Former Principal of the D G Sind National College, Hyderabad. Sind.
First Edition 1936, Second Edition 1939
Reprinted 1945, Revised Reprint 1947
Reprinted 1956 by Occult Research Press



[Page v] THIS book is the result of over thirty years' experience and study of the memory systems of Europe and India.

The author, as an educationist of eminence and long standing — with the founding of two University Colleges also to his credit — has had uncommon opportunities for observation of the ways of the mind, and he has pursued his quarry with all the keenness of a naturalist who stalks the denizens of the wild in order to note and record their habits.

He wishes to deprecate the frequent criticism that memory systems are unnatural or artificial. On the contrary, such as are described here follow the spontaneous processes of the mind found in people who have naturally good memories.

He desires to acknowledge with thanks to Messrs. Ganesh and Co., Madras, and to The Theosophical Publishing House, Madras, the use herein of various extracts from writings of his published by them several years ago.

Section 1 THE MIND AND ITS MANAGEMENT 1 The Magic Box   
2 The Roads of Thought   
3 Concentration of Mind
4 Aids to Concentration           
Section 2 IMAGINATION AND ITS USES 5 Mental Images 



Familiarization of Forms  


Familiarization of Memory    


Projection of the Memory


Simplification and Symbolization

Section 3 THE ART OF THINKING 11 Modes of Comparison  
12 A Logical Series  
13 Footsteps of Thought     
14 The Power of a Mood         
15 Expansion of Ideas  
Section 4 A BAG OF TRICKS 16 Number Arguments and Diagrams       
17 Number-Words 
18 Placing the Memory 
19 Memory-Men of India 
Section 5 THE MIND AT WORK 20 Reading and Study 
21 Writing and Speech-Making  
22 More Concentration   
23 Meditation
Section 6 SOME PARTING ADVICE 24 Uses of the Will
  25 Bodily Aids


[Page 3] IMAGINE yourself to be standing with a party of friends in some Oriental market-place, or in a palace garden. Enter, a conjurer with a magic box. The strange man spreads a square of cloth upon the ground, then reverently places upon it a colored box of basket-work, perhaps eight inches square. He gazes at it steadily, mutters a little, removes the lid, and takes out of it, one by one, with exquisite care, nine more boxes, which seem to be of the same size as the original one, but are of different colors.You think that the trick is now finished. But no; he opens one of the new boxes and takes out nine more; he opens the other eight and takes nine more out of each — all with Oriental deliberation. And still he has not done; he begins to open up what we may call the third generation of boxes, until before long the ground is strewn with piles of them as far as he can reach. The nine boxes of the first generation and the eighty-one boxes of the second generation have disappeared from sight beneath the heaps. You begin to think that this conjurer is perhaps able to go on for ever— and then you call a halt, and open your purse right liberally .I am taking this imaginary conjuring entertainment as a simile to show what happens in our own minds. Something in us which is able to observe what goes on in the mind is the spectator. The field of imagination in the mind itself may be compared to the spread cloth. Each idea that rises in the [Page 4] mind is like a magic box. Something else in us which is able to direct the ideas in the mind is the conjurer. Really the spectator and the conjurer are one "something" which we are, but I will not now attempt to define that something because our present object is not to penetrate the deep mysteries of psychology, but to see what we can do to make ourselves better conjurers, able to produce our boxes quickly — more boxes, better boxes, boxes which are exactly of the kind needed for the business of thinking which at any given time we may wish to do .Although all minds work under the same laws, they do so in different degrees of power and plenty. Some work quickly, others slowly; some have much to offer, others little. Several students may be called upon to write an essay on the subject of cats. Some of them will find their thoughts coming plentifully forward from the recesses of the mind, while others will sit chewing the ends of their pens for a long time before their thoughts begin to flow.Some minds are brighter than others, and you want yours to be bright and strong. You want to think of many ideas and to think them well. You want to think all round any subject of your consideration, not only on one side of it, as prejudiced or timid thinkers do. While you are making the mind bright, however, care must be taken to avoid the danger that besets brilliant minds everywhere. The quick thinker who is about to write upon some social subject, such as that of prison reform or education, will find thoughts rapidly rising in his mind, and very often he will be carried away by some of the first that come, and he will follow them up and write brilliantly along the lines of thought to which they lead. But probably he will miss something of great importance to the understanding of the matter, because he has left the central subject of thought before he has considered it from every point of view. .As an example of this, a chess player, captivated by some [Page 5] daring plan of his own, will sometimes forget to look to his defences, and will find himself the subject of sudden disaster. Sometimes a duller mind, or at any rate a slower one, will be more balanced and will at last come nearer to the truth.

So, while you do want a quick mind, not one that is hard to warm up like a cheap motor-car engine on a cold winter's morning, you do not want one that will start with a leap and run away with you, but one that will dwell long enough on a chosen subject to see it from every point of view, before it begins the varied explorations of thought in connection with it that it should make upon different lines.

If I follow up the analogy of an engine, we require three things for the good working of our mental machinery — cleaning, lubrication, and control. [Page 6]


CONTROL of the subject-matter and the direction of movement of our thought is often called concentration. Let us try a preliminary experiment to see exactly what this means.

Sit down in some quiet place by yourself, and set before the mind an idea of some common object. Watch it carefully and you will soon find that it contains many other ideas, which can be taken out and made to stand around it — or perhaps you will find that they leap out incontinently and begin to play about.

Let us suppose that I think of a silver coin. What do I find on looking into this box? I see an Indian rupee, a British shilling, an American "quarter." I see coins round and square, fluted and filleted, small and large, thick and thin. I see a silver mine in Bolivia and a shop in Shanghai where I changed some silver dollars. I see the mint in Bombay (which I once visited) where coins of India are made; I see the strips of metal going through the machines, the discs punched out, the holes remaining.

Enough, I must call a halt, lest this fascinating conjurer go on for ever. That he could not do, however, but if I permit him he will open many thousands of boxes before he exhausts his powers. He will soon come to the end of the possibilities of the first box, but then he can open the others which he has taken from it.

It is the peculiarity to some minds — of the wandering and unsteady kind — to open another box before they have taken everything out of the first. That is not concentration, but mind-wandering. Concentration on an idea means that you will completely empty one box before you turn away from [Page 7] it to open another. The value of such practice is that it brightens up the mind and makes it bring forth ideas on a chosen subject quickly and in abundance.

There is a reason why a given box should become exhausted. It is that the ideas which come out of it do not do so at random but according to definite laws; they are chained to it, as it were, and only certain kinds can come out of a certain kind of box.

Suppose, for example, someone mentions the word "elephant" in your hearing. You may think of particular parts of the animal, such as its large ears or its peculiar trunk. You may think of its intelligence and its philosophical temperament, or of particular elephants that you have seen or read about. You may think of similar animals, such as the hippopotamus or the rhinoceros, or of the countries from which elephants come. But there are certain things you are not likely to think of, such as a house-fly, or a paper-knife, or a motor-boat.

There are certain definite laws which hold ideas together in the mind, just as gravitation, magnetism, cohesion and similar laws hold together material objects in the physical world.

For the purpose of this preliminary experiment I will give a list of the four main Roads of Thought. Notice, first, that among your thoughts about an elephant there will be images of things that resemble it very closely, that is, of other animals, such as a cow, a horse, or a camel. The. first law of attraction between ideas is to be seen in this. Ideas of similar things cling closely together, and easily suggest one another. We will call this first principle the law of Class. It includes the relations between an object and the class to which it belongs, and also that between objects of the same class.

The second is the law of Parts. When you think of an elephant you will probably form special mental pictures of [Page 8] its trunk, or ears, or feet, or when you think of its ears you may also think of other parts of it, such as the eyes.

The third law may be called Quality. It expresses the relation between an object and its quality, and also between objects having the same quality. Thus one may think of the cat as an artist, of the moon as spherical, etc, or if one thinks of the moon, one may also think of a large silver coin, because they have the quality of white, disc-like appearance in common.

The fourth law involves no such observation of the resemblances and differences of things, or an object and the class to which it belongs, or a whole and its parts, or an object and its prominent qualities. It is concerned with striking and familiar experiences of our own, and has more to do with imagination than logical observation.

If I have seen or thought of two things strongly or frequently together, the force of their joint impact on my consciousness will tend to give them permanent association in my mind. I therefore entitle the fourth principle the law of Proximity.

Thus, for example, if I think of a pen I shall probably think also of an inkpot, not of a tin of axle-grease. If I think of a bed I shall think of sleep, not of dancing. If I think of Brazil, I shall think of coffee and the marvellous river Amazon, not of rice and the Himalaya mountains.

Each one of us has an independent fund of experience made up of memories of such relationships seen, or heard of, or thought about, either vividly or repeatedly.

Within this law comes also familiar sequence, or contiguous succession, often popularly called cause and effect, as in exercise and health, over-eating and indigestion, war and poverty. It is proximity in time.

In connection with Road 1, I must mention a case which is often misunderstood — namely contrast. If two things contrast they must belong to the same class. You cannot [Page 9] contrast a cow with blotting paper, or a walking stick with the square root of two. But you can contrast an elephant and a mouse, blotting paper and glazed paper, the sun and the moon, and other such pairs. So contrasts belong to Road1I.

The four Roads of Thought mentioned above are given in a general way for our present purpose. For greater precision of statement the four laws must be subdivided; I will do this in a later chapter.

I wish the student particularly to notice that some ideas arise through the mind's capacity for comparison, that is through a logical faculty, while others arise simply in imagination, without any reason other than that they have been impressed upon it at some previous time. Comparison covers the first three laws, imagination the fourth only.

To convince the student that these mental bonds between ideas really exist, let me ask him to try another small preliminary experiment, this time not upon his own mind, but upon that of a friend. Repeat to your friend two or three times slowly the following list of sixteen words. Ask him to pay particular attention to them, in order —

Moon, dairy, head, paper, roof, milk, fame, eyes, white, reading, shed, glory, cat, top, sun, book.

You will find that he is not able to repeat them to you from memory.

Then take the following series and read them to him equally carefully.

Cat, milk, dairy, shed, roof, top, head, eyes, reading, book, paper, white, moon, sun, glory, fame.

Now ask your friend to repeat the list, and you will find that he has a most agreeable feeling of surprise at the ease with which he can perform this little feat.

Now the question is: why in the first place was he not able to recall the series of ideas, while in the second case he could easily remember them, the words being exactly the same in [Page 10] both the sets ? The reason is that in the second series the ideas are in rational order, that is, each idea is connected with that which preceded it by one of the four Roads of Thought which I have mentioned. In the first series they were not so connected.

