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“Master of the Mysteries: New Revelations…” Review & Interview with Author Louis Sahagun

Master of the Mysteries

Master of the Mysteries

With a career that spanned decades and brought him into contact with some of the most notable celebrities and political figures of his time, American mystic Manly Palmer Hall left an indelible mark on the twentieth century. His optimistic brand of spiritual philosophy aimed to make the teachings of the ancient world—or, at least, his perceptions thereof—accessible to people living in a rapidly modernizing world. It was Hall’s mysterious death in 1990 that attracted the attention of journalist Louis Sahagun, whose research in composing Hall’s obituary inspired the extraordinary biography Master of the Mysteries: New Revelations on the Life of Manly Palmer Hall. Now available in a new, expanded edition from Process Media, this in-depth look at the man behind the eclectic metaphysical theories takes a simultaneously honest and humane approach to its subject.

“Occult” isn’t quite the right word to fit the work of Manly P. Hall. While he had a voracious appetite for hidden knowledge, his intent in writing books like 1928’s landmark, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, was to reveal this information to a wider audience. He lectured and wrote prolifically in order to bring what he felt were the overlooked aspects of ancient wisdom to an audience increasingly fixated on scientific explanations. The fact that he only achieved a sixth grade education didn’t hold him back from expounding on the material he encountered variously in libraries, Rosicrucian centers, and magic shops. Hall’s resulting philosophies were a combination of fact, hearsay, and personal beliefs with an undeniably American spin.

Good luck played a critical role in Hall’s success. He seemed to be a man who was consistently in the right place at the right time, possessing a natural charm that drew people into his orbit. Whether it was youthful encounters with Harry Houdini or fortune smiling upon a young twenty-something transplant to Los Angeles by providing him with wealthy benefactors, the abandonment and rootlessness of Hall’s early life seems to have been counterbalanced once he arrived in California at a time when the public was hungry for alternative paths to enlightenment. Master of Mysteries does a beautiful job of weaving together Hall’s encounters with Hollywood celebrities, political luminaries, and fellow seekers in a fashion that feels natural while revealing elements of the book’s subject’s personality. For example, Hall’s friendship with actor Bela Lugosi, forever linked with his iconic 1931 performance as Dracula, shows that Hall was unafraid to lend some theatricality to his public persona. Though friends warned the mystic of Lugosi’s “darkness,” their friendship was a genuine one that found Hall at the actor’s side through Lugosi’s struggles with heroin addiction and illness.

Hall’s metaphysical philosophy is, at its heart, a populist one: He lectured to the general public, made his writings widely available, and had an open door policy towards those who wished to consult with him directly. He dedicated his life to amassing a library of over fifty thousand books representing esoteric writings from around the globe, maintained to this day at the headquarters of the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) that he founded. There is a certain wide-eyed desire to believe that flows through Hall’s writing, taking ancient sources at face value and even embellishing upon them as he saw fit. This patchwork approach to his esotericism reflects a certain aspect of the American spirit: emphasizing the bits and pieces he appreciated and synthesizing them into a unique whole.

Hall’s work was a product of its time and place, which means that it wasn’t all gentle self-elevation and even-playing-field spiritual seeking—a fact that Sahagun addresses candidly in his book. Hall carried over some of the racist ideas found in Madame Blavatsky’s theosophy, including the notion that white people are more “spiritually advanced,” and also adhered to certain eugenicist ideas, including promoting birth control to ensure that souls had a higher potential of reincarnating into more upwardly mobile families. Hall was also a gung-ho patriot throughout his life, disappointing many a young person who reached out to him during the 1960s for advice on avoiding the draft. Unlike many of his peers in the world of spiritual guru-dom, Hall advised young people to do their part and help fight off the encroaching communist menace by supporting the Vietnam War.

