Confessions of a Cayce Doctor
“Each man will be like ... streams of water in the desert.”
Book of Isaiah
§ All creatures, with humans in key prominence, are magical manifestations of divine mind. Our potential is to emulate and participate in the vast work of the Creative Forces. To join in the creative process.
Most of us have a long way to go even to imagine such possibilities. But in the meantime, we can make endeavors to Know Thy Self. The Self being a microcosm of the universe, we eventually grow into our potential, to create thought forms, and to serve the larger plan.
In the 80s, the ARE Clinic was one of a large number of organizations and groups in Phoenix trying in their own ways to raise consciousness, promote healing, and make the world a better place. That said, we were all finding our own way as we endeavored to build things of which we only had portions of the blueprint.
I had the good fortune during my brief passage in the desert oasis, to work with innovators, promoters, and dreamers in the holistic field. Having the Cayce Work as foundation was a wonderful starting point. It also offered a high standard to which we could aspire. Success was only a matter of time, “however long the course may take.” As Cayce might have said. §
In the midst of my Clinic days, I gradually turned toward becoming a communicator and teacher. I wanted to listen to and speak with people and get to the roots of our multi-dimensional lives as well as health and dis-ease. I hankered to understand the body as a medium for the subtle nature and as a symbol of the inner being. Most of all, I desired to fulfill the essential role of the DOCTOR (which means teacher in the original Latin), to teach health and wellness rather than to continue to fight the often blind battle with dark and deadly disease. “Give a man a fish, you feed for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
In the fall of 1982, I joined the Wellspring Wellness Center on the north of Phoenix which had been formed a year previously by disaffected Clinic employees led by Tom and Anne Bruck. At the time, Tom and Anne had already developed their own following so that many people thought the Center would take off. The Brucks had been married for a number of years and were both ordained ministers of an irregular denomination. They made a handsome and charismatic team.
Charming, chunky and curly-haired, Mr. Bruck was a skilled astrologer and speaker. He exuded a warm, yet paradoxically, retiring persona which both men and women appreciated. At the Center, Tom’s major functions were largely administrative as he moved away from doing horoscopes and counseling.
Mrs. Bruck, a bit on the roundish side herself, was a good-looking, bleached blonde with clients scattered all around the country. Many of them had come to her during the Clinic days because of her reputation for being a talented psychic. Although she was not very prophetic in her own environ, Anne was the star of the Center. She was the resident psychic who drew people to the WWC as well as money into the coffers.
Although large numbers of people never collected at the Center, there were a “few shining moments” occasioned with the support of a generous benefactor. The money which bankrolled the Wellspring for a couple years came through the the hands of a wealthy Colorado woman. The arrangement was somewhat like the one Morton Blumenthal made with Edgar Cayce fifty years earlier. Helen X. received unlimited psychic readings and counsel from Anne in return for her substantial backing of the fledgling organization. That proposition must have cost her on the order of $500,000. Hopefully, the counsel she personally received was worth the investment.
Hopes and expectations, desires and aspirations ran high at Wellspring as a contingent of idealistic NewAgers convened for an unexpectedly brief experiment. The retinue included a hodgepodge of helpers and therapists, all devoted in one degree or another to healing, personal discovery, and spiritual development. We all expected to make some money along the way, too. Besides the psychic, astrologer, and physician (myself), we counted an osteopath, a pharmacist, two psychologists, a numerologist, a color consultant, an educator, and a number of massage therapists among us.
The Center was basically a storefront in a North Phoenix shopping center. The periphery of the large shop boasted books and tapes, products and remedies supportive of alternative interests and lifestyles. The deeper recesses of the building contained offices and consulting/treatment rooms for the various practitioners. The center of the Center was a spacious conference-classroom area. The whole setup covered 4000 square feet and ate up a lot of rent money and resources.
Noble and progressive, if lacking wisdom and planning, the unstated Center ideals never drew enough interest to come close to succeeding. The nature of the “Wellness” idea itself was a major stumbling block. The terminology and parameters, implications and objectives are still unclear after decades of efforts to gain general attention.