I must remark that the deliberate use of these Roads of Thought involves nothing forced or unnatural. It is usual for our attention to go along them, as I have already indicated. For instance, I knew a lady in New York named Mrs. Welton. One day when I was thinking of her, I found myself humming the tune of "Annie Laurie." Somewhat surprised, I asked myself why, and brought to light the first line of the song, which goes: "Maxwellton's braes are bonny. ..." [Page 11]


MANY years ago I invented another simple experiment to help some of my students to gain that control of mind which is called concentration. This has proved itself, I think, to be the very best means to that end. Let me ask the reader or student now to try this experiment for himself in the following form —

Select a quiet place, where you can be undisturbed for about fifteen minutes. Sit down quietly and turn your thought to some simple and agreeable subject, such as a coin, a cup of tea, or a flower. Try to keep this object before the mind's eye.

After a few minutes, if not sooner, you will, as it were, suddenly awake to the realization that you are thinking about something quite different. The reasons for this are two: the mind is restless, and it responds very readily to every slight disturbance from outside or in the body, so that it leaves the subject of concentration and gives its attention to something else.

Now, the way which is usually recommended for the gaining of greater concentration of mind, so that one can keep one's attention on one thing for a considerable time, is to sit down and repeatedly force the mind back to the original subject whenever it wanders away. That is not, however, the best way to attain concentration, but is, in fact, harmful rather than beneficial to the mind.

The proper way is to decide upon the thing on which your attention is to be fixed, and then think about everything else you can without actually losing sight of it. This will form a habit of recall in the mind itself, so that its tendency will be to return to the chosen object whenever it is for a moment diverted. [Page 12]

Still, it will be best of all if, in trying to think of other things while you keep the chosen object in the center of your field of attention, you do so with the help of the four Roads of Thought, in the following manner —

Suppose you decide to concentrate upon a cow. You must think of everything else that you can without losing sight of the cow. That is, you must think of everything that you can that is connected with the idea of a cow by any of the four lines of thought which have been already explained.

So, close your eyes and imagine a cow, and say: " Law 1 — Class," and think: "A cow is an animal, a quadruped, a mammal" — there may be other classes as well — "and other members of its classes are sheep, horse, dog, cat" —and so on, until you have brought out all the thoughts you can from within your own mind in this connection. Do not be satisfied until you have brought out every possible thought.

We know things by comparing them with others, by noting, however briefly, their resemblances and differences. When we define a thing we mention its class, and then the characters in which it differs from other members of the same class. Thus a chair is a table with a difference, and a table is a chair with a difference; both are articles of furniture; both are supports.

The more things we compare a given object with in this way the better we know it; so, when you have worked through this exercise with the first law and looked at all the other creatures for a moment each without losing sight of the cow, you have made brief comparisons which have improved your observation of the cow. You will then know what a cow is as you never did before.

Then go on to the second Road of Thought — that of Parts — and think distinctly of the parts of the cow — its eyes, nose, ears, knees, hoofs, and the rest, and its inner parts as well if you are at all acquainted with animal anatomy and physiology. [Page 13]

Thirdly comes the law of Quality. You think of the physical qualities of the cow—its size, weight, color, form, motion, habits — and also of its mental and emotional qualities, as far as those can be discerned. And you think of other objects having the same prominent qualities.

Lastly comes the fourth division, that of Proximity, in which you will review "Cows I have known," experiences you have had with cows which may have impressed themselves particularly on your imagination. In this class also will come things commonly connected with cows, such as milk, butter, cheese, farms, meadows, and even knife handles made of horn and bone, and shoes made of leather.

Then you will have brought forth every thought of which you are capable which is directly connected in your own mind with the idea of a cow. And this should not have been done in any careless or desultory fashion; you should be able to feel at the end of the exercise that you have thoroughly searched for every possible idea on each line, while all the time the cow stood there and attention was not taken away from it.

A hundred times the mind will have been tempted to follow up some interesting thought with reference to the ideas which you have been bringing out, but every time it has been turned back to the central object, the cow.

If this practice is thoroughly carried out it produces a habit of recall which replaces the old habit of wandering, so that it becomes the inclination of the mind to return to the central thought, and you acquire the power to keep your attention upon one thing for a long time.

You will soon find that this practice has not only given you power of concentration, but has brought benefit to the mind in a variety of other ways as well. You will have trained it to some extent in correct and consecutive thinking, and in observation, and you will have organized some [Page 14] of that accumulation of knowledge which perhaps you have for years been pitching pell-mell into the mind, as most people do. This exercise, practiced for a little time every day for a few weeks, exactly according to instructions, will tidy or clean up the mind, and also lubricate it, so as to make it far brighter than it was before, and give it strength and quality evident not only at the time of exercise, but at all times, whatever may be the business of thought on which you are engaged during the day.

One of the most fruitful results will be found in the development of keen observation. Most people's ideas about anything are exceedingly imperfect. In their mental pictures of things some points are clear, others are vague, and others lacking altogether, to such an extent that sometimes a fragment of a thing stands in the mind as a kind of symbol for the whole.

A gentleman was once asked about a lady whom he had known very well for many years. The question was as to whether her hair was fair or dark, and he could not say. In thinking of her his mind had pictured certain parts only, or certain part vaguely and others clearly. Perhaps he knew the shape of her nose, her general build and the carriage of her body; but his mental picture certainly had no color in the hair.

The same truth may be brought out by the familiar question about the figures on the dial of your friend's watch, or about the shape and colour of its hands. One day I tested a friend with this question: "Can you tell me whether the numerals on your watch are the old-fashioned Roman ones which are so much used, or the common or Arabic numerals which have come into vogue more recently ?"

"Why" he replied, without hesitation. "They are the Roman numerals, of course."

Then he took out his watch, not to confirm his statement, but just in an automatic sort of way, as people do when [Page 15] thinking of such a thing, and as he glanced at it a look of astonishment spread over his face.

"By Jove," he exclaimed, "they are the Arabic figures. And do you know, I have been using this watch for seven years, and I have never noticed that before!"

He thought he knew his watch, but he was thinking of part of it, and the part was standing in his mind for the whole.

Then I put another question to him: " I suppose you know how to walk, and how to run ? "

"Yes," said he, "I certainly do."

"And you can imagine yourself doing those things ?"


"Well, then", said I, "please tell me what is the difference between running and walking."

He puzzled over this question for a long time, for he saw that it was not merely a difference of speed. He walked up and down the room, and then ran round it, observing himself closely. At last he sat down, laughing, and said: " I have it. When you walk you always have at least one foot on the ground, but when you run both feet are in the air at the same time."

His answer was right, but he had never known it before.

Life is full of inaccuracies due to defective observation, like that of the schoolboy who, confronted with a question about the Vatican, wrote: "The Vatican is a place with no air in it, where the Pope lives." [Page 16]


LET me now give some hints which will make a great improvement in the practice of concentration.

Many people fail in concentration because they make the mistake of trying to grasp the mental image firmly. Do not do that. Place the chosen idea before your attention and look at it calmly, as you would look at your watch to see the time. Such gentle looking reveals the details of a thing quite as well as any intense effort could possibly do — perhaps even better.

Try it now, for five minutes, for when once you have realized how to look a thing over and see it completely — in whole and in part, without staring, peering, frowning, holding the breath, clenching the fists, or any such action, you can apply your power to the mental practice of concentration.

Pick up any common object — a watch, a pen, a book, a leaf, a fruit, and look at it calmly for five minutes. Observe every detail that you can about it, as to the color, weight, size, texture, form, composition, construction, ornamentation, and the rest, without any tension whatever. Attention without tension is what you want.

After you have felt how to do this, you will understand how concentration can be carried on in perfect quietude. If you wanted to hold out a small object at arm's length for as long a time as possible, you would hold it with a minimum of energy, letting it rest in the hand, not gripping it tightly.

Do not imagine that the idea that you have chosen for your concentration has some life and will of its own, and that it wants to jump about or to run away from you. It is not the object that is fickle, but the mind. Trust the object to remain where you have put it, before the mind's eye, and [Page 17] keep your attention poised upon it. No grasping is necessary; indeed, that tends to destroy the concentration.

People usually employ their mental energy only in the service of the body, and in thinking in connection with it. They find that the mental flow is unobstructed and that thinking is easy when there is a physical object to hold the attention, as, for example, in reading a book. Argumentation is easy when each step is fixed in print or writing, or the thought is stimulated by conversation. Similarly, a game of chess is easy to play when we see the board; but to play it blindfold is a more difficult matter.

The habit of thinking only in association with bodily activity and stimulus is generally so great that a special effort of thought is usually accompanied by wrinkling of the brows, tightening of the lips, and various muscular, nervous and functional disorders. The dyspepsia of scientific men and philosophers is almost proverbial. A child when learning anything displays the most astonishing contortions. When trying to write it often follows the movements of its hands with its tongue, grasps its pencil very tightly, twists its feet round the legs of its chair, and so makes itself tired in a very short time.

All such things must be stopped in the practice of concentration. A high degree of mental effort is positively injurious to the body unless this stoppage is at least partially accomplished. Muscular and nervous tension have nothing to do with concentration, and success in the exercise is not to be measured by any bodily sensation or feeling whatever. Some people think that they are concentrating when they feel a tightness between and behind the eyebrows; but they are only producing headaches and other troubles for themselves by encouraging the feeling. It is almost a proverb in India that the sage or great thinker has a smooth brow. To screw the face out of shape, and cover the forehead with lines, is usually a sign that the man is [Page 18] trying to think beyond his strength, or when he is not accustomed to it.

Attention without tension is what is required. Concentration must be practised always without the slightest strain. Control of mind is not brought about by fervid effort of any kind, any more than a handful of water can be held by a violent grasp, but it is brought about by constant, quiet, calm practice and avoidance of all agitation and excitement.

Constant, quiet, calm practice means regular periodical practice continued for sufficient time to be effective. The results of this practice are cumulative. Little appears at the beginning, but much later on. The time given at any one sitting need not be great, for the quality of the work is more important than the quantity. Little and frequently is better than much and rarely. The sittings may be once or twice a day, or even three times if they are short. Once, done well, will bring about rapid progress; three times, done indifferently, will not. Sometimes the people who have the most time to spare succeed the least, because they feel that they have plenty of time and therefore they are not compelled to do their very best immediately; but the man who has only a short; time available for his practice feels the need of doing it to perfection.

The exercise should be done at least once every day, and always before relaxation and pleasure, not afterwards. It should be done as early in the day as is practicable, not postponed until easier and more pleasurable duties have been fulfilled. Some strictness of rule is necessary, and this is best imposed by ourselves upon ourselves.

Confidence in oneself is also a great help to success in concentration, especially when it is allied to some knowledge of the way in which thoughts work, and of the fact that they often exist even when they are out of sight. Just as the working of the hands and feet and eyes, and every other part of the physical body, depends upon inner organs of the body [Page 19] upon whose functioning we may completely rely, so do all the activities of thought that are visible to our consciousness depend upon unseen mental workings which are utterly dependable.

Every part of the mind's activity is improved by confidence. A good memory, for example, rests almost entirely upon it; the least uncertainty can shake it very much indeed.

