The Masonic Hall: Getting to Know a Crucial Author

The Masonic Hall: Getting to Know a Crucial Author


The Masonic Hall:

Getting to Know a Crucial Author

“To learn is to live, to study is to grow, and growth is the measurement of life, the mind must be taught to think, the heart to feel, and the hands to labor. When these have been educated to their highest points, then is the time to offer them to the service of their fellow man, not before.”

Manly Palmer Hall

Every esoteric member of our Craft is, or ought to be, acquainted with Illustrious Brother Manly Palmer Hall (1901-90). Known mostly for his magnum opus published in 1928, 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 (better known as The Secret Teachings of All Ages), Hall spent the latter seventy of his eighty-nine years dedicated to an inexhaustible study of spirituality, arcane wisdom, and comparative philosophy.

His extraordinary collection of published work and more than 8,000 lectures cover such a vast range of culture and occult topics, it’s hard to believe a single man accomplished such a feat. Author Mitch Horowitz, who was a source for this article, recounts a brilliant summation of Hall’s eclectic knowledge in his own book Occult America:

In an obscure astrology magazine of the 1940s, an Indian journalist wrote a personal profile of Hall, which held an interesting, if somewhat fanciful, passage: The first question Mr. Claude Bragdon, American mystic, asked Mr. Hall after their first meeting in New York in 1937 was: “Mr. Hall, how do you know so much more about the mathematics of Pythagoras than even the authorities on the subject?” Standing beside both these dear American friends of mine, I was wondering with trepidation in my heart what reply Mr. Hall would make. “Mr. Bragdon,” answered Mr. Hall quickly, unhesitatingly, and with a simultaneous flash of smile in his eyes and on his lips, “you are an occult philosopher. You know that it is easier to know things than to know how one knows those things.”

Regarding Freemasonry, Manly P. Hall is something of an enigma. Hall wouldn’t be initiated into the Craft until 1954 when he was made a Mason at Jewell Lodge 374 in California. Yet for more than twenty years prior, Hall had been credited as one of the foremost Masonic philosophers of the time. Between 1922 and 1923, and with no formal instruction on the matter, Hall published two books that garnered the attention of Masonic brethren around the world. Both The Initiates of the Flame and The Lost Keys of Freemasonry display clear comprehension of Masonic ritual, symbol, and thinking that even some lifelong members of the Craft struggle to comprehend.

While some critics to this day say these books lack credibility because Hall wasn’t a Mason, many esoteric thinkers in the Craft appreciate the author’s understanding and recognize the research that went into the writing. The Lost Keys of Freemasonry is an excellent exploration of Masonic symbolism and philosophy. (See Craftsmen Online’s Reading Room discussion on Chapter VI “The Qualifications of a True Mason.”)

During the 1920s, Hall quickly rose to celebrity status among the New Age followers of California. His income from regular public lectures and publications was supplemented by Caroline and Alma Estelle Lloyd, a mother and daughter with oil industry money. Caroline and Hall had common interests, and it was with her financial assistance that he traveled across Europe and Asia to study ancient spiritual practices and cultures of antiquity.

Returning from abroad, Hall was ready to dictate The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Released before his twenty-eighth birthday, the original 1928 publication was a massive 13 by 19 inches, complete with fifty-four original full color illustrations by artist J. Augustus Knapp. The first two editions, amounting to 1,100 copies, sold out in pre-sales at $100 a copy ($1,775 in today’s money), propelling its author into national acclaim.

The incredible success of the book and his celebrity as a speaker made possible the founding of the Philosophical Research Society in 1934. The PRS campus became Hall’s sanctuary, and personal library until his death (under suspicious circumstances, some say) in 1990. Throughout his life he would speak countless times before Masonic and general audiences on topics concerning Freemasonry, the occult, religion, ancient wisdom, and philosophy. His continued work and dedication to bettering the publics interest and understanding of Freemasonry was recognized by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in 1973 when he was coroneted a 33º Mason.

There is a genius in Halls texts and lectures evident in how he translated the arcana of mysticism for new generations despite his lack of a formal education—although that may be what distinguished him from others. His fresh and often poetic prose is easy to digest and is enjoyable to hear. I very much enjoy reading Hall’s books. I can imagine his voice and tone behind every word, and it was no surprise to learn that he had dictated the majority of his published works. Numerous lectures given at the PRS were recorded and are available today.

In reflecting on Manly P. Hall’s legacy, one cannot help but be inspired by the breadth of his curiosity and the depth of his understanding. His works, particularly Secret Teachings, remain essential guides for those navigating the rich waters of Masonic lore and esoteric wisdom. Halls journey from an uninitiated author to a recognized Masonic authority underscores the universal appeal and enduring significance of his research and teachings. His writings are not merely collections of information; they are invitations to a lifelong journey of discovery, encouraging readers to seek the light of knowledge and understanding in all their endeavors.