Besides the generic problem, WWC had its own unique combination of internal challenges. Many of them were quite inapparent to the Wellspring group. Others stood out prominently. First of all, Wellspring was hardly more than a medley of therapists, remedies, and products. There was no single, unifying principle – such as the Cayce readings – to which the group adhered. There were lots of comparable ideals, but leadership was slim, directions were scattered, and objectives were muddied by personal desires. There seemed to be a paradigmatic, though vague and insubstantial, dream lying behind the facade of activity and expectation. But, it proved to be a mere phantom.
That was epitomized in words spoken to me and others in the group by Anne Bruck in her entranced state. As a new contractor (no one was salaried, although several people got benefits and draws) at the WWC, I was offered a free consultation with each of the other practitioners including the Center’s star psychic. I took advantage of most of the gifts, mainly to get to know the skills and abilities of my co-workers.
At the time, a free reading by Anne Bruck seemed nothing to pass up. People paid large sums to receive her psychic readings. Helen X. paid thousands. I got a few words for free. On the surface, the session was all very positive. My efforts in holistic medicine as well as my spiritual studies were lauded and reinforced. Past lives were glossed over while my future work in “the youthing of the cells” was broached. But, the focal point of Anne's monologue came down to my “important role in the development of this Southwest Center of Light, though its name may be otherwise.”
The “Center of Light” was whispered about by other workers who had received similar readings. But, that same “Center” got short shrift through the division of energies of the titular leaders. The WWC royalty seemed to want to live at court wherever and whenever they found themselves. That attitude was graphically demonstrated in its Second Annual Conference held in December of 1982. Diverted energies caused thousands of invitations to the Conference to go out late just a few weeks before the scheduled program. Barely 100 people signed up for the whole seminar which boasted speakers in the likes of pediatrician Lendon Smith, astrologer Alan Oken, psychic Carol Ann Liaros, authors Marilyn Ferguson and Ruth Montgomery, and motivator Reverend Terry Cole-Whittaker.
Held at a Scottsdale hotel, the program came off smoothly despite the paltry turnout. The content and delivery of the presentations were impressive and befit the conference title: Healing the Planet. There was a courtly elegance to the setting while hints were spread that our group was reincarnated from long past European days of chivalry and high ideals. Camelot, some thought. Or was it the Court of Richard II? The grand closing ceremony featured WWC workers carrying lighted tapers down the conference room aisles to the vibrations of Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire.
Tom Bruck in present day
Imaginations got the best of some of us. The Healing the Planet Conference only lacked an appropriate sized audience to respond to the impressive line-up of speakers. The remainder of the details were handled expeditiously. One speech from the conference bears recalling. Tom Bruck’s main presentation was entitled “The Hole Truth.” His premise was that we all have holes and blind spots in our world views. Our truths are only partial because we lack vision. Simple and true and powerfully demonstrated by the very meeting in which the speech was spoken.
There was a great hole in the Wellspring Wellness Center. Despite many fine people, hard work, and great expectations, a gaping hole resided in the midst of the “Center of Light.” That black hole eventually devoured the potential radiance. Well over $50,000 was dropped on that one conference alone. Although that was merely a tithe compared to the previous expenditures and losses at the Center Helen X inevitably withdrew her support and the Wellspring Wellness Center quietly folded its tent.
It seems that the benefactress must have been aware of the financial end of things, if nothing else. The chief players in the Center not only resided in the past, but they seemed to spend much of their time far away. They vacationed in Hawaii, frequented the Coasts, and maintained far-flung connections with friends and devotees. Our leading lights just seemed to have insufficient current to invest locally in that great “Center of Light.”
There was yet another hole in the scheme of things which drew upon other times and places. In a very strange anachronism which maybe only the twentieth century could manifest, Saul of Tarsus, cloaked as a Caycean psychologist, joined the group toward the end of 1982. Even as the Healing Conference was nearing, Paul took on a very unsaintly role and split our king and queen apart. Quite out of character, the ancient tentmaker forgot his Biblical injunctions on marriage and divorce.
