to the appropriate place in Agapolis. If I want to talk to or commune with God, even in the midst of a crowd I will often go there. This is also how I can invent and compose, write, etc. in my head while working (I prefer to work in my head while doing something physical outside) and then memorize it or write it on a wall in my head) and then go inside later to reconstruct it verbatim from memory. Even if many minutes, hours, or even days go by (in some cases). I am even writing a book about my memory city,and have been for years, adding to it as I expand it. Many of the Agapolis Techniques are inventions of my own. Below are some of the things in it and some of those techniques. It is one of the bets and most useful things I’ve ever written or created.

But it all goes back to my original Memory Palace which I can credit to the priest Matteo Ricci and to the ancients. I owe them a great debt.

I highly recommend the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by the way. It is literally one of the very best books I’ve ever read, even though it only gives clues to how to construct a memory palace. (HOWEVER THAT’S NOT REALLY THE PRIMARY SUBJECT MATTER.)

A good, well-constructed Memory Palace will help your studies and your lifelong education program immensely. Also, watch the included video. It is a good primer on the subject. It is, however, not my work.

AGAPOLIS

SPECIFIC MEMORY SYSTEMS:

A Note on Memory Systems: All memory systems can involve persons, places, or objects that are real (associated with real locations and persons and things), or persons, places, and objects which are imagined (associated with fictional or invented locations, persons, and things).

THE MEMORY CITY OF AGAPOLIS (Polis Aeternus, or Polis Memoria)
THE MEMORY HOUSE (Memoria Domestes), THE MEMORY PALACE (Memoria Palatia), THE MEMORY TEMPLE (Templum Aeternus)
THE MEMORY THEATRE
THE MEMORY OBSERVATORY
THE MEMORY CLOCK or THE MEMORY WATERWHEEL
THE MEMORY ENCYCLOPEDIA
THE MEMORY LIBRARY
THE MEMORY MUSEUM or THE MEMORY WORKSHOP (Memory Studio)
THE MEMORY LABORATORY
THE MEMORY CAMERA or THE MEMORY MACHINE
THE MEMORY CHIMERA or THE FANTASTIC MEMORY MONSTER
THE MEMORY SERMON
THE MEMORY EPIC (Poetic, with scene images)
THE MEMORY PERIPLUS or THE MEMORY MAP (Chart)
THE MEMORY PLAY OR FILM
EPIGENETIC MEMORY ENHANCEMENT
THE INTERACTIVE VIRTUAL MEMORY OR PARALLEL REALITY GAME
THE MEMORY PARADISE

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MY ADVICE TO WRITERS (and Everyone else)

The other day someone asked my advice on how to conduct myself as a writer. Or actually, to be more accurate, my advice on how they might better conduct themselves as a writer based on my prior experiences. Since writing is basically a “lonesome occupation” requiring a great deal of commitment, isolation (to a degree I’ll explain momentarily), focus, determination, self-discipline, and real work. They were having trouble dealing with the “lonesome” part of the occupation.

I repeat my advice to them here in the case this assists anyone else. Of course this advice could just as easily apply to artists, inventors, poets, songwriters, and even (to some extent) entrepreneurs of all kinds (all of which I am) with but a few minor modifications. So this is my Highmoot for this Wednesday.