Further complicating Hall’s legacy is the fact that imperfections in his personal life meant he was far from the serene, self-controlled master his acolytes believed him to be. His two marriages were turbulent, due at least in part to Hall’s complicated relationship with sex. Hall’s second wife, Marie, claimed that he had numerous affairs with men, and he may have been involved in such a relationship with the man who many believe is responsible for his death. The final portion of the book is dedicated to the Halls’ involvement with Daniel Fritz—an occultist who, among other pursuits, briefly ran a facility dedicated to dolphin midwifery in Hawaii before winding up in Los Angeles. Manly Hall’s failing health meant he needed a full-time caretaker and, after hearing Marie expound on the couple’s wealth, Fritz was all too quick to volunteer his services. Hall died on August 28, 1990 at the age of ninety, but the circumstances of his passing are still a source of controversy among those who knew him.

However, the lurid details of Hall’s last years and the years of tumult experienced by the PRS in the wake of legal proceedings have not overshadowed the man’s work and writings. Hall’s optimism and boundless curiosity continue to inspire spiritual seekers. His tome, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, remains in print, its lavishly illustrated pages waiting to be explored by generations to come.

Heathen Harvest had the opportunity to speak to biographer Louis Sahagun about the enduring appeal of Manly Palmer Hall. Over the course of the conversation, Sahagun discussed his first exposure to Hall, his experiences researching the man’s life, and his own feelings on the occult.


Heathen Harvest: In the book’s introduction, you talk about writing an all-too-brief obituary for Manly Hall after his death in 1990. Was this your first research into his life or had you had a prior interest in Hall?

Louis Sahagun: That’s a very good question! Roughly twenty-five years before that fateful evening when I got the tip about the death of this man described to me by an anonymous caller as “the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century,” I had crossed paths with Manly by way of his Secret Teachings of All Ages, which was laid out on a coffee table in the home of an internationally known rock ‘n’ roll drummer. Understand that at that time I was very young and very naive, and I remember leafing through the book and thinking, “what on earth is THIS? Yikes!” I didn’t know who made the book, but I kept looking up at Frosty—the nickname of this drummer—and thinking, “oh my gosh, is there some connection here? Does he read this thing?”

The evening that I got the call about Manly’s death in August of 1990, I was working a night shift job, and it was just me and the night editor. We were going to go from 5:00pm to midnight, writing about murders, drive-bys, car wrecks, and what have you. Early that evening, I got a call from a fellow who said, “the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century has died, you better get an obituary ready.” At that time, we had all kinds of devices from United Press International, Associated Press, and so on. All these different devices were churning out news of the evening: local, national, international, all night long. I bring that up because I received that call and I told him that I hadn’t heard of any such thing. “What greatest philosopher?,” I asked, to which he responded, “Manly Palmer Hall.”

After hanging up, I went downstairs to our archives, our clip files that reporters use for reference, dating back to the 1910s. I looked up Manly Palmer Hall and, lo and behold, there are literally thousands of news articles that had been written in the Los Angeles Times about this fellow. For instance, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, apparently some reporter at the Los Angeles Times decided to see what Mr. Hall had to say about this invasion. They wrote articles: “Manly Palmer Hall says not to be too alarmed!” So I realized that this guy was somebody. I walked back upstairs and told the editor that a local fellow named Manly Palmer Hall, this eccentric philosopher, just died today according to an anonymous caller. The editor looked up at the clock and told me I had an hour to turn in ten paragraphs. I wrote this obituary, not knowing until years later that the anonymous caller was the fellow that the Los Angeles Police Department believes killed Manly Hall in what remains an unsolved Hollywood murder mystery. I write my ten paragraphs, and I remember getting letters: “Mr. Sahagun, a measly ten paragraphs for Mr. Hall?,” as though I had anything to do with it!

HH: At what point did you decide you wanted to tell the full story of Hall’s life?