Herb and Anne Puryear recently
Herb Puryear and Anne Bruck left their mates in a matter of a few weeks and were wed Christmas Eve 1982. They continue married to this day and run a “center of light” called Logos. Some months later, Tom remarried in taking Lou Ann, the pharmacist, as his new bride. New business. The rest of the group spread to the four winds.
I must mention at this juncture that Phoenix made a large claim to housing more than its fair share of famous reincarnates. Besides those noteworthies already mentioned, I there also met St. Peter, at the time a chiropractor, and Cleopatra, recently a Baptist minister, during my desert stay. I’m no Anthony, but I sure fell for Cleo. I remember how she used to adore the sun, bake under it for long stretches, and carry a deep dark Egyptian tan for her efforts. Maybe one comparable to that worn by the original Queen of the Nile. Over the years, I had already come across St. Francis reincarnated in Houston and would later find a whole entourage of famous Russian composers transmigrated into one family living in northern California.
After investing six months and earning a paltry few dollars at the Center, I was ready for a change and needed some income. I had other holes to fill, as well. Idealism can take one only so far. Yet, it is harder to give up than material things for eccentrics like me. My bank account was rapidly emptying and my ties to medical orthodoxy were ever thinning. Still, my security was in medicine – I knew nothing else. I considered a “real” medical job for a moment. A health maintenance organization owned by CIGNA had an opening in a southside clinic for an 8 to 5 physician. General medical duties were involved and the salary was $50,000. The offer was there, but I didn’t accept it. I couldn’t be a rote player, a technician, a robot in the medical game again. My sanity was more important than my security. I just couldn’t do things I didn’t believe in even if it meant money – big money – to me.
REGRESSION§ I motored home to South Dakota for the holidays and detoured through Missouri on the way back. I stopped for an interview for a position with Norman Shealy at his holistic pain clinic in Springfield. I spent most of the day at the noted physician’s home talking and learning about his work. Some days later, Norm let me know that his hospital affiliation required a physician with specialty training of some kind. Board certified, which I was not.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dr. Shealy. Our conversation covered lots of territory, but there was one place on which he never touched. If only he had told me then ...
Many years later, I ran across a story published in the La Crosse Tribune. Shealy, at the age of 80, was interviewed as he was in the process of making a bequest of his farm valued at two million dollars and endowing a chair in Conscientious Psychology at the nearby university. Norm recalled to the reporter his attending a meeting of the Neuro-electric Society in Aspen in 1972. Shealy found himself irritated with the speaker who equated acupuncture with hypnosis. But ...
“The lecturer then mentioned that there was a 19th century British physician who had demonstrated it was possible to operate on hypnotized patients. That doctor was John Elliotson.
“‘I felt as if someone had sent an iceberg up my spine,’ Shealy says. ‘I knew I was John Elliotson.’
“To find out more about Elliotson, Shealy says, he eventually flew to London, where Elliotson had lived. He assumed Elliotson had been a surgeon and asked his cabbie to take him to the Royal College of Surgeons.
“En route, the cabbie was about to turn right. ‘Then something picked me up and turned me around and I had that iceberg down my spine again,’ Shealy says. He told the driver to turn left, instead, where he quickly came upon the University College Hospital of London.
“‘I knew every room in the building,’ Shealy says. ‘I am the reincarnation of John Elliotson.’
“Shealy says he knows some will dismiss his ideas on pain management, depression and conscientious psychology because of his firm belief in reincarnation.
“‘It’s never bothered me,’ he says.
“In addition to Elliotson, Shealy says he has also had snippets of other past lives. ‘I know that I was a brute 300 years ago,’ he says. ‘I had a man murdered because he wanted my job.’ He also believes he was once a disciple of St. Francis of Assisi.
“Shealy believes there will be more lives to come. ‘I assume I will be back,’ he says.”
In recent years, this author has come to study the work and writings of Dr. John Elliotson in depth. Born in 17--, Elliotson was a highly-esteemed member of the London medical community, favored instructor at the University College Medical School, and an accomplished writer on physiology and new therapies. He introduced the stethoscope into Britain. But when Elliotson took up mesmerism and displayed it dramatically in the associated hospital, he brought down the wrath of many of his colleagues. That even though he was revered by patients and notables in the likes of Dickens, Thackeray, Browning and Martineau.
