|Mathers' Last Secret.|
What they did not realize was that I knew what was in the blanked out sections. It turns out that they were trying to impress me with information that I already had seen through a membership in a previous group.
I wonder how this person reacted to the publication of Mathers' Last Secret, for the Neophyte ritual that they were trying to impress me with was a variation of the AO version (probably through the lineage of BOTA). Given the fact that a person like me had been exposed to the AO rituals before the publication of this book, I wonder how many groups were actually affected by this publication and how many people in them finally breathed a sigh of relief because they could now openly talk about the differences that exist in their rituals compared to the standard Regardie version.
(By "standard," I mean the set of rituals that everyone had access to already.)
Re-reading this book recently, I was stuck by the following statement made by Nick Farrell in the introduction.
The purpose of this book is not to bury the Alpha et Omega, but rather to encourage its development. There is material here which needs to evolve. By looking at it, meditating on it, and TRYING IT OUT the right people can make their own contacts and bring the Order to life in a meaningful way. It might draw some readers into those groups who are already using their own interpretations of the A.O. material. This is all for the good. Equally, it could be the inspiration for other groups to start using Mathers' Last Secrets.
Rather than using the system used in the Bristol Temple of the Stella Matutina, as set out in Regardie's Golden Dawn, the A.O. gives new groups a "new" flavour and approach. The aim of this book is to provide a basis for such a group to take its place alongside the Regardie-style Golden Dawn groups and those, such as the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea, which are inspired by Whare Ra [pages 21-22 hardcover edition].
(Note that this section may have jumped out at me just because of the debate over Farrell's purpose for publishing this book, and its companion book, King Over the Water.)
Interestingly, the group that is most famous for using one of the AO versions of the rituals (outside of BOTA whose rituals were modified by Paul Foster Case) ended up changing their rituals, so that they do not match this (or any other possible) publication. It makes for an interesting situation where the group that claims to have the best connection to the original AO is no longer even using an AO version of the Golden Dawn rituals. Anyone who actually wants to experience this version of the AO rituals is actually going to have to join a group without no connection to the original AO. (That is assuming that one believes that BOTA and its lineage is not actually an AO lineage.) While Farrell does not state what the "right people" are like, it is safe to assume that he does not endorse the trademark holder of the AO brand-name (if only because of the fact that they really do NOT get along).
(In all honesty, I would not be able to endorse the AO trademark holder either, and it is mainly because I have been called out repeatedly for having opinions that do not support their official Order line--hint: "diversity" and "independence" means that multiple opinions and methods can exist, not that they confirm to an unpublished set of rules made up by an invisible Order and their appointed leader.)
One of the big conversations about this book, and the Neophyte ritual that Mathers created for his Golden Dawn offshoot, has been about the shortcuts that Mathers says are permissible "[if] time be of some importance." Most of the Opening becomes optional, large parts of the lecture for the Grade, and even the "Admission ceremony" is optional. Basically, the only thing you cannot skip is the Oath of Obligation.
In other words, instead of not admitting an Neophyte until a full initiation ritual with a full Opening can be performed, a person could become a Neophtye by just paying their dues and committing to keep the AO secret and remaining loyal to Mathers. This reminds me of some of the fringe Freemasonry rituals that I have seen, where a person takes an oath and gets another honorary title to add to their collection.
And note that I consider this wrong, and I am the guy that argues that the system can be worked with just four people with no lineage at all (aka the Three Officer Version of the Neophyte ritual).
(By the way, in my universe, this is proof that none of the American membership had to travel overseas to recieve Temple initiations--in other words, the American lodges could have been started by people without no initiationary lineage to the AO. Note that this fact does not prove one way or another if the American AO started out as a correspondence school; it merely shows that it was possible for this to happen. It also might indicate that Westcott and Mathers did not think that undergoing the initiation rituals was necessary for advancement in the Order, and why they never undergone the initiation rituals of Golden Dawn themselves...I am still waiting to see proof that they did undergo the GD rituals.)
Does a regular member of the modern Golden Dawn need to buy this book? Probably not...unless they want to study what Mathers did after the Golden Dawn suffered the great Revolt of the Adepts. If you want to study and perhaps even experience these rituals, then this book is neccessary. For people not into collecting all the versions of the Golden Dawn rituals, you probably want to give this one a pass (it is just a set of rituals by Mathers and some comments by Farrell).
Mathers' Last Secret is available for purchase on Amazon.
[This book review was based on the hardcover edition, a copy which I paid full-price for on Amazon.]