THIS IS MY ADVICE

This is my advice after having worked for myself for decades. I’m about evenly matched between being an introvert and being an extrovert. I too do my very best work alone. However I prime myself by going out and observing people. Going to places that are active, like labs, industrial complexes, malls, museums, libraries, city streets, performances, college campuses, Vadding, to shops, exploring other towns, theaters, etc.
I do this for a day or two about once every two to three weeks.  Although depending on my work schedule I may not be able to do it but once a month. Nevertheless I do this as much as I can and regularly schedule such things.
(Aside: One place though I never go to is coffee shops. Everyone there is on their computers or cell phones and the interactions are limited and about all you see anyone doing is staring at a screen. Coffee shops are, for the most part, horrible and pretentious work environments, with people tending to merely congregate together in order to appear to be working, when in fact they are not truly working – they are seeking to socially escape real work by the public appearance of a displayed but primarily unreal act of “business.” On this point I entirely agree with Hemingway, coffee shops and cafes are the very worst places to do any actual and real work, though they give the plastic social facade of appearing to be busy.
The very same can be said to be true about coffee shops as “observation posts” on true human behavior. The types of human behavior evidenced in most coffee shops is unnatural, artificial, pretentious, deceptive, and rehearsed. People in coffee shops and cafes are extremely aware that they are being observed, indeed this is one reason so many go there, to observe and be observed (in a sort of pre-approved, socially accepted and promoted play-act), in the place of actually working. I almost never trust the close observations of human behavior I make of people in such environments. Such behaviors tend to be no more “real” than the work supposedly occurring in such places, and just as artificial as the plastic illuminated screens they seem so utterly devoted to, and the technological implements they are eagerly seen to be worshiping. My advice is to skip such places entirely if you can and go rather to where real work can be done and you can make true observations about actual behaviors, be those human or animal. Places like I mentioned above. End Aside.)

Then I come home and my mind and soul are primed with observations and ideas and stories and poetry and songs and invention concepts and business proposals.

When I’m at home and working, and tire, or am bored, then I go outside and clear land, hike in the woods, explore the nearby lands (I live out in the country), go fishing, track and observe animals, climb trees, cut down trees, cut the grass, etc. I said I do my best work alone, but actually I do my best work alone while doing something physical, and then I work in my head as I labor. Both because it is excellent practice to work in your head as you labor (the bodily labor frees the mind to wander and work) and because working while you labor is an excellent Mnemonics Technique. Sometimes I’ll write entire poems, songs, scenes from my novels, sections of business plans, create prototype inventions in my head, etc., then memorize the same and store them in Agapolis, my Memory City as I am physically laboring and only after I quit and go back into the house will I write down what I created.

I know modern people are not big on memory or Mnemonic Techniques (so much the shame for them), but I learned such things from the Ancients and the Medievals and if you ask me a superb memory and good control over your own memory is a far better set of skills and capabilities for a writer (or most anyone) to possess than a thousand cell phones or a hundred laptops or tablets or even a dozen internets. A good memory increases not only your overall intelligence but is fundamental to establishing, developing, and properly employing an excellent vocabulary. So practice writing or creating first in your head (after all you can do such things even when you have no access to even pen and paper), then fully memorize what you do, and only then write it down. Such exercises are not only important to do (because of what I mentioned above), but will pay many dividends in any of your creative endeavours and enterprises. Rely not just upon mere technology for your best creations and for your most important works, but rather upon what you most deeply impress upon your own mind and soul. That is both where creation begins and where it will be properly shaped and forged and worked into worthwhile and well-crafted final products.

I don’t know if this helps you any in your own creative enterprises but my advice is go out at least once a month, or as often as you need it, and do nothing but observe and generate new ideas. Then let them ruminate and percolate through you and within you.

If you thereafter feel all cramped up and unable to work smoothly then do something strenuous and physical outside. The labor will do you good and also set our mind free to wander. Then when you are primed and relaxed go to work.

To simplify to a very basic formula: Prime + Observe + Labor + Work + Memorize = High End and Valuable End Product.
After the necessary revisions for proper refinement, of course.
REWRITE OFTEN.

But just because you work alone doesn’t mean you are a prisoner of your environment and just because you work alone doesn’t mean you always have to be alone.

Go wander, go labor, go explore, go meet new people, go people watch, memorize, and then actually Work. Don’t just wade into crowds and pretend to work.

Actually Work.

Be extremely good for ya. And it will probably make you a helluvah lot better writer than you’ve ever been before. No matter what you’re writing. And it is awful hard to be lonely, or a slack-ass, when you are actually doing Good Work.

