on January 25, 2013
If you're reading this review, then you already know about Manly P. Hall, so I won't get into that.
The best edition to get is the hardcover University Edition printed in 2008. BUT if you want a cheaper paperback, make sure you get the authorized 2000 reduced facsimile of the 1988 Diamond Jubilee edition from the Philosophical Research Society (PRS). It's the only edition in print that is a true reprint of the original typography and illustrations in their correct places. All other editions are re-typeset, and some cluster all the color illustrations together rather than at the beginning of each chapter where they belong. The Reduced Facsimile is also the only edition that was authorized by Hall when he was still alive, and the only edition that contains ALL the original illustrations.
The 2000 edition from PRS is very good quality with a sewn signature binding printed on heavy photo paper. DON'T get the Dover edition or the "Readers" edition!! Much of the value in this text is the beautiful typography and illustrations. It's not worth owning it otherwise. A cheap used copy of the facsimile edition can be easily found for under $10. I got mine for $2.99 and it's beautiful.
The over-riding theme of Manly P. Hall's book is that the most basic secret teaching is that one should overcome your animal, lower, inferior nature of lust, hatred, and greed and become more spiritual, realizing that this world is an illusion, which isn't your true home, and your body is not your true self. By following the golden rule instead of the rule of gold, one can become enlightened enough to avoid ever having to come back to this awful world again. Wisdom is to be valued more than gold. If you do not attain such spiritual wisdom, you are doomed to repeat your experiences by reincarnating or you may experience hell or purgatory, according to some faith traditions.
Hall criticizes modern times as being too materialistic. The more you focus on earthly desires, the more you become bound to it, the more misery you shall suffer here and after death. You should follow the urges of your higher self, the spirit and soul, which operate above you in the heavenly realms as your body stays upon on this earth while you learn your lessons.
But as far as lust goes, Hall does not recommend that everyone become celibate, since if you are not particularly enlightened it would not be appropriate for you and may lead to neurosis.
Hall goes over the symbolism of many esoteric traditions in this mostly interesting, but sometimes boring book. This is a big, long, thick book that is crammed with so much information it's hard to remember it all. A lot of the explanations of symbols gets tedious after awhile and I asked the question occasionally, "Why should this be important to me?" Especially dense was the sections on the Kabala symbolism. Hall also goes over Biblical symbolism as allegorical true, not literally true, and it is based on earlier pagan traditions.
I liked the sections on black magic versus white magic and the life of Doctor Faust, who Hall claims was a real person. Hall warns us never to get involved with black magic and make pacts with evil spirits for our own temporal and selfish gain since we will be doomed to serve the spirit for eternity once we break one of the conditions of the contract as Faust did. Such evil comes from selfishness, the source of all evil. Hall is even cautions us against hypnosis and calls high pressure salesmanship a form of black magic. He says that mediums that pretend to be speaking to dead loved ones are actually elemental spirits acting like dead loved ones. It is not good to dabble in black magic just out of curiosity. I was surprised he sounded so much like a fundamentalist preacher on this topic.
White magic, however, seems to be okay with him and he has a section in which one is shown how magic can be used by invoking Christ's name and giving him the glory, using it for the expansion of your wisdom, not the fulfillment of your selfish desires.
Hall gets into the question of who really wrote Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare himself really did not have the educational background to be able write the plays that had so many erudite references. Hall shows us that Francis Bacon was the one who wrote the plays and the various ways that he gave clues that he actually did write them. Francis Bacon was also a freemason who had the knowledge of how to conceal information through cryptograms, which are contained in his writings.
The book covers a myriad of esoteric topics and persuades the reader to take seriously the phenomena of alchemy, the Delphic oracles, and the mysterious Saint Germaine, among other things. The freemasonic origins of the United States is covered some also.
Alchemy is the process of turning base metals into gold. Metaphysically, humans are also attempting over several lifetimes to eliminate their base natures and turn to the golden light of virtue. That is what alchemy allegorically represents. Hall gives of us some examples in history in which alchemy was said to have actually occurred.
The French and American Revolutions were inspired by the freemasons. This occult group wanted to get rid of the tyranny of monarchy, the ignorance of the general populace, and the superstitions of the church. By electing a philosophical elect, the people would be well served by their governments (in theory). The original seal of the US might actually be the occult symbol of the phoenix, instead of the eagle. The French Revolution was not as successful for the freemasons since a violent reign of terror ensued, perpetrated by fanatics.
Why is the occult kept hidden from the general populace? It is hidden because of the prejudice against certain occult teachings that people aren't ready to accept. The powerful status quo is also threatened by such teachings. There is the prohibition of against throwing your pearls before swine who will only abuse such teachings. One must be worthy to accept the mysteries, which means that you have to be moral enough to receive the teachings. Mystery schools often have initiates go through many trying ordeals before they are considered worthy enough to reach the next level of wisdom.
