The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall

I'm still slowly reading through The Secret Teachings of All Ages, about halfway through this gargantuan compendium of all things arcane in the disciplines of religious mythology and mystical religions, with their always intriguing ancient rites, symbols, and of course, "secret teachings".  The book, I'm discovering, is really more of a reference work than a book to pick up and read from start to finish, though finish it I happily will.

The lengthy introduction provides abstracts of just about every philosophic movement in history, and serves as an excellent refresher course for students of philosophy.  Someday I'd like to itemize the founders and features of each philosophy with maybe an abstract of my own, for later reference, just for fun.

I can't say I believe much of what I'm reading in this book, however, at least regarding the history and veracity of the ancient gnostic's vast (and complexly convoluted) underworld network of behind-the-scenes movers and shakers in world politics, religion, and thought.

The core conception of The Secret Teachings of All Ages --  that an "Elect" few denizens of ancient secret societies have existed from time immemorial, and are still operating today, covertly shaping and re-shaping and preserving in the process, through the eons, the world's major movements (and advances) in mathematics, the sciences, philosophies, and religions -- I find dubious at best.  Too conspiratorial for my taste, like The Da Vinci Code.  Guess I'm just a Doubting Tom├ís.

Nevertheless, as a fan of good books like Foucault's Pendulum -- that contain their own unique compendium of secret societies -- I'm inevitably fascinated by and attracted toward what Manly P. Hall has termed "The Mysteries" that are veiled within the symbolism and creeds and esoterica of secret societies.

Manly P. Hall authored somehow, what in less skilled hands might have become a tedious and too-recondite reference work, a remarkably readable tome.  In fact, The Secret Teachings of All Ages is not just plain readable, but pretty darned unputdownable.