I remember as a small boy having been sent by my mother, on some emergency occasion, to purchase some little thing from a small country grocery about half a mile away from our house. She gave me a coin and told me the name of the article which she wanted. I had no confidence in the tailor's art, and certainly would not trust that coin to my pocket. I could not believe, in such an important matter, that the object would still be in the pocket at the end of the journey, so I held the coin very tightly in my hand so as to feel it all the time. I also went along the road repeating the name of the article, feeling that if it slipped out of my consciousness for a moment it would be entirely lost. I had less confidence in the pockets of my mind than the little which I had in those made by my tailor. Yet despite my efforts, or more probably on account of them, on entering the little shop and seeing the big shopman looming up above me in a great mass, I did have a paralytic moment in which I could not remember what it was that I had to get.

This is not an uncommon thing, even among adults. I have known many students who seriously jeopardized their success in examinations by exactly the same sort of anxiety. But if one wants to remember it is best to make the fact or idea quite clear mentally, then look at it with calm concentration for a few seconds, and then let it sink out of sight into the depths of the mind, without fear of losing it. You may then be quite sure that you can recall it with perfect ease when you wish to do so.

This confidence, together with the method of calm looking, [Page 20] will bring about a mood of concentration which can be likened to that which you gain when you learn to swim. It may be that one has entered the water many times, that one has grasped it fiercely with the hands and sometimes also with the mouth, only to sink again and again; but there comes an unexpected moment when you suddenly find yourself at home in the water. Thenceforward, whenever you are about to enter the water you almost unconsciously put on a kind of mood for swimming, and that acts upon the body so as to give it the right poise and whatever else may be required for swimming and floating. So in the matter of concentration a day will come, if it has not already done so, when you will find that you have acquired the mood of it, and after that you can dwell on a chosen object of thought for as long as you please. [Page 21]


IMAGINATION is that operation of the mind which makes mental images or pictures. Sometimes these are called also "thoughts", or again, "ideas". But thought is, properly understood, a process, that is, a movement of the mind. Thought is dynamic, but a thought or idea is static, like a picture.

In order that the process of thinking may take place, there must be thoughts or ideas or mental images for it to work with, and it is at its best when these are clear and strong. So we take up as the second part of our study the means by which our imagination may be improved. We are all apt to live in a colorless mental world, in which we allow words to replace ideas. This must be remedied if our minds are to work really well and give us a colorful existence.

But first let us examine our thinking. In it our attention moves on from one thought to another — or rather from one group of thoughts to another group of thoughts, since most of our images are complex. The dynamic thinking makes use of the static thoughts, just as in walking there are spots of firm ground on which the feet alternately come to rest. You cannot walk in mid-air. In both cases the dynamic needs the static. In walking you put a foot down and rest it on the ground. Then you swing your body along, with that foot as a point of application for the forces of the body against the earth. At the end of the movement you bring down the other foot to a new spot on the ground. In the next movement you relieve the first foot and poise the body on the other as a new pivot, and so on. Thus transition and poise alternate in walking, and they do the same in thought.

Suppose I think: "The cat chases the mouse, and the [Page 24] mouse is fond of cheese, and cheese is obtained from the dairy, and the dairy stands among the trees." There is no connection between the cat and the trees, but I have moved in thought from the cat to the trees by the stepping stones of mouse, cheese and dairy.

Now that we see clearly the distinction between ideas and thinking, let us turn, in this second part of our study, to the business of developing the power of imagination.

We shall begin our course by a series of exercises intended to train the mind to form, with ease and rapidity, full and vivid mental pictures, or idea-images.

When a concrete object is known, it is reproduced within the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge; and the more nearly the image approximates to the object, the truer is the knowledge that it presents. In practice, such an image is generally rather vague and often somewhat distorted.

For our purpose we will divide idea-images into four varieties; simple concrete, complex concrete, simple abstract, and complex abstract.

Simple concrete ideas are mental reproductions of the ordinary small objects of life, such as an orange, a pen, a cow, a book, a hat, a chair, and all the simple sensations of sound, form, colour, weight, temperature, taste, smell, and feeling.

Complex concrete ideas are largely multiples of simple ones, or associations of a variety of them such as a town, a family, a garden, ants, sand, provisions, furniture, clothing, Australasia.

Simple abstract ideas are those which belong to a variety of concrete ideas, but do not denote any one of them in particular, such as color, weight, mass, temperature, health, position, magnitude, number.

Complex abstract ideas are combinations of simple ones, such as majesty, splendour, benevolence, fate.

The difference between simple and complex ideas is one of degree, not of kind. What is simple to one person may [Page 25] appear complex to another. A man with a strong imagination is able to grip a complex idea as easily as another may hold a simpler one.

A good exercise in this connection is to practice reproducing simple concrete objects in the mind. This should be done with each sense in turn. If a student has been observing flowers, for example, he should practice until he can, in imagination, seem to see and smell a flower with his eyes closed and the object absent, or at least until he has an idea of the flower sufficiently real and complete to carry with it the consciousness of its odour as well as its colour and form. He may close his eyes, fix his attention on the olfactory organ, and reproduce the odour of the flower by an effort of will. Simply to name an object and remember it by its name does not develop the faculty of imagination.

I will now give a few specific exercises along these lines—

EXERCISE I. Obtain a number of prints or drawings of simple geometrical figures. Take one of these — say a five-pointed star — look at it carefully, close the eyes, and imagine its form and size. When the image is clear, proportionate and steady in the imagination, look at the drawing again and note any differences between it and the original. Once more close the eyes and make the image, and repeat the process until you are satisfied that you can imagine the form accurately and strongly. Repeat the practice with other forms, gradually increasing in complexity.

EXERCISE 2. Repeat the foregoing practice, but use simple objects, such as a coin, a key, or a pen. Try to imagine them also from both sides at once.

EXERCISE 3. Obtain a number of coloured surfaces; the covers of books will do. Observe a colour attentively; then try to imagine it. Repeat the process with different colours and shades.

EXERCISE 4. Listen intently to a particular sound. Reproduce it within the mind. Repeat the experiment with [Page 26] different sounds and notes, until you can call them up faithfully in imagination. Try to hear them in your ears.

EXERCISE 5. Touch various objects, rough, smooth, metallic, etc., with the hands, forehead, cheek and other parts of the body. Observe the sensations carefully and reproduce them exactly. Repeat this with hot and cold things, and also with the sensations of weight derived from objects held in the hands.

EXERCISE 6. Close your eyes and imagine yourself to be in a small theatre, sitting in the auditorium and facing the proscenium, which should be like a room, barely furnished with perhaps a clock and a picture on the wall, and a table in the centre. Now select some simple and familiar object, such as a vase of flowers. Picture it in imagination as standing on the table. Note particularly its size, shape, and colour. Then imagine that you are moving forward, walking to the proscenium, mounting the steps, approaching the table, feeling the surface of the vase, lifting it, smelling the flowers, listening to the ticking of the clock, etc.

Get every possible sensation out of the process, and try not to think in words, nor to name the things or the sensations. Each thing is a bundle of sensations, and imagination will enable the mind to realize it as such.

It may be necessary for some students at first to prompt their thought by words. In this case, questions about the objects may be asked, in words, but should be answered in images. Each point should be dealt with deliberately, without hurry, but not lazily, and quite decisively. The thought should not be lumpy ore but pure metal, clean-cut to shape. A table of questions may be drawn up by the experimenter somewhat on the following plan: As regards sight, what is the outline, form, shape, colour, size, quantity, position, and motion of the object? As regards sound, is it soft or loud, high or low in pitch, and what is its timbre? As regards feeling, is it rough, smooth, hard, soft, hot, cold, heavy, [Page 27] light? As regards taste and smell, is it salty, sweet, sour, pungent, acid? And finally, among these qualities of the object, which are the most prominent ?

The value of the proscenium is that it enables you to get the object by itself, isolated from many other things, and the simple pretext of stepping into the proscenium is a wonderful aid to the concentration necessary for successful imagination.

After this practice has been followed it will be found to be an easy matter, when reading or thinking about things, or learning them, to tick them off mentally by definite images, or, in other words, to arrest the attention upon each thing in turn and only one at a time. If you are reading a story, you should seem to see the lady or gentleman emerge from the door, walk down the steps, cross the pavement, enter the motor car, etc., as in a moving picture. The process may seem to be a slow one when a description of it is read, but it becomes quite rapid after a little practice.

It will always help in the practice of concentration or imagination if you take care to make your mental images natural and to put them in natural situations.

Do not take an object such as a statuette and imagine it as poised in the air before you. In that position there will be a subconscious tendency for you to feel the necessity of holding it in place. Rather imagine that it is standing on a table in front of you, and that the table is in its natural position in the room (as in the experiment with flowers in a vase on the table in the proscenium already mentioned).

Launch yourself gently into your concentration by first imagining all the portion of the room which would be normally within range of your vision in front of you; then pay less attention to the outermost things and close in upon the table bearing the statuette. Finally close in still more until only the little image on the table is left and you have forgotten the rest of the room.

Even then, if the other things should come back into your [Page 28] thought do not be troubled about them. You cannot cut off an image in your imagination as with a knife. There will always be a fringe of other things around it, but they will be faint and out of focus.

Just as when you focus your eye on a physical object the other things in the room are visible in a vague way, so when you focus your mental eye upon the statuette other pictures may arise in its vicinity. But as long as the statuette occupies the centre of your attention and enjoys the full focus of your mental vision, you need not trouble about the other thoughts that come in. With regard to them you will do best to employ the simple formula: "I don't care".

If you permit yourself to be troubled by them, they will displace the statuette in the centre of the stage, because you will give attention to them; but if you see them casually, and without moving your eyes from the statuette say: " Oh, are you there ? All right, stay there if you like, go if you like; I don't care," they will quietly disappear when you are not looking. Do not try to watch their departure. You cannot have the satisfaction of seeing them go, any more than you can have the pleasure of watching yourself go to sleep. But why should you want it ?

Make your object of imagination fully natural by investing it with all its usual qualities. If it is a solid thing, make it solid in your imagination, not flat like a picture. If it is coloured, let the colour shine. Be sensible of its weight as you would if you were actually looking at a physical object. Things that are naturally still should appear positively still in your image, and moving things definitely moving — such as trees, whose leaves and branches may be shaking and rustling in the wind, or as fishes swimming, or birds flying, or persons walking and talking, or a river running along with pleasant tinkling sounds and glancing lights. [Page 29]


So far we have contented ourselves with simple exercises of the imagination. Let us now see what part imagination plays and can play in the grasping and remembering of ideas which are new to us.

Suppose that we have to learn the letters of a foreign alphabet, the appearances and names of plants, minerals or persons, the outlines or forms of countries, or other such things, which are new to us. It is exceedingly difficult to remember these unfamiliar things, unless we first make them familiar with the aid of imagination.

