Memory palaces of Dr Anthony Metivier

This is something new I want to try: in-depth discussions about some prominent figures in superlearning world and their tools. This lecture also comes with a free valuable resource you can use from Dr. Anthony Metivier: the free memory improvement kit. Also, this has been an amazing year for Dr. Anthony Metivier. Read all about it here.

Can anyone reinvent something that has been with us for 2500 years using nothing but their wits and will? While unlikely, we see these amazing people who change our perception of things people have been doing for centuries. Dr. Anthony Metivier is one of this people, and I have a great privilege of personally knowing him.

What is a memory palace?

The memory palace is one of the main tools in an ancient art of remembering things. In ancient Greece, Mnemosyne used to personify memory. She was the mother of all muses, the power behind art, music, literature and dance. None of these arts was possible without memory training, and ancient greeks were masters of memory training.

Like geometry and music, the art of memory owes a large debt to Pythagoras. Within the circle of his students, the most prominent story is the story of Simonides of Ceos, the guy who invented lyric poetry. Once after giving a speech in banquet, Simonides went out of a dining hall to discuss his payment. There was an earthquake, and all people attending the speech were crushed by collapsed roof. Nobody could identify the bodies until Simonides came and recreated from his memory where everybody attending his speech was sitting. Then he explained his method: “Persons desiring to train his memory must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we use the places and the images as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written upon it.” His contemporaries probably used similar methods quite often. According to Cicero, Themistocles wasn’t much impressed with the poet’s invention: “I would rather a technique of forgetting, for I remember what I would rather not remember and cannot forget what I would rather forget.”

The system of ordered locations with images of things within these locations hence became known as the memory palace.

Many faces of memory palace

There are many mnemonic techniques that can be called a “memory palace”, or “methods of loci”.  These techniques mix visual memory and spatial orientation memory. The dual coding of visual and special memory also allows connecting various visualizations. The process is almost effortless when using an imaginary itinerary.

Some use physical locations, and others use more schematic approach.

Giordano Bruno, a true renaissance man, used to base his memory palace on signs of the zodiac and concentric circles.  His memory palace was intended to fill the mind of the practitioner with images representing all the knowledge of the world.

In literature, we can sometimes see a mastermind hero walking through magnificent memory palace. The technique is employed by fictional character Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising (novels by American author Thomas Harris). In several passages in these books, Lecter is described as mentally walking through an elaborate memory palace to recall information, mentally escape unpleasant situations and enhance sensory perceptions.

Just how many locations can one generate within one house? The 2006 World Memory Champion, Clemens Mayer from Germany, used a 300-point-long journey through his house for his world record in “number half marathon”, memorizing 1040 random digits in a half-hour. Massive memory palaces also include people performing bizarre actions. The people are in the corners of the room, or in other stations of memory palace. This person-object-method encodes 6 digit numbers in one figure. If you have a memory palace with 5 rooms, 10 locations per room and 2 people per location, you can encode 600 digits per memory palace. A memory master can choose from 100 memory palaces or more…

Some recent studies show that using a virtual environment like a video game, or an arrangement of shops on a street, is as efficient as actual locations. Virtual art museums are an interesting variation of memory palace. The time and effort spent creating these complex virtual structures balanced by the joy experienced by the people revisiting these locations.

The Magnetic Memory Method
The complexity of the various memory palaces and approaches is both inspiring and buffling. Where do we even start? How do we choose the variations of memory palace to start learning and how do we build our own memory palaces? Dr. Anthony Metivier often says “A lot of people use the word ‘system,’ but there are no systems. There are just methods that allow you to create your own system.”

For me, the main contribution of Dr. Anthony Metivier to the method of loci is the method itself.

The guidelines of the magnetic memory method are simple and straightforward:


  • Simplify everything to reduce the mental load.
  • Making choices is hard. Create rules, so you do not need to choose.
  • Practice everywhere, you do not need to look for a special place to create a palace
  • Use very few mnemonic devices, but use them well till you really own them.

There are several limitations that make memory palaces simple to create and navigate.

  • Do not start with one very complex memory palace, start with several simple ones.
  • You should not walk the palace arbitrarily, there are simple rules of how to build a repeatable itinerary you can reuse.
  • Walk the palace from the first station to the last, and repeat from the last station to the first so you do not forget the last stations.
  • Add very simple visual stations, and reuse them.
  • Create written notes and review the palace using “spaced repetitions” method.
  • Make sure you like your palace, so you feel good reviewing it.

When you apply the magnetic memory method, memory palaces become very simple. They are apartments with compartments – ready to be used whenever you need them. There is a lot of maintenance involved with any apartment. Dr. Anthony Metivier teaches how to accessorize, remodel and renovate your memory palaces if you need to. You should revisit your memory palaces, as they get older, to make them shine.

Storytelling is a great skill to have and Dr. Anthony Metivier is a master storyteller.

