The University of Philosophical Research maintains a Wisdom Library, affording students the opportunity to review rare works related to Consciousness Studies and Transformational Psychology.
“The library here has one of the finest collections of wisdom literature in North America. And the idea behind that is, that these are the great cultures of the world. Each one has its own wisdom literature – they’re about the laws of nature, the great principles of the universe, they’re what we call perennial philosophy – all about the higher values of existence and how you acquire them.”
- Dr. Obadiah Harris
Wisdom Library History
On October 17, 1935, nearly one hundred people assembled in a field of wild mustard on the corner of Griffith Park and Los Feliz Boulevards in Los Angeles for the purpose of breaking ground for the headquarters of the Philosophical Research Society.
Shortly after completion of the library shelving, PRS received its first important inheritance of books. This collection, the Edward Parker library, included a number of very scarce publications and journals, and many classical texts on comparative religion. Because of his extensive travel, it was possible for Manly P. Hall to browse in bookshops and antique galleries. Most of his lecturing was in the evening, and he usually found items to expand the PRS collection. Much of the PRS collection owes itself in large part to its benefactors over the last 70 years, William Randolf Hearst, Ernest Dawson, Claire Pierpoint, and countless others. One of the most recent acquisitions was the library of Oliver Reiser, an outstanding American scholar. This included many recent standard texts on psychology and idealistic philosophy.
The Library now serves a variety of readers. PRS assembled an outstanding collection of books and manuscripts dealing with idealistic philosophy and those sciences most cherished by the wisest and best of mortals.
The Egyptian reference collection includes much valuable material useful for scholars. Jean Francoise Champollion (1790-1832) working with the Rosetta stone is credited with the first comprehensive effort to translate the hieroglyphics of the Egyptian written language. He published his Primer of the Hieroglyphic System in 1824, and the library has a copy in French of the first edition, in addition to The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus published in facsimile and hieroglyphic transliterations by Professor Henry Breasted, University of Chicago Press: 1930. Also available are several volumes on Egyptian religious texts sponsored by and published for the Bollingen Foundation.
The library contains several unusual items bearing upon the Amerindian culture. PRS is fortunate in having a considerable collection of original photographic plates taken by the pioneer Americanist, Augustus Le Plongeon, who centered his labors principally in the Mayan area. His manuscript The Origin of the Egyptians was published by the Philosophical Research Society in facsimile edition.
Schoolcraft’s massive work, History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Philadelphia: 1854, is still a definitive text on the native peoples of North America. This large set of books is supported by extensive runs of the older Smithsonian Reports and other Bureau of Ethnology publications. These were presented to the Library by the well-known American naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton.
There are many items in the collection of practical use to religious students. The fifty volume edition of the Sacred Books of the East, edited by Professor Max Muller, is still the standard text in its field. Editions of the Koran, some handwritten and beautifully illuminated are worth of admiration. Among scarce religious texts are editions of theMahabarata, the Ramayana, the Vishnu Purana, theMesnevi of Jalal-ud-din Rumi, and a translation of an early Gnostic Christian text, the Codex Nasaraeus. Modern research books dealing with Gnosticism are in considerable demand and earlier publications on the subject are frequently consulted. Taoism, Confucianism, and the teachings of Zen include editions seldom available to the public. The kabbalah is not slighted, one of the most sought after volumes in this area is Kabbala Denudata by Knorr von Rosenroth. It contains the first Latin version of the Zohar, or Book of Splendors.
The wisdom of the ancient Greeks is well represented, including a complete set of the original writings and translations of Thomas Taylor. One of the most useful books in this section is The History of Philosophy, in part devoted to the life and teachings of Pythagoras.
One of the rarest literary works dealing with Tibetan religious culture is Buddhism in Tibet by Emil Schlagintweit. It is in two volumes—one folio containing twenty plates; first printed in Leipzig: 1863. Though recognized as a text of basic importance it should be noted that the author was never in Tibet.
Major L. Austine Waddell, M.D., was the medical officer with the punitive expedition that entered Tibet under the leadership of Sir Francis Younghusband. Waddell later authored the other definitive texts on Tibetan religion, also under the title Buddhism in Tibet. Other writings done by Waddell are little known—but the collection can provide The Grand Llamas of Tibet, 1910; Tibetan Manuscripts and Books Etc., Collected during the Younghusband Mission to Llasa, 1912; Lhasa and Its Mysteries, 1905; and Ancient Historical Edicts of Lhasa, 1909.