At this distance, it seems quite plausible to imagine the soul formerly known as the mesmerist-physician Elliotson making a reprise as modern neurosurgeon turned healer-teacher named Shealy. §
When I returned to Phoenix, I had neither plans nor directions, just high ideals and a desire to give and learn. Slowly out of the ethers, opportunities and offers appeared. The first one took me by surprise. I received a telephone call from Mr. Sam Meranto, a local hypnotist. Sam got my name from Abram Ber, the President of the Arizona Homeopathic Medical Association. Meranto invited me to visit him at his office which happened to be around the corner and up the street from my house and the Clinic.
Meranto called the unique operation which he piloted The Think Faith Center. Sam had provided his business with the latest in electronic gadgetry and spared little expense in its furnishings, though his tastes were on the tacky side. The entry opened onto a large, shag-carpeted waiting room with a reception desk at which Sam’s young fiancée and her sister worked. Meranto’s own spacious office was situated just to the left of the entryway. On his desk were a number of tape recorders as well as a TV monitor which was connected to three close-circuit cameras. Sam could keep his eye on the lobby, his studio, and the relaxation room at all times from his leather chair.
On the opposite side of the building was the Relaxation Room. Dimly lit and kept comfortably cool, the RR contained recliners for as many as a dozen visitors. Its use was one of the benefits of becoming a Center member. Clients dropped in at their convenience, chose a tape from Sam’s personal library, and stretched out for some rejuvenating moments in the RR. One of the office girls started a tape rolling so that Meranto’s mellifluous voice cause the client to “relax muscles, ease edgy nerves, and sooth the stressed psyche.” The combination was a winner. His successes were numerous.
Next door in the studio, Sam produced, mixed and edited personalized “hypnosis” tapes. For a client who paid the full fee, Sam told me he “spent a whole hour inducing a hypnotic state and dealing with the person’s deepest problems.” The lucky customer was sent home with a copy of his/her session. The client also received copies of a half-dozen generic tapes on such topics as stress management, relaxation, motivation, weight reduction, health enhancement, and smoking cessation which Sam extracted from various sessions.
After the tour and introductions to the office girls and the current salesman, I was ushered back into Sam’s office. Meranto was intent and direct, “I want you to work with me. We can do some great things here.” The fifty year-old, smooth-talking, curly-haired, Tom Jones look-alike wanted to add some credibility to his Think Faith Center. He was also looking for an avenue through which his members might obtain insurance reimbursement for some of their “medical hypnosis.”
I admitted to being impressed by Meranto’s center. He was obviously an innovative thinker and was up on the latest in electronic technology. Sam was glib, but also personable and seemed genuinely friendly. Having no medical training, Meranto was largely self taught, developed the TFC on his own, and kept it in business – until the present day . He had a portfolio filled with testimonials and his work had clearly garnered results.
Mr. Meranto proudly told me his history. He started out as a teenager selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners back in the East. Before he was 20, Sam was the top regional salesman for the Electrolux Company. In his thirties, he developed a school for heavy equipment operators. In his forties, Sam started Meranto’s Medical Hypnosis which later became the Think Faith Center, Inc. He started small, but his successes mounted. By the time I crossed his doorstep, he was ready for a “partner” with a title and a degree. His proposal was not quite so direct, but the implications were clear. I told him I’d think about it and get back to him.
I did think about it. I had a generally positive opinion of Meranto’s work and his place. But, the difference from what I had been doing and where I had been doing it seemed large. Although I was no longer much of a medical man, Meranto’s Think Faith Center seemed to be a shift into a wholly other space warp. I had no imminent prospects elsewhere, but I was at the point of calling Meranto back to tell him, “No, thanks.” Before I rang Sam, my English friend, Peter Armitage [see below], and I discussed the matter. His observation seemed to go to the core of things, “Well, that sounds a lot like you: The power of the mind, thinking yourself well, reducing stress and relieving anxiety. Seems rather fitting to me. Why don’t you give it a try? What have you got to lose?”
