Can You Memorize Books Page By Page Without Using Memory Techniques?

Swami VivekanandaOutrageous claims about memorizing entire books without using techniques like the Memory Palace never fail to sadden me.

Why people pander to mythologies, I’ll never know.

Especially when there is so much value to be siphoned from the not-so-secret sauce of mnemonics.

But without further woo woo adieu, here’s today’s Q&A:


I like your MMM System, and I am learning and following it bit by bit.

But I have one doubt.

In India the Swami Vivekananda and other people read a book page by page without use any mnemonics techniques, and are still able to recall all of the concepts and vocabulary words.

Simply they saying only by only concentration.

Which memory technique is this?

Is this better than mnemonics or journey system?

How do I develop this type of memory?

Thank you for your reply.


If these people are actually doing this through concentration, then I guess you would call this memory technique … “concentration.”

Guess what?

Concentration does work to help you form memories. It’s also a great way to connect new information to older information that you’ve already learned.

When it comes to the notions of photographic memory and photo reading, the most logical conclusion is that these people are probably not being honest. Do you really think their claims would stand up to scrutiny through scientific testing?

Merely concentrating on a book would help me personally learn material from it, but how exactly this would lead to memorization without some kind of elaborative encoding is a mystery to me. Frankly, I’d dealt with lack of concentration, and in order to reliably memorize a lot of material from a book, I needed to use my textbook memorization system.

Learn all about it here:

How to Memorize a Textbook

Quite frankly, there are so many advantages to this method that I would sooner have people who are serious about learning take these extra steps rather than experimenting with the claims of dead Swamis.

In the case of the person you’re talking about, he was called a srutidhara which in English means someone who has an eidetic or photographic memory.

A lot of people believe in photographic memory (something that doesn’t seem to exist), but what they don’t know is that eidetic memory has only been scientifically demonstrated as valid for a couple of minutes.

Can you work on developing an eidetic memory?


Heck, these day’s there’s even an eidetic memory app

But why bother fooling around with software when you can work on developing a Magnetic memory and retain information for the long haul.

Better than merely retaining it, you can turn raw information into knowledge.

Heck, if you write about the stuff that you’ve memorize, you might even wind up changing lives with ideas that only you can come up. And they’ll be fantastic because only you could have put them together in the unique way that only you can …

… but only if you stop chasing after useless fantasies and worrying about which memory method or style is better than the other.

The only method that matters is the one that:

A) You’ll actually use

B) Gets you results

If concentration works for these dudes, rock and roll.

Good for them.

Hurray. But…

I don’t buy it.

Of course, I’m not going to stampede scientists over there to test the claims of the long dead or the gullible living. James Randi spent decades challenging people to demonstrate and validate their claims to have super powers of concentration.

He even offered a million dollars if they could prove their claims true.

That’s a lot of coin, so it’s hard to believe that more people didn’t rush over to get tested. Their absence says everything, don’t you think?

After all, haven’t they read and concentrated upon and remembered the famous James Randi prize?

The prize has been terminated since I originally wrote this post, but it’s still worth knowing about and considering for its longterm promotion of critical thinking and the grants it will be distributing to this end moving forward.

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi)
James Randi

In the meantime, I’ll stick with memory techniques that can, have and will in the future continue to be tested.

And I’ll keep on hanging around with dudes like Phil Chambers, Chief Arbiter of the World Memory Championships. Here’s one of my favorite podcasts with Him:

Phil Chambers Talks About the Outer Limits of Memory Skills

People like Phil know and respect the limits of memory while constantly pushing it through training that is inspired by the many seductions of competition.

But you don’t have to compete to get the science of memory techniques working on your side. (And you also have to wonder why all of those people making the claims you mentioned aren’t also at the memory competitions every year to claim those cash prizes…)

The formula for success with memory techniques is simple:

1. Build at least one Memory Palace

2. Put information inside of it using Magnetic Imagery

3. Recall the information using Recall Rehearsal (this simple procedure harnesses the power of the primacy effect and recency effect using serial positioning)

4. Study from memory athletes like Braden Adams

5. Work on improving your selective attention skills

6. Do this through a lifelong study of accelerated learning techniques

(Optional: Synthesize the information and use it to improve the world).

Hope these pointers help!

Further Resources

Can You Supercharge Your Memory With These Popular Supplements?

Dave Farrow Talks About Focus, Fatigue And Memory Expertise

35 Responses

  1. Sir, these aren’t any “woo-woo claims”, Swami Vivekananda was actually able to recall everything he read because of his intense focus and concentration. If you don’t believe in it, at least don’t disrespect him. Google him and you’ll know what kind of a man he was.

