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The Manly P. Hall Alchemy Archive. A Brief History of an Occult Collection. Geometric cabbalistic illustrations from [Cabala], ca. Archivists and librarians in Los Angeles need little introduction to the Getty Research Institute GRI , one of the major art research libraries in the world and part of the iconic Getty Center that overlooks the ever-congested freeway. Their holdings contain significant archival collections of notable artists and architects, artist books, prints, photographs, and unique material of every kind.
But within those collections are curiosities, things you might not expect to find at an institute dedicated to the arts and art historical research. The Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts and rare books is one such collection.
Free PDF The Pineal Gland: The Eye Of God, by Manly P. Hall
It is one of the things that drew me, a librarian without a traditional art background but a lover of the occult, to work at the GRI. But like many archival collections, the story behind how this collection came together and why it came to the GRI a lovely place but not especially mystical is just as curious. Manly P. Hall was a quintessential Los Angeles figure.
He was equal parts showman and guru, but his true passion was all things occult and esoteric, which prompted him to seek out rare material in libraries, bookstores, and auction houses for the answers to the greater mysteries of life. Given the prestige of such a collection with an existing home in the form of the wisdom library at the PRS, why and how did the GRI manage to acquire such a significant portion of it?
Manly P. Hall - Training the Faculty of Intuition
However, according to the Vice article , Alchemy in Art History? Unsurprisingly, Fritz was investigated for the murder of Hall at the insistence of Marie Hall and their daughter Jo Ann. Ultimately, the will that Hall had created was invalidated by a judge in leaving Marie Hall and the PRS board of directors to fight it out in court.
It would be reasonable enough to do so via an entry in the finding aid or an introductory blurb on the GRI website, but by remaining completely mum I can only assume there is still some controversy that is trying to be avoided.
W hen Marie Hall was looking for a buyer for her share of the alchemy collection, there was all the possibility that it would be broken up and sold individually to private collectors, disappearing into vaults or private libraries to be forgotten and unused. David Brafman, the curator of rare books and of the recent exhibit at the GRI, has done a particularly fantastic job arguing for the importance of the collection to understanding the development of color in the history of art the principle reason for its acquisition in the first place, and a large portion of the research interest it draws.
Hall collection as profane works i. Of course, preserving the occult value of objects t hrough their physical accessibility is not the mission of the GRI. Digitization and limited access ensures long term preservation an explicit goal of the GRI.
This debate is further complicated if we consider how Manly P Hall was able to begin collecting alchemical and occult material in the first place. But Manly was not a wealthy man and had only encountered moderate success as a preacher and lecturer. When he began to conceive of his magnum opus in he knew that he would have to acquire the funds for travel and to purchase the necessary research material. In those days, alchemy was not a favorite subject with librarians nor of interest to the average reader.
The only answer was to contact antiquarian book dealers and elicit their cooperation in the search for the items required. Caroline and Estelle Lloyd were a mother daughter bohemian powerhouse whose family owned the fruitful oil fields in Ventura County, and who enjoyed the finer things in life like traveling, symphonies, stamp collecting and mingling with artists, writers and musicians. To that end, at what point does the benefactor become the curator?
Manly P. Hall - The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928).pdf (PDFy mirror)
How can we reinterpret ownership and intent of the collection with this knowledge? For me the Manly P Hall Alchemy opens-up so many questions when we consider how to interpret and understand the needs of a collection, the needs of the researcher, and the intent and vision of the collector and in this case, benefactors. Should there be multiple ontological modes of curation and handling for the occult much in the way there are or should be for indigenous cultural artifacts in archives?
Nevertheless , the Manly P Hall Alchemy archive remains one of the most uniquely occult collections in Los Angeles and worthy of further study in whatever capacity. Alchemical allegory from Das Buch mit Sieben Siegeln.
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Manly P. Hall Lectures On Ancient Philosophy 1929
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Single Edit Column Edit. To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.