I supposed he was right. I was interested in counseling. I did believe in “mind over matter.” I knew the significance of stress and anxiety in people’s lives and health. Meranto was doing things that lots of medics and laypeople should have been doing for decades, if not centuries. Actually, his work was not far removed from some of what Elliotson did over a hundred years past and Shealy had taken to in the 70s. Sam just added extra technology and hype into the mix. Meranto invariably “taught clients to use the power of their God-given minds.” How many times did I eventually hear that phrase?!
I wanted to teach – to teach people to “Help themselves to health” and to use their own inner faculties and healing powers, so. . . I started working for Meranto within a few days. I gathered a small income in a generally positive and comfortable environment. I learned about relaxation therapy, but little about hypnosis. In my ten months at the Think Faith Center, I saw Meranto put bit one person into what seemed to be a trance. The other clients whom he “hypnotized” became comfortably relaxed, but appeared far from any cataleptic state. All the same, Sam got results and I got paid.
I met a spectrum of people at the TFC, the likes of which I would have come across in few other health care institutions. I interviewed young and old, businessmen and housewives, entrepreneurs and retirees. All were looking for some improvement in their lives. Most had been disappointed in meeting some goal, but were willing to spend savings to support their commitment for change. I saw people drop pounds, throw away cigarettes, and alter their lifestyles. Although their transitions were sometimes painful, many clients held firmly to their plans. Others gave up along the way or continued to go through the motions of Sam’s program.
I remember sitting with a man who let himself tear up for the first time in fifty years. Mr. Jones was a self-made man. He had read a book as a youngster on How to Make a Million. From that moment, Jones determined to become a millionaire by his middle years. He achieved his goal. Yet, Jones’s fortune gave him little peace or happiness. He hated his wife, but would not divorce her. If they broke up, his assets would be torn apart and he would no longer possess $1,000,000. Enough to make a grown man cry!
Although I developed a routine at the Think Faith Center and a rationale for my work there, I never felt quite right about being the credentialed figure who acted as an insurance doctor. I was far from comfortable about signing forms for just any client who walked through the door at the Think Faith Center. I assuaged some of my discomfort with the whole idea by requiring clients to meet with me for consultation before I signed any insurance form.
I also rationalized that I was not alone in my practice. It is exceedingly common for physicians to sign for “services rendered under supervision.” In orthodox settings, physicians regularly make money “without doing all the work” by supervising nursing and therapist. laboratory and xray functions. At the ARE Clinic and the Wellspring Wellness Center, I signed for everything from allergy testing to treatments administered by biofeedback techs, masseurs, and colonic irrigators.
So-called “health” insurance has created an intricate game which seems unhealthy in itself. People pay premiums for insurance coverage hoping to ultimately get more back than they put in. The insurance companies are betting the opposite. The two parties often haggle and fight over who is responsible for bills which are created by a grand spectrum of providers many of whom render services of questionable value.
Reams could be written about who decides (usually M.D.’s) what is acceptable therapy and billable then because of large government subsidies. Then, it is really more of the same medicine and disease care. Tiny fractions of medical expenditures go towards promoting and supporting health. Remember, physicians never take a class on Health in the whole of their medical training.
Many people did benefit from the one-liners and back-patting relaxation therapy that Sam Meranto purveyed. The greatest benefit was afforded to those who came with a clear goal and a strong desire to achieve it. A prospective client might say, “I’ve had this problem too long. My doctor and my spouse tell me I will just have to live with it. I want to do better than that. I want to get well. Can you help me, Sam?”
Meranto wouldn’t miss a beat before relying, “You bet ya. I can help you. All we have to do is unlock that mind of yours – your own God-given mind. You’ll be better in a matter of days. We’ll show ’em what your strong mind can do.”
A highly motivated person willing to plunk down $1000 for a six-month program often made rapid progress towards a goal. The folks at home or the doctor in the office may have been surprised, but the customer didn’t care. Sam was exhilarated and puffed up. He gained another testimonial to add to his folder, tack on his bulletin board, or put on videotape.