    1. Thanks for this!

      I apologize for any confusion. I don’t mean any disrespect. It’s only that, as Christopher Hitchens once put it, ‘That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.’

      Please feel free to share the most relevant links that you think best characterize Swami Vivekananda if you like. 🙂

  2. Swami vivekananda was a common men ,but his love towards knowledge developed him a skill of memorising through meditation and concentration , it takes 12 year of practice , i think we don’t have that much time , giving 6 hours daily in meditation, and yoga,
    Swami Vivekananda used his knowledge in society welfare,
    Let’s just get inspired by him,
    Nothing more than that.

  3. To some extent,I agree with you.But you feel sad that you don’t have photographic memory,don’t you?I wish you hadn’t been so critical of Swami Vivekanand.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sunny.

      I personally would not want to have a photographic memory, even if it were possible. As you can see when you visit my podcast and article on the topic, the closest thing to it has been quite torturous for one individual. I suspect it would be for many of us, though I did see a documentary that I’ll be talking about sometime soon where an individual with the condition has done quite well and seems not to have been bothered at all.

      About Swami Vivekanand, if you reread my comments, I think you’ll find that I haven’t been critical of him at all. I’m critical the claims being made about his memory and I’ve asked for meaningful evidence to back them up. I would ask this of anyone making such claims in accordance with the principles of basic science. If more of us would do the same, I think our world would be profoundly different – and much better. 🙂

    1. Thanks for this question. To begin memorizing formulas, it’s important to know the Major Method (sometimes call the Major System). If you visit that page, you’ll get a primer on how to use the technique. From there you can add in other elements of formulas using standard visual association as discussed in this episode of my podcast and many others.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  4. Hi there,

    It feels good to see someone shedding light on such a great topic for the young people to achieve success in life. I appreciate the way you use logic and conclusive evidence in order to believe something.

    Believe me, If you read, even a bit about Swami Vivekananda, you would come to know how logical the person was. He was very proud of his scientific knowledge and the advancement of science in the 19th century until he met Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the 19th century mystic, who showed him the whole universe by touching him, and helped him to see god (Absolute).

    Vivekananda was an avid reader in a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, religion, history, social science, art and literature. He used to study the works of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill and Charles Darwin.

    Once, at the age of 9, he was going through a book written by Kant in his father’s library room, while his father’s friend came to visit his father relating to a case in Calcutta High Court, where his father was a famous attorney in. By looking at the small boy reading Kant’s thick book, he laughed and said to Vivekananda’s father, what is the little boy reading? How shall he understand Kant’s works at such a small age? He then called Naren (Vivekananda’s original name was Narendra) close to him and asked, “what do you understand from it?” Naren replied, “Everything!”, he then asked random questions from the book and to his bewilderment, Naren replied everything word to word, letter to letter and also described the meanings of his work with the most efflorescence. That was him.

    There are many more examples of his amazing power of mind which crossed the limits of simple reasoning.

    Here is one –

    He talked about the duality of this universe in 1893 at World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, which he asked the world famous scientist Nikola Tesla (Read here – to prove through his mathematics, but Tesla failed due to some reason but, finally, Einstein proved a decade later by his famous papers on ‘Theory of Relativity’ and ‘String Theory’, which slapped the prior extremely orthodox scientific society of the world and helped science to become unorthodox and open minded.

    And, if you want to understand the heart and soul of India and where humans come from and why do they come and where do they go, read “RAJA YOGA” By Swami Vivekananda, it’s one of the best written form of absolute.

    There are things in this universe where logic and reasoning cannot follow, since they are Absolute and not Dual in nature, anything which is Absolute cannot be a compound. Logic and reasoning are the properties of duality and they have their authority only in the realm of dualism, i.e, when we’re in our body in this world. Nikola Tesla’s world staggering innovation of ‘FREE ENERGY’ is nothing but tapping a very very minute portion of energy from the Absolute to the Dual, just like picking up a bucket of water from an ocean.

    Do read the book I suggested, it’ll not only widen your horizons of knowledge at par, but also make you more enlightened.

    Aakash Basu.

    1. Thanks for this, Aakash. I appreciate your enthusiasm for this figure and I’m sure you’re correct that the universe contains things outside of human logic and our ability to reason.

      However, since we cannot memorize those evasive things, I think we’ll need to turn our attention to information we can perceive and memorize. 😉

      As for science becoming open-minded, science exists throughout history because people were open minded. You mentioned Kant, for example, and he is an example from philosophy of the power of open-mindedness. Bacon, Descartes and countless other figures exist in the scientific and philosophical genealogy that made Einstein’s discoveries possible.

