Dr Strange and multidimensional mental structures

Mindmaps and mental palaces are essentially two-dimensional structures. This allows for simple navigation: linear and lateral itineraries.  99% of the time this is more than enough. Articles are fixed: once we place an article in a mental structure it is not likely to move. Projects are hierarchical. We can move up and down the hierarchy of the elements that build up any project using mindmaps, and we can also easily rearrange them.

Adding the third dimension

When do we get the third dimension? When we rearrange essentially the same project for different customers, or when engineering and marketing perspectives overlap each other in awkward ways. This does not have to be an engineering task. For example, managing a diet for a person with multiple overlapping indications can easily become a nightmare. Legal aspects of a joint multinational entity overlap on several planes. Tracking the diplomatic obligations of a country under several treaties can be hard.

Most of us most of the time do not need to track overlapping coverages of multiple ideas. Those who need to do that are considered to be wizards of their trade. Which is a lucrative position. If it was not so damn hard…

Dr Strange, time and multiverse

The Marvel superhero Dr Strange does one trick exceptionally well. He breaks time and space into new geometries and analyzes the situation. Then he breaks the time and space in some other way and analyzes what happens next. This trick is harder than adding just one dimension.

We can project our mental structures on a three-dimensional landscape and analyze the cross-cut of what we get.  Does that make sense? Well, if we have a mindmap with unusual branching in some node, we can put that node on a spherical structure, creating a magnifying glass effect. And if the nature of our mindmap changed at some point, we can put it on a prism. You can substitute sphere with hills and ridges with mountains.  The logic still holds.

Put the house into the landscape

By default, you should use the mental palaces of the houses you know intimately well. This is the basic approach we teach beginners. However, these houses are immutable. You put your PAOs in the corners of each room, your mindmaps on the walls, and then you cannot change the rooms anymore.

Wizards do not work this way. They carve the houses into the landscapes, using landscapes as guidance. For example, if you need to cover the same taxation subject in the legal systems of three different counties for double Irish dutch sandwich of tax planning. You do not use your family home. Instead, you try to realign the common elements on each floor, to colocate above the same financial pit-holes. You build the mental palace around the landscape of the features – optimizing coverage of the features. Not the other way around.

Architects do something very similar. For simple structures they reuse basic templates, building blocky skyscrapers where all the floors follow roughly the same structure. For more advanced buildings they try to blend into the landscape, optimizing the light and the view from each window.

Up and down the pole

Firefighters, at least in some places, use Fireman’s pole/ It is very good to slide down to the ground floor very fast.  Firemen cannot climb up the pole as fast, unless they use a rocket. In your visual palaces and landscapes you can use rockets as much as you want. So get yourself a rocket, and position pole holes in the rooms that cover the same important subject on every floor. The pole does not even have to be vertical. You can use any S-shaped slide that you want, like a kid or a google employee. Feeling a child actually boosts creativity which is great for multidimensional planning

You can also use very large rooms in your mental palace and position your mindmap not on the walls, but actually on the floor. This was physically done in some medieval churches, for example in Malta, where the bodies of the esteemed families were placed directly under the floor and decorated with rich mosaics on the floor.

The positive aspect of such design is pinning the main issues on several levels  and ability to go between them up and down, from finance to engineering and back.

Do not do this on the fly

Usually, when we learn new materials we simply use the first visual association upgrading it with details from the text. 5 words from the text define one PAO association. An article with 5 layers of hierarchy or a table with 5 rows and 5 columns generates one mindmap. Graphs go as-is and on the walls. The process is very fast, however it is somewhat chaotic.

When we need to go up and down the pole in the memory palace, we cannot trust our luck to get the relevant subjects one above the other. We first study each subject by itself, and then carefully reproject the subjects we need over the chosen floorplan.

This is a slow and complex process. Fortunately, we need to do it only once, and then we can reuse the same floorplan as many times as we want, up and down the pole.

Linear and lateral movement

No matter how smart our floorplan is, the vertical motion is not the only motion we need to support. There is a linear direction of the story we tell and the lateral navigation between viable constraints and alternatives. Arguably we use lateral navigation more, as we need to consider a lot of options. Once we choose the relevant options, we can tell a nice story from the beginning to the end, going up and down the fireman’s pole.

Miniature homes

As our subjects get more complex, we can place miniature homes within the floorplan, like placing model buildings in a museum or an architecture firm. These smaller homes can be fully functional simple mental palaces like we usually use. The idea is very simple. A careful floor plan should not harm our ability to learn new information and produce new arguments.

By the way, the entire floorplan in each room does not have to be planar. We can for example add decorative stairs, or introduce abstract sculptures furniture. Remember me talking about spheres and ridges a few paragraphs ago? Now you can add them for your pleasure.


Quite often we do not need entirely new floor plans. Possibly,  all we need is a quick way from one mental palace to another. Goudini had a very nice act where he crossed through a wall, by a tunnel placed on the scene. Since you already placed your mental houses on a sort of a scene, you can easily go through the tunnels between them. This is a very simple alternative to a more complex hyperlinking procedure.

In a way, our brain has this sort of architecture. We have very fast associative connections between various fields in our neocortex.


If you are a real wizard you may want to use a tessract. Consider our neocortex. It is initially a carpet with approximately six layers of cells. Then this carpet is folded in a complex way many times. Then associative connections create tunnels between the folds of the carpet. No wonder brain surgery is considered so complex:  try to navigate the resulting landscape.

Usually, fMRI studies the co-activation of neurons when we see a new input. And then we need to study multidimensional structure in a crosscut, comparing multiple patients. No two patients have the same activation, but the patterns emerge. Finding these patterns, or programming similar patterns in neural networks is an act of true wizardry.

If you’re keen on uncovering your memory landscapes through exclusive and contemporary methods inspired by indigenous memory techniques, consider enrolling in my memory masterclass. You don’t need to pay all the money. Email [email protected] and ask for a big discount. You will definitely be happy with what you get. Keep in mind, as this is an advanced approach, it’s advisable to have some foundational memory training beforehand.

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