This is a review for one of my many “project” books that I don’t read cover to cover (and hence otherwise don’t review), but have nonetheless read several times out of order while researching specific subjects.
Unless you regularly (and obsessively) dip into topics of the esoteric traditions, you’ve probably never heard of Manly P. Hall nor the Philosophical Research Society, which he founded. If you did, you’d know that Manly P. Hall is a name among names in this line of exploration, one of the top experts in antiquarian studies. Hall’s research was so in-depth that he was awarded the rank of 32nd degree Mason without ever having joined the Order of the Scottish Rite.
The original title of this work was called An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy: Being an Interpretation of the Secret Teachings concealed within the Rituals, Allegories and Mysteries of all Ages. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s in this rodent-killer of a tome.
To fully appreciate what’s here, one has to first understand the concept of a mystery school. In ancient Egypt, and in other places of the age, the mystery schools were the original secret societies. Then, as now, every religious faith had its myths and legends which served to tell secrets via symbolism and allegory. Mystics would know the facts — the science — behind the symbolism. Many of the founding fathers of Greek philosophy and science such as Pythagoras and Hippocrates were initiates into such mystery schools. Those secrets behind the secrets were passed down time and again to the learned who could afford the books and the time to study them. Nearly every Western religion is cloaked in symbolism of those original mystery schools, up to and including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The story of Jesus Christ, for example, is the allegory of the dying and resurrecting Sun God of many different mythologies, told time and again. When you break it all down to its elements (explained herein), it’s astronomy as the ancients understood it. This is but one of the many, many, many secrets found in this book. The beginnings of our modern scientific disciplines begin with the knowledge presented here. Think of it as proving backhandedly that every religion is true, just not quite how you imagined.
The thing is, there are a great many things in here that modern science won’t touch. Tarot cards, alchemy, elemental lords… these things are also part of the inherited wisdom of the ages, as they are but symbols to discover other paths of information just as the myths are. But the vast majority of this book deals with the science behind the religions, and with how secret societies cloaked that information in esoteric symbolism that can be found all around us, out in the open. Today we have a discipline called Noetic Science, wherein modern science and ancient mythology are proving to line up thanks to quantum theory. This book outlines a great deal of it decades before modern science started opening to the idea.
I have a fascination with looking into things that I’m told are “verboten.” The more I’m told no, the more I’ll look, and the more I’ll learn. This book was like finding a skeleton key to a great many ancient locks. As with anything of this nature, you have to keep your mind open enough to accept possibilities, but not so open as to have your brains leak out all over the floor. If anything, even you don’t buy a single word of what’s in it, it’s a road map to how people of many cultures thought over the centuries. That alone is invaluable information to have in my book. Before this book was published, you’d have to scour the world, pay royal ransoms, and translate from a variety of texts and codices to get what’s in this book. Back when I found it, you’d generally find this tucked away on the bottom shelf in some bookstore, assuming there was a copy of it to be found at all. Today, it’s a mouse-click away on Amazon. Hours of endless curiosity can be found between these covers, if you’re willing to take a look. This book was a constant bedside companion for the better part of three years, and I still consider it to be one of the most fascinating books in my entire collection.