That’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth.

EXPERIENCE IT FIRST – LIVING OUT YOUR STORY

I have, over time, developed a new technique for writing Fictional Stories. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now but have recently gotten to be very good at it.

At night, right after I cut out the light and am laying in the dark, I turn to some novel or story I’m writing. I then visualize part of the story or a scene from the story in my mind as if I’m one of the characters. Then try to see it in my head as if it were an actual experience that I am part of.

At first I did this as if I were seeing a film or movie or play (from a third person point of view). But then I decided that I would do away with that step entirely and simply insert myself into the scene and have the scene unfold as if it were a real (and not recorded) experience. Instead of thinking in terms of words and pictures and stories and characters now I’m “experiencing fictional reality” in my head as if these experiences are real and occurring to me. In that way it’s not hard to transform these scenes into artificial (or maybe a better term would be parallel, or virtual) memories and then when I take to writing again it’s much more like remembering something you’ve already experienced than making it up. First I experience the scene, from beginning to end, and only then write it, but not just from imagination, from memory. This seems to have two effects: it makes writing fiction much more fun, because even though it’s fiction it is like it is real, and secondly it seems to have improved the overall literary quality of my fiction. Especially from the point of view of characterization and dialogue. In other words the story becomes “hot” in your own mind and a “personal experience” rather than just the imagined experiences of your characters.

I’ve gotten pretty good at it with much practice. The other night I saw a ship in a fictional story which was unlike any ship design I’ve ever seen before, complete with a different type of mast and rigging system (it was a sailing ship in a fantasy story) and overall design that I didn’t think I would have ever considered or considered writing about had it not been for the “experience it first technique.”

But because I experienced it first the ship was, well, it was like I was both the ship designer (shipwright) and the boat master of the voyage. I think I may have developed something very useful here, because doing it this way it’s less like writing than it is experiential, and my mind doesn’t get divided into “writer” or “inventor” but different aspects of my mind all seem to work in synthesis.

I am calling the Technique, “Experiential Fiction,” or “Remembered/Memory Fiction.”

By the way, this is much more like writing fiction as if you were writing a song or a poem, by experience and memory, rather than entirely through imagination and invention. Although in your own mind you must first imagine and invent the story.

But this is far easier to do by taking your own prior experiences and memories and simply rearranging them in a newly imagined fashion through your mental and psychological storyline rather than trying to imagine your story “cold.”

I also think this would be an excellent technique for both game design, and for invention, and recently I have been experimenting with using the technique to do both.

SETTING THE STAGE

Brain’s reaction to virtual reality should prompt further study, suggests new research

by Stuart Wolpert
brain
Credit: Rice University
UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

“The pattern of activity in a region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the ,” said Mayank Mehta, a UCLA professor of physics, neurology and neurobiology in the UCLA College and the study’s senior author. “Since so many people are using , it is important to understand why there are such big differences.”

The study was published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The scientists were studying the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The hippocampus also plays an important role in forming new memories and creating mental maps of space. For example, when a person explores a room, hippocampal become selectively active, providing a “cognitive map” of the environment.

The mechanisms by which the brain makes those cognitive maps remains a mystery, but neuroscientists have surmised that the hippocampus computes distances between the subject and surrounding landmarks, such as buildings and mountains. But in a real maze, other cues, such as smells and sounds, can also help the brain determine spaces and distances.

To test whether the hippocampus could actually form spatial maps using only visual landmarks, Mehta’s team devised a noninvasive virtual reality environment and studied how the in the brains of rats reacted in the virtual world without the ability to use smells and sounds as cues.

Researchers placed a small harness around rats and put them on a treadmill surrounded by a “virtual world” on large video screens—a virtual environment they describe as even more immersive than IMAX—in an otherwise dark, quiet room. The scientists measured the rats’ behavior and the activity of hundreds of neurons in their hippocampi, said UCLA graduate student Lavanya Acharya, a lead author on the research.

