I had no idea what I was getting into when I began reading Making the Ordinary Extraordinary. I'd never heard of Manly Hall and accepted the assignment because I vaguely recognized the name Tamara Lucid.
This is a lovingly written story of an extraordinary person during an transformative time in America. Lucid's anecdotes illustrate a life of deep knowledge, serene wisdom, and sheer joy in BEING. Two very troubled kids stumble upon the Well of Wisdom and, for once not turning away in anger or violence, are transformed into remarkable humans. Anecdotes of Lucid's time are presented in small chapters, bon mots like bon bons, fresh and vivid. Thematically, the reader easily sees that the stories are about how Mr. Hall spoke the wisdom he knew, without attachment or expectation, the right words being heard by the right people at the right time.
Not all the tales are happy, Lucid does not shy from difficult moments and times when Mr. Hall (and others) were problematic.
"People with all sorts of strange ideas had passed through PRS. He [Richard de la Barcena, Mr. Hall's personal bodyguard and shipping manager] believed what they were really looking for was glamour. “The glamour of magic, the glamour of the spirits.” That had nothing to do with Mr. Hall. Richard summarized Mr. Hall’s message as: “Live a better life, truly enjoy life, by cultivating tranquility. That’s when everything becomes clear.” (p. 55)
Nor with the raging patriarchy so common of the time (and even now), describing how she'd be expected to make the home nice while, "the men are talking," even to being told to ignore it when one of them put a cigarette out in her carpet.
Like the chips in a good cookie, this only adds to the strength of this book. These tales keep Making . . . from being saccharine and fake. Lucid is occasionally devastatingly clear-eyed about the problematic people found in any occult scenario. Her comment that finding a job in "(r)etail was a relief after PRS. Crying children were easier to deal with than metaphysicians on a mission." (p. 83)
"People who wanted to be of service to humanity but they were spinning themselves into knots. From what I could tell, what they really wanted was attention. What they would do with it depended on the person. Some wanted money. Some were in it for sex. Some wanted fame, which they thought would bring them the other two. But most of them wanted to have authority. To be considered experts. Most of all they wanted to be believed. But many of these people trying to live spiritual missions were living unexamined lives. The temple of initiates suddenly looked like a shed full of hungry ghosts." (p. 97)
Along the journey through Lucind's writings, I found Manly Hall, author of more than 150 books and pamphlets, prolific lecturer (around 7,000!), with a book first printed in 1928 (An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy) that has never been out of print. For this introduction alone I would be grateful for Lucid having taken up the pen and capturing her story with Mr. Hall.
~review by Lisa McSherry
Author: Tamra Lucid
Inner Traditions, 2021
pp. 160, $16.99