LS: Not long after I wrote that obituary, I was promoted to Denver Bureau Chief. I lived in Denver for the next six years, which is interesting because while I was out, a different reporter picked up the story and wrote a number of articles on the bloodbath legal war over rights to Manly’s books, property, and money. The battle was between his wife and his family against the people he was grooming to take over the PRS—the same people who the police believed conned him into rewriting his will in a way that would benefit them. This all-out legal battle is going on and this reporter got in touch with me, telling me to take a look at this, that the guy I wrote about had a pretty interesting legal battle around him.  When I came back to Los Angeles in 1998, I made a few calls and learned about the homicide investigation.

I also began to get a sense that mystics built this city. The architects, judges, lawyers, and bankers—many of them back at the turn of the last century—were Freemasons and Rosicrucians. It wasn’t unusual back then. Southern California was filling up with these free spirits and free thinkers who were pouring in from points East to start new lives, to stake flags in what many of them believed to be, in fact, a kind of promised land that was unfolding here. It was also a place where the movie industry was starting to sprout amid orange groves and oil derricks. By the late teens, there were incredible gravity-fed engineering marvels of concrete that were bringing water down into this same area, watering it for subdivisions. These mystically inclined individuals, these spiritual seekers were informing the growth of this city at that time.

Among those people, those multi-millionaires, those kingdom builders, was Manly Palmer Hall—a guy who was abandoned by his father shortly after his birth, whose mother had him for about two years and threw him over to grandma and said, “you take him.” Manly’s grandmother was peripatetic, so she takes him from where he was born in Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, and heads down into the United States where they immediately start crisscrossing the country, meeting fascinating people all over the place. They read together by lamplight in various hotels from California to Arizona and all over the East Coast, back and forth. His grandmother died when he was around eighteen.

Once his grandmother died, Manly was alone; he had no friends. He quit school in the sixth grade. He went back to live with his mother in Santa Monica. While Manly was with his grandmother, his mother took up Rosicrucianism and was a congregant in a Rosicrucian Center in Oceanside, CA, run by a guy named Max Heindel. He had his own spinoff of Madame Blavatsky’s occultism. Manly has got nothing to do, so this big lunk of a kid with no roots makes his way where else? To Santa Monica Pier, where there were all kinds of wonders to see, including a little, tiny shop run by Sydney Brownson, a phrenologist. Manly peeked through the window and saw these maps of the human skull and this little fellow with a long white beard. He introduced himself, and now this six-foot-four kid and this little, tiny old man become best friends. And this little old man starts regaling Manly with stories and information about esoteric schools: Heindel, Blavatsky, and many more. They talked about phrenology, all these schools of thought and all these mantras for better living. Brownson notices that Manly is just absorbing it like a sponge. This kid is a really fast learner!

Manly, in my opinion, was roaring ahead at ninety miles per hour to impress his mother: “Look mom! Look what I know about the things you like.” He never knew her. He never knew his dad. His mother gave him away to his grandmother. There are reasons to think that he desperately tried to reconnect, to meld with a family, and one way to do that was to impress mom with his knowledge of the very things she loved so much.

Louis Sahagun

Louis Sahagun

HH: How did someone from such humble circumstances come to achieve such a high profile?

LS: Brownson said to Manly, “look kid, I give these lectures down the way. I think you’re actually ready to tackle one yourself.” And Manly took him up on it! There were about a half a dozen senior citizens, and they made about a dollar and forty-five cents in donations, which they celebrated by buying some banana splits. Next thing you know, Manly is giving more and more lectures. There was a church in Los Angeles—it was one of many churches like it: an assortment of seekers and liberal thinkers that didn’t ascribe to a formal Christian theology. They gave lectures on all kinds of ideas that would help people live better lives and aspire to bigger, better things in this unfolding Canaan, this little paradise in Southern California. Manly started giving lectures there and when the minister suddenly quit, Manly Hall filled that position at the age of twenty-one.

Among the congregants in that church was Carolyn Lloyd and her daughter Estelle, who were heiresses to one of the largest oil fortunes in California. Carolyn went to Manly and said, “young man, you will never have to worry about money.” And he didn’t! He was receiving regular payments from her and her daughter for most of his life.