I once asked Meranto if he had ever tried to study his success rate with clients. “Oh, sure. We did that once. My program was better than 85% effective,” he responded.
Bob: How did you go about getting those numbers?
Sam: I just had the clients fill out a survey form.
Bob: And, how did you get information from people who dropped out of your program?
Sam: I decided not to bother with them. They must have been better or they would have come back. If we had added those people into the survey, my success rate would have been even higher. I do good work, you know.
Meranto numbered his successes in several categories. He seemed to be most helpful to people who wanted to lose weight. Sam had no end of names and anecdotes to back up his claims in the area of weight reduction. However, I got the distinct impression that he took a larger bite of credit for those successes than may have been warranted. Whenever I picked up stories direct from clients past and present, I heard about other influences, remedies, and therapists who were part of the bigger picture.
Nonetheless, Sam deserved credit for turning people away from depression, addictions, and various physical ailments such as headaches and high blood pressure. He also spurred salesmen and real estate agents to increased monthly sales and post office employees to higher scores on performance exams. Meranto was willing to try his methods on anyone who would either pay his fee or potentially offer him another glowing testimonial. Amidst it all, I do think he really wanted people to feel better and hurt less.
There were other sides to Meranto’s story. Sam could be really picky about words – especially other people’s words. He told me of a key incident in his life which occurred even before his Electrolux days when he worked in a factory setting. Sam decided to have fun with a co-worker on the line and do an experiment in suggestion at the same time. Before work, Meranto huddled with three buddies to get their cooperation in the scheme. Each of his collaborators were induced to approach Sam’s friend, Jerry, at spaced intervals through the morning. One at a time, they started conversations with Jerry, but interrupted themselves to say something like, “Gee, Jerry, you don’t look too good. Are you sure you feel all right?”
With each succeeding comment, Jerry became less sure of his state of health. By noon, he got permission to go home because, “I really don’t feel very good.”
Sam often tried to bring a lesson from that story to the present by telling people how to respond to negative comments (suggestions) from family and co-workers. According to Meranto, whenever we hear a negative statement directed at us, we should repeat to ourselves an opposite and positive comment at least three times. I think with the rate of recent inflation, Sam may have increased that recommendation to five or ten positive affirmations.
Sam took that idea to an extreme in some instances. One day, Meranto and I met a client as he entered the Center. We were just about to sit down to visit with him in a consulting room when Meranto was called away. The client and I passed the amenities of the day between us before I was compelled to remark to him, “John, you seem a little depressed today.”
Just as those words passed from my lips, Sam re-entered the room. He jumped right into the conversation, interjecting, “Oh, no! Never say that to a client. Never say a client looks depressed. You should say, ‘You look good, but you could look better.’”
Sam had a point. Words do have power and are worthy of being carefully examined before, during and after being spoken. Still like all of us, Meranto’s practice was not always up to his preaching. I remember following John and Sam into the recording studio shortly thereafter. Sam asked how things were going between John and his woman friend. The couple had consulted Sam and purchased memberships in hopes of resolving some conflicts standing between them. Mary wanted to move back to California to be near her grown children. John was hoping to head back with Mary to Alaska from whence they had recently migrated.
Sam: Just tell Mary when you plan to go back – and when she needs to be ready to leave with you.
John: But, I don’t think she’ll be ready to go any time soon. She has other things on her mind, I guess.
Sam: You know, John, a woman’s place is next to her man. If your woman can’t be ready to go when you are, then I say, “Piss on her.”
As my time went by at the Think Faith Center, it became fairly obvious that women and sexuality were BIG issues for Meranto. Sam had obvious discomforts with women. He was quite a chauvinist as well. And, Meranto was almost petrified by homosexuals and would do most anything to keep from accepting one as a client. That is, if he recognized the client to be gay. I recall one young Marine who somehow slipped into the program. Sam appeared to feel relatively safe with him because he was “Government Issue.” However, his efforts to influence the man’s inclinations were totally thwarted because the Marine really had no commitment to change his life. I never quite figured out what prompted the young man to spend a thousand dollars for “therapy” which he really didn’t want.