In this part of my subject I will follow the excellent teaching of a certain Major Beniowski, who expounded the art of familiarization a century ago. He pointed out that to himself the notion "table" was very familiar, meaning that it had been well or frequently impressed upon his mind and he knew a great many properties and circumstances relating to a table. The notion "elephant," he said, was less familiar. He indicated the familiarity of different things in six degrees, according to the following symbols—

The idea or mental image is represented by the circle, and its degree of familiarity, which will, of course, vary with different persons, according to their various experience, is indicated by the number of radiating lines

Major Beniowski proceeded to give examples from his own mind, conveying the idea of the comparative degree of [Page 30] his familiarity with table, ink, lion, zodiac, elephant, and chicholo as follows—



The diagram indicated that a table was to him an object of the highest familiarity, ink an object of less familiarity, and so on through the examples of a lion, the zodiac and an elephant, to a chicholo, which was an object of the greatest un-familiarity.

Though we may note these degrees of familiarity, for practical purposes of learning and remembering it will be sufficient to employ two. Our aim in learning something — and our first step in remembering it — will be to convert a into a . In practice we generally find that two things have to be remembered together. There is no adding of something to nothing in the mind; the newly acquired notion has to be put beside or added to something already known.

The learning of foreign alphabets or the names of plants, or other such things, involves the association of two things in the mind so that they will recur together in memory. Thus, if I am learning the Greek alphabet and I come across the sign π and am told that it represents the sound "pi", my learning of this fact consists in my remembering together the unfamiliar form π and the familiar sound " pi". I have to associate an unfamiliar with a familiar. Really all learning consists in associating something previously unknown with something previously known.

From these considerations Major Beniowski formulated what he called the three phrenotypic problems, namely — [Page 31]
(1) To associate a familiar with a familiar, as, for example, lamp with dog, or man with river.
(2) To associate a familiar with an unfamiliar, as, cow with obelus, or green leaf with chlorophyll.
(3) To associate an unfamiliar with an unfamiliar, as, pomelo with amra, or scutage with perianth.

Let me here quote Major Beniowski's excellent illustration —

"Suppose a London publisher, who being for many years a constant reader of the newspapers, cannot fail of becoming familiar with the names of the leading members of the House of Commons. He knows about the biography, literary productions, and political principles of Dr. Bowring, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne, etc., as much as any man living.

"Suppose also, that having on many occasions seen these personages themselves, as at chapel, the opera, museum, etc., he has their physiognomies, their gait, etc, perfectly impressed upon his brain.

"Suppose moreover that they are his occasional customers, although he never knew who these customers were; he never in the least suspected that these customers are the very individuals whose speeches he was just anatomizing, and whose political conduct he was just praising or deprecating.

" He knows well their names; he knows a host of circumstances connected with these names; he knows well the personages themselves; he saw them, he conversed with them, he dealt with them; still he had never an opportunity of learning that such names had anything to do with such personages.

"A visit to the gallery of the House of Commons during the debate on the (say) libel question, is the occasion on which those names and their owners are for the first time to come into contact with each other in his brain. The Speaker, one of his customers, takes the chair, and immediately our publisher bursts into an ' Is it possible!' [Page 32]

"He can scarcely believe it, that the gentleman whom he had seen so often before was the very Speaker of the House of Commons, whose name and person he knew separately for so many years.

"His surprise increases by seeing Dr. Bowring, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne, etc., addressing the House.

" He knew them all — he had seen all three in his own shop —he had conversed with them—nay, had made serious allusions to their names when present.

"He is now determined to commit to memory the names of all those personages; in other words, he is determined to stick together the names with their respective personages.

"Next to him sat a Colonial publisher just arrived say, from Quebec. This colonial gentleman is perfectly familiar with the names of the above M.P.'s; but he indeed never saw any of them.

"He also attempts to commit to memory the names of various speakers on the occasion.

"In another corner of the same House sat a Chinese, just arrived in London, who also wishes to commit to memory the names, shapes, gait, dresses, etc., of the Barbarians that spoke and legislated in his presence.

"The Londoner, the colonial gentleman, and the Chinese have evidently the same piece of knowledge to heave into their brain; but for the Londoner it is the first phrenotypic problem; he has to stick together a name which is to him a familiar notion with a personage which is for him a familiar notion also — thus, a

with a .

"For the colonial gentleman it is the second phrenotypic problem; he has to stick together a name which is for him a familiar notion, with a personage which is for him a not-familiar notion — thus, a


"For the Chinese it is the third phrenotypic problem; he has to stick together a name which is for him a not-familiar [Page 33] notion, with a personage which is for him a not-familiar notion — thus, a

with a . [ Handbook of Phrenotypics, by Major Beniowski, 1845]

The task for the Chinese is an exceedingly difficult one, yet students have often to face it. Imagine the distress of a student of botany who has hundreds of times to link a

with a , the appearance of an unfamiliar plant with an unfamiliar name. There is only one way of getting out of the difficulty, and that is in every case to make the unfamiliar thing familiar, to make the into a either by thinking about it, and studying it, or by seeing in it a resemblance to something already familiar.

In no case is it desirable to try to remember things which are not familiar. So, first recognize whether your problem is of the first, second or third order, and if it is of the second or third, convert the unfamiliar into a familiar.

The diagrams on page 34 show the process.

Let me now give an example, from the Major, of the process of making the unfamiliar familiar —

"In my early infancy, my father, a physician and an extraordinary linguist, initiated me in the mysteries of several mnemonic contrivances. In the study of languages I invariably employed the association of ideas. I succeeded so far that, when at the age of not full thirteen, my father sent me to study medicine at the University of Vilna, in Poland, relying upon my extraordinary memory, as it was called, I attended several courses of lectures, besides those usually prescribed for students in medicine.

"I succeeded perfectly everywhere during several months, until spring came, and with it .the study of botany. Here, far from outstripping my fellow-students, I actually remained behind even those whom I was accustomed to look upon as poor, flat mediocrities. [Page 34]

First Problem: familiar with familiar:

Second Problem: Unfamiliar with familiar:

Third Problem: Unfamiliar with Unfamiliar.

"The matter stood thus: Besides attending the lectures on botany, the students are admitted twice a week to the botanic garden; there they find a metallic label with a number upon it; that number refers them to a catalogue where they find the respective names; these names they write out into a copy-book thus —

No. 1778 . . Valeriana officinalis,

No. 9789 . . Nepeta Cataria, etc.

"And having thus found out the names of a dozen of plants they endeavour to commit them to memory in the best manner they can. Anyone finds it tiresome, awkward, and annoying to look to the huge numbers upon the label, then to the catalogue, then to the spelling of the names, then [Page 35] to the copy-book, and after all to be allowed to remain there only about an hour twice a week, when the taking away with you a single leaf may exclude you for ever from entering the garden at all.

"But I was peculiarly vexed and broken-hearted. I came to the garden tired out by other studies; I had a full dozen of copy-books under my arm, a very old catalogue with many loose leaves; to which if you add an umbrella in my left, a pen in my right, an ink-bottle dangling from my waistcoat-button, and, above all, the heart of a spoiled child in my breast, you will have a tolerable idea of my embarrassment.

"Week after week elapsed before I mastered a few plants. When I looked at home into my copy-book, the scribbled names did not make rise the respective plants before my imagination; when I came to the garden, the plants did not make rise their respective names.

"My fellow-students made, in the meantime, great progress in this, for me, so unmanageable study; — for a good reason — they went every morning at five into the fields, gathered plants, determined their names, put them between blotting-paper, etc. — in a word, they gave to botany about six hours per day. I could not possibly afford such an expenditure of time; and besides, I could not bear the idea of studying simply as others did.

"The advantages I derived from mnemonic contrivances in other departments, induced me to hunt after some scheme in botany also.

"My landlady and her two daughters happened to be very inquisitive about the students passing by their parlour window, which was close to the gates of the university; they scarcely ever allowed me to sit down before I satisfied their inquiries respecting the names, respectability, pursuits, etc., of at least half a dozen pupils.

"I was never very affable, but on the days of my mischievous botanic garden they could hardly get from me a [Page 36] single syllable; I could not, however, refuse, when they once urged their earnest request thus — ' Do tell us, pray, the name of that fish, do!' pointing most pathetically to a pupil just hurrying by close to the window.

"When I answered, ' His name is Fisher' (I translate from the Polish, Ryba Rybski), they broke into an almost spasmodic chatter. ' We guessed his name! Oh, he could not have another name. Look only,' continued they, 'how his cocked hat sits upon his head, pointing from behind forward, exactly in the same direction with his nose! Look to the number of papers and copy-books fluttering about on each side between his ribs and elbows! Look how he walks — he is actually swimming! Oh, the name Fisher becomes him exceedingly well.'

"I could not but agree with the justness of their remarks. I complimented them. I became more attentive to their conversation when at table, which happened to run thus — ' Mother, what has become of the Long Cloak ? I saw him yesterday with the Old Boot. Do they reside together ?' 'Oh, no; the Long Cloak looks often through yon garret window, where the Big Nose lived some time ago, etc., etc.' They perfectly understood one another by these nicknames — Long Cloak, Old Boot, Big Nose, etc.

"This conversation suggested to me at once the means of dispensing with my old anarchical catalogue when in the garden — and in fact the whole plan of proceeding in the study of botany stood before my view. I felt confident I should soon leave all the young, jealous, triumphant, and sneering botanic geniuses at a respectable, distance behind.

"It happened to be the time of admission; I proceeded immediately to that corner of the garden where the medical plants were, leaving the catalogue at home. I began christening these plants just in the same manner as my landlady and her ingenious daughters christened the students of the [Page 37] university, viz. I gave them those names which spontaneously were suggested to me by the sight, touch, etc, of them.

"The first plant suggested imperatively the name of Roof covered with snow, from the smallness, whiteness and peculiar disposition of its flowers, and so I wrote down in my copybook 'No. 978, Roof covered with snow.'

"Next I found No. 735, Red, big-headed, cock-nosed plant; and so on to about twenty plants in a few minutes.

"Then I tried whether I had committed to memory these plants — YES. In looking to the plants, their nicknames immediately jumped up before my imagination; in looking to these nicknames in my copy-book the plants themselves jumped up.

"My joy was extreme. In a quarter of an hour I left the garden, convinced that I had carried away twenty plants which I could cherish, repeat, meditate upon at my own leisure.      

"The only thing that remained to be done was to know how people, how learned people, call them. This business I settled in a few minutes, thus: I put comfortably my catalogue upon the table, looked for No. 978, and found Achiloea Millefolium; this made rise before my imagination an eagle with a thousand feathers (on account of aquila in Latin, eagle; mille, thousand; and folium, leaf). .

"I put simultaneously before my mind, Roof covered with snow, and eagle; and high mountain rose immediately before my imagination, thus — ROOFS covered with snow are to be found in high mountains, and so are EAGLES."

I have quoted the Major's experience fully, as it indicates so well the average student's feelings, and so graphically explains the manner of relieving them.

