on 7 October 2009
Manly P. Hall has done an amazing job of bringing into one tome the wisdom of the ages. Everything we believe culturally, spiritually and philosophically comes from those who've gone before us. This book sheds light on so many things that we think and believe and opens the way for a wider view of life, the world and people. This is not for the feint of heart nor those who do not want their foundation rocked or shocked. You will be surprised to learn that beliefs we assumed were 2000 years old are actually much, much older and are telling an even bigger story that we ever imagined. I highly recommend this book to those brave individuals who seek enlightenment in a darkened world.
on 27 September 2011
Having been disappointed with the first version I ordered (the other new, blue-covered edition from Wilder Publications) as the illustrations are so bad, I'm writing this review to save others wasting their money in a similar way. One can always return a book, but when it's shipped from another continent, it costs a fortune in postage. Both texts are identical of course, but this version also has an index at the back which the Wilder Publications version sadly lacks, which is very frustrating when trying to look up information. The pictures in this book are well-copied and every detail can be seen, which is important when the illustrations are under discussion in the text, and it has about a dozen glossy pages with full colour illustrations. Having said that, the paper used is not of a particularly high quality. In this single aspect, the version with the poor pictures wins with better paper, but it also costs nearly double at the moment second-hand. As they say, you can't win 'em all.
on 20 May 2005
This book has been in accolade since 1928. The reasons for this immediately become obvious as soon as you open the book. A hefty tome of over 700 pages, each page oozes with knowledge, research and carefully planned arguements and ideas about the mythology, the mysteries and world spirituality. The amount of reasearch alone is impressive, yet when added to the authors mastery of the subject, magical use of language and intricate artwork the reader is left in awe. This has to be one of the best and most inspiring books ever written on the subject.
Although written in 1928, this book is a timeless masterpiece. It deserves nothing less than the full 5-star rating.
on 15 November 2010
Firstly, I should point out that I'm not a student, nor a follower, of the so-called "Western esoteric tradition". I've read books that touch on the subject, but this is the first one I've read that's devoted to the practice. With that said, I have very little grounds for comparison when reviewing this book. I read it as an introduction to a subject of enormous historical and religious significance, and nothing else, so this is very much a review from an "outsider".
This book is subtitled 'An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy', and that about sums up the whole thing. It's "encyclopedic" in that it can be read like an encyclopedia, whereby you can pick it up from the shelf whenever you need a particular piece of information. However, it's also designed to be read, like I did, from beginning to end. The book has been compiled in a logical order, where most sections build on from previous chapters, but you absolutely don't have to read it this way.
Also, the word "philosophy" in the subtitle is important. I was very impressed with the philosophical content of this book. From the excellent introduction, Manly P. Hall makes it clear that this is a work of philosophy. It's not a magical handbook, or a "practical" introduction to esoterica, but an outline of the philosophies that underpin these various ancient traditions.
'The Secret Teachings of All Ages' is a thoroughly researched book. The fact that Hall was 27 years old when it was published is staggering. The 650 pages + in this book are full of painstakingly researched facts and interpretations, from early to (at the time) contemporary sources. Certain chapters gloss over the history of institutions or people, while others go into great detail analysing symbolism. It covers such a wide spectrum of different subjects that it can only be looked at as an introductory text. But what a thorough and (for the most part) readable introduction this is. It would certainly help that the reader has at least a basic knowledge of mythology and ancient civilisations before plunging into this, but this is by no means a prerequisite.
As for the content itself; firstly, I was impressed with Hall's outlook and philosophy. There is much beauty in here, and I find Hall's interpretations on the fundamental unity of all the world religions, from pagan times to Islam, to be interesting and inspiring. However, a great deal of this book is Hall's opinion (inspiring as it may be) presented as fact. Many of the sources seem questionable, and there are some, frankly, quite strange conclusions that Hall reaches. Considering that the whole point of the Mystery religions of antiquity was that their teachings were shrouded in secrecy, and not preserved in any form except for very few highly veiled symbols, Manly P. Hall (and his sources) certainly seem to know a lot of "facts" about the subject. In fact, Hall often makes claims without backing them up with sources at all!
I'm certainly not saying that I think everything within this book is wrong. On the contrary, there's clearly a lot of scholarly research in here, and lot of the points make a lot of sense. It's just important that the reader doesn't take it all at face value. To be honest though, from what little I now know about Manly P. Hall, he probably wouldn't want anybody to take it at face value anyway.
'The Secret Teachings of All Ages' is kind of like Joseph Campbell's 'Hero With a Thousand Faces', except times one hundred. It's an analysis of the unity of mythology and religion at a meticulous level. It's interesting, detailed, eye-opening, entertaining, beautiful, but also opinionated, biased, often unsubstantiated and, having seen original publication in the 1920s, dated. But, despite its drawbacks, 'The Secret Teachings of All Ages' is a very good academic introduction to an overlooked field of philosophy and religion.