There he is, this kid. You know where he came from, and now he’s got people coming into his office and telling him about their most private, personal crises and asking him what they should do about them. They’re also asking, “Mr. Hall, who is Madame Blavatsky? I would like to know more.” What Hall would do is take these questions and go to the city library and immerse himself in books on these subjects. Then, the next Sunday, he would get up on stage in his throne-like chair and he would speak for ninety minutes without notes and without attribution—he would never say where the information came from—on Egyptian religion or Jewish mysticism. This is how he became a walking encyclopedia on these various schools.

Hall fell in love with the process of learning at a very young age, and one of his most powerful messages throughout his life was to learn: learn to live, love to learn.

He is just impossibly young, and since he didn’t attribute the information that he was dispensing in lectures or in writing, people came to think of him as a seer, and why not? Remember, this was an age where Mount Everest had not been climbed yet, the Amazon had not been explored yet, and there was still a “Darkest Africa.” The atom had not been split. It was a time when people were throwing trust around like confetti, and not unreasonably! Hall, it seemed, was channeling enduring, eternal truths from the great beyond, and he never said he wasn’t. When they called him “Doctor Hall,” he never said, “by the way, I didn’t finish sixth grade.” He developed quite a following that mushroomed in the thirties to include movie stars, directors, university presidents, and politicians. By the forties, one of his students was Sam Yorty, who would later become one of the most crooked, mean, and racially biased mayors in the history of Los Angeles. Secretly, Yorty had been a student of Hall’s since 1927. Manly was best friends with California Governor Goodwin Knight, who wouldn’t tie his shoes without consulting the alignment of the stars first. President Truman, who was a freemason, had Hall’s books on his shelf.

HH: During the extensive research process for this book, were there any moments that especially stand out?

LS: Oh, his first wife Fay! Fay B. de Ravenne was a secretary of Manly’s when he was putting together Secret Teachings, and it’s fascinating that he did not include her name in the acknowledgements where he thanks all those who helped him with the book. She was an astrologer, she wanted to be a writer, and she had aspirations of being an actress. She was also just gorgeous. I found the only known photographs of her in existence. They were hidden between pieces of cardboard in the back of some cobwebby files in a forgotten office in the PRS. I had permission to look at every single stitch of every single page in the whole place; it was a promise I got before I began. In looking at everything, I pulled out of this piece of cardboard, I opened it up, and there she was in all her glory. I looked at the photo and tears came to my eyes because she was such a tragic figure who committed suicide because she was haunted by demons. She had a brain tumor and these demons were telling her to come to the other side of life and help them advance their school of thought, and they won. I dried my eyes, and I went into Manly’s library to the executive director of the PRS. He looked at me wondering what on earth I was doing there, because I came in unannounced, and I said, “may I introduce you to Manly Hall’s first wife, Fay?” I slid that eight-by-ten photo under his nose.  That’s the William Mortensen photo that’s reproduced in the book. I believe that Manly’s second wife, Marie Bauer, attempted to purge his files of every mention of Fay after they married or while she was trying to seduce him, but she missed that one because it was hidden.

HH: That must have been a magical moment in your research!

LS: Absolutely! Nothing short of magical. The more I read about Fay, the more fascinated I became with her, but I had no idea what she looked like. I kept thinking, “who are you? Show yourself, Fay!” And then she did.

HH: One of the interesting things about the depiction of Hall in Master of Mysteries is how he didn’t seem to focus on the practical applications of magic. It didn’t seem like he taught people how to learn to read minds or talk to the dead like many of his contemporaries.

LS: Actually, he did do that; he did it quite a lot. I think this is very interesting. In his early days, he’s just hauling off and writing about things like the rites of the Egyptian priesthood, where the final test would be to walk through the air across a chasm with boiling lava below. If you could make it to the other side through faith and true understanding, then okay! You’re in. Or he’d talk about sending adepts off in a little dinghy in a stormy sea and if they made it back alive, then yeah, the gods think they might want you to stick around.