It must be noted that when Major Beniowski had familiarized a plant in the garden, and afterwards the name of the plant at home, by likening them to something that he knew well, and had come to the business of joining the two [Page 38] permanently in his mind, he used his imagination in a natural way. He did not invent a story to connect them; he simply put the two things simultaneously before his mind's eye, and waited, and the connection came of itself.

The probability of such a common idea springing up quickly is dependent upon the degree of familiarity of both the ideas which are to be connected. Hence the importance of familiarization first.

By this means the Major found that he could at once carry away from the garden a clear memory of at least twenty plants within the hour, and as his faculty grew by exercise he memorized some hundreds of medical plants in a few visits to the garden.

Every student who uses this method to learn names of objects, or the meaning of words of a foreign language, or in fact anything of the kind, will find that his faculty rapidly grows. But let him be warned, for the benefit of his memory and mind, to use the imagination only naturally in finding the common or connecting idea. Do not create a fanciful picture, for if you do you will have made something extra, and what is more, unnatural, which will be a burden to the mind.

Let me summarize this process of learning and remembering by imagination:

First, it must be settled which two notions you want to connect.

Secondly, the notions must be familiarized, if necessary.

Thirdly, the notions must be stuck together by simultaneous contemplation, resulting in natural imagination, and

Then, when one of the notions is given the other will rise before the mind's eye. [Page 39]



LET me now apply the method of familiarization to learning and remembering forms.

We will consider first the forms of foreign alphabets. When learning these, do not try to remember them by simply staring at them. Look quietly at each form until you find in it a resemblance to some other form which is already familiar to you .Sometimes you will say to yourself that the form has no comparison with anything that you know. But that is never the case, as the following conversation between Major Beniowski and one of his pupils will show. The pupil was about to commit to memory the Hebrew alphabet —

א     aleph

ב.   bet

ג    gimel

ד   dalet

ה   he

etc., etc

" Beniowski, What name would you give to the first Hebrew letter ? or rather, What is the phantom that rises before your imagination, in consequence of your contemplating the first Hebrew letter ?

" Pupil. I think it is like an invalid's chair.

" B. Therefore call it an invalid's chair. What name would you give to the second letter ?

"P. It is exactly like the iron handle of a box.

"B. Call it so. What of the third?" P. Nothing — it is like nothing — I can think of nothing.

" B. I cannot easily believe you — try. I infer from your looks that you think it would be useless to express your strange imaginings — they would laugh at you.[Page 40]

"P. All that this third letter reminds me of is a poor Spanish-legion man, whom I saw sitting on the pavement with swollen legs and no arms.

" B. And this you call nothing! this is valuable property of your own; you did not acquire it without a certain expenditure of life; you can turn it to good account; call this letter the Spanish-legion man. What of the fourth ?

"P. I understand you now — this fourth letter is evidently like the weathercock upon yon chimney opposite your window ; the fifth is like a stable with a small window near the roof, etc, etc.

"As a second example (merely for illustration, as I do not expect the reader of this book to learn Sanskrit) I will take up some of the unaspirated consonants of the Devanagari alphabet, which is used in Sanskrit and some of its derivative languages. We may as well make use of the principle of sense-proximity, as well as that of association or mind-proximity. Therefore I first give a Devanagari letter, and then the Roman letter (which, I assume, will be familiar to the reader) close beside it.

The gutturals are —

We have now to find familiar forms to name the forms which are strange to us. K looks to me rather like a knot, g like a gallows, and ng like a rearing snake. I find no great difficulty in associating these with ka, ga, and nga, respectively, for k and g are the first letters of the words knot and gallows, and a rearing cobra is a very picture of anger.

The palatals are —

Here ch looks like a pointing finger — chiding. J resembles a footballer kicking — scrimmage. N reminds me of a lobster's nipper.[Page 41]

The dentals are —

In this case t appears to me like a tail, d like a hunchback sitting down— dwarf, and n like a nose.

The labials are —

P is like a P turned round; b like a button; m is quite square — mathematical.

I will conclude with the semi-vowels —

These will serve to illustrate the principle of comparison with the forms already learned, since y resembles p and v is much like b. R reminds me of an old-style razor, partially opened in use, and 1 seems like a pair of crab's legs. I have said enough to enable the student of Sanskrit or Hindi or Mahratti to learn the rest of the alphabet by himself within an hour or two — a process which usually takes days.

Next, as further illustration, let me give some items from the Russian alphabet —

g, very much like a little r — rag. A

d, like a delta.

zh rather like a jumping jack with a string through the middle which when pulled causes the arms and legs to fly outwards — plaything — jeunesse.

I something like a step-/adder.

n, like H — hen.

f, an arrow going through a target — f light or f ight.

We can do the same with any other alphabet. The following are some suggestions for learning Pitman's shorthand outlines: I t is like a T without a top ; _ k is like a coward, lying down ; ⋒ m is like a little mound. Among the Greek letters [Page 42] gamma is like a catapult — game; pi is like an archway — pylon; lambda is leaning; phi is like an arrow piercing a target — battle — fight. The Persian characters require a little more imagination than most of our alphabets do, yet when I look at them I find boats, waves, commas, eyes, wings, snakes, and funny little men, standing, crouching, and running.

I will now give the Roman alphabet in a form in which it can be taught in English to young children in a very short time:

A stands for an arch; B for a bundle; C for a coiled caterpillar; D for a drum; E for an elephant sitting up in a circus; F for a finger-post; G for a goldfish curled round in the Japanese style; H for a hurdle; I for an icicle or a little imp standing stock-still; J for a juggler lying on his back, balancing a ball on his feet; K for a king, sitting on a throne and holding out his sceptre in a sloping direction; L for a leg; M for mountains; N for a napkin on the table; 0 for an orange; P for a parrot with a large head; Q for a queen, very fat and round, with a little tail of her gown sticking out near her feet; R for a rat climbing a wall, with its tail touching the floor; S for a snake; T for a small table, with one central leg; U for an urn; V for a valley; W for waves; X for Mr. X —a monkey stretching out its arms and legs to hold the branches of a tree; Y for yarn, frayed at the end, or a yak's head, with large horns; Z for a zigzag — a flash of lightning.

For each of the objects the teacher should draw a picture bearing a strong resemblance to the letter that is to be taught (somewhat as in our illustrations) and the letters should at first be represented by the full words, arch, bundle, caterpillar, drum, etc. [This method of representing the alphabet is copyright]

Turning now to geographical outlines, the best-known example of comparison is the outline of Italy, which every schoolboy remembers much better than he does that of any other country, for the simple reason that he has noticed that

[Page 44]

[Page 45]

[Page 46]

[Page 47]

[Page 48] it resembles a big boot kicking at an irregular ball, which we call the island of Sicily. Africa is like a ham; South America resembles a peg-top; Mexico is like a sleeve; Newfoundland resembles a distorted lobster; France appears like a shirt without sleeves; Norway and Sweden are like an elephant's trunk; India is like Shri Krishna dancing and playing his flute; the river Severn is like a smiling mouth.

The student of botany has to remember the general appearance of a large number of plants and flowers. We have already seen that the best plan to follow in remembering these is not to go into the garden or the field with textbook in hand, but to go among the flowers and plants and give them names of your own invention. When the forms are thus made familiar to the mind they can easily be recalled by remembering the new names, and afterwards the orthodox names can be learned, just as we should learn a number of foreign words.

The popular names of many plants are already based on simple comparisons. Among these one thinks at once of the sunflower, the .buttercup and the bluebell, and the campanula is obviously a cluster of most exquisite bells. But when the student comes to narcissus, calceolaria, chrysanthemum and eschscholtzia and many other scientific names he must have recourse to his own familiarization for remembering their forms in the beginning.

In private life, living in the country, we often see and wish to remember flowers, without ever hearing what people have named them. Then it is well to give them our own names for the time being.

Near one of my dwellings there was a hedge full of jolly little old men with occasional purple-grey hair, and they seemed to bob their funny round heads in the breeze in response to my nod. I did not in the least know their names, but we were not worse friends on that account. The allegory of Narcissus is reflected in the flower of that name; the way [Page 49] in which the gentle flower bends its lovely head is remindful of the fall of the spirit enamoured of its image reflected in the waters of existence; yet for most of us it remains a beautiful star. The crinkled white champaka reminds me always of a swastika; and the clover, so like a fluffy ball, is in India often called the rudraksha flower, because it is thought to resemble the crinkled berry beads which yogis wear, these in turn being held sacred because their markings are thought to be strange letters (aksha) written by the God Rudra or Shiva. We may think of the drooping bag-like lip of the calceolaria, of the large velvet face of the pansy, of the curious lips and curly strings of the sweet pea, and of the exfoliated heart of the rose, and we may know these little ones much better by these happy names than if our brains are fagged beforehand by the crabbed terminology of the books.

Major Beniowski’s experience has already suggested to us the way to remember persons - a method which, in fact, led him to his system of familiarization of the forms of plants. I may relate in this connection one experience of my own. Once, when I was traveling on a boat, I made the acquaintance of a studious and learned university professor who won my esteem. His name was Dittmer. Now, I was very familiar in India with the various kinds of oil lamps which were imported in large quantity from a manufacturing firm named Dittmar. I had seen the name on lamps in many places, so the connection of Dittmar and lamps was strong in my mind. Well, when I first met Prof Dittmer he was wearing a huge pair of round tortoise-shell reading glasses. They reminded me irresistibly of a pair of motor-car lamps. Hence I had no difficulty in remembering his name. Another reminder also occurred to me. He looked somewhat like the immortal Mr Pickwick - wick - lamp - Dittmer. I am sure that, if this happens to catch the eye of the professor, he will not be offended at the liberty with his person which I have taken, for it is in the interests of science. [Page 50]


THE principle of familiarization is especially useful in learning the words of a foreign language. In this connection let me enunciate again two important points. Do not try to put an unfamiliar thing into the mind, and do not try to do two things at once, namely, to remember an unfamiliar word and also its meaning. To learn foreign words always reduce them to familiar sounds; then associate them with their meanings.

First take the foreign word which you have to learn, and repeat it to yourself without thinking of any meaning until you are able to find its resemblance to some other word that is quite familiar to you.

Suppose I have to learn the French word "maison." As I turn it over in my mind there comes up the similar English word "mason." I am told that the word "maison" means house. Well, a mason builds a house. I have just asked my wife to give me another French word at random. Her reply is "livre," which means a book. Pondering for a moment on the sound "livre" I find that the English word "leaf" comes up in my mind, and I think, "A book is composed of leaves."

Very often when we are learning a foreign language there are many words which are similar to words having the same meaning in our own language. So, first of all, if you are free to choose your words, look over your vocabulary, and learn all the words that clearly resemble English words, such as, for example, in German —

Wunder (wonder), Vater (father), Nord (north), Sohn (son), Schuh (shoe), Ebbe (ebb), Ende (end), Ochs (ox), Dank (thank), Eis (ice), Wasser (water), Donner (thunder), [Page 51] Ohr (ear), Krone (crown), Dorn (thorn), Schulter (shoulder), Seele (soul), Kuh (cow), Strom (stream), Garten (garden), and hundreds of others.

