Boing Boing guestblogger Mitch Horowitz is author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation and editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin publishers.
One of the weirdest and most wonderful sites on the map of spiritual Los Angeles is the Philosophical Research Society (PRS). Occult scholar Manly P. Hall (1901-1990) opened this Mayan-Egyptian-art-deco campus in the Griffith Park neighborhood in 1934. Hall was the author of the legendary encyclopedia of occult lore, The Secret Teachings of All Ages (quoted in the epigraph to Dan Brown's latest novel), and he designed the Philosophical Research Society, or PRS, as his sanctum and school. I'm speaking at PRS this coming Saturday, October 3rd and Sunday, October 4th, at 2 p.m. daily on the history of the occult in America. I'll be considering everything from the career of Manly P. Hall to the growth of "mind power" mysticism. From Occult America:
Hall fancifully spoke of modeling his headquarters after the ancient mystery school of Pythagoras. More practically, PRS provided a cloistered setting where Hall spent the rest of his life teaching, writing, and assembling a remarkable collection of antique texts and devotional objects. His small campus eventually grew to include a 50,000-volume library with catwalks and floor-to-ceiling shelves; a 300-seat auditorium with a throne-like chair for the master teacher; a bookstore; a warehouse for the many titles he wrote and sold; a wood-paneled office (complete with a walk-in vault for antiquities); and a sunny stucco courtyard. Designed in an unusual pastiche of Mayan, Egyptian, and art-deco motifs, PRS became one of the most popular destinations for L.A.'s spiritually curious, and remains so.