Meranto’s choice for a second wife told volumes about his relationships with the opposite sex. Sam had befriended the half-sister of his teenage receptionist some months before I arrived on the scene. He used to brag how he had turned the life of 22 year-old Cindy around, gotten her away from drugs and booze, and made a woman out of her. Cindy eventually moved in with Sam and came to work at the Center.
Sam “made a woman out of her” by ladening her with expensive clothes, jewelry, and toys, and by pretty much telling her what to do. Listening to Sam’s boasts, I got the impression that their relationship was “a total hip job.” Though I never caught any glimmer of complaint from Cindy in that department, signs of friction did appear as a result of Sam’s domineering ways.
In the latter days of my time at the Think Faith Center, Sam and Cindy got married. The union was completed. I attended the wedding and watched with trepidation. Thirty years separated the couple. A young woman, who had barely tasted life – in some ways – and certainly not opened her eyes yet, was marrying a man who could have been her father. The air in the church hung heavy for the longest time waiting to be rent in two so that some life might circulate among the group. At some point in the service, the minister misspoke a line, a titter spread through the crowd, and the curtain of oppression was broken. The couple was married and have lived and worked together for over thirty years.
Lest I lean too heavily on his shortcomings, I must say that Sam Meranto had many fine points. Meranto was talented, gregarious, and funny. He had a new gimmick, come-on, or brainstorm to share with me every day – or at least every other day. Sam knew how to cook and made some tasty Italian dishes. He was a bit of a handyman and thought of himself as a jack of all trades. And, he had a gift for making practical use of electronics before others caught on and the technology advanced.
Meranto was generous and, like many salesman, was an easy hit for a good peddler. On more than one occasion, he handed me extra cash with the suggestion to “tune up your wardrobe.” I took the hint and put his contribution to use. Sam not only took in Cindy, but he also hired various people off the street to do minor jobs for more pay than they were often worth. For several weeks, he kept a young man named Aaron busy at copying tapes, painting, cleaning, and just doing odd jobs.
Aaron became my housemate during that time. He shared my cooking and I shared his TV. I think he got the better part of the deal. He watched his favorite shows most every night on a tiny black and white set: SOAP and Barney Miller. I sat in on the latter usually and we yucked it up. But, Aaron eventually tired of the Think Faith Center. So he hitchhiked to San Diego in the middle of the summer heat and signed up for the United States Marine Corps.
Besides sharing business and brainstorms, income and food with me, Sam offered me a number of media opportunities. He took me to Tucson on a speaking engagement and let me share the podium for a few minutes. We also did a radio talk show and even produced a TV commercial together. Both of us touted Meranto-brand methods on those occasions. For a time, my friends laughed about the exploits of the Great Meranto. With a lilt in his voice, Peter Armitage suggested the addition of my name to the limelight. We might have become “The Great Meranto and the Amazing Bobanto.”
In early fall, Sam put together a seminar in his studio one Saturday to drum up interest in his work. About forty new and old clients showed up to listen to his spiel, watch video testimonials on big-screen TV, and hear some success stories from people in the room. I added my own complement to the program and shared some medical insights into “the power of your God-given mind.”
Not surprisingly, Sam continued to use the testimonial-type seminar approach. Years later, I happened upon an hour-long TV program one Sunday afternoon – Starring Sam Meranto. Sam covered ground similar to that on which he grazed when I knew him in 1983. He looked as sharp and youthful, talked as smooth a line, and presented a better promo than previous ones. Meranto still leaned heavily on “the power of your God-given mind” while he pushed his home self-hypnosis tape package at the same time. Today in his eighties, Sam is still active in his business and using every form of technology and media available. Last I talked with him, he was bringing in $3 million dollars a year and trying to interest me joining in his business presently named the All Faith Center.