If, however, the student is compelled to follow a course of study in the order of a prescribed textbook, he will have to take the words as they come, and will at once find many which do not appear to resemble English words. He takes the first word, Saal, room, and repeats: "Saal, room, Saal, room . . ." until his head buzzes; then he goes on to "Schutz, protection, Schutz, protection, Schutz, protection . . ." until his brain throbs; and then "Schön, beautiful, Schön, beautiful, Schön, beautiful . . ." until his mind whirls; and then "Trennung, separation, Trennung, separation, Trennung, separation . . ." until he nearly drops from his seat, and yawns and rubs his eyes and wishes — oh, how longingly — that it was time to go out and play cricket; and he looks up at the clock and sees there is still twenty minutes to playtime — oh, endless and unrelenting time — and then he tries to fix his burning eyes upon his book again, once more to grind out "Fürchterlich, terrible, Fürchterlich, terrible, Fürchterlich, terrible . . .", once more to swoon, once more to look at the clock — oh, mercy, nineteen minutes more!

Do not grind like that, dear boys! Take the word Saal; look at it; shut your eyes; repeat it audibly and visually three times without thinking of the meaning. You have already noticed that it means a room, but do not dwell on that. Dwell on the mere sound of Saal, and look out for familiar words that sound something like it. You may think of sale, salt, and saloon — ah, that is the best word, Saal is like saloon, which is a kind of room. Then repeat Saal three times while thinking of the room. Do not think merely of the word room, but think of a room known to you. Then take Schutz, meaning protection; repeat it three times, thinking only of the sound. Think of some words that sound [Page 52] like Schutz, say shut or shoot. Do you not protect a thing by shutting it up ? Do not the soldiers, who shoot, protect us ? Once more repeat the word three times, thinking of the idea.

Schön is like shining — beautiful; and for Trennung you might think of a trench or chasm which separates, separation; and for Fürchterlich, fear-like. Always repeat three times, and always think of the connexion, such as: the soldier, who shoots, protects us from aggression.

Now I will give a few words from the Spanish —

Mesa, a table — mess; libro, a book — library; ventana, a window — ventilation; verde, green — verdure; tiene, he has — tenant; levantar, to raise — lever; escribir, to write — scribe, and so on.

As another example, a few words from the Russian — Koleso, a wheel — kaleidoscope; komar, a mosquito — no comrade; derevo, a tree — a country drive among trees; bratstvo, brotherhood — fraternity; palatko, a tent — not a palace; skala, a rock — scale it; osel, a donkey — O slow one; reka, a river — yes, if rocky and rapid it may be a wrecker ; lozhka, a spoon — food lodges in it, temporarily; molot, a hammer — moulds hot iron to shape; nasos, a pump — noses are air pumps; and so on.

The words that must be learned are not always quite so easy as these, but if you practice this like a puzzle-game for some time, you will be able to find something for every word. Preferably take the accented syllable of the word that you are going to make. Let us take some difficult words from Sanskrit, as an illustration. They are difficult because they are very unfamiliar, and because they sound somewhat different from English words.

Kama which means passionate desire, sounds like "calm", and you might think in the form of a contrast, "When a man gives way to passionate desire he is not calm." Karma, which means work, sounds somewhat like "cream." Cream is [Page 53] made into butter by constant motion — or work. Sharira, which means body, sounds like "sharing" : we can share with others in bodily work and the produce thereof. Or again, it sounds like "shear": wool is sheared from the body of the sheep. Manas means mind — man has a mind. Prana means vitality; you may think of a high-spirited horse, prancing along, full of vitality. Surya means the sun; it sounds something like "sower". The sun stirs up the life of all the seeds that are sown in the ground.

But really, these are too easy; let us try something more difficult. Indriya, which means sense-organ, sounds like india-rubber, which has no sense! Jagat, the universe. The universe is jogging along all right. Raja, a king. A king is nearly always rich. Bhakti, devotion. The devotee bends his back when worshiping. Saundarya, beautiful and graceful. A sound and healthy body is beautiful and graceful. Naga, a snake. Always catch a snake by the neck. Kshira, milk. The wool that is sheared from sheep is as white as milk. Kshattriya, a warrior. A warrior shatters his enemies.

Expressing the connections in briefer form we may use our four roads of thought. It is an additional aid to memory to discover and name the roads when associating two ideas— not that the roads are to be remembered, but the two things are automatically held in close proximity while you are trying to identify the road. Thus —

Harmya, a palace — harm, (Road I), luxury, (Road II), palace. Pada, a foot — pedal, (Road IV), foot. Karna, an ear — cornea, (Road II), eye, (Road I), ear. Grama, a village — gram, (Road IV), agriculture, (Road II or IV), village. Kama, passion — calm, (Road I, contrast implying similarity), excitement, (Road I), passion. Pushpa, flower — bush, (Road II), flower. Madhu, sweet — mad, (Road IV), intoxicated bear, (Road IV), honey, (Road III), sweet.

I have looked through my Sanskrit dictionary for half an hour, and have failed to find one word that could not soon [Page 54] be resolved in this way. We might take the most difficult words from Latin or Greek, or, I think, any European language, and we should find them much easier than the Sanskrit.

You will discover that by this method you can happily and easily remember quite a large number of foreign words in the course of an hour, and your memory will not be burdened afterwards by all the fancies in which you have indulged; yet you will remember the words better than if you had learned them by rote. As a matter of fact, you really get to know the words as usable things when you read a number of books in the language or practise conversation in it. The real difficulty which you will have to encounter at the beginning is that of introducing the unfamiliar words to your mind.

To show how even the most difficult words can be dealt with, we may form uncouth words, such as the following, at random. Let labagart be synonymous with tametac, emattle with revilog, ebpetag with thodge, nadard with smecia. We might associate them thus: Labagart — lovely cart — market — fruit — tomato — tametac; emattle — metal — rifle — revilog; ebpetag — potato — cottager — cottage — thatch — thodge; nadard — adder — field — labourer — smock — smecia.

If for the sake of exercise, or for amusement, you wish to remember a long, uncouth word, such as hturtnahtrehgih-noigileronsjereht, you can easily do so by forming a series of words such as the following: hat; upper; ten; ah; tower; eh, gari (cart); hen; obi (magic); gai (cow); love; rao (king); ness (nose); isle; rope; height. It will be noticed that each word of ours represents two letters of the long uncouth word —the first and last letters only being taken into account, Thus one can do a thing that most people would think well-nigh impossible for an ordinary brain; though, like many things generally regarded as more dignified and respectable,[Page 55] it has no particular value beyond the exercise that it provides.

In some languages we have the additional trouble of genders in the nouns. There are several ways to assist the memory of these. The student may keep lists of masculine nouns in red ink, feminine in green, and neuter in black.

Dr. Pick, a famous mnemotechnist who wrote about seventy years ago, recommended the student to learn the exceptions. For this, however, one must have a teacher or expert who will be accommodating enough to make a list. When teaching the French language Dr. Pick wrote that except for the following words all nouns having these endings are masculine.

Amit (friendship), moit (half), pit (pity), forét (forest), paix (peace), fourmi (ant), merci (mercy), brebis (sheep), souris (mouse), vis (screw), perdrix (partridge), eau (water), peau (skin), chaux (chalk), faux (scythe), glu (glue), tribu (tribe), vertu (virtue), toux (cough), syllabe (syllable), clef (key), nef (nave), soif (thirst), cage (cage), image (image), nage (swimming), page (page—of paper, not a page-boy), plage (plain), rage (rabies or violent passion), tige (stem), voltige (leap), part (part), mort (death), foi (faith), loi (law), paroi (partition-wall), dent (tooth), jument (mare), gent (race), faim (hunger), main (hand),fin (end).

I have given this list only as an illustration. Similar lists may be formed in other languages. If, however, you have no such list, and no expert available to make one for you, the following method will help. The genders of many words will impress themselves upon your mind without special attention, as in the case of a child who is naturally picking up the language, but there will be a residue which may give you trouble. The items in this residue may be associated with qualities or objects familiarly regarded as masculine, feminine or neuter.

Thus, in Sanskrit, padma, a lotus, is neuter; ghata, a jar, [Page 56] is masculine; mukti, liberation, is feminine. We may then, perhaps, think that the lotus is both bold in pushing its way up through the mud and water to the air, and gentle in resting its soft leaves upon the surface of the water; so it may be considered neither one nor the other — hence neuter. As to pot — where do you find pot-bellies but in men? — a masculine shape, surely. To avoid earthliness and to seek retirement are feminine virtues, so mukti may be remembered as a word of feminine gender.[Page 57]


WE have considered and perhaps practiced some simple experiments intended to make the imagination vivid and accurate. We have also applied the imagination to learning various things which may be new to us. Let us now consider how to use imagination to help us to remember various things when we want to remember them.

There are plenty of memories in the world which remember a vast number of things, yet are of little use to their owners because they do not deliver just what is needed or wanted at a given time.

An instance of this was very cleverly depicted by Charles Dickens in his novel Nicholas Nickleby. The following are the words of Mrs. Nickleby when Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, happened to be the subject of conversation:

" I think there must be something in the place, for, soon after I was married, I went to Stratford with my poor dear Mr. Nickleby, in a post-chaise from Birmingham — was it a post-chaise though ? Yes, it must have been a post-chaise, because I recollect remarking at the time that the driver had a green shade over his left eye;—in a post-chaise from Birmingham, and after we had seen Shakespeare's tomb and birthplace we went back to the inn there, where we slept that night, and I recollect that all night long I dreamt of nothing but a black gentleman, at full length, in plaster-of-Paris, with a laydown collar tied with two tassels, leaning against a post and thinking; and when I woke in the morning and described him to Mr. Nickleby, he said it was Shakespeare just as he had been when he was alive, which was very curious indeed. Stratford — Stratford. Yes, I am [Page 58] positive about that, because I recollect I was in the family way with my son Nicholas at the time, and I had been very much frightened by an Italian image boy that very morning. In fact, it was quite a mercy, ma'am, that my son didn't turn out to be a Shakespeare, and what a dreadful thing that would have been !"

And this was one of her memories about dining:

"It's very odd now, what can have put that in my head! I recollect dining once at Mrs. Bevan's, in that broad street round the corner by the coachmaker's where the tipsy man fell through the cellar flap of an empty house nearly a week before the quarter-day, and wasn't found till the new tenant went in — and we had roast pig there. It must be that I think, that reminds me of it, especially as there was a little bird in the room that would keep on singing all the time of dinner — at least, not a little bird, for it was a parrot, and he didn't sing exactly, for he talked and swore dreadfully; but I think it must be that. Indeed I am sure it must."

