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“The Secret Teachings of All Ages”: The Ultimate Reference in Occult Symbolism

An in-depth look at the most important book about occultism of the 20th century The Secret Teachings of All Ages and its author Manly P. Hall.



Regular readers of this site probably noticed that I often quote this 1927 book in my articles. There is a good reason for this: The Secret Teachings of All Ages is, simply put, the ultimate reference in occult symbolism available today. Unlike most “modern” books about occultism and secret societies  – which are mainly about “dispelling myths” and disinforming the public – The Secret Teachings of All Ages is a genuine effort at transmitting unfiltered knowledge.

Through his meticulous yet colorful exploration of occult schools through the ages, Manly P. Hall highlights the common esoteric philosophy that has been handed down from generation to generation – and from civilization to civilization – since antiquity. The ultimate goal: Spiritual illumination through the activation of the pineal gland (also known as the “third eye”). As Hall explores secret societies from past to present, ancient symbols suddenly make sense, folk legends take on a new dimension, and historical mysteries begin to reveal their secrets.

Hall dedicated The Secret Teachings of All Ages to the idea that “concealed within the emblematic figures, allegories and rituals of the ancients is a secret doctrine concerning the inner mysteries of life, which doctrine has been preserved in toto among a small band of initiated minds”.

As stated above, this book differs greatly from your Freemasonry For Dummies-style books of the 21st Century. The Secret Teachings of All Ages is not for dummies. It is written by an occultist for occultists. In fact, for decades, the book was not marketed to the general public at all. Until recently, The Secret Teachings of All Ages was only available in oversized, very expensive editions that were only sought after by dedicated occult researchers.

Inside the first edition of The Secret Teachings of All Ages.

Unlike modern “occult” authors, Manly P. Hall did not shy away from exposing the great influence of Freemasonry and other secret societies on the world today. Furthermore, Hall also did not shy away from explaining how occultism can be used for nefarious purposes through demonology and black magic.

In short, there is no agenda or condescension in this book – only years of research compiled in an original, skillfully written and beautifully illustrated volume. Here are some of the topics discussed in The Secret Teachings of All Ages:

  • The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies Which Have Influenced Modern Masonic Symbolism
  • Atlantis and the Gods of Antiquity
  • The Life and Teachings of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus
  • The Initiation of the Pyramid
  • Isis, the Virgin of the World
  • The Sun, A Universal Deity
  • The Zodiac and Its Signs
  • The Bembine Table of Isis
  • Wonders of Antiquity
  • The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras
  • Pythagorean Mathematics
  • The Human Body in Symbolism
  • The Hiramic Legend
  • The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color
  • Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds (Part One)
  • Flowers, Plants, Fruits, and Trees
  • Stones, Metals and Gems
  • Ceremonial Magic and Sorcery
  • The Elements and Their Inhabitants
  • Hermetic Pharmacology, Chemistry, and Therapeutics
  • The Qabbalah, the Secret Doctrine of Israel
  • Fundamentals of Qabbalistic Cosmogony
  • The Tree of the Sephiroth
  • Qabbalistic Keys to the Creation of Man
  • An Analysis of Tarot Cards
  • The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
  • The Fraternity of the Rose Cross
  • Rosicrucian Doctrines and Tenets
  • Fifteen Rosicrucian and Qabbalistic Diagrams
  • Alchemy and Its Exponents
  • The Theory and Practice of Alchemy
  • The Hermetic And Alchemical Figures of Claudius De Dominico Celentano Vallis Novi
  • The Chemical Marriage
  • Bacon, Shakspere, and the Rosicrucians
  • The Cryptogram as a factor in Symbolic Philosophy
  • Freemasonic Symbolism
  • Mystic Christianity
  • The Cross and the Crucifixion
  • The Mystery of the Apocalypse
  • The Faith of Islam
  • American Indian Symbolism
  • The Mysteries and Their Emissaries

Manly P. Hall: A Mysterious Yet Influential Figure

Manly P. Hall

Manly P. Hall

Manly P. Hall was a Canadian-born author, lecturer, astrologer and mystic, who had an important, yet subdued, influence on American History. In the 1920s, Hall was in his early 20s and obtained a significant sum of money from members of a family that controlled a valuable oil field in California. These funds were used by Hall to travel around the world and acquire a substantial personal library of ancient literature. This collection formed the knowledge base of his future works.

