Lighthouse of Alexandria and octagonal mental palaces

Octagonal (8 walls)  mental palaces are seriously underrated. They can be unique, memorable, and extremely comfortable for placing into larger mental landscapes. Moreover, I claim the octagonal mental palaces are extremely easy to generate and very suitable for short and not super-dense articles. I would go as far as recommend them as the first mental palaces to learn.

You may find one of the octagonal buildings in the wild, visit it and use it for your visualizations. Even better, see designs of the historical building and get inspired to design your own. Once you start reusing the design of your mental palaces, you will feel like you live there for ages. Make several designs following the ideas below, and use them as much as you can.

Mental palaces as pieces in a larger game

Our games use circular and rectangular objects. The basic tribal dwellings are circular and rectangular. A simple mental palace is like a chess piece or a primitive dwelling. There is no reason to build a palace for 2000 keywords if your entire article never surpasses 100 keywords. And then there is a question of which shape you prefer:  a long house or a yurt. If you choose a yurt, you can choose a yurt with 8 or 12 walls.  You kind of need a symmetric structure with corners for PAO: otherwise your mental itinerary is hard to plan. Base 12 structures are more comfortable on the clock face, so I suggest using an octagonal building: 8 walls and 8 corners.

Octagonal structures are also very common for diagrams and physical objects, like i ching trigrams used in feng shui – typically with mirrors.

Historical octagonal buildings

You will probably not have an octagonal building in your childhood. Octagonal buildings do not look like regular houses, hence they were used to convey spiritual power. Lighthouse of Alexandria, Chapel of the Ascension, Dome of the Rock – each of these buildings is a spiritual beacon. There were also actual octagonal houses for ordinary people. The style became popular in the United States and Canada following the publication of Orson Squire Fowler’s 1848 book The Octagon House, A Home for All.

Observing the actual octagonal buildings we can derive several features that we may choose to add to our mental palaces:

  • A crown/dome on the top of the building
  • Pillars along the walls.
  • Spiral staircase/levels
  • Inner sanctum
  • Levels and balconies
  • “Wings”

I will also explain why each of these architectural features is useful.

Tribal octagonal home

Let us start with a simple design of a tribal octagonal home or a look in google for “octagon garden shed”.  There is only one door and 7 walls (8 overall) and 8 corners. Each corner can be used for an object, like a PAO. The walls may be made of glass to allow better navigation within a mental landscape of obscure with diagrams on them.  It is best to have some specific attributes for each wall. You can use specific objects to mark each wall in a unique way, for example following feng shui mythology: a bowl with water, a fireplace, a rock to sit on, and so on.

The itinerary is very simple: you walk in, turn around scan the shed clockwise and walk out.

Each PAO encodes 5 or more keywords. So you can easily place 40 keywords per such building. Usually, short articles require between 20 and 40 keywords for memorization, so you should be fine with a glass shed. If you have graphs, flowcharts, and images, you may choose sheds with obscure walls. You may use glass walls and wooden walls like white and black chess pieces.

Placing an octagonal building in a mental landscape

If you have a mental landscape, you can easily place an octagonal building there. As we consider placement, more advanced features become painfully clear.

For example, in a flowchart, an octagon enables 8 arrow connections. Yet the center of the octagon needs to be used for a sign, like + or – in feedback or ? in decision-making. So clean up the floor in the middle of the room and place there a large circle for the logical marker.

Placing the building for example in a clock requires an indicator of the relevant hour. For example, an animal following the zodiac. And again, you can place it on the floor, yet I suggest placing it on the ceiling. You can use a level ceiling or a dome.

Adding “look up” or “look down” to your itinerary is an easy way to encode the mental landscape where the mental palace is placed.

Clearly, you can also nest octagonal palaces, replacing one of the PAOs with a mental palace.

A palace with a crown

Many octagonal buildings have some sort of a crown on a dome. The lighthouse of Alexandria had a powerful mirror in its crown to show the way for the ships.  Alternatively, you may borrow the medieval design of chess pieces with unique crowns for bishops, kings, and queens.

The crown is extremely useful to differentiate mental palaces, especially if you use a mental palace instead of a PAO. In a larger landscape. a crown makes each building easily recognizable. You can further encode the structure of the crown in the structure of the door, which is visible from within the palace.

Please notice I constantly provide dual coding cues. What you see from inside the mental palace should be matched with what you see from the outside. This facilitates disambiguation.

Supersize your mental palace

In chess, pawns are small while other pieces are larger. Small mental palaces can easily be lost in larger mental landscapes. Larger mental palaces can be seen from far and facilitate navigation.

The easiest way to supersize a mental palace is by adding levels. 3 levels and a spiral staircase enable these larger mental palaces. Again, the inspiration is the lighthouse of Alexandria.

The itinerary now is more complex. While the top level is pretty much a mental shed, the other two levels can be different, and we can actually walk along the walls. This enables the placement of complex mental objects along each wall in a niche, up to a table with a full mental landscape on it. A mental landscape can easily encode a small book, so you basically get a small library section dedicated to some specific subject. You can also place curio cabinets with objects encoding associations with other places in your memory – for navigation and creativity.

Inner sanctum

In the center of the ground floor in a large mental palace, you may have a special “room” with spiritual significance for anchoring a state of mind you desire in a specific memory palace.  The anchor marker of the mental palace is not just the easiest way to recall it, but also a hypnotic device. Some memory palaces are built to excite, while others are designed to calm down.

It does not really matter which mythology you use, as long as the visualizations are relevant and diverse. Be inspired by side stories. For example, if you use the bible mythology and want to encode the lucid dreaming subjects, you may use Joseph in his coat of many colors. If you use Greek mythology for the gym, you may visualize Hercules. You may also visualize role models, like Steve Jobs for Apple devices or tech trends. Whatever works for you.

This is your mental palace. It is meant to focus you on the right subject. Not a place of worship. Feel free to be creative.


If you do not need an inner sanctum, you may want to use pillars on your ground floor, and also above. You can put 4 pillars along each wall. Between the 2nd and the 3rd pillar, it is best to leave space for a door or a window. This way, you have significantly more unique space to place your visualizations.

It is best that you use unique pillar designs for each set of pillars, as the itinerary becomes a bit complex with passing along 32 or more pillars. The doors may lead to additional “wings” or to the balconies. The “wings” are usually visualized as long corridors with rooms to the left or to the right.


It is pretty clear why we need balconies in real buildings. They allow sightseeing and orientation in the landscape. The same idea may be used in the mental landscape. From each balcony you get a unique view of the garden below it, where you can for example grow mental trees (3D visualization of a mindmap), or place diagrams, and so on.

This provides you with two itineraries: a short itinerary is along the doors of the balconies or “wings” of the mental palace. A long itinerary implies visiting each and every room.

Octagon mental palace
Rich-Twinn Octagon House

Hybrid shapes

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was at least 450 feet high and made of three sections. The bottommost section was square and held government offices and stables. The middle section was an octagon and held a balcony where tourists could sit, enjoy the view, and be served refreshments.

Lighthouse of alsexandria


Octagonal mental palaces are easy to build and they can become extremely powerful. It is a good idea to have at least two kinds of small and two kinds of large octagonal palaces and reuse them.  Octagonal mental palaces may have unique crowns or domes to facilitate disambiguation. A small mental palace may have a place in the center for a logical marker or an anchoring visualization. A large mental palace may have several levels, balconies, pillars, and inner sanctums.


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