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All photos - Dennis Wall/Orlando Sentinel

James Thomas, a retired chiropractor, has a private healing
session with Lolly Thayer in the small gazebo at the Cassadaga
Spiritualist Camp this month.  Mannie Billig catches Thayer as she
falls back.  Thayer is studying under Thomas to become a healer.


Meditation and prayer in a Healing Circle
 are designed to help the sick.

Terry O. Roen
Sentinel Staff Writer

April 19, 2006 Cassadaga -- Residents of this spiritualist community congregate to pray for the sick, for world peace and guidance from their creator during their weekly Healing Circle.

Two dozens participants pull straight-back chairs in a ring, close their eyes and meditate for half an hour.  The circle includes an eclectic mix of mediums, Spiritualists, healers and the general public.  Some arrive in wheelchairs and walkers for personal healing, but the majority said they were praying for friends and family. 

Three readers simultaneously chant the names of people on a prayer list.  The list ranges from 100 to 200 names.  A healing book is placed in the back of the Colby Memorial Temple each Sunday so people can list the names of those who need prayers.  Participants also bring lists of their own to read.

Mannie Billig, the group leader, asks participants to "visualize the people and send them love and understanding."

Then the group goes into a meditative state in which only the whirring of the ceiling fans breaks the silence.

"We know that everyone on the list and in our circle is being taken care of," said the Rev. Phoebe-Rose Bergin during a closing prayer.  "Let the God within do the job and release your cares."

Spiritual healing has long been a facet of Spiritualism, and Cassadaga is a training ground for healers.

George Colby, the founder of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, told followers he was ill with tuberculosis when his Indian spirit guide, Seneca, led him to the 35 acres of wilderness in 1875.  A small spring on his homestead provided the elixir that healed him, according to local legend.

Visitors come to Cassadaga for spiritual readings and healing.  The 21 certified healers in the camp say they believe healing compliments traditional medical practices.

Healers practice mental healing and the laying on of hands, in which mediums channel forces of healing from the spirit world through their hands.

Spiritual healing by the laying on of hands can be traced back to the New Testament miracles by Jesus and his disciples.  The practice can be found in most Christian churches and in alternative healing therapies such as Reiki.

After the meditation, those who want an individual session with one of the camp's healers walk to the Caesar Forman Healing Center, a wooden gazebo next to the temple.  The gazebo has shiny wooden floors with benches along the windows trimmed with lace curtains.

Lolly Thayer stands in front of James Thomas, a retired chiropractor and Cassadaga healer, as he prays for healing.

Thomas closes his eyes, rubs his hands together and then places them over Thayer's head.  She is told to let go and fall back into the arms of Billig, who catches her limp body to break her fall.

Thomas started the Healing Circle in October when Richard Warren, a camp resident, was struggling with cancer.  Initially, a dozen people gathered around his bed to pray for healing.  Warren died Feb. 1, but the circle still meets.

The Healing Circle is at 10:45 a.m. Thursdays in the Andrew Jackson Davis building, 1112 Stevens St., Cassadaga.

Terry O. Roen can be reached at or 386-851-7911.

Copyright (c) 2006, Orlando Sentinel

James Thomas holds Lolly Thayer's hands
during a healing after a meditation session.   
Spiritual healing is an old facet of Spiritualism.

People continue to sit in the Healing Circle a few
moments after finishing their meditation session
at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp.


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