Seeking Light: Introduction to the Works of Manly P. Hall

Want to learn more about Manly P. Hall? Introduce some of his material to your lodges book club! Whether youre seeking further light personally or interested in bringing esoteric conversation to your lodge, this list of Manly P. Hall’s books and lectures will get you up to speed.

Manly P. Hall presents this Collection of Mystical Allegories” as a way to awaken the reader to the mystical truths of the world. Consisting of eight stories of ordinary people whose lives are changed by mystical experiences that lead them to realizing greater meanings in all things.

Halls first book is a wonderful introduction to ancient myths, esoteric philosophies, and the value of initiation—without revealing too much, leaving the reader eager for more. I recommend the recent Deluxe Edition, with an introduction by Mitch Horowitz.

A collection of essays and lectures pertaining to the story of the United States and the legend of its secret spiritual purpose and destiny. An easy and enjoyable read (also available as an audiobook).

His second published work is a delightful philosophical discourse on Freemasonry, its three degrees, and the legend surrounding legendary Grand Master Hiram Abiff. Its a quick read, and a wonderful way to start up a discussion on the deeper significance of the Craft’s symbolism and esoteric wisdom.

This is one of Craftsmen Online co-founder and podcaster extraordinaire W. Bro. Michael Arces favorites. Though it can be difficult to find a hard copy, they are out there (and at reasonable prices). This book interprets ancient initiatory rites of the Egyptians, explores magic, the Osirian cycle, and Platos entrance into the mysteries.

It should go without saying, but Secret Teachings is an amazing introduction to the world of esoteric wisdom. Though you can enjoy this tome cover to cover, the author intended it to be an encyclopedia and reference on the occult to guide seekers to greater light. In essence it can be regarded as a roadmap to the ancient mysteries, pointing you in the direction of many further areas of study. If youre so lucky to find an affordable original copy of the book printed at a massive 19 by 13 inches, snag it. The PRS re-released a readers version in the 1990s that made it much more accessible. I also recommend the audiobook which is as close to Halls original dictation of the material as one can get.

Mitch Horowitz brings Halls magnum opus to the modern age with this companion to The Secret Teachings of All Ages. It also provides a wonderful biography of Hall’s early years, and the legacies of Secret Teachings and the Philosophical Research Society. I also recommend both Horowitzs Occult America and Modern Occultism which include further Hall biography.

Louis Sahagan, award-winning journalist from the Los Angeles Times, presents this colorful account of the life of Manly P. Hall. This biography shows how a young Canadian immigrant, raised by his grandmother, was able to rise into an international celebrity and master of the mysteries.

This collection of lectures is available through the Manly Hall Society YouTube channel.

The Golden Verses of Pythagoras
Pythagorean Theory of Number 1: Basic Philosophy of Numeration
Pythagorean Theory of Number 2: The Tetractys and Motion of Number
Pythagorean Theory of Number 3: The 47th Proposition
Pythagorean Theory of Number 4: (poor audio)
Pythagorean Theory of Number 5: The Symbolism of Numbers
Pythagoras on the Therapeutic Value of Music and Poetry

Manly P. Hall’s works are a treasure for anyone ready to embark on a journey of Masonic and esoteric discovery. His writings offer invaluable insights into mystical traditions and symbolism. Whether for group study in a lodge or personal exploration, these books and lectures are essential resources. Dive into Hall’s profound wisdom and let it illuminate your path to greater understanding.

Written by: Bro. Jason W. Short

Presently, Jason is the Treasurer of Aurora Grata-Day Star Lodge 647, a Royal Arch Mason with Nassau Chapter 109, and a 32º Sublime Prince of the Scottish Rite Valley of New York City.


Jason Short
Brother Robert Burns

Brother Robert Burns



Poet Laureate, Activist, Freemason

Robert Burns, celebrated Scottish poet, is considered a seminal figure in 18th century literature. Born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland on January 25, 1759. Robert was born the eldest of seven children born to William and Agnes Burns. Robert’s father as a tenant farmer struggled to support his family. Because of this, Burns had to work on the family farm from a young age. However, at the age of fifteen, while working the harvest season with his field partner, Helen Kilpatrick, Burns felt his first love which sparked his passion for love and poetry, and he soon wrote his first poem; “Handsome Nell”. 

(Portrait of Robert Burns, January 25, 1759 — July 21, 1796)

Bruns began to pursue poetry (and Love) with fervency and zeal. The traditional folk songs and ballads of Scotland, as well as the works of contemporary poets such as Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson heavily influenced his early poems. His early works focused on nature’s beauty, the simplicity of rural life, and the struggles of the working class.