      So does it really make sense to attribute so much responsibility for open-mindedness to this one figure? That sounds a bit like guru worship and we have yet to see anything in this discussion that demonstrates the central claims about Swami Vivekananda’s memory abilities, namely the ability to memorize massive amounts of text without using memory techniques. My mind is wide-open to it, but the likelihood is minimal.

      More importantly, we need to address the question: If he could do it, how can we do it too? Since Einstein and other scientists used the scientific method and philosophers used the tools of philosophy, we can “reverse engineer” their intellectual feats.

      If this person had photographic memory, then it was probably not eidetic memory, but hyperthymestic syndrome. It is very rare, but a strong possibility. I believe there are only two living people who currently have come forward and had their situations scientifically documented. One has suffered a great deal from the condition, the other not. But the extent to which either can memorize entire textbooks without the use of mnemonics, I do not know.

      It’s an interesting topic, however, and I appreciate you taking the time to share this information about Swami Vivekananda and his life. If you know anything further that we can use to understand how the memory feats were performed so we can find some substantial takeaways, please feel free to post them. 🙂

  5. There is a fine line between faith and reason.
    (I’m sure you’ll still talk about evidence)

    There are certain things which we need to believe. the universe is infinite, scientists gave the proposition and we believed. there are infinite galaxies, we haven’t seen them but still we believe.

    Talking about swami Vivekananda, I’m not going to judge you on the basis of your views. I’m sure you’re a good intellect. If you read the book “Raja Yoga” you’ll learn the real nature of mind.

    All this world is nothing but a mere manifestation of mind. if you close your eyes this world ceases to exist for you visually. and when you close all your senses the world is no longer there ‘for you’.

    Reason to the limit until you gain complete knowledge.

    The only true evidence you’ll ever get is when you try to find it yourself, when you put all your energy to gain the knowledge.

    PS: I’m influenced by Swami Vivekananda but each and every word of my comment is not influenced by the emotion of anger and jealous.

  6. I’m very angry because of what u have said about swami vivekananda.He had a great photographic memory by which he can memorize any book in less time.But you have said about memory place and mnemonics, they can’t work even 10-30 percent to memorize a book in less time.swami vivekananda had a photographic memory.Now I will tell you how swami vivekananda had got this memory.It is only because of meditation.Meditation is a key to success in different way that u and we will remember him or her up to this world exist.But it is not the technique of mnemonics or memory palace. please know before you make the people know

    1. I’m glad you mention meditation, Nandakishor. It’s an important tool for memory improvement, as discussed at length all across this site. How to Improve Memory and Concentration Buddha Style is a great post to check out for more information about it.

      But beware: It uses scientific data, not blind faith, to support the claim that meditation helps improve memory. But I’m confident that if you’ll bring memory techniques and meditation together for yourself, you’ll find yourself having something even better than photographic memory. 🙂

  7. hello…..first know what kind of man was swami vivekanada. if u dont know about him i will send the link to read about him.By using memory palace and mnemonics we can’t read and remember the whole book.It is worse actually.There is another trick to remember a whole book.That is photographic memory.If u don’t know this i will send the link then u read it.But what are these waste,useless tricks.First u learn after that make others learn.If u don’t know how to develop photographic memory I will tell about that with out 0.0000000000000000001 percent.

    1. Please do feel free to post all you know about photographic memory. And if you’d like, I’ll arrange a committee of scientists and any experts you would like to invite to test your abilities with photographic memory.

      But until you can bring this Swami into the present via a time machine or some other device for similar testing, you’re making claims based on faith, not evidence. I suggest you learn the tools of skepticism as soon as possible.

      And if you’re ready to give “memory tricks” an honest try, I think you’ll be amazed by what they can do for you. 🙂

  8. I am sorry to send worse messages to you because when I read this, I just went into an anger mood.It is your great mistake that by using mnemonics we can’t remember or memorize a book.Iam not nandakishor. I am ramakrishna(son of nandakishor) from India. I am studying 10th, just 14 years old.

    I would like to ask what you have said about bringing together meditation and memory techniques.I didn’t understood that point.

    I am very curious, I am waiting for your reply with mobile number please.

    1. I am so happy to learn that you are such an inquisitive mind at such a young age. That is great, Ramakrishna.

      I’d suggest downloading and listening to the audio that comes with the meditation post. It may help you to hear me discussing it as a supplement to the English text.

      In the meantime, I hope you can find peace in your heart and come to understand my message better. I am precisely saying that you can use memory techniques to memorize books and do not need woo-woo and fantasy concepts like photographic memory slowing you down. All the scientific and athletic evidence in the world is at your fingertips when it comes to demonstrating and validating what memory techniques can do for people.

      But the evidence about this Swami who had created so much anger? So far it is just hearsay and speculation. You can do better than that and I’m confident that with study and application, you will. Have fun and never forget these 7 Eternal Laws of Memory Improvement.

