The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928)
Manly P. Hall
I came upon this book early in my digging - loved it, couldn't get enough, wanted volume two immediately. Or a nice long chat with the author. After an informative summary of philosophical history laid out in the 22-page introduction, the author uses the meat of the book to make another mad dash through history, this time summarizing the many wisdom traditions he finds along the way. The book did a marvelous job of tying together so many of the little trinkets of information about religions, human history and philosophy that I'd picked up along my lifetime. There were lots of 'oh! so that's where that came from' moments waiting for me in this book.
"(This book)… is dedicated to the proposition that concealed within the emblematic figures, allegories, and rituals of the ancients is a secret doctrine concerning the inner mysteries of life, which doctrine has been preserved in toto among a small band of initiated minds since the beginning of the world." --from the introduction to 'The Secret Teachings of All Ages'Details on symbols and teachings from the Druids, Hermes, the Gnostics, the Jewish and Christian traditions, ancient Egypt - the variety of spiritual teachings covered is impressive. This book reaches far (back in time) and wide (across many traditions) and so makes a persuasive case, to my mind, that a single core doctrine runs through the spiritual stories we've created over time to tell us who we are, where we come from, and why we're here.