In 1777, at the age of eighteen, Burns left the family farm to find work and support his family. He worked as a flax-dresser, ploughman and tutor, but continued to write poetry in his free time. At the age of twenty-one, in 1781, Brother Burns joined the Lodge of St. David, Tarbolton, Scotland, a significant step as Freemasonry was an influential and respected organization in 18th century Scotland. The Fraternity provided Brother Burns with a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and an opportunity for self-improvement and personal growth. This likely led to the publication of his first collection of poetry, “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect,” in 1786 which was well-received by critics and the public and established our Brother as a significant literary figure in Scotland.

Robert Burns is famous for writing poetry to charm and impress women. However, he had a special interest in Jean Armour and courted her for several years before they married on July 4, 1788. Together they had twelve children. Even with his marriage, Burns continued to have extramarital affairs which resulted in more children with other women. Jean, the daughter of a local operative stonemason, remained devoted to Burns throughout their marriage.

In 1788, Burns began to collaborate with James Johnson in compiling an anthology titled “The Scots Musical Museum”. During the last decade of his life, Burns devoted himself to editing and revising traditional folk songs for this volume and for the “Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs.” These publications played a crucial role in preserving elements of Scotland’s cultural heritage, featuring renowned songs such as “My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose” and “Auld Land Syne.”

As a poet, Brother Burns possessed exceptional oratory skills and his speeches at Masonic gatherings were highly esteemed. Because of this he earned the title of Lodge’s Poet Laureate. His participation in Freemasonry had a notable impact on his literary works. Many of his poems and songs were written for Masonic events and ceremonies and contain references to Masonic symbols and themes. One of his most famous poems, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That,” is a tribute to the fraternity’s ideals of Brotherhood and equality. Additionally, his poem “The Brotherly Ties of Friendship” is a clear allusion to the principles of Freemasonry. Freemasonry’s emphasis on equality greatly influenced Brother Burns’ beliefs and poetry. As a vocal advocate for the rights of the working class, many of his poems and songs reflect his belief in the importance of equality among all individuals.

Unfortunately, Brother Burns’ later years were plagued by personal and professional difficulties. His extramarital affairs and financial struggles caused tension in his marriage and damaged his reputation. He also faced challenges in gaining recognition and respect from his peers. His health started declining rapidly, suffering from various illnesses such as rheumatism and heart disease. These difficulties ultimately led to his untimely death at the age of 37 on July 21, 1796, the same day his wife gave birth to their twelfth child, Maxwell.

Brother Burns’ literary legacy endures despite the hardships and struggles he faced throughout his life. His poems and songs remain celebrated and revered, serving as a testament to his skill as a poet and his dedication to the ideals of Freemasonry earning him the title of National Bard of Scotland.

Written by WB Todd M. Paterek
Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM

Masonic Portrait of Brother General George Washington

Masonic Portrait of Brother General George Washington


The Masonic Portrait of Brother General George Washington

George Washington is arguably the most famous Freemason. His portrait, painted by William Joseph Williams is a true Masonic treasure.

Portrait of George Washington

This portrait was painted by William Joseph Williams (1759-1823) who was “widely regarded as the first American portraitist.” Williams agreed to give the portrait of Brother Washington to the local lodge of the Freemasons, Alexandria Masonic Lodge No. 22 in Virginia, of which Washington was a member and Past Master. Lodge officers wrote Washington in 1793 that it would be a source of the most refined gratification the tracing out and contemplating [of] the various ornaments of his character in the resemblance of his person. Williams’s portrait shows Washington as a Virginia Past Master, with Masonic regalia and jewels.

In this portrait, Washington noticeably lacks the charisma of his earlier portraits, and his eyes lack the fire he once had. He comes across more as a common curmudgeon than the American hero we usually envision. Also of note, Williams did not edit out Washington’s smallpox-scarred pockmarked cheeks, the bags under his eyes, the awkward set of his jaw (from numerous dental issues), a scar on Washington’s left cheek, and a mole under his right ear. During the contentious 1790s, Washington lost some of his impenetrable aura and was attacked like any other politician. Just as people were more willing to point out his failures, artists were less willing to edit out his blemishes. This is a portrait of a vulnerable, tired, battle-hardened geriatric who had given thirty years of indispensable and sacrificial service to his country. The indispensable man was spent. This portrait is believed to be the most accurate depiction of Washington ever created.

The original pastel-on-paper Masonic portrait of Washington is in the possession of Alexandria–Washington Lodge No. 22, Alexandria, Virginia.

Written by Wor. Bro. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA
Trustee Chairman and Historian, Jephtha Lodge #494
Co-Editor, Craftsmen Online NY Masonic History column
32° Scottish Rite,  Valley of Rockville Centre
Companion of Asharokan Chapter No. 288, Royal Arch Masons
Member of Suffolk Council No. 76, Cryptic Masons
Author, “Long Island Freemasons,” Arcadia Publishing, 2020