Look how multifaceted this is: He would also dangle ideas in front of his audience. He’d give lectures on leprechauns, let’s say. He would write about leprechauns and fairies and sprites as real spiritual entities that certain people could make contact with and ally with for better harmony with nature, better living as a human being, as a father, as a mother, and so on, because you’d have these things on your side. Get the picture? He would give a lecture, and the next thing you know, two weeks later someone would approach his secretary: “Can I see Mr. Hall? I have something very important to tell him,” with a big smile. The secretary would get up, Manly would pad out: “How can I help you?” “Manly, I just want you to know I saw the leprechaun in Griffith Park in Los Angeles the other day! I know what you were saying, and I’m just so happy because it means I’ve reached that threshold like you.” That happened all the time.

But you know what else happened? People started being hounded by terrifying spiritual entities. They were unbalanced to begin with; they started playing around with these notions, and what seemed to be pretty easy prescriptions for hooking up with entities and spirits and powers which, in my opinion, were nonsense to begin with. But these were unschooled working stiffs. They went crazy with it, and Hall would watch them deteriorate into madness, lose their families, lose their jobs, and wind up on the street.

By the fifties, Everest had been climbed, the world had been explored, and the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik. People were no longer throwing their trust around like confetti. The atom bomb had been dropped. So now, when Manly Hall went to USC to give a lecture on Egyptians or pyramid builders, he started to run into issues. People weren’t trying to be mean, and nobody was trying to hurt his feelings, but after the lecture, people would approach him saying, “Mr. Hall, I have a PhD in the very subject you’re discussing right now. What you just said, where exactly did you get that because I published a book and I never heard anything at all like what you said. In fact, this is what occurred, so where did you get that?” After this started to happen, Manly began to retreat in the late fifties and early sixties, even though he maintained a large following.

Manly Hall & Fay B. de Ravenne

Manly Hall & Fay B. de Ravenne

HH: One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how Hall related to the counterculture of the late sixties and early seventies. He held on to a lot of his more conservative ideas, but he was curious about drugs and environmentalism and other emerging issues.

LS: I loved that because he actually tried a number of new things in the seventies. He thought environmentalism was taking off as an important part of American culture for all the reasons that you know. But Hall’s not going to settle for Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Oh, no. He’s going to go back to the fairies and the sprites, and he’s going to launch an occult environmental movement all his own. It’s interesting that he had established close ties with cultish New Age groups. But why? Remember in the fifties, his best friends included Goodwin Knight, Sam Yorty, and many others. But by the seventies, those kinds of people weren’t calling Manly Hall up anymore for anything. He wasn’t invited to dinners with dignitaries like he had been in the twenties, thirties, and forties. All that was gone. The people who made the city tick didn’t want to be anywhere near Manly Hall. They outgrew him. He was some kind of strange, dusty, old, mystic weirdo, they thought. But he was a big deal with a new crowd of seekers—people like the Source Family on Sunset Boulevard. He gave them all new names that he got from ancient texts, and then they attempted to use his prescriptions for aligning nature spirits with this incredible, unbelievable, slapstick, and heartbreaking mystical rite that included stuffing potatoes with intimate solutions, shall we say.

HH: That’s an unforgettable moment in the book! It’s interesting that there was this “sex magick” aspect to that episode when Hall seemed so reluctant to talk about sex publicly. He seems to have had a very complicated relationship with sex.

LS: When he was a young man, he wrote about the magic and power of chastity. When he was about to marry his first wife, he wrote an essay saying, “well, you know a lot of the great mystics were actually married.” Then late in life, when he starts to fall apart, he surrenders his body and his business and everything to this group of conmen. This gets complicated…

So, Manly’s health is fading. Marie Hall believes she was chosen by the gods to unearth a secret cache of unpublished Shakespeare plays and keys to peace on earth and other things that were buried secretly in the early 1600s on the East Coast of the United States by Lord Francis Bacon. He apparently secretly took a boat across the Atlantic and buried this information so Marie could find it and give it to a more modern age to save it from itself. The “Bruton Vault,” she called it.