In 1928, Hall published 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 – more commonly referred to as The Secret Teachings of All Ages. 

In 1934, Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) in Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of religion, mythology, metaphysics, and the occult. US President Franklin Roosevelt, a prominent Freemason, was a known member of the PRS. Some researchers believe that the PRS influenced Roosevelt in adopting the Great Seal of the United States (the unfinished pyramid and the all-seeing eye) on the dollar bill in 1935.

Although Hall had close ties with Freemasonry, he only officially joined the order 23 years after writing The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Indeed, on June 28, 1954, Hall was initiated as a Freemason into Jewel Lodge No. 374 in San Francisco (now the United Lodge). On December 8, 1973, Hall was recognized as a 33° Mason – the highest honor conferred by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite – at a ceremony held at the PRS.

While he projected the image of a mystic sage, Manly P. Hall’s personal life was rather troublesome. Hall was married twice, the first ending with his wife’s suicide; the second, almost 20 years later, was to a woman who was classified by the FBI as a certifiable “nuisance”. Both marriages were childless.

Hall’s second wife, Marie Schweikert Bauer, claimed that Hall had numerous affairs with men. She also believed that his last male interest, an occultist by the name of Daniel Fritz, might have been responsible for Manly P. Hall’s bizarre death in 1990. Indeed, Hall’s life ended in tragedy: His body was found under suspicious and horrifying circumstances: He had been dead for hours and had thousands of ants streaming from his nose and mouth. The case was never solved. Were the “dark arts” involved in his death?

An older Manly P. Hall in Masonic garments.

Although Hall wrote numerous books and gave hundreds of lectures throughout his life, The Secret Teachings of All Ages remains his magnum opus.

Interesting Theories Found in The Secret Teachings of All Ages

The Secret Teachings of All Ages is not merely a dictionary defining the meaning of symbols. It is a full and thorough revision of world history as seen by occultists. Through the chapters of his book, Hall sometimes proposes surprising theories that are, to this day, highly controversial. Here are two examples.

Occult Schools Originate from Atlantis

A depiction of Atlantis according to accounts from Ancient Greece.

On several occasions, Hall asserted that most of humanity’s occult knowledge originates from Atlantis, a lost continent that existed West of Greece thousands of years ago. During its Golden Age, Atlantis was the home of a highly advanced civilization that flourished until it was completely submerged in a gigantic cataclysm. Hall argued that this “Great Flood” was an important historical event that was recorded in the lore of several cultures around the world.

According to him, the Biblical stories of the race of Cain, of the Giants (Nephilim) and Noah’s Ark are all allusions to the deluge of Atlantis. Forced to evacuate their island, Atlanteans sailed to several parts of the planet, where they imparted their evolved knowledge to the locals.

“May it not have been that these demigods of a fabulous age who, Esdras-like, came out of the sea were Atlantean priests? All that primitive man remembered of the Atlanteans was the glory of their golden ornaments, the transcendency of their wisdom, and the sanctity of their symbols – the cross and the serpent. That they came in ships was soon forgotten, for untutored minds considered even boats as supernatural.

Wherever the Atlanteans proselyted they erected pyramids and temples patterned after the great sanctuary in the City of the Golden Gates. Such is the origin of the pyramids of Egypt, Mexico, and Central America. The mounds in Normandy and Britain, as well as those of the American Indians, are remnants of a similar culture. In the midst of the Atlantean program of world colonization and conversion, the cataclysms which sank Atlantis began. The Initiate-Priests of the Sacred Feather who promised to come back to their missionary settlements never returned, and after the lapse of centuries tradition preserved only a fantastic account of gods who came from a place where the sea now is.”

Although Atlanteans imparted great knowledge to the civilizations they encountered, they also introduced them to their darker impulses:

“From the Atlanteans the world has received not only the heritage of arts and crafts, philosophies and sciences, ethics and religions, but also the heritage of hate, strife, and perversion. The Atlanteans instigated the first war; and it has been said that all subsequent wars were fought in a fruitless effort to justify the first one and right the wrong which it caused. Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illumined Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light, withdrew from the ill-fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these Atlanteans established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first “divine” rulers. Nearly all the great cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the Atlantean Mystery rituals.”

The existence of Atlantis would indeed explain lots of unexplainable mysteries. However, concrete proof of its existence has never been found … or at least has never been revealed to non-initiates.