But suppose we have a person of good memory, whose mind has not been allowed to drift, as presumably that of Mrs. Nickleby had done throughout her life, and the conversation turns to the subject of elephants. Then perhaps that mind in an instant will say to itself, without words: "The elephant is a large, vegetarian, mammalian, quadruped animal, inhabiting Ceylon, India and Africa." And in a moment more that mind will slide its fingers along each word of that definition, and at once a great deal of information will become available on each point.

Such a memory is like a dictionary having more cross-references than it would be possible ever to obtain in a printed book; furthermore, a dictionary which will always open at the word or idea which you want.

It sometimes happens in practice that a student has to remember a number of things which he may put in any order he chooses, as, for example, lists of foreign words. But more [Page 59] frequently a certain predetermined order is required, as in learning historical series of events, or in committing to memory heads of a lecture or book. This occurs often in practical life, where one may require in the morning to remember a number of things to be attended to during the day.

In this case it is obvious that the subjects will not fall into an order serially connected in the way which we have already illustrated, so we must devise some means whereby the items will suggest each other in their order. Generally these things have no immediate or direct association. If, then, an effort is made to remember them together, it usually fails — for there can be no leap in consciousness; each idea must follow another directly connected with it by one of the roads I have described.

I will take as an example a gentleman of long ago who was going into town and wanted to carry out the following items of business —

(1) To purchase some barley at the market;
(2) To hire a laborer for some building alterations;
(3) To keep in mind the proverb that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (since former experience had taught him the value of that maxim);
(4) To buy some aromatic spices at a grocer's;
(5) To call to see a lawyer about a friend's suit in Chancery ;
(6) To buy some velvet;
(7) To collect some money due.

Many people would write these items down, but it is far better that we should remember our own business, as we all know that notebooks weaken the memory.

In this case, we have to remember the following ideas in succession; barley, laborer, bird, spices, Chancery, velvet, debt. The best method for this purpose is to insert one or two intermediaries where there is no direct association.[Page 60]

(1) Barley — harvest —
(2) Laborer — gamekeeper —
(3) Bird — bird-seed — groceries —
(4) Spices — red pepper — red-tape —
(5) Chancery suit — chancellor — robe —
(6) Velvet — smooth — slippery — debtor —
(7) Debt.

I have not troubled to print the associations or Roads of Thought, as the reader or student will easily see them if he wishes to do so.

I must mention that this process is not artificial. It actually occurs in the mind — though generally sub-consciously — when two unrelated things are remembered in sequence.

In practice, the extremes, say barley and laborer, are considered; an effort is made to work forwards from barley and, as it were, backwards from laborer, until the two meet. It is then found that there is rarely any necessity for more than two intermediaries.

Having formed our connections, we may repeat the series a few times, and presently the intermediaries can be dropped out of mind and the series will be remembered without them, as they are only a temporary aid to bring the pairs of ideas together.

The recall of such a series is made easier when the mood in which they were originally associated is revived, so when trying to revive an impression go back in imagination and put yourself into the mood in which you originally received it. You may have been to a lecture, which you now wish to remember. First recall the mood, the whole attitude of the attention, as it was at the time given to the lecturer, to the subject of the lecture and to its different parts in turn. It will be quite impossible for you to recall the succession of the ideas of the lecture if you are at the same time thinking of what you will have for dinner, what so-and-so has been [Page 61] saying about you, how you will carry out such-and-such a plan, what a cold day it is, or what a noise the people round about are making. A certain kind of indifference is essential for success in this practice.

The student practicing the repetition of a series of ideas such as has been described is recommended to notice with the greatest care exactly what takes place in his mind when he comes to an obstacle in the process, and finds himself unable to remember the next link of the chain. At once the attention darts off in a new direction, taking up another line of ideas of its own. This indicates not so much lack of memory as a change of mood. If the new mood is overcome and the mind is forced by the will into the original one, the attention is bound to go in its original direction, for the mood determines the path of least resistance for it.

This device of intermediaries is excellent for remembering the sequence of ideas in a speech or lecture which you may propose to deliver.

So far I have written about associating two ideas together in the mind. It is also practical to associate an idea with an actual thing instead of with another idea. This is particularly useful with reference to the future, when you wish to do something in some place or at some time.

Sometimes a business man is asked to purchase some little thing in town for his wife, and bring it home in the evening. Very often, it must be confessed, he forgets. One device by which he may remind himself that there is something to be done is to tie a knot in his handkerchief, so that it will remind him of his commission when he pulls it out of his pocket. But it would be a better plan for him to associate the idea of the thing to be done with some object which he is sure to see during the day.

In practice, we are all being reminded all the time of many things by the objects which surround us. It is as if they were plastered all over with thoughts and those thoughts [Page 62] leapt out at us when we see the objects. To illustrate this fact, take out your watch and look at it for a few minutes, keeping your thoughts still and attentive, and observe the little pictures that arise involuntarily in the mind. You will probably find an image of the person who gave you the watch or of the shop where you bought it, and pictures of any special incidents in which it has played a part. The numbers on the dial will remind you of the different duties and appointments of the hours throughout the day; while the qualities of the watch, the substances of which it is made and the accessories which are associated with it, radiate ideas in all directions, as do the ideas which we have mentioned in earlier chapters.

All the articles that we possess are similarly full of thoughts — the rooms, the houses, the streets that we enter, are saturated with them. There is thus a process, going on for the most part unconsciously, by which the mind of man, except at moments when it is under the active control of the will, is constantly influenced by his surroundings.

This process can be employed for remembering things that are to be done, so that at the right moment they will enter the mind, without our being put to the trouble of recalling them again and again before the appointed tune. The memory may thus be cast forward, as it were, by our linking the idea we want with an object that we are sure to come across and notice, and in the process we shall be free of the waste of mental energy necessitated when the idea is kept half consciously in the mind throughout the interval.

Suppose, for example, you wish to remember to send a letter to Mr. Blank, when you arrive at the office. There is no need to worry the mind by continually thinking about the matter, nor to weaken it by taking a note. Simply make a clear picture of your office, project your thought there, as it were, with Mr. Blank sitting there conversing with you, [Page 63] and when you arrive at the spot the image will naturally rise up in your mind.

If during your journey by railway into town, you wish to consider some problem in electricity or in finance, fix your idea on the lighting apparatus or on the costly upholstery of the compartment; when you step into the train, these things will catch your eye and remind you of the problem.

It is possible thus to hang images on prominent signs, shop and house fronts, monuments and other noticeable things you are likely to pass, and to fix ideas on the books, pictures, furniture and clothing you are likely to use. There remains in the mind a kind of latent or subconscious expectancy which will notify you on the slightest signal from the determined object. When the memory is discharged this latent expectancy ceases, the association is broken, and the object is left free for future associations.

Various special ways of fixing ideas on objects will naturally occur to the student. If I need to remember, for example, that I want to send a clerk out to buy a new pair of compasses, I can associate the idea by making a picture of myself writing a letter A at my desk and noticing that that letter resembles a pair of compasses. As soon as I sit down to write I shall be reminded of the intention. This purpose must be forthwith discharged if the method is to be employed again, for unless we are faithful to our memory it will not long be faithful to us.

Or again, suppose I want to look up a certain question in chemistry. I know that when I go to my room for the morning's work, which consists chiefly in writing, I shall use my fountain pen, which is lying there. I picture myself picking up the pen and noticing the gold nib, which reminds me of alchemy, and that in turn revives the idea of chemistry. I know that when the time comes my memory will present me with the idea I want, because we have much confidence in each other — my memory and I.

This principle may be allied to the instinct by which one awakens oneself from sleep in the morning at a time predetermined before retiring for the night. I have had to do that frequently when traveling in India, and have found that confidence is justified. But I have noticed several times that when, my watch was wrong the instinct awoke me by the wrong time of the watch, not at the proper time. [Page 65]


WHEN memorizing lists of things of any kind it is often an advantage to simplify very complex ideas and to symbolize abstract ideas.

A good example of symbolization is related with reference to the Greek poet Simonides, who was one of the earliest known exponents of aids to memory. He invented, among other things, a simple device for committing to memory ideas which do not represent objects of sense, and are therefore difficult to remember. For example, in preparing a discourse concerning government, financial matters, naval affairs, and the necessity for wisdom in the policy of the times, he would not try to memorize those topics or paragraphs of his discourse in these general terms, but would represent each by a symbol — a crown or sceptre, a current coin, the image of a ship, and the figure of Minerva respectively.

When preparing such images or symbols we should always take account of their qualities, as already explained, to make them as natural and lively as possible. I take an extract on this point from a work written by John Willis, B.D., of Magdalen College, Oxford, which was published in 1618 in Latin and translated into English in 1661.

"Ideas are to be vested with their proper circumstances, according as their natures require; for as writings the fairer they are, are more facilely read; so ideas, the more aptly they are conceived, according to the exigency of their natures, are more speedily recalled to mind; and also consequently the things by them signified.

"Motion is to be attributed to ideas of movable things; quiet to ideas of quiet things and good and evil savors to [Page 66] ideas representing things so qualified. Examples of movable ideas are: artificers at work in their shops, women dancing, trees shaken by the wind, water running from taps, and such like. Ideas of quiet things are: hens laying in their nests, thieves lurking under bushes, etc.

"Ideas to which sound is ascribed are: a lion roaring, a bell ringing, whistling, the rustling of trees, a chorister singing, etc. If incense burning be used for an idea, a sweet and pleasant odor must be attributed thereto; but, on the contrary, to vaults underground, a dank unwholesome smell is to be assigned. So also, ideas of merry men require cheerfulness of countenance, of sick men paleness and sadness.

"After this manner ideas of edifices, machines, and all artificial things whatsoever, ought to be signalized; proportion of form and splendour of colour must be attributed to pictures, grace and liveliness of letters to writing, glory and exqellence of workmanship to engravings. Finally, every idea must have such illustration as may render it most notable and conspicuous and seem principally coherent to its nature."

The quantity and position of ideas should also be observed. In imagining small things, such as an ant, a grain of rice or of sand, or a drop of water, it is well to picture an army of ants, a bagful of rice, a sandy shore, or a flowing river, respectively. On the other hand, to represent highly complex pictures, such as a battle, or a large block of buildings, it is well to reduce them in quantity or in size, and represent a battle by a few men fighting, a block of buildings by some small erections, a church or a mountain as diminutive, as though seen through the wrong end of a telescope.

As to position, things which are usually hung upon walls, such as pictures and looking-glasses, should be imagined as hanging there; books upon shelves; crockery in cupboards; clothes in wardrobes, in drawers or on the person; tables, chairs, chests and the like standing on the ground; and [Page 67] graves, wells, wine-cellars, mines and other such things, under the ground.

