Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: My Seven Years in Occult Los Angeles with Manly Palmer Hall

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: My Seven Years in Occult Los Angeles with Manly Palmer Hall

Tamra Lucid
Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2021. 160 pp., paper, $13.93.

I’ve always been fascinated by Manly P. Hall, the masterful writer and lecturer on esoterica and one of the most important occult historians of our day. Although his presence remains alive and well in lecture halls and occult circles, he always seemed far away to me, of a long-distant era.

When I found out that Tamra Lucid, the feminist punk rock singer of the band Lucid Nation, not only knew Hall but also worked with him and wrote this memoir, I had to read it. Tamra doesn’t disappoint. Her up-close and personal stories of working for Hall at his Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles—by way of a delightful fly-on-the-wall narrative—is like listening to a girlfriend describe an improbable mystical encounter that mysteriously dropped into her life and rocked her world. I flew through the chapters, short and sweet vignettes, beautifully written, flowing with personal insights, compassion, and humor.

Tamra begins by stating, “This book is not a biography of Manly Hall. This is the story of seven years of friendship between a wise old man and the girl whose name he could never get quite right. Some of his history will be told along the way, but I’m no historian. I just wanted to capture the details of a friendship I treasured.”

In his foreword, Danny Goldberg states, “This memoir is Tamra’s own Cliff Notes version of Hall’s life and the metaphysical concepts he explored, rendered in the twenty-first-century language of an artist as influenced by punk as by ancient esoterica.”

In the early eighties, Tamra and her musician boyfriend, Ronnie Pontiac, discovered Mr. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Los Angeles and were instantly awakened to his esoteric and occult teachings. They needed to know more and were surprised to discover that Mr. Hall was alive and well and living in LA and gave lectures every Sunday at the PRS. After attending their first Sunday lecture there, Tamra and Ronnie started volunteering. Hall then opened a door marked “private” and ignited an unlikely intimate seven-year friendship between two twenty-something punk rockers and an eighty-year-old metaphysical scholar.

Mr. Hall could never remember Tamra’s name; he would call her “Tanya,” but according to her account, she eventually became Hall’s designated screener of anyone who wanted to meet him. She offers, “I met many casualties of spirituality gone wrong. The seekers of wisdom who were actually seeking dominion. The ceremonial magicians who opened portals they could not close into realms they could not understand. The humble Christians obsessed with self-aggrandizing missions. The white men convinced they were gurus of Eastern lineages. The hucksters repackaging metaphysical teachings as personality cults. What a world of cliques, competition and manipulation was revealed!”

 —At Ronnie’s first encounter with Hall, he was greeted with “Sit down and make yourself miserable” in a voice Tamra describes “as a cross between FDR and W.C. Fields.” Ronnie was dubbed “The Boy.” This name followed him throughout their relationship, which culminated in a remarkable honor: the Boy was to be one of Mr. Hall’s designated substitute lecturers. He was booked to deliver a series of weekly lectures in the room upstairs off the library, where a portrait of H.P. Blavatsky would peer down behind him. Mr. Hall eventually married Tamra and Ronnie in his backyard under a double tree, so that they joined the ranks of Bela Lugosi and his fifth and final wife, Hope.

At one point, Tamra begged Hall to banish a certain man, who repelled her, from the PRS. When the same man (alleged by Hall’s wife, Marie, to be his murderer), later inherited Hall’s estate, Tamra and Ronnie were the ones forever banished.

Tamra draws verbal portraits of the strong, often overlooked women who were the backbone of the PRS. The chapter on “Mad Marie,” Hall’s wife, is wildly entertaining. One suspects volumes could be written on Marie’s own cosmologies.  A delightful treat is found at the end of the book, a favorite of Hall’s: “Mad Marie’s Zucchini Pancake Recipe.”

Tamra lets us in on Hall’s visits with J. Krishnamurti in Ojai. Did they discuss the secrets of enlightenment? Hardly. Hall said they shared jokes, talked about sports and current events, swapped stories, and compared notes. Above all, I treasured the little glimpses into Hall’s everyday life. The man could be sneaky, moving with surprising speed when cookies were involved. He had a wicked and fast sense of humor:

Over dinner one night Mr. Hall told us a joke. At a meeting of a chapter of the Theosophical Society, at a table of old-time theosophists, a lady stood up proclaiming, after great study and much reflection, that she was the reincarnation of Hypatia of Alexandria. The Masters had confirmed this. Another leapt to her feet. “That is impossible,” she shouted, “I was Hypatia!” Soon every woman at the table was shouting, “I was Hypatia!”


Tamra’s memoir of this improbable but rewarding friendship reveals Hall not only as an inspiring esoteric thinker but also as a genuinely kind human being who wanted to share his quest for inner meaning and rare wisdom with the world.

Nancy Bragin

An award-winning documentary and podcast producer, Nancy Bragin is a member of the TSA currently managing Abraxas Lodge.