An Introduction To The Hermetic Art Of Memory
John Michael Greer
Part One : The Uses of Memory
In the current occult revival, the Art of Memory is perhaps the most thoroughly neglected of all the technical methods of Renaissance esotericism. While the researches of the late Dame Frances Yates1 and, more recently, a revival of interest in the master mnemonist Giordano Bruno2 have made the Art something of a known quantity in academic circles, the same is not true in the wider community ; to mention the Art of Memory in most occult circles nowadays, to say nothing of the general public, is to invite blank looks.
In its day, though, the mnemonic methods of the Art held a special place among the contents of the practicing magician's mental toolkit. The Neoplatonic philosophy which underlay the whole structure of Renaissance magic gave memory, and thus techniques of mnemonics, a crucial place in the work of inner transformation. In turn, this interpretation of memory gave rise to a new understanding of the Art, turning what had once been a purely practical way of storing useful information into a meditative discipline calling on all the powers of the will and the imagination.
This article seeks to reintroduce the Art of Memory to the modern Western esoteric tradition as a practicable technique. This first part, &laqno; The Uses of Memory, » will give an overview of the nature and development of the Art's methods, and explore some of the reasons why the Art has value for the modern esotericist. The second part, &laqno; The Garden of Memory, » will present a basic Hermetic memory system, designed along traditional lines and making use of Renaissance magical symbolism, as a basis for experimentation and practical use.