The recent upgrading of the Internet Archive website has made visual browsing somewhat easier than before: areas visited in the past now offer up items that might have been overlooked. This is one such result, one of the many mysterious documents in the Manly Palmer Hall collection of occult manuscripts. Unlike the handwritten texts in Hall’s archive, this one is a bound miscellany of esoteric diagrams. No details are given so it’s anyone’s guess as to the origin, meaning or the date of the work. The three-dimensional figures towards the end look like something that might date from the 19th century.



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The occult Knapp


Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology.

Following up the work of Etidorhpa‘s illustrator, J. Augustus Knapp (1853–1938), I realised that I’d already encountered some of his later paintings. After illustrating books by John Uri Lloyd, Knapp moved to California where he met occult historian, mystic and book collector Manly Palmer Hall. Knapp exchanged Lloyd’s fungi researches and weird fiction for Hall’s mysticism, illustrating The Initiates of the Flame (1922), and Hall’s magnum opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Knapp’s 54 paintings for the latter volume have since proved convenient for the occult encyclopedias that followed, many of which plundered Hall’s study for its illustrations. Knapp’s depictions aren’t always very successful—Odin’s wolves look silly rather than fierce—but they served Hall’s purpose of fixing mythological characters and metaphysical schemes in a colourful manner for a contemporary audience.


Mithra in the form of Boundless Time.

Hall and Knapp also produced their own Tarot deck (see here and here) which can still be bought today from the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. The UPR was founded by Manly Hall, and has a collection of Knapp’s paintings. They also sell Hall’s books, of course, and you can browse a copy of The Secret Teachings of All Ages if you visit the library, as I discovered in 2005 when Jay Babcock and I paid the place a visit.


The Key to Dante’s Divine Comedy.

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Athanasius Kircher’s Pan


More from the Kircher archives at the University of Heidelberg. As before, it’s good to see illustrations familiar from countless reprintings in books in their place of origin. The volume in question is Obeliscus Pamphilius: hoc est, Interpretatio noua & Hucusque Intentata Obelisci Hieroglyphici (1650), one of Kircher’s attempts at deciphering the hieroglyphics on Egyptian obelisks. I’m still not sure how the Great God Pan fits into these speculations even as a diagrammatic figure, unless in this case it’s Pan as a representative of Nature as a whole.

Whatever the explanation, the Pan picture often turns up in occult anthologies although you’re as likely to see the copy from Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928) as the original. Hall’s rendering is useful for the translation of the Latin although he also says it may represent the god Jupiter (?) and he censors the not-very-obtrusive penis, a rather fatuous bit of prudery for a book that’s supposedly concerned with universal truths.

A few more plates follow, one of which features a serpent I swiped several years ago for a Cradle of Filth T-shirt design.


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A triangular book about alchemy


Triangular buildings aren’t so very unusual, triangular books, on the other hand, are less common. This example is from the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts at the Internet Archive, not only a triangular book but one where most of the pages are written in a symbolic alphabet. A reviewer supplies the following details (which may not be accurate so the usual caveats apply):

“No. Soixante & Seize” de la collection maconnique du F… Ex Dono Sapientissimi Comitis St. Germain Qui Orben Terrarum Per Cucurrit ca. 1775. Hogart MS 209.

This manuscript bought from Frank Hollings, a London antiquary, after 1933 (he apparently was unaware of the Hauser St. Germain manuscript) came from the occult library of Mme. Barbe, who had it from the bibliographer Stanislaus de Guaita, who in turn bought it at the auction of the library of Jules Favre. It is a copy made from one of the magical texts in the possession of St. Germain by the owner’s permission. A number of such copies were executed for the members of his Masonic lodge in Paris, and the following manuscript, as different in style as it is, may be one of the copies too. It is unclear in both cases whether the Comte St. Germain wrote the magical formulae or owned a copy of an ancient text. This manuscript was made for Antoine Louis Moret, a French emigre to America active in Masonry and in politics.

Does the 76 on the cover refer to the year the book was made, or does it have some other significance? One of the meanings assigned to the number 76 in the Sepher Sephiroth is “Secret, put away; a hiding place”, so the latter is a possibility. See the entire volume here.




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