Sir Francis Bacon Edited the King James Version of the Bible … And Was Actually Shakespeare

Sir Francis Bacon.

Sir Francis Bacon was a philosopher and statesmen who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England in the 17th century. Dubbed the “father of empiricism”, Bacon is credited with developing the scientific method.

However, not unlike other influential figures in History, Bacon’s was also rumored to be a powerful occultist associated with the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons. Manly P. Hall believed that Bacon was one of the powerful figures sent by a “hidden order” to influence human history.

“Father of modern science, remodeler of modern law, editor of the modern Bible, patron of modem democracy, and one of the founders of modern Freemasonry, Sir Francis Bacon was a man of many aims and purposes. He was a Rosicrucian, some have intimated the Rosicrucian. If not actually the Illustrious Father C.R.C. referred to in the Rosicrucian manifestoes, he was certainly a high initiate of the Rosicrucian Order, and it is his activities in connection with this secret body that are of prime importance to students of symbolism, philosophy, and literature.”

In The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Hall dedicates an entire chapter to Sir Francis Bacon and the many ways he purportedly influenced Western civilization. First, Hall asserts that Bacon was given the task to oversee the translation of a new version of the Bible by King James himself – with whom he was very close.

“It was in recognition of Bacon’s intellectual accomplishments that King James turned over to him the translators’ manuscripts of what is now known as the King James Bible for the presumable purpose of checking, editing, and revising them. The documents remained in his hands for nearly a year, but no information is to be had concerning what occurred in that time. Regarding this work, William T. Smedley writes: “It will eventually be proved that the whole scheme of the Authorised Version of the Bible was Francis Bacon’s.”

The first edition of the King James Bible contains a cryptic Baconian headpiece. Did Bacon cryptographically conceal in the Authorized Bible that which he dared not literally reveal in the text – the secret Rosicrucian key to mystic and Masonic Christianity?”

As stated in this last paragraph, the cover of the first edition of the King James version contained various esoteric symbols associated with the Rosicrucian Order.

The frontispiece of the first edition of the King James version.

At the bottom of the cover is a unique symbol: A pelican feeding its young with its own blood.

This ancient symbol representing self-sacrifice is an important part Rosicrucian imagery (notice the rose on the cross).

Hall also believed that Sir Francis Bacon was actually Shakespeare – a theory that has been floating around for centuries.

“Scores of volumes have been written to establish Sir Francis Bacon as the real author of the plays and sonnets popularly ascribed to William Shakspere. An impartial consideration of these documents cannot but convince the open-minded of the verisimilitude of the Baconian theory. In fact those enthusiasts who for years have struggled to identify Sir Francis Bacon as the true “Bard of Avon” might long since have won their case had they emphasized its most important angle, namely, that Sir Francis Bacon, the Rosicrucian initiate, wrote into the Shakespearian plays the secret teachings of the Fraternity of R.C. and the true rituals of the Freemasonic Order, of which order it may yet be discovered that he was the actual founder.”

In the following paragraphs, Hall explains the many similarities between Bacon and the mysterious artist known as Shakespeare. While he presents a compelling case, he does not stop there. Hall also asserts that Bacon, like other important figures in History, faked his death to serve humanity under various pseudonyms.

“According to material available, the supreme council of the Fraternity of R.C. was composed of a certain number of individuals who had died what is known as the “philosophic death.” When the time came for an initiate to enter upon his labors for the Order, he conveniently “died” under somewhat mysterious circumstances. In reality he changed his name and place of residence, and a box of rocks or a body secured for the purpose was buried in his stead. It is believed that this happened in the case of Sir Francis Bacon who, like all servants of the Mysteries, renounced all personal credit and permitted others to be considered as the authors of the documents which he wrote or inspired.”

The Secret Teaching of All Ages contains many other theories that cause its readers to rethink human history as a whole.

In Conclusion

Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages is not only a “good read”: It is an eye-opening experience. It provides a much-needed look at an entire side of history that is all but ignored in everyday life. While one might not agree with Hall’s unabashed admiration of secret societies, the information his book imparts remains invaluable.

After decades of semi-obscurity, The Secret Teachings of All Ages is finding a new readership in the 21st century, as a growing number of people find themselves thirsty for occult truth. Far from fading into irrelevancy, this 91-year old book provides the knowledge necessary to better understand the forces at work today.


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