The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Palmer Hall (Hardcover 2008)
The full title on most editions of this book is - "The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy". Which just goes to prove that real books don't have short titles.
This is the great work of Manly Palmer Hall and illustrator J. Augustus Knapp. These two artisans created one of the most important compendiums of its kind in this book. Perhaps the only book to tackle the wide array of cultures, mythologies, and antiquarian histories. It has been the source of controversy within the esoteric communities for almost a century.
This book is both famed in it's own Rosy Crux circles, and at the same time is so little known that there are probably thousands of books that have used it as a reference work (some may not even know that their quotes from other great references are actually taking their inspiration from Hall who dedicated a great deal of his life just to this book's complettion. The earliest editions are nearly three feet tall and come with all 200 illustrations in full color, and it is one of the books I have ever seen that truly can be called a work of art - the traditions of illuninated manuscripts and other post-Christian era occult works. I forewarn the potential reader that this is not an ordinary book. Even getting through a few chapters can take all the concentration a gifted scholar is able to muster. Yet if you take the time to absorb the wealth of knowledge contained herein - you will have a better education in mysticism and the occult than most.
To show the wide acceptance of this book as a reference work - Here is how Publisher's Weekly describes it for the masses: "In 1928, a 20-something Renaissance man named Manly Hall self-published a vast encyclopedia of the occult, believing that "modern" ideas of progress and materialism were displacing more important and ancient modes of knowledge. Hall's text has become a classic reference, dizzying in its breadth: various chapters explore Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, alchemy, cryptology, Tarot, pyramids, the Zodiac, Pythagorean philosophy, Masonry and gemology, among other topics. This affordably priced edition would be vastly improved by a new foreword, placing the work in some kind of historical and critical context and introducing readers to the basic contours of Hall's sweeping corpus. Instead, we have a disciple's adulatory 1975 foreword, which merely parrots the same themes of mystery and esoterica that are espoused in the book. Readers who are unfamiliar with Hall's work will be at a loss in ferreting out which chapters have stood the test of time and which have been vigorously debunked (like the one on Islam, which actually uses novelist Washington Irving as a primary source on the prophet Muhammad). However, they will also marvel at the sheer scope of Hall's research and imagination, and at J. Augustus Knapp's famous illustrations, including a 16-page color insert. " - Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
For once ole Amazon has a product review that is accurate and useful : "The Secret Teachings of All Ages is perhaps the most comprehensive and complete esoteric encyclopedia ever written. The sheer scope and ambition of this book are stunning. In this book Manly P. Hall has successfully distilled the essence of more arcane subjects than one would think possible. He covers Rosicrucianism and other secret societies, alchemy, cryptology, Kabbalah, Tarot, pyramids, the Zodiac, Pythagorean philosophy, Masonry, gemology, Nicholas Flammel, the identity of William Shakespeare, The Life and Teachings of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, The Qabbalah, The Hiramic Legend, The Tree of the Sephiroth, Mystic Christianity, and there are more than 200 illustrations included here. This is essential reading for anyone wishing to explore esoteric knowledge." - Amazon product review.
"Into this volume has been compressed the quintessence of a colossal learning. It is a living human document, pulsating with the mental and spiritual vibrations of a profound thinker who takes knowledge for his province and reduces whole libraries to a single tome." - George Barron, Curator of the De Young Museum of San Francisco, in his tribute to this remarkable work.
There is a big difference between this newer edition and manly of the scarce but available older hardcover editions. At the end of this article I have provided a few links to several older editions that collectors may want to consider for purchasing, you can make up your own mind. - My opinion is simple. This newer paperback edition is one of the worst examples of reprint and bastardization of one of the 20th century's masterworks. Yes inevitable as the industry is about selling out to the lowest common dollar, this would not have happened if Hall were alive to see his great book reduced to a college reader text. Trust me even the smaller 80s editions in hardcover will be well worth the couple of extra dollars that may be incurred.
And if you are knowledgeable of Manly P. Hall and this text, you already understand. I have had this for many years in my personal collection. I believe it is one of top ten books you can read before you die, and one of the classics ever written in human literature.
Even modern Publisher Llewelyn has nothing but high praises for 'Secret Teachings'...
"Simply put, this is the most beautiful and complete occult book ever published. It represents a lifetime of research into the mythology, symbolism, and magical practices of countless cultures. From the secrets of Isis to the teachings of mystic Christianity, nearly every occult dogma imaginable is represented here. The book is full of giant illustrations, some of which fold out into a magnificent two-page splendor. This is the definitive guide to secret societies, famous figures, and more a must for every personal library." - Llewellyn New Times
There are editions available on the open retail market these days if you just want a reader copy, and there are older collectable editions that are worth thousands of dollars, that is if you can even acquire one. I hope the listing below gives you a fair crossection to consider.