"The mind of man doth naturally and immediately present direct ideas of all visible things," wrote Mr. Willis, "so that it is vain to excogitate any, but rather use those that offer themselves. If a man hears the account of a naval battle, doth he not presently seem to behold the sea, ships, smoke of great ordnance, and other things obvious in such matters ? If speech be made of mustering an army, doth not the hearer form in his mind the effigies of a field, replenished with soldiers marching in military postures? "

To this standard of direct imagination we may easily reduce complex or abstract ideas. The landing o{ Julius Caesar may be represented by a few ships approaching the shore, their owners being repulsed by rough Britons. Athletics may be represented by a ball; education by a blackboard ; art by a statue or a picture; music by a violin; the theater by a mask; horse-racing by a jockey's cap. Cold may be represented by a piece of ice; heat by a fire; light by a lamp; love by a heart; pride by a peacock; gluttony by an ostrich; melancholy by a sad man; the spring time by green meadows and flowering trees; winter by a picture of houses, trees, and the earth white with snow and rigid with frost. We are all familiar with the figure of Justice, the veiled virgin with her sword and balance, and old man Time with his scythe and forelock, and his merciless wings.

To conclude these remarks let me give some complex examples to show how ideas relating to incidents or stories should be made in concrete form, not in mere words. This point should be especially important to students of history —

"Milo of Croton, a famous wrestler, first crowned in the Olympic games, when through age he had left off his youthful exercise and was traveling through some woodlands of Italy, espied an oak near the way rifted in the middle. Willing to try whether any of his ancient vigor remained. [Page 68] he thrust his hands into the cleft of the tree, to rend down the middle part. But as soon as his violence ceased, the oak, thus forcibly writhed, returned to its pristine estate and, closing fast upon his hands, detained him a prey for wild beasts.

"Fancy a cleft oak, full of green leaves and acorns, in the cleft of which a strong great-limbed man, crowned with laurel, is fast held by the hands. Bending back his head and body he cries out so loudly that you really seem not only to see his wretched body and the beasts preying about him, but also to hear his outcries and lamentations."

"In the year 1530, in the time of Charles V, Emperor, the German Princes exhibited their Confession of Faith at Augsburgh, with a solemn protestation because of that perilous time — whence afterwards they, and all such, as embraced the same Confession were called Protestants.

"Suppose an Imperial throne, adorned with badges of the Empire, glittering with gold and gems, upon which sits the Emperor, crowned with a golden diadem, while to him his nobles, bare-headed, present their Confession fairly engrossed on paper."

M. Gregor von Feinaigle — a memory expert, whose New Art of Memory was published in London in 1812 — carried the process of symbolization to a new point when he recommended students to make outline-and-symbol sketches instead of writing notes, in many cases. The diagram on page 69 is an example.

The explanation of this was as follows —

"A convention was entered into in Egypt, between General Kleber, on the part of the French, and the Grand Vizier, on the part of the Sublime Porte, which was approved by the Cabinet of London. The straight line with the crescent on its top denotes the Grand Vizier, by its superior height to the perpendicular line which is to represent General Kleber; the line drawn through the centre of this line, forming acute [Page 69] angles, is intended for the General's sword. To denote the convention two lines are drawn, which meet together in the center, and represent the shaking of hands, or a meeting.

The convention was formed in Egypt, which is signified by a pyramid. The Cabinet of London is typified by the outline of a cabinet on the right of the diagram; the head of a ship placed in the oblong denotes London, as it is frequented more than any other port by ships." [Pages 70- 73]


IN studying imagination we have seen that one thought or idea arises in connection with another as a result of previous experience in which those two things have been closely connected. For example, an elephant might remind us of a zoological garden that we have known, or of the teak-wood forests of Burma. When this happens, however, there is no mental act of comparison between the elephant and the zoo or between the elephant and the teak forest. Their relationship is a case of proximity in the world of sense-objects. They simply happened to come together, just as a tree may grow on a mountain. The connection is a matter of chance.

But when comparison between two things occurs, you have something more than experience and imagination. Then reason has arisen.

Because of the logical constitution of our minds we are capable of comparing any two things that exist. This comparison consists of two parts — we take note of the particulars in which the two objects resemble each other, and also of those in which the two differ from each other.

If we did not note the difference as well as the resemblance, there would be no comparison. The two things would be exactly the same. Suppose we compare a horse and an ordinary table — to take a rather far-fetched example. Well, you may laugh, but both are quadrupeds. Among the differences, which are many, the most striking is that one can move by itself and the other cannot.

It is not usual for us to need to compare such unconnected things. In practical life a carpenter might receive an order to make a chair and a stool. To do this he must be able to compare them; they are both articles of furniture to sit [Page 74] upon, but generally they differ in that one has a back and the other has not.

Another common comparison would be between a tree and a bush. I am not an expert botanist, so I can suggest only a very ordinary comparison — that while both are growing and woody plants, one has a long stem raising its foliage some distance from the ground, and the other has not.

Another element of reason is the perception of causes and effects. Very often, however, what people call causality is simply an example of contiguity in time. For instance, it may be said that gluttony is the cause of indigestion, and that fatigue is the cause of sleep. What we really mean is that we have observed that gluttony is generally followed by indigestion and fatigue by sleep. But really the cause is the peculiar physiological constitution of the animal or man; some creatures can stuff themselves with food to the limit, with no ill effects, and some of our muscles — for example the heart — never sleep. In common talk we say that if a lamp is brought into a dark room the light in the room is the effect of the lamp. It is not in a logical sense, but only in a popular sense, that the lamp can thus be called the cause.

A very ignorant person observing that day is always followed by night, and night by day, might think that day is the cause of night, and night again the cause of day. But the real cause is something which holds both the elements of the sequence in its grasp — the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun. If I say that the rotation of the earth is the cause of day and night, I have performed a rational act, in the department of causality.

The present section of our study will deal chiefly with the rational connections between successive ideas in the mind. We will not separate them entirely from the imaginative connections already considered, because, as the mind moves on from one idea to another, sometimes it proceeds by a rational road and sometimes by one directed by imagination.[Page 75]

I have already presented the student with an outline of the four Roads of Thought, and explained that three of them involve rational acts of comparison while the fourth relates to strong impressions on the imagination through the senses. Objects coming together in the mind are thus connected either by comparison or contiguity. To avoid any possible confusion of these two, I will now give more examples of contiguity; the student will then be in a position to ignore all cases of contiguity while studying the three roads of comparison, with their subdivisions.

Contiguity. When I think of a banyan tree, at once I also think of the huge tree outside the window of a room where I used to write, and of the squirrels and crows which thronged its branches. A banyan tree is not necessary to the idea of squirrels, nor are they any part or connection of a banyan tree; nevertheless, these have been so closely associated — quite accidentally — in my experience that the thought of either now evokes a picture containing both. There are probably few of us who can think of the Duke of Wellington without some vision or idea of the battle of Waterloo; or again of Napoleon without some thought of Corsica or of the island of Saint Helena, because these are always pictured together in history; yet they are not necessary associates. A thought of William the Conqueror is almost inseparable from another of the village of Hastings, not because these are necessarily connected, but because they are vividly, though accidentally, presented together in experience. Another case is that of George Washington and the cherry tree.

Similarly we all remember incidents connected with the places where we have lived, the countries, towns, houses, rooms, furniture, people, accidents of every kind — an immense collection of incidents. For me, many events of childhood can be recalled and placed in their proper relation and sequence by their connection with the houses in which I [Page 76] lived at different times. It is a personal matter, in which the contents of my mind are bound to differ from those of others. Again the idea of elephants is for me particularly associated with the city of Baroda, because when I was there for the first time I was each night awakened by an imposing procession of them passing the balcony on which I lay. For many people it is, no doubt, more closely linked with pictures of the zoo, of great wooden bars and the ringing of bells for pennies and biscuits.

More familiarly, pen is associated with hand, boots with feet, carriage with horse, ship with sea, sleep with bed, spade with garden, letter with post office, cow with grass, and so on to an unlimited extent. Yet all these pairs of ideas have purely accidental connections, the members of each pair having no comparative relationship with each other. They are contiguous, having a relation for sense or imagination, but not for reason.

It is different, however, with banyan tree and hanging roots, squirrel and bushy tail, crow and black color, Wellington and Napoleon, cherry tree and blossom, cow and horse, possibility and impossibility, house and room, elephant and trunk, Bombay and Baroda. All these have a relationship of comparison of some kind. A banyan without its roots, or an elephant without its trunk, would be incomplete ideas, while cows and horses, Wellington and Napoleon, Bombay and Baroda, obviously resemble each other in their respective pairs.

Let us now examine more in detail the first three Roads of Thought—those concerned with comparison; the first Road can be conveniently subdivided into three, and the second and third into two each—

I Class

A. This occurs when one idea includes another because of a principal characteristic which one has in part and the [Page 77] other in whole. It may be otherwise expressed as the connection between an object and the class to which it belongs. Examples are: animal and cow; Englishman and man; dwelling and house; drink and tea. We may symbolize the relationship by one circle within another, thus—

mindmemorytrainingew14.gif mindmemorytrainingew15.gif

B. This occurs when two ideas or objects have a principal characteristic in common, that is, when two objects belong to the same class. Examples are: cow and horse (both animals); chair and table (both articles of furniture); red and blue (both colours); daisy and buttercup (both flowers); train and ship (both means of transport); box and bag; snow and ice; father and son; beech and oak. We may symbolize the relationship by two circles overlapping, as shown in Fig. B page 78.

C. This occurs when two ideas or objects have a principal characteristic in common, but express opposite degrees in regard to it. Examples are: hot and cold (both temperatures, but opposite); up and down (opposite directions); animate and inanimate; curvilinear and rectilinear; fire and water; light and darkness; sage and fool; king and peasant. We may symbolize the relationship as shown in Fig. C page 78.


Mind Memory Training Page 78 Graphic

2. Part

A. This occurs when two tilings or ideas are respectively whole and part of some natural object or idea. Examples [Page 79] are: tree and branch; whale and blubber; Bengal and India; sea and waves; book and page; box and lid; cow and horns; bird and wings; ten and five; river and water. We may symbolize the relationship thus—



B. This occurs when two ideas or objects are different parts of the same whole. Examples are: hull and sails (of a ship); thumb and finger (of a hand), root and branch (of a tree); nerves and muscles; stairs and door. We may symbolize the relationship thus—

3. Quality

A. This occurs when two objects or ideas are related as object to quality, or substantive to adjective. Examples are: lead and heaviness; snow and whiteness; fire and heat; ball and round; bottle and glass; coin and gold; [Page 80] bag and leather. We may symbolize the relationship thus—

mindmemorytrainingew18.gif mindmemorytrainingew19.gif






B. This occurs when objects having the same prominent quality are linked together by some striking feature possessed by both, the feature not being their class, but a quality of each of them. Examples are: moon and orange (both round); paper and snow (both white); ink and Negro (both black); feathers and cotton (both light); church spire and factory chimney (both high). We may symbolize the relationship thus—

mindmemorytrainingew20.gif mindmemorytrainingew21.gif




This completes our seven logical connections, which, with Contiguity or Proximity subdivided into Co-existence and Succession, make a total of nine. In practice, however, it will nearly always be sufficient to classify a connection as belonging to one or other of the four Roads of Thought: Class, Part, Quality, or Proximity.


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