Series - Artistic, literary, and musical projects

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Artistic, literary, and musical projects

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the series.

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  • 2017 (Accumulation)
    McCaslin, Susan
    The material that lies outside of the date range of Park’s life was added by Susan McCaslin after Park’s death.
  • 1909 - 1982 (Creation)
    Park, Mary Olga

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Physical description

1 m of textual records, 2 LPs : analogue, 33 1/3 rpm, 1 photograph: silver gelatin DOP, b&w

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Name of creator

(1891 - 1985)

Biographical history

Mary Olga Park (née Bracewell) was a contemporary spiritualist mystic and self-published writer who lived most of her life in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was known for her non-denominational, theological beliefs and for the prophetic visions she experienced. She did not consider herself the head of a church or esoteric cult—or as a medium or psychic—but rather as a spiritual teacher.

Park was born to Ellen and Bruce Bracewell on February 24, 1891 in Gargrave, Yorkshire, England. As a child, Park showed an interest in nature, music and religion. Park was raised as a Wesleyan Methodist. After the local Wesleyan church disbanded, she secretly attended an Anglican Church against her parents’ wishes, as she was drawn by the music, liturgy, and sacramental worship. Park attended various schools in the suburbs of Birmingham until the age of fourteen, when she won a scholarship to Aston Pupil Teachers’ Centre. She studied there for three years, but also wished to pursue a career in music.

Park and her family immigrated to British Columbia in 1910, when Park was 19 years old. It was a difficult transition for Park, who had abandoned her musical and educational opportunities and social connections in England. The family settled in Revelstoke, British Columbia and soon after moved to a farm in South Vancouver, British Columbia. By 1914, Park began to receive dream visions showing her the experiences of soldiers in the First World War. From then on, she received psycho-spiritual experiences of Jesus Christ and other saints, philosophers, and thinkers.

On March 24, 1917, Park married James Fleming Park, and they had two children: Robert Bruce Park and James Samuel Park, who died a few days after his birth. Throughout the 1920s, Park was active at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in South Vancouver. She taught Sunday school and was a leading member of the church choir. During this time, Park became close with Rev. Charles Sydney McGaffin, the rector of the church. She considered him to be a man of progressive spiritual understanding. Through the 1940s, Park continued having visions and mystical experiences. Notably, Park received the words and music for a mystical communion service she practiced for the rest of her life at her own home worship altar, and kept a regular morning and evening practice of contemplative prayer. Park also became the Canadian representative of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies in 1956–1963, corresponded with the Psychical Research Society in London, and was a member of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship.

Due to the broadening of her theology, she eventually felt compelled to move outside the parameters of the institutional Church. As she grew older, Park became dissatisfied with the nature of church dogma, or in her words, “Churchianity,” and broke ties with the Anglican Church. After her husband's death in 1959, she went to live with her son until 1964, when she moved to a small cottage in Port Moody. She devoted the rest of her life to living as a solitary contemplative. After word of her spiritual “awakening” and beliefs began to spread by her self-published books and by word of mouth, she received “seekers” and “learners” who wished to receive instruction on her spiritual practice. She began to regard those with whom she built her spiritual relationships as an informal society which had roots in interior realms and she referred to it as the Society of the Mystical Communion of Christ (SMCC).

Park continued to live alone at her cottage until 1978 when, after breaking an ankle, it was necessary to move back to Vancouver where she continued to receive visits from seekers and learners. Due to her advancing age and frailty, Park was transitioned to a care center for the elderly in Vancouver in 1983. Mary Olga Park died on December 13, 1985 at the age of ninety four.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The series contains literary, artistic, and music works and materials created and aggregated by Mary Olga Park from 1909 to 1982.

Park worked in a variety of literary genres, producing poetry, drama, and non-fiction works. During the 1960s and 1970s, Park wrote and self-published her spiritual writings, consisting of detailed records of her visionary experiences, Biblical studies, philosophical reflections, theology, and studies of the mystics. These include: Between Time and Eternity (Vantage Press, 1960), Man, The Temple of God (self, 1968), The Book of Admonition and Poetry (self, 1969), and An Open Door (self, 1974). Park also loved arts and crafts, and in her spare time she would make booklets, pastel, charcoal drawings and sketches, and bookmarks with religious themes. Some sketches include depictions of individuals she saw in her visions. Often her poetry appears in her sketchbooks, inspiring the art surrounding the text. She also kept materials and books as inspiration for her artistic endeavors.

The series also contains records related to both the educational materials Park created for her position teaching at St. Mary’s Anglican Church Sunday school as well as the teaching materials Park created for her Society of the Mystical Communion of Christ (S.M.C.C.). As a Sunday school teacher, Park had a handmade book to teach students quotes from the Bible called the, “Book of Light.” She also rearranged parables of Jesus as rhythmic readings and recontextualized the parables with aspects of the New Testament. For the SMCC, Park created her own Communion Service, Sanctuary procedures, betrothal and christening procedures, and morning meditation practices which had corresponding handmade booklets.

Before moving to Canada, Park had a promising musical career in England as a soprano, but before it flourished, she moved to Canada. Park became a certified music teacher through the Tonic Sol-Fa College and taught music lessons in Vancouver, sang in the church choir, and her love of music endured. Park admired the works of Georg Friedrich Handel, and not only recorded herself singing excerpts from his oratorios (Jephthah and Messiah) but also re-arranged the composer’s Messiah to better fit her spiritual understanding of the work. Park played the autoharp, and arranged and composed music for the instrument. Music was an integral to Park’s communion service and throughout her life, she composed and recorded hymns for the communion procedure.

Series consists of manuscripts and typescripts of Park’s work, unpublished manuscripts of poetry, prose, and plays; handmade booklets, manuals, procedures and instructions for her “learners,” Sunday school teaching material, prayers, and talks and other study series material; sheet music, transcriptions, arrangements, annotated and inscribed hymnal books, musical certificates, and autoharp transcriptions; bookmarks and booklets, sketchbooks and artworks, and vinyl recordings of Park singing.

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Physical condition

Some of the LPs have light chips and ingrained particulate matter in the grooves.

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Further accruals anticipated.

General note

RBSC-ARC-1771-PH-105 (large print – photograph storage)
RBSC-ARC-1771-SPLP-001 to 002 (LPs : analogue, 33 1/3 rpm)

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Description created by Andréa Tarnawsky in November 2017.

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