Jerry Grasse was a small-scale entrepreneur who had found an angle into the stress-reduction business. Actually, he had a timely and valuable service to offer and numbers of Phoenicians benefited from his Health Awareness program. Grasse and a couple of part-time employees did brief stress management training programs for a few major employers in Phoenix. The businesses paid only modest fees for Health Awareness’s basic four-session course. But, Jerry found a way to expand the program and bring in a good income with it.
When I met Jerry, he was building an advanced program which incorporated small group sessions and individual biofeedback intakes on clients, and supported the whole setup with my medical signature on insurance forms. Once again, I became the insurance doctor.
I resented working in that capacity, but at Health Awareness I was teacher, counselor, and group leader. Just what I needed on my path of development. I met with each participant prior to and at the conclusion of the program, listening to their stories and offering suggestions where appropriate. Around a comfortable living room in a residential setting, I led weekly meetings. The groups of eight to ten learned about the physiology and mechanics of stress, its health effects, and various methods for dealing with distress. Without exception the members participated freely, shared large bites of their experiences, and reveled in the exercises – visualizations and guided imageries which I designed and led. In later groups, I even introduced some simple information on the energy centers in the human body. My study in the chakras began to bear fruit. Graduates of the Advanced Course regretted leaving the program and frequently asked, “What’s next?” Sadly, nothing was lined up to fulfill their requests.
Actually, there were quite a few gaps in the Health Awareness system. During my several months with the business, HA was always in financial straits. By early summer, Grasse convinced a psychologist to buy into the program. Neither George nor I knew the full extent of Jerry’s dealings and misdealings. But by mid-fall, the whole project was dying and George was out a sizable investment. I had had my suspicions all along about Grasse. Early on, I thought of him as Mr. Excitable and sensed that he was potentially in the right business to learn how to deal with his anxieties. But, there were other sides to his personality. Jerry was also Mr. Manipulation. Grasse manipulated George into investing in a failing business so that he could cover some of his own losses. Jerry had declared bankruptcy some years previously and bounced checks here and there. But, it wasn’t so much his financial dealings that bothered me as his extortions of people whom he called friends.
I viewed a telling moment toward the end of my association with Grasse through his own unknowing request. Jerry’s closet friend, Paul, who was one of the basic program leaders, had been suffering with a sore throat for some days. Jerry asked if I would mind seeing him on a medical basis as a favor. I said, “Sure.”
Paul and I sat together in a makeshift office as he told me about his symptoms. Then, I elicited the “rest of the story.” Paul had had an “angry” sore throat for a couple of days. It had progressed to the point that he had nearly choked that very day. He revealed to me that he had been at lunch with Grasse when his throat discomfort began. I quickly asked what was going on between Jerry and him. Reluctantly, Paul told me how Jerry had contracted to build a new house in Fountain Hills and was ready to move in when his financing fell through because of his past bankruptcy. Jerry somehow persuaded Paul to buy the new house. Paul and his family were suddenly uprooted, moved into an expensive new house, and burdened with extra bills which seemed to arise daily. Jerry was relieved of his burden and moved into Paul’s old and comfortable, but modest home.
Paul told the whole story without the slightest emotion. Neither did he evidence any obvious resentment. He was “such a nice guy.” Yet, his body and his symptoms betrayed his inner conflict. I tried to suggest to him, “You have to swallow a mortgage now, but you don’t have to choke on the emotions created by Jerry’s manipulations and your own passivity.”
I left the group when the Health Awareness programs halted and the money dried up. I never told Jerry what I thought of his treatment of other people (until now). But, I was direct with him in our own dealings. I minced no words when one of his checks bounced on me.
On the other hand, I owe him a debt of gratitude for giving me my first opportunity to teach and lead small groups in informal, homey sessions – such a comfortable and non-threatening way to teach and learn and share. Health Awareness also gave me a chance to start giving out synthetic information on the chakras – another beginning.
Owen Marcus today
Website for his work with Masculine Emotional Intelligence
In the late spring, I added another part-time job to my itinerary. Again, I became an insurance doctor with Owen Marcus and Associates in Scottsdale. I made the connection with Owen through my friend Peter Armitage. Peter had been working