      They will serve you well as you explore! 🙂

  9. Sir,

    Thank you. But I am somewhat poor in english. I didn’t understood anything from the reply. I understood only 1st paragraph. Can you please please please please please explain it again without any hard words like inquisitive etc.

    1. Thanks for this, Ramakrishna.

      It’s true that I sometimes use more sophisticated English – especially on the older posts on this site. You do seem to have understood enough to interact quite well with this material on this page, however. I’m quite sure the more recent posts I’ve pointed to you are easier to understand and there are many good dictionaries online for looking up words like “inquisitive.”

      And when you’re using memory techniques, you’ll find it really use to remember words and their definitions too. I’ll be delighted and honored if you use this site as a source of vocabulary and wish you and your memory many good things. 🙂

  10. Hello Sir,

    I admire you for sharing these techniques for all of us here to accomplish things by memorizing. These are very effective. I read your posts and try to follow them a lot. These make it very easier for me to remember things.

    But in the context here by saying as “these swamis/people”, it hurts. I consider Swami Vivekananda as my Guru. Since his teachings have improved my lifestyle and helped me get over my tedious day to day chores.

    When somebody says me that what I claim is false, is like denying your memory techniques without trying them.

    Swami Vivekananda has worked a lot for the upliftment of society. People follow Shri Swami Vivekananda and his teachings. Since they are really very logical. It is not just about his memory. I believe that you might not be knowing about him before getting into this. He is an ideal for plenty of people here in India and all over world where he has worked.

    Manpreet Singh in his comment has shared excellent thoughts worth thinking about. What say?

    1. It’s great that you’ve got someone you admire who has helped you, Atul.

      I suggest you re-read what I’ve said carefully. I don’t believe I’ve said that anything is false. What I’ve said is that there is an underwhelming lack of evidence that supports the claims being made by certain participants in this discussion.

      If someone can produce a book that describes Swami Vivekananda’s mnemonic process, I will gladly take a look at it and possibly explore his techniques. But it is a matter of great confusion to mix whatever great things he may have done with anecdotal reports about his memory. If you’re going to claim that this person is “really very logical,” then stand up for logic and use its tools to examine your claims and all claims being made here about this person’s memory.

      If you’re really interested in logic, then it shouldn’t cause any hurt. And if any pain does occur, it will be the healing pain of leaving other styles of thinking behind. 🙂

      1. Unfortunately i do not have evidences to show you about his memory techniques. Swami Vivekananda said that to do anything effectively is by doing it with great concentration. I am sure there might be certain ways of that too. It requires time and practice for achieving anything. Everyone will agree to this. Anyway, let’s take good things and make life simple and easy. Keep posting. Thanks! 🙂

  11. Respected sir,
    The primary source of this power which has been mocked upon in the article is the practice of BRAHMACHARYA..Now the biggest problem with the western thinkers is that they don’t know anything about” brahmacharya”..and i guess no body in the west is even interested in knowing it….There are still lots of people who practice it albeit without making noise…i suggest you to practice it and get your answers rendered to you by youself.
    and yes it is possible and indeed possible..

  12. so, Sir, what these techniques used by derren brown how would I improve them, what are their methods to memorize the book in 20 minutes master.Derren brown use these techniques. use this can be improved

  13. Many Indian yogis are known to have had unusual memories which have been documented since ancient times.

    Swami Vivekananda was a yogi who lived in the t late 19th century and was no ordinary human being. From his works and works of those who have had direct contacts with him, it can be said that he was in deep Samadhi at all times. His birth was a mission and he had realized the truth. His only aim was to create spiritual awakening in the society amongst the mass.

    Scientific advancements can never give you liberation or emancipation, which can come only through stead fast devotion, concentration ,faith and perseverance . According to Hindu philosophy this mind, which is only an illusion repeatedly gets attached to this illusory world –maya- ,creates bondages and comes back to the material world to undergo pain and pleasure according to its karma.

    So detachment alone can come to your rescue .Like how a dreamer in his dreams associates himself with every object and feels real, on waking up has no attachment to any of his dream memories/objects as he knows that it was just a dream i.e only illusions of the mind,the same way the jivatma, on realizing its true nature needs no further proof or evidences to make it understand that everything in the physical plane was meant to pass by and has no real existence.

    When a soul reaches this stage it identifies itself with the supreme truth, where the past, present and future all exist at the same time and same place, technically incorrect to say so as they cant be described by words .It cannot be proven using anything in the material world. It’s beyond time and space, which an ordinary mind cannot comprehend. So its just the truth that he sees, and the past is as clear as the present and future. To understand this one has to go beyond the realms of the material world.

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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

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