The researchers also measured the rats’ behavior and neural activity when they walked in a real room designed to look exactly like the virtual reality room.

The scientists were surprised to find that the results from the virtual and real environments were entirely different. In the virtual world, the rats’ hippocampal neurons seemed to fire completely randomly, as if the neurons had no idea where the rat was—even though the rats seemed to behave perfectly normally in the real and virtual worlds.

“The ‘map’ disappeared completely,” said Mehta, director of a W.M. Keck Foundation Neurophysics center and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. “Nobody expected this. The neuron activity was a random function of the rat’s position in the virtual world.”

Explained Zahra Aghajan, a UCLA graduate student and another of the study’s lead authors: “In fact, careful mathematical analysis showed that neurons in the virtual world were calculating the amount of distance the rat had walked, regardless of where he was in the virtual space.”

They also were shocked to find that although the rats’ hippocampal neurons were highly active in the real-world environment, more than half of those neurons shut down in the virtual space.

The virtual world used in the study was very similar to virtual reality environments used by humans, and neurons in a rat’s brain would be very hard to distinguish from neurons in the human brain, Mehta said.

His conclusion: “The neural pattern in virtual reality is substantially different from the activity pattern in the real world. We need to fully understand how virtual reality affects the brain.”

Neurons Bach would appreciate

In addition to analyzing the activity of , Mehta’s team studied larger groups of the brain cells. Previous research, including studies by his group, have revealed that groups of neurons create a complex pattern using brain rhythms.

“These complex rhythms are crucial for learning and memory, but we can’t hear or feel these rhythms in our brain. They are hidden under the hood from us,” Mehta said. “The complex pattern they make defies human imagination. The neurons in this memory-making region talk to each other using two entirely different languages at the same time. One of those languages is based on rhythm; the other is based on intensity.”

Every neuron in the hippocampus speaks the two languages simultaneously, Mehta said, comparing the phenomenon to the multiple concurrent melodies of a Bach fugue.

Mehta’s group reports that in the , the language based on rhythm has a similar structure to that in the real world, even though it says something entirely different in the two worlds. The language based on intensity, however, is entirely disrupted.

When people walk or try to remember something, the activity in the hippocampus becomes very rhythmic and these complex, rhythmic patterns appear, Mehta said. Those rhythms facilitate the formation of memories and our ability to recall them. Mehta hypothesizes that in some people with learning and memory disorders, these rhythms are impaired.

“Neurons involved in memory interact with other parts of the hippocampus like an orchestra,” Mehta said. “It’s not enough for every violinist and every trumpet player to play their music flawlessly. They also have to be perfectly synchronized.”

Mehta believes that by retuning and synchronizing these rhythms, doctors will be able to repair damaged memory, but said doing so remains a huge challenge.

“The need to repair memories is enormous,” noted Mehta, who said neurons and synapses—the connections between neurons—are amazingly complex machines.

Previous research by Mehta showed that the hippocampal circuit rapidly evolves with learning and that brain rhythms are crucial for this process. Mehta conducts his research with rats because analyzing complex brain circuits and neural activity with high precision currently is not possible in humans.