Every book of Dr. Anthony Metivier contains a very systematic explanation of how to create each detail of each palace. There are many examples of various palaces used for different things: words and grammar of foreign languages, numbers and poetry, names, and faces. The level of detail and systematic approach would make such books very boring, except the storytelling within is very stimulating. When reading the books you can almost feel yourself in the place of the author, the memory palaces lively and almost tangible. This solid feeling is unique in memory training world. Typically, when reading works by other authors, like Tony Buzan, Harry Lorayne, Joshua Foer there are small gaps between the theory and the practice. When reading a book by  Dr. Anthony Metivier, you know you can build your memory palace, you know how to start and how to proceed, and you can generate 10 memory palaces within days of finishing the book.

Anthony, the magician

Many memory masters have a great story about their life journey.  Dr. Anthony Metivier is a personal friend of mine for years, we have met many times and so I can to some extent talk about Anthony the man or maybe Anthony the magician.

I have several friends who are magicians and who love to show me tricks. I have very little understanding of how magic tricks work, I do remember the tricks themselves and I can judge the dexterity and showmanship of the performer. During one of our meetings Anthony showed me a couple of card tricks I already saw, and then when my face expressed zero astonishment, he produced an amazing card trick I’ve never seen before. I asked Anthony why he learned magic. He told me that he loves the expression of joy and amazement on someone face, and even more, he likes to transform someone’s life from gray and boring into colorful and magical. At that moment, I understood that Anthony is truly a magician, and memory books and courses are just tools of his work.

When you learn to create memory palaces and fill them with colorful objects from your imagination, the world you experience changes. You can be in many places at the same time, see objects of extreme beauty or extreme ugliness based on your imagination. You can walk very fast through endless rooms of places long gone. Within your memory palaces, you can even fly like superman if you choose to.

When Anthony was a student, he got depressed and decided that learning magic will be his way to cope with depression. He tried card tricks, some other tricks, mentalism and finally he got in love with memory tricks. Memory palaces cured Anthony’s depression and now he feels the need to make the world a better place by sharing his passion.

A true magician never shows his tricks. Anthony will show anyone how to build a memory palace with great ease, infectious passion, and genuine excitement. I am pretty sure, that teaching people to build memory palaces is just the performance, and the true trick is deeper and more profound. I am still trying to find out what it is, and I welcome you to think about it.

Openness and hands-on approach

The magnetic memory method might not be good for everyone. The person must be open to experimentation and implementation. Dr. Anthony Metivier gives a great example: “Think of a computer keyboard, for example. Anyone can look at the keyboard and understand a description of what it is supposed to do. But without putting their fingers on the keys and learning to press the keys to produce words, words will never form.
And the exciting thing about typing is that, once you’ve started learning it, you can learn to write very fast. Not only that, but you’ve become so familiar with the keyboard that you can type entire books without even looking down at the keys or your fingers. In sum, not everyone can develop memory techniques because not everyone will take action.”

Language learning mnemonics

Dr. Anthony Metivier is a world-class authority on language mnemonics. Memory palaces as they are presented by Dr. Anthony Metivier can be a great tool for memorizing vocabulary of any language. Quite likely if you want to learn a language, Dr. Anthony Metivier already wrote a book specifically about memorizing that language’s vocabulary. Quite often, Dr. Anthony Metivier invents unique mnemonics for specific linguistic needs. For example, when learning Mandarin, Dr. Anthony Metivier used to visualize kangaroo for the tonality: jumping, kicking,
and doing other great things.

To facilitate long-term memorization, Dr. Anthony Metivier often uses rhyme-based techniques. When we can rhyme words, we remember them in a very different way than memory palaces. In his youth, Dr. Anthony Metivier used to write poetry and make music. These skills are great for language learning, complementing the memory palace capabilities.

Memory techniques and textbooks

Every time I meet Anthony I learn something new. He is one of those few people, who can touch you in very subtle ways and change you forever.

Memory palaces are not the only memory techniques used by Dr. Anthony Metivier.  Dr. Anthony Metivier studied mindmaps with Tony Buzan. Recently Dr Anthony Metivier was knighted a Warrior Of The Mind by his mentor Tony Buzan.

True passion generates enough energy to create many great books.  Dr. Anthony Metivier wrote at least 13 textbooks. By the time you read this post, I sure the number will rise. Here are just some of them:

“How to Learn and Memorize German Vocabulary: Using Memory Palaces”, “How to Learn & Memorize Legal Terminology … Using a Memory Palace”, “How to Learn & Memorize a Randomized Deck of Playing Cards … Using a Memory Palace and Image-Association System”, “How to Learn & Memorize Poetry … Using a Memory Palace Specifically Designed for Memorizing Verse”, and more.

At the same time, Dr. Anthony Metivier created many wonderful courses. For example:

“The Ultimate Language Learning Secret”, “How to remember your dreams”, “How to memorize the vocabulary of any language”. “How to memorize names and faces”, “Memory tips from Aristotle”, co-authored “Branding you: how to build your multimedia empire”, “The Habits Mastery formula – Develop powerful habits”.

These books and courses helped tens of thousands of students develop their memory and find their own system for building magical memory palaces using the magnetic memory method.

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