Late in their lives the Halls are attending a lecture on the west side of Los Angeles. Manly is in a wheelchair by this time, and Marie is trying to save the world. This guy, Dan Fritz, who quit his job as a bank teller to become an alternative medicine healer and sorcerer, is talking to them. At that time, Marie would tell anyone who would listen that Manly had 300 million dollars worth of gems and relics in his vault at PRS. Fritz introduces himself and sizes them up immediately, and says he’s going to give Manly his health back. And Marie? He says he’ll teach her how to use a computer so she won’t have to give lectures to twenty people here, ten there. Instead, she can tell the whole world about the Bruton Vault, all at once, 24/7. He insinuated himself into their lives, and next thing you know he’s got two young ladies applying oils to Manly’s legs. He also installs a spa in the house. His group gets Marie a computer, and they teach her how to use it to send messages out the world about the Bruton Vault to help her find it because the gods want little Marie to save the world from itself.

Meanwhile, Dan Fritz had borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Halls to develop a product inspired by an old mystic named Edmond Szekely. He was one of the large number of mystics from the thirties who came up with an idea of eating certain foods and avoiding others. He also believed in the magical powers of enemas. He claimed to have found some documents in the secret archives of the Vatican that he turned into a book. In it, he writes bluntly, in black and white: “…and the Lord said no one shall know God unless it’s through the water angel.” What’s the water angel, you might ask? The water angel is a gourd that’s hollowed out and dried, and you stick a tube in it, hang it in a tree, and stick it in your rear to cleanse yourself. This was the way in fact to heaven. Forget the Ten Commandments—this is way past those. I’m talking enema calling card to heaven. Fritz started building these things that he called water angels and he started applying them to Manly Hall.

Marie knew all of this. She watched it. She let it all go by because she was going to spread the word about the Bruton Vault. She saw, she gave money, she made loans, gifts, and much more because her work was that important. She walks by the bathroom one day, and there is Dan Fritz, once again, giving Manly the water angel treatment and also masturbating him at the same time.

I interviewed Manly Hall’s family doctor several times. No one else talked to him; I did. At the time, he was in charge of the hospital at the Federal Correction Institute in Lompoc, California. He told me they’d come in and Marie would say they never consummated their marriage, that Manly had always had affairs with men: “I couldn’t stand it, I can’t stand it, and now he’s doing it again with Dan Fritz.” Manly would just shyly look away. Manly was—and, by the way, if I say “conflicted,” I don’t mean this in a critical way whatsoever—gay. So what? Today, who cares? But back then, it was a thing that tormented people because they couldn’t speak of it; they couldn’t let on that they were gay for all the reasons we know about. So, yes, he was very conflicted, and it was a burden that he carried all the way to the very end.

To make a long story short, Dan Fritz and his associates have Manly rewrite his will six days before Manly dies, to give everything to them and nothing to Marie and his stepchildren. Dan Fritz reports that he has died, and when the doctor showed up, he found tens of thousands of ants crawling out of the holes in his head, not in. Out of his ears, eyes, nose, mouth—you couldn’t see the face, it was a mask of living ants.

Now, let me tell you about ants! Manly Hall was an ardent supporter and proponent of magical notions and prescriptions dispensed by people like Paracelsus. Much of what Hall wrote had been deliberately edited to exclude things he thought might make people uncomfortable. One of those things, for example, was the Paracelsian notion that ants carry away negativity from the human body like little pack mules. So after he died and he’s covered with ants and they’re pouring out of his head and no one can answer why that is, why do you think it was? Because when Manly died, someone carried him out with molasses stuffed in his ears, nose, and mouth and rolled him around on anthills so that the ants would take away the bad vibes. Afterwards, they put him back on his bed and called the doctor to say he’d died.