THE BARD’S REMEMBRANCE

I wandered long to tell the tale of heroes in this world
I sang, I feasted, spoke my verse, drank and danced for Earls
In courts and castles did I roam but never kept a’ Count
Of just how many women wooed or knights I did unmount
I traveled nights without a moon in forests deep and dim
While Warlocks of their secret charms I often learned to skim
Monstrous ruins did I scour to find what harm lay tombed
Did I this upon the hour heavy cloaked in gloom
Great Wizards I did put at ease with my flute and lyre
Men at War I roused to fight before the glowing fire
Thieves did think them craftily the cunning criminal
Until I mastered them in guile to leave them stript and dull
Priests befriended, merchant’s aid, the King’s own counselor
Old Keeps razed and Dukes a’scorned by every art of lore
Famous flags and banners raised I fought beneath them all
Yet never did I bend the knee, I kept myself unthralled
Wealth grew great and treasure troves I found within the world
I plundered hoards, took what I wished, the rest I passed to churls
Grim grew I as long I aged, the Winter’s bite took hold
Then laughed again as Spring bloomed new even though I’m old
God High Above, death far below, the things that I have seen
The Barrow Mounds, the Hunting Hounds, the foxes in the lean
I’ve been a Bard, tis true my friend, adventures without end
The Sire of Suits, the Poets Truth, Meander’s only friend
I’m laughing now, you cannot know, delight within my breast
I’d do it all again you see, the minstrel is thrice blest
He lives a man, a dire man, beyond the frontier walls
He sings of it to kings and queens, but does not sing it all
For though the joy is deep in him of everything he speaks
There is a place he never found that still his soul does seek…

THE MEMORY PALACE, MATTEO RICCI, AND THE CITY OF AGAPOLIS

Excellent little article on a simple mnemonic technique. As many of you know this is a subject which has fascinated and interested me for decades. So I’m gonna recreate my response to the article here:

I first became familiar with ancient and Medieval mnemonic techniques after reading the book, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, which still has a favorite place in my personal library. I highly recommend the book. I was in college at the time. After that I spent about ten years researching ancient and Medieval mnemonic techniques.

After that I built a memory palace in my own mind, and eventually that led me to build a Memory City in my own mind called Agapolis. Complete with maps and buildings and parks and so forth. I might have already mentioned Agapolis here, I think I might have. The design I adapted from the City of Constantinople (New Rome).

Eventually after reading some of the works of Archimedes (on mind-laboratories) I turned Agapolis into a real city (still just in my mind) with laboratories, churches, temples, stadiums, banks, hospitals, parks, places I can live, study, write, etc. This kind of city I am sometimes tempted to call a Civis Imaginaria, but I still have yet to develop a term I’m really satisfied with.

Now if I’m sick I visit the hospital in Agapolis to help with my illness or injury. If I want to write I go to one of my writing retreats in Agapolis and write in my head if I can’t on my computer, and thereby store the story or poem or song there for later retrieval. I do that a lot while working outside, then retrieve the whatever it is later on from my head.

If I’m working on a scientific project or a math problem or an invention I go to the Museus (originally Greek museums, such as in Alexandria) were not artifact storehouses, but invention laboratories) in Agapolis and work the project there.

If I want to work on a business project then I go to one of the offices there.

If I want to talk or hang out with God I go to one of the churches or temples or to the countryside outside of the city.

Yes, I still use the buildings and objects and people (I populate the city with famous people from history as well as fictional characters I’d like to hang out with or talk to) as memory storage and retrieval tools but I also use all of those things for much wider applications as well.

I recommend it.

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Memorizing Historical Dates Using a Memory Palace

by Josh Cohen on March 14, 2011

In the memory forum, Cole linked to a fascinating illustration of a memory palace for memorizing historical dates.

I’ve re-posted the illustration here:

Emma Willard's The Temple of Time

I found a short description here:

The “Temple of Time” is a three-dimensional projection of historical chronography. In the temple, the vertical columns represent centuries, with those on the right showing names of important figures from the Old World while those on the left show figures from the New World. The floor shows a historical stream chart. The ceiling functions as a chart of biography.

The “Temple of Time,” created in 1846 by the pioneering American girls’ educator Emma Willard, draws on the tradition of Renaissance “memory theaters,” mnemonic devices that allowed people to memorize information by imagining it as architectural details in a three-dimensional mental space.

 

Here is the link to the Mnemonics article: http://blog.mnemotechnics.org/memorizing-historical-dates-using-a-memory-palace-1916.html

Here is the link to the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci: http://www.amazon.com/The-Memory-Palace-Matteo-Ricci/dp/0140080988