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A History of Naming and A Study of a Book

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Spiritualism in the Archives by Jim Hetherington – March 26, 2019


As Art Jones, the Director Emeritus at the Drew University Library, said in his memorial speech for Julia E. Baker, “When it became clear that one of the Drew Library’s main needs was provision for the preservation of older materials and systematic organization of our older valuable books, it was Julia’s conscientiousness as well as her love of the old printing and fine bindings that led her to present a program for preservation, to investigate personally the practices of the Library of Congress,…and to become herself a rare book librarian.” With Baker’s collection only partially cataloged and some items unavailable for research, her legacy lives. She arrived at Drew in 1954 and left 24 years later in 1978. The collection contains the oldest and most valuable books in the Drew Library, including newer books autographed by authors or famous owners alike.

From the Rare Books Collection, I chose My Adventure Into Spiritualism by Ezra Lee Howard. Published in 1935, that hardcover book is withstanding the test of time with a sketch of Christ page not a part of the binding anymore… I do not know where amongst the pages it belongs. Yet, I know it belongs according to the frayed page edges creating a visual and tactile aesthetic. Dedicated to Howard’s mother, there is a short preface before the table of contents where 14 chapters are highlighted, depicting the journey each reader will set a course for.

Less of a manual and more of a retrospective on life, Howard leads a monologue on life being an adventure with depth, meaning, caring, and sharing. The author quotes, “add to faith, knowledge.” As a guide, the author refers to spirituality and various ways of being spiritually fit like detaching from “materializations” and admiring nature. Nature is really an all-encompassing term for we and all that we do are a part of nature, this Earth where 7.53 billion people live.

Spanning 181 pages, the book really gets inside the author’s head in a true to life story. Each chapter is a loose monologue, touch and go with the chapter’s title. My favorite moments are when the author directly talks on the psychic changes the occur on the path to spirituality. “Prayer is a power that never fails in the realm of aspiration… a pure and noble purpose is always the aspirant’s best defense.” Each of these proverbial gold nuggets is worth the wait. Have patience. By hearing about the quips and tidbits from the author’s life along the journey is eye-opening because then with a critical eye we can extrapolate and infer how Howard’s method to the madness is at play and in check.

It’s important to figure out what makes us tick. Aspiring to be a wise and illumined soul is inspiring, and the author’s passages about mysticism help involve a well-rounded picture to appreciate the book, how / why it was written, and a pace he sets as a life long learner. Being thorough about matters like leaving a hometown for good and then revisiting memories we keep all our life is a key to knowing thy self through investigation and wholesome conclusions.

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