knowledge, great university, truth stages, ontologism, gnostics

“The great university will be divided into grades, admission to which will be through preliminary tests or initiations. Here mankind will be instructed in the most sacred, the most secret, and the most enduring of all mysteries—symbolism. The initiate will be taught that every visible object, every abstract thought, every emotional reaction is but the symbol of an eternal principle. Here mankind will learn that Chiram (Truth) lies buried in every atom of Cosmos; that every form is a symbol and every symbol the tomb of an eternal verity. Through education—spiritual , mental, moral, and physical—man will learn to release living truths from their lifeless coverings.” Manly P. Hall

The Great University

It is difficult to believe in this age of materialism that a great spiritual university could exist at all. Not only did secular institutions steal the name “university,” which originally meant schools that teach universal truth and was applied only to spiritual schools, but in some places governments now restrict the use of the word so only those secular schools approved by the government can be called universities. But what Hall says is true, such a university will happen.

The Beginning

Because of the state of the world we live in, that great university won’t start out great. Not in the terms of the secular world, at least. It won’t have many thousands of students. It won’t have a campus of many fine buildings covering hundreds of acres. The library of the university won’t have many thousands of books to read and study. Not in the beginning.

It must start out small. A private school that may began with only a few dozen students. It may, for a time, have to operate underground to avoid problems with secular authorities. It may have to avoid advertising itself in public media, relying on word-of-mouth as the primary means of advertising. A humble beginning. But that is probably a good thing since humility is a valued attribute of the spiritual student.

A Growing Force

That great university will have humble beginnings, but will grow. As the general population becomes more and more disenchanted with materialism and its empty promises, more will seek for something more. Many will turn to the spiritual and the university will grow. But even there problems will happen.

False Prophets, False Schools

Sadly and ironically, there will be those who will see this growth in desire to learn spiritual truths as a reason to start a school of their own. Many will not be enlightened individuals, just savvy businessmen. They will read and study the history of the schools of the past. Based on what they read, they will throw together some semblance of a spiritual school. And when people question why they teach something different than some real spiritual school, the answer will always be the ridiculous, “there are many paths to enlightenment.” They never often any proof of that claim, but still many will buy into it.

It’s somewhat like saying that if I’m in Paris and I want to go to London, I can get on any plane at the airport and eventually it is bound to get me to London. Even if that is true, rather than fly from Paris to Athens, then New York, then San Francisco, then Tokyo, then London, wouldn’t it be better to look for a direct flight? The same is true for spiritual development. Yes, in a sense, there are many paths. But there is only one direct path.


Symbolism may not be the greatest secret to be taught in spiritual schools, but it is certainly high up on the list. We can expect the basics of it to be taught in the lowest levels of the great university.

For starters, the great books of religion and spirituality cannot possibly be understood without knowledge of the symbolism used. The number seven, the dove, the burning bush, and so many other things are practically meaningless without understanding what those things actually symbolize. The white robe Jesus wore made of a single thread—a symbol. The cup known as the Holy Grail. Another symbol. And it isn’t just the Bible or Christian writings.  For example, many of the strange tales found in Hindu scripture are not really strange at all. They are just full of allegory and symbolism. Those who study at that great university will learn the true meaning of these symbols.

Missed Point

In his talk of the great university, what Hall misses  is that the actual truths of the universe will not be taught there. Instead, the students will learn to awaken their spirits and souls. Through the awakened spirits, they will gain access directly to the universal truths. That is the way it should be.


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