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Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall Paperback – July 1, 2008

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About the Author

Louis Sahagun is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. He was a reporter involved in a Times series on Latinos in Southern California that won a Pulitzer Prize. His work ranges from religion and the environment to crime and politics. He lives with his wife and daughter in California.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Process (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193417002X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934170021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Mark Newbold on July 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a deliciously gossipy & insightful book on one of the major figures in 20th century American esotericism. Manly P. Hall was America's answer to Madame Blavatsky and served to pioneer and document the rise of southern California as an occult Mecca. His Philosophical Research Society was a major influence through its publications in educating and influencing many to the cross cultural currents of comparative myth and religion. The cast of characters he encountered serves as a who's who of the American metaphysical underground between the 1920's through 1950's. Both noble and pathetic at times like occultism itself, this book never ceases to fascinate. A careful reading will also reveal several typos and errors that better editing should have caught.

Mr. Sahagun is a remarkable writer who I hope to read more of. His research is impeccable and many of those who played a role in Hall's life opened their hearts, minds and doors to him in documenting this larger than life figure both literally and figuratively. Knowing some of the people in this book that knew Hall and associated with him over the years this biography rings true from the stories I have heard from those that knew the "Maestro".

On another level, fans of Kenneth Anger's classic "Hollywood Babylon" will find much to keep them amused, the occult Hollywood subculture is here with such revelations as Rhonda Fleming's alternative health regime, Glenn Ford's belief in reincarnation and astrology (did you know he had a deformed spine that resulted in the need for special camera angles in the films he appeared in?), John Denver's unrequited attempt to become Hall's disciple, to Gloria Swanson's (the real Norma Desmond) finding a crashed flying saucer in the Hollywood hills? Culminating like a Greek tragedy in the mysterious death of this master of the mysteries- will linger in the mind of the reader long after the last page is read.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By S. Grendahl on August 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those of us who were in Los Angeles during the final days of Manly Hall, this book is spot on. The incidents surrounding his death were in dispute for some time. It was refreshing to learn so much about Hall's early days,
the recorded documents and how he retold his own history. The evolution of the spiritual phenomenon in this city form Hall's arrival up to his death was great, warts and all. The new age, really, is just another cycle of a recurrent theme in the history of personal spiritual movements complete with real saints, real seekers, real con-artists. For myself who had heard him speak and who was at Hall's last lecture that evening at the Scottish Rite in Los Angeles, this book is great.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Stewart on July 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
Manly P. Hall is an enigma to 20th Century occult and philosophy. Born into a new century of development and industry, Hall inherited a passionate interest in all things metaphysical with a deep drive to find its place to mankind. Rather than to try to sell his knowledge as a swami or magician, or to impose his will to how it should be perceived, Hall instead gave his life to studying and lecturing on what he discovered, and at his end he most likely lost his life as a result if it.

In the new book by Louis Sahagun, Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall chronicles the obscure life of the man who is more noted for his life's work rather than his day to day travails. Written in a decade by decade narrative, very early on it becomes clear that Hall was fully immersed in his work and growing proficiency to explain it to others, despite his limited education. Though not flawless, Hall managed to produce the largest and greatest compendium of esoteric wisdom in the 20th Century aptly titled The Secret Teachings of All Ages (Reader's Edition) and just as the name implies it delivers the education.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the examination of the occult history of Los Angeles and how it played into ensuing decades towards the 21st Century. Notable celebrities, politicians, and rocket scientists all played a role in the growing cities esoteric and occult community, where Hall stood as a consistent beacon of light within his humble Philosophical Research Society. To note, Hall was a Freemason, raised November 22, 1954 in Jewel Lodge No. 374, in San Francisco. His written work on Freemasonry predates his having been made a Mason, and stopped following his degrees.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Filler Joe on June 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purposely refrained from buying and reading this book for several years because I wanted to focus on Manly Hall's ideas, not Manly Hall the person. Instead, I bought the books he wrote and read them profusely. I also listened to his lectures and watched his videos (which aren't cheap, by the way). My favorite has and always will be Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, a supplement to his magnum opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Brilliant work--all of it.

Now, years later, I finally decided to sit down and tried to discover who this guy supposedly was that wrote so well and gave such remarkable lectures and insights. Let's just say I was "enlightened" by what I found.

First, a caveat: in case it isn't obvious enough, I want to point out that this book is a biography, not an autobiography. Additionally, the author makes clear in the first part of the book that he never actually interviewed Hall himself. All the information in the biography is after the fact, after his death, and after quite a bit of research. Since Mr. Hall was no longer around to speak for himself, the author took a different route: he let Hall's philosophical publications answer the questions.

With that in mind, perhaps you can see, like I did, the immediate and fundamental problem: Cherry picking Hall's writings to discover Hall himself is a bit assumptive and brash. To be fair, the author does interview a lot of people, including Hall's now deceased second wife Marie Hall (who is in the acknowledgements section of the book but died in 2005) and his step daughter. However, the core problem still remains: no direct contact with the man himself because he's, well, about as dead as dead gets.
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