HH: You take a deliberately neutral stance towards Hall’s magical thinking in the book, but it’s clear you have your own opinions about the occult.

LS: What I’m trying to say here is that these ideas aren’t dangerous because they’re potent. I mean, I read the Bible. I read Pythagoras. I read Socrates. But these things, these magical ideas—I don’t know anybody yet who became a better person for trying to hitch a ride on that stuff. They’re wrong. It’s errant. The ideas are dangerous because they’re so wrong that you will fall off the tracks of life. That’s my opinion.

While on a book tour, when my book first came out, I gave a lecture in San Francisco and there was a group of young people who hung out after the lecture and approached me and said, “oh my god, can we please talk to you later? We have so many questions!” We went to a little bar around the corner; they wanted to know about magic, about sorcery. I said to them, “You guys, I want you to listen very carefully.  I do know a little bit about this. I’m going to share with you a magical prescription that in fact works. If you apply this, it really, truly works instantly.” They were on the edge of their seats. I said: “Pay your bills, fix that broken window in the back of the house, pull the weeds out front, work as hard as you can, and do the best you can at every single thing you do. Do you understand what I said you guys? There it is! That works.”

HH: As someone who’s read a lot of biographies of occult figures, the thing that stands out about Master of the Mysteries is how you portray Hall in a humane way, as a living person, instead of as an idol. It’s a much appreciated perspective.

LS: I want you to know that I adore Manly Hall; I love Manly Hall, honestly I do. He continues to be a light of sorts—a man of enormous courage and dedication to self-discipline, in his way. Those things and many more are the reasons I love him.

Among the many sources I used, I spoke to a man who had been a best friend to Manly and Marie for fifty years. His name was Fred Cole. One day, I’m sitting with Fred and he told me, “You know, Louis, that Manly was a reincarnation of many greats beginning with Plato all the way to Madame Blavatsky.” I had heard that a lot; I even heard it from Burl Ives’s wife. She said that Marie and Manly used to tell them that very thing over dinner! Fred says that Manly was such an advanced adept that he actually was half man, half woman: a hermaphrodite like some of the really advanced adepts. When you get that far along, you are not one or the other—you’re both. I said, “Fred, how do you know that?” He said that one day he was over at Manly’s house and he had come out of the shower and he had a robe on. “He sat down in the living room and that robe flopped open and I couldn’t help but take a look,” Fred said. “Do you know what I mean, Louis?” And I said, “Fred, I know exactly what you mean. I do know what you mean! But you know what, Fred? I have his autopsy pictures, man. You need to knock it off! That’s preposterous and wrong.”

Manly forecasted these problems. I’ve read every single letter he ever wrote. I read his medical records. I talked to his relatives. I read the court documents and depositions. I interviewed his best friends, his stepchildren. This is a passage that is among my all time favorites. I tell you, when Manly was good, he was really good. Here’s how good he was. He wrote in an essay published in 1942:

“One cause of disillusionment in metaphysics is for the metaphysical teacher to prove to be more human than originally suspected. The tendency is to so elevate personalities that we endow them with sacred powers. All our faith is put upon them as we hang tinsel on a Christmas tree. The leader is assumed to be infallible whereas he is no more than one who is well meaning, quite capable of contributing to the improvement of humanity but still personally subject to innumerable ills. In doing the best he can, he is a good human being but a poor divinity. All followers who offer to adorn and deify their teachers set up a false condition. Human beings, experience has proved, make better humans than they do gods. We should be willing to accept a person who possesses wisdom as a friend, not deify him. It just won’t hold up.”


Written by: Tenebrous Kate
Publisher: Process Media (United States)
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
File Under: Occult/Biography
Language: English
ISBN: 1934170631 / 978-1934170632
Pages: 330
Format: Paperback