The Secret Teachings of All Ages

In 1928, a 20-something Renaissance man named Manly Hall self-published a vast encyclopedia of the occult, believing that “modern” ideas of progress and materialism were displacing more important and ancient modes of knowledge. Hall’s text has become a classic reference, dizzying in its breadth: various chapters explore Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, alchemy, cryptology, Tarot, pyramids, the Zodiac, Pythagorean philosophy, Masonry and gemology, among other topics. This affordably priced edition would be vastly improved by a new foreword, placing the work in some kind of historical and critical context and introducing readers to the basic contours of Hall’s sweeping corpus. Instead, we have a disciple’s adulatory 1975 foreword, which merely parrots the same themes of mystery and esoterica that are espoused in the book. Readers who are unfamiliar with Hall’s work will be at a loss in ferreting out which chapters have stood the test of time and which have been vigorously debunked (like the one on Islam, which actually uses novelist Washington Irving as a primary source on the prophet Muhammad). However, they will also marvel at the sheer scope of Hall’s research and imagination, and at J. Augustus Knapp’s famous illustrations, including a 16-page color insert.

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