Some occultists have a reputation for being immoral though. Hall explains that occult schools are only as good as the people in control of them. Over the years, a once virtuous group can become corrupted. That is the reason why some occult groups are considered bad.
on July 17, 2013
I perused an older hardcover copy of this book at a lodge brother's house and was so impressed, I ordered it on the spot.
It was full of full page color plates and numerous illustrations. I immediately deemed it a necessary component of my library.
I received my copy today, and there isn't a single illustration or plate that the version I looked at had.
Since it is a book on symbolism, symbols would be a nice addition.
My advice would be to try and find an older edition.
Palo Alto Chapter #93
Los Altos Lodge #712
********** "The Secret Teachings of All Ages" is, without question, the most wonderful book I have ever owned! I spent hours slowly turning the pages and looking at the Very Well- Produced Artwork!!! You will be amazed, when you first open the book. The printing is also very stylish and sets-off the Mystical nature of the very large <this is a "reduced" size?!> compendium of knowledge. I have been studying Masonic & Hermetic Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, Astrology, etc. for the last ten years....and this book just left my jaw hanging, in wonder and rapture. You will see what appears to be originals of many "occult" images that permeate the mass-market. This is high-quality art that begs to be placed on even the wealthiest person's coffee-table. Even if you only purchase this book for it's superb artwork and Masonic / Hermetic / Kabalistic illustrations, pictures/paintings & Alchemical drawings, you will not be disappointed!!! I recommend this book to people who do not like to read and to those who Love to Read! Either way, you cannot lose. I am particularly interested in the "man with four faces," because of a Vision I had in 1991.... Looks like I am not the only person to ever draw The Conundrum.
You will be enthralled with the Artistic Quality of this massive book and you will treasure it's contents forever. This is an absolute "must-have" for all Students of "The Secret Teachings of All Ages!"
on June 14, 2001
I remeber the first time that I was shown this tome nearly twenty years ago. My father pulled this volume down from his bookshelf and let me read through it, watching my expressions as I beheld its beauty. I was left with a thirst of wanting more. His copy was an older paperback edition that he acquired in some little esoteric bookstore and at that time this was not an easy book to find, now its much easier (for better or worse) to gain secrets that were once privy to the few.
Since I first beheld this magical book, I was able to procure the large (very large) hardcover limited edition signed by the author - the true gem of my library, priceless.
This is a masterpiece of esoteric literature, one that you'll never part with. Truly a must have volume that belongs in the library of every Freemason, Kabbalist, or Rosicrucian. The title says it all. You'll spend hours upon hours in reflection and enthralled at the details of the text and illustrations. The full color plates are beautifully rendered and will literally leap off the pages. Now that this volume is more easily available and you are at least looking for it (or you wouldn't be here, now would you?) I have one suggestion - BUY IT
on August 10, 2013
I bought this edition because of the price, and got what I paid for. It does not contain the original "Introduction" chapter, it has NO illustrations, and contains typos. I returned it and ordered the "Readers Edition", which is actually authorized by the PRS. It costs a little more, but is worth it.
This edition is published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, and is taking advantage of the fact that the book is in the Public Domain.
on December 28, 2005
The style of this book is wonderful and indeed it tells much about the esoteric foundations. When reading this book even I, a relatively devout Christian, could not help being swept up and sometimes moved nearly to tears by the discovery of philosophies that rang so beatifully true.
However, Mr. Hall I suppose also got carried away in the beauty of the esoteric and left out some in-paragraph citations that would have addded an extra feeling of validity. That, I believe is the main fault of the book; it is certainly beautiful but the author should have explained and offered sources for some of his wilder conclusions directly after he made them. A particulary distressing case of this occurs after a wonderfully powerful oration concerning the great pyramid and it's use in the ancient mysteries, you read on feeling continually involved by the deep spiritual narrative involving man's journey and the symbolism of the pyramid, Only after reading the pyramid narrative do you step back and wonder, where did all that come from ?, can there be any verification to such a beatiful yet seemingly unreffernced story, or is the author just making his own assumptions.
Another annoyance sometimes forced on the reader is Hall's almost direct accusation of your stupidity. After discussing the myth of the "dying god" hall concludes the chapter by telling you that if you don't understand the symbolism of the dying god then you shouldn't consider yourself intelligent.
The last irksome thing is Hall's inability to keep his philosophies' seperate, he is just such a fount of knowledge that he feels himself credible in trying to mix different teachings which are more easily understood left by themselves.
Overall this is definitely a worthwhile book that gets to the heart of the esoteric teachings which it catalogues. It is beatifully written and very informational while still retaining it's ability to be read from cover to cover. It's shortcomings are some deeply troubling ones but they are overcome by the book's exceeding quality and completeness in all other regards.