|Would you like an antacid with your Mathers' Last Secret book?|
This book review is not for the antiacid crowd. My suggestion for the antiacid crowd is just continue on with your work and ignore this book. This includes anyone who thinks that Mathers was the genius behind Golden Dawn, that Mathers was in contact with some uber-Adept, or that secret documents should remain unpublished and Secret Chiefs and their contacts unquestioned. And if you choose to ignore my advice, and buy the book anyways, just remember that I am willing to sell you a big jar of premium Golden Dawn brand antiacid.
In fact, if you feel that Mathers was perfect and/or the Secret Chiefs are perfect, you may want to ignore the rest of this book review as well and just go pop an antacid right now.
|King Over the Water|
I like this book. It is long overdue. It will be a valuable addition to anyone's Golden Dawn history or document library.
Have you taken your antacid yet?
(One would hope that the antacid crowd have taken my advice and wandered off already, but I know that they would rather stick around and throw rotten eggs at me for liking this book. *sigh*)
The biggest problem with this book quite honestly is that those people who need to read it the most will ignore it because their superiors will tell them that it is just a pack of lies and a political ax job meant to destory Mathers and their superiors' reputations. And they will believe their superiors. Farrell tries to address this issue by pointing out some of the things that dishonest Orders have done in the past. I would love to say that the offenses he lists are isolated events, but they remind me of the laundry list of crap that I have seen in the various esoteric groups that I have been involved in.
My advice to one and all is: Be wary of anyone who holds an office in an esoteric Order, especially anyone who holds power because of the documents and contacts that they alone control. And be prepared to pop a lot of antacids. Why? Because a lot of people look fondly back on Mathers and decide to act just like he did. This tends to lead to the exact same results that the early GD experienced---do I need to remind you of the last time that this happened?!
Samuel Liddell (MacGregor) Mathers, while necessary for the birth of the Golden Dawn system, is not the person you want to model your behavior on as an officer or Chief of an esoteric Order.
One of the things that I think that every student of Golden Dawn should study is the history of the early years of the Order. It is part of our heritage as members of the Golden Dawn. I don't care what branch of the Golden Dawn tradition you belong to, the early history is important to know.
Unfortunately, up until this book, no history of the early years of the Order has been written by someone who has stood on the inside of a functioning Golden Dawn lodge. The closest we have gotten, previous to this book, are a few Freemasons who chosen to write about esoteric Order history. Because of that there are some things that are perfectly "normal" inside the GD envirnoment that end up sounding mighty strange to an outsider, and the histories so far have made the early GD sound slightly wacky.
Does Farrell make Mathers sound like a complete loon? No. Farrell makes it clear that Mathers had some personal issues, but they are no stranger than those of most of the people that I have sat in lodge with. It was rather interesting to see Farrell point out the possible psychological issues that may have been driving Mathers actions.
Over the years, I have tried to get people to explain to me why Mathers did certain things (ex. the Horos encounter---why would anyone in contact with Secret Chiefs fall for Horos and believe that they were the real thing). And this is one of the best attempts that I have seen of trying to figure out what was really going on and why Mathers occasionally made a decision that just makes your head hurt as you try to figure out his logic. Is Farrell's solution the only one? No, but it will do until something better comes along.
(If the antiacid crowd is still present, I would like to point out that they are free to hunt down records and documents, and write their own history of Mathers and the early days of the Golden Dawn.)
In all fairness, this book is mistitled---it deals a little bit with every significant member of the Golden Dawn during its early days. Westcott, Crowley, Moina Mathers, etc. But the main focus is MacGregor.
One of the accusations that will be leveled at this book will be that Farrell is not qualified as a historian. I am going to have to disagree with this notion. Having spent a lot of time learning the profession, I can see the hallmarks of a historian in this book. I might not be able to track down all his sources, but I can see that he was actually working from actual sources (primary documents).
As a history of the early days of Golden Dawn, and a biography of Mathers, this book is a welcome addition. It is not the ax job that I expected it to be, occasionally one even feels sympathy for Mathers.
In addition to the history of early GD and biography of Samuel Mathers, King Over the Water also contains several early A&O (GD) documents---an early version of the Book of the Tomb, the Z documents (which I learned is actually a single document divided into three parts), and an earlier version of the Sword Consecration ritual. (Or at least, these were in the earlier draft of the book that I read.)
Each one of these documents is of a particular interest to me. The version of the Book of the Tomb that the BIORC uses is much later, and has some additions made to it (that what happens when an Order believes that its own members can contribute to the system without having to rely on Secret Chiefs); therefore, it is nice to see an earlier version of it (beyond the photocopies that I have been given by others---this is the earliest version I have seen of the Book of the Tomb). The Z Document, just like the material in Mathers' Last Secret, has some material in it that makes me wonder if my Mother lodge reinvented the wheel or actually concealed a major part of their actual lineage (at this point, I really wonder if my lineage does not go back to Mathers on the one side through BOTA---of course, that cannot actually be true).
One thing that the reader should know is that Mathers' Last Secret and King Over the Water are very much tied into one another. If I was to assign them as part of the required reading for a lesson unit, the two books would be assigned together---for parts of each book is only understandable if you have ready access to the other. Then again, that is just like the rest of the Golden Dawn system, isn't it? For instance, the argument that Mathers did not understand the Z Document is dependent on looking both at the shortcuts that Mathers approved of for A&O rituals and the Z Document as Mathers knew it.
Of course, beyond the fact that Farrell's history reveals that Mathers and company was composed of human beings, the publishing of these documents is going to annoy some people. It is natural to be annoyed when your branch of the tradition insists on absolute secrecy.
But the biggest annoyance is going to be the fact that Farrell actually presents a strong case that Mathers' Secret Chiefs were actually ASTRAL. Or some other non-physical entity type (I am including stuff that comes out of one's brain as "non-physical" here). And that more than one person in the early GD had such contacts. The reason that this is going to annoy a lot of people (and there is more than one Order involved here) is that there are several Order Chiefs out there who claim to be in contact with the "one and only" set of Secret Chiefs.
So there you have it, the three strikes against this book (and the reason I should be making a fortune selling Golden Dawn brand antacids)---Mathers and company are human; there are early GD/A&O documents included in this book; and the Secret Chiefs are either astral or a product of the human mind. Nevertheless, this is still the best explanation about why events unfolded the way that they did.
Nick Farrell's book, King Over the Water--Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn, is available to order on Amazon.
[Full Disclosure Statement and shameless self-promotion: This book review was based on a pre-publication version of the book given to me by the author. If you would like me to consider reviewing your book, feel free to email me a electronic copy through my lodge email address: basttemple at msn dot com. Remember that my reviews tend to involve the selling of antiacids.]