Manly Palmer Hall (1901-1990) is quite the Masonic enigma; he only joined Freemasonry over 20 years after writing his ground-breaking Secret Teachings Throughout the Ages, a work that is still well renowned amongst Freemasons today. He was finally initiated in 1954, but had been writing about Freemasonry and the occult for decades. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society in 1934, and lectured prolifically on all matter of occult subjects such as Freemasonry, ancient religions, astrology, philosophy and reincarnation. His library collection included many works on mysticism including alchemy, esoterica and Hermetica. Hall is still held in high esteem on both sides of the Atlantic, and his mystical teachings still resonate today, especially in the Masonic community.
Hall, speaking decades before he became a Freemason, talked of how he believed Freemasonry to be a fraternity within a fraternity – there being a hidden Masonry that concealed the outer, more visible society, this idea being similar to Waite’s ‘Masonry behind Masonry’:
‘FREEMASONRY is a fraternity within a fraternity—an outer organization concealing an inner brotherhood of the elect.’
Hall went on, revealing his thoughts in the lecture, which stretched around the philosophies of mankind, into the tarot, ancient religions and into other avenues of Truth seeking, but he kept a place for Freemasonry close to his ideas, and this can be seen here with his belief that Masons were ‘dwellers upon the Threshold’ of an inner circle of Masters that are behind all the prodigious secret societies:
‘In each generation only a few are accepted into the inner sanctuary of the Work, but these are veritable Princes of the Truth and their sainted names shall be remembered in future ages together with the seers and prophets of the elder world. Though the great initiate-philosophers of Freemasonry can be counted upon one’s fingers, yet their power is not to be measured by the achievements of ordinary men. They are dwellers upon the Threshold of the Innermost, Masters of that secret doctrine which forms the invisible foundation of every great theological and rational institution.’
An influence on Hall was Max Heindel (1865-1919), who founded the Rosicrucian Fellowship in California. There was certainly a fashion for founding Rosicrucian Orders around this time such as the AMORC in the US and of course Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross in England, the philosophy of Rosicrucianism being attractive as it combined a more Christian type of mysticism, Hall also considering the Rosicrucians as a central Order. Hall also spoke kindly of Cagliostro, discussing how he prophesised the fall of the French throne and that he was ‘no more a charlatan than was Plato’. Like Waite and Crowley, Hall created his own tarot deck, the Knapp-Hall Tarot, with J. Augustus Knapp designing the cards in collaboration with Hall.
Hall certainly explored many mystical ideas, his works covering many areas of esotericism and mysticism, such as Freemasonry, ancient religions, astrology, philosophy and the tarot. He examined the hidden mysteries of nature and science, explored the deeper secrets of the universe and tried to make sense of them, leaving for us a unique body of work that will continue to guide us.