Within the pages of Manly Palmer Hall's celebrated 20th century tome, readers delight in discussions about ancient symbolism, rituals, and mythology. Often hailed as an encyclopedia for all things hidden, ancient, and arcane, The Secret Teachings of All Ages explores a vast array of topics, from secret societies and the Zodiac to Mystic Christianity and William Shakespeare's identity. Despite some of the outdated and controversial ideas it poses now in the 21st century, The Secret Teachings of All Ages continues to fascinate students of the cryptic and mysterious.
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.