No collection of material relating to India could be considered representative unless it included the works of Sir William Jones in six volumes plus three supplementary volumes, London: 1799-1806. This collection covers nearly every aspect of Hindu language, history, science, and literature. The volumes are illustrated with numerous fine plates and facsimiles. William Jones was sometime president of the Asiatick Society, founded in 1784 by a distinguished group of Orientalists. The transactions of the society, which was instituted in Bengal, were published in a series of volumes under the title Asiatick Researches. An engraved portrait appears in volume 1, published in 1801. The Library has six volumes of these transactions in its collection.
One of the most important sections of the Library is devoted to alchemical books and manuscripts, and the related fields of Rosicrucianism and the mystical writings of Jacob Boehme. Nearly all the important alchemists were well represented in early printed editions of their works or handwritten and illuminated manuscripts: Robert Fludd, Michael Maier, Johann Valentin Andreas, Libavius, and Eugenius Philalethes. The rare William Law set of Boehme, the first separate printings with symbolic illustrations of Gichtel, and a volume of original drawings of Boehme symbolism form an important unit.
It always seemed to Manly P. Hall, PRS founder, that religious and symbolical art should be included in a collection representing mankind’s heritage of wisdom and beauty. Over the years, many art objects were turned over to the Society, which are on permanent display on the UPR campus. A few items are notable to Library visitors:
As they cross the patio toward the entrance to the Library, visitors may notice two small fragments of decorated tile inlaid among the flagstones. These should be approached with respect as they are original pieces from the floor of Glastonbury Abbey. It is within the precincts of Glastonbury that a sacred thorn bush still flourishes near the reputed grave of King Arthur.
While finishing the Library, Stuart Holmes (who played the villain in the 1922 motion picture production of The Prisoner of Zenda), offered to create the appropriate panels for the library doors. Stuart was a Bavarian whose real name was Stuart Leibchen; he was a wood-carver of distinction. The Oriental panel on the left is reminiscent of Confucius, and its Western complement on the right is suggestive of Plato.
On the right as one enters the library is a large Aztec wood-carving representing Coatlicue, Mother of the Gods, known as “Lady of the Serpent Skirt,” based upon the gigantic stone figure in the Museo Nacional de Antropologica in Mexico City. The original stone image is over 8 feet high and weighs over 30 tons. This sapote wood carving, created by a Mexican folk artist, is extremely hard and heavy, and will sink if placed in water.
In a niche on the south wall of the balcony of the Library is a fine Japanese wood carving of the metaphysical Buddha, Amida. This lovely gilded image is approximately 4½ feet high. It had already been consecrated, and fitted perfectly into the allotted space and its peaceful expression is suitable for quiet scholarship. There is an elaborate base with a symbolic lotus upon which the figure is seated, and behind is an intricately decorated nimbus of swirling clouds. It is dated in the Tokugawa Period, probably late seventeenth century.
The library of the University of Philosophical Research can provide important research material on almost every subject relating to man’s heritage of learning. The emphasis has always been upon those idealistic systems of knowledge which have helped to build a better world. All sincere persons should be encouraged to have available to the them the noblest thoughts of humanity.
Below are a few featured titles found in the Graduate Research Library at the University of Philosophical Research:
Paracelsus Theoprastus: Prognostication. (Facsimile of original 1536 Latin text next to French translation)
Vijayaraghavulu: Text Book on Mathematical Astrology. (Written by a physician and surgeon with precise and complete tables for calculating nativities. London 1927)
Count Goblet D’Alviella: The Hibbert Lectures. (Lectures on the origin and growth of the conception of God as illustrated by Anthropology and History. Oxford 1897)
K. Kirchenhoffer: The Book of Fate. (Formerly in possession of Napoleon, late emperor of France; containing a German translation of an ancient Egyptian manuscript found in 1801. London 1829)
MANLY P. HALL
Lady of Dreams: A fable in the manner of the Chinese. (Los Angeles 1943)
Francis Adams: The Genuine Works of Hippocrates. (in two volumes. London 1849)
Albert Cornoy: The Mythology of All Races. (Illustrated in eight volumes. Boston 1917)
Fa-Hien: A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. (Being an account by a Chinese monk of his travels, 399 to 414 A.D. (Translated by James Legge. Oxford 1886)
Thomas Taylor: Two Orations of Emperor Julian. (1932)
Georg Wilhelm Frederich Hegel: The Philosophy of History. (1900)
Richmond Onley: Temple Lectures of the Order of the Magi . (Delivered before the grand temple of the order, 1892)
James Esdaice: Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance. (With the practical application of mesmerism in surgery and medicine. 1852)
Stanislav Grof, M.D.: Realms of the Human Unconscious. (In collaboration with Joan Halifax, Anthropologist. 1975)
Bernard Fay: Revolution and Freemasonry: 1680-1800. (Boston 1935)
Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater: Man, Whence How and Whither. (1922)