by Dr. Vadim Putzu
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of TMJ’s passing and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Johnson Library and Museum, which is a partner of MSU Libraries, I organized, in collaboration with Dean Peters and his staff, a two-day event. Plato’s supposed birthday (November 7) was our date of choice since on that day TMJ himself had organized Platonic symposia in 1888-90.
On Thursday afternoon, after greetings from Provost Einhellig and introductions by Dean Peters and myself, all the four scholars who have written about TMJ since the early 1990s (excluding yours truly) gave presentations on various aspects of his work. Patrick Bowen spoke about TMJ’s role as a galvanizer of new religious movements, Paul Johnson discussed his collaboration with an eccentric esotericist known under the pen name Zanoni, Jay Bregman compared his understanding of Neoplatonism with that of his co-editor’s Alexander Wilder, and Natalie Whitaker (an MSU alumna) analyzed his annotations to various books of occultism. Anne Baker of Special Collections put together an intriguing display of TMJ’s letters, manuscripts, and rare old books which attracted the attention of all attendees. An audience of about 60 students, MSU faculty, and community members attended the afternoon lectures, including TMJ’s grandson, Tom Johnson, who welcomed all participants.
On Friday morning, a small group of TMJ scholars and members of the JLM board gathered in Osceola, at the Johnson mansion, to tour the library and museum with Tom Johnson—the first time since the establishment of the JLM that all living scholars of TMJ gathered together at his house and library (see picture, above).
From what I have heard over this past week, all attendees were very happy with the symposium, and glad to have learnt about “Missouri’s greatest man” in 1915. As we prepare to make the symposium presentations available on YouTube, and possibly to publish them in the JLM Journal, it is hoped that making TMJ and the JLM more widely known to the MSU community and the Ozarks will raise an interest for related preservation and research projects—the most urgent being the creation of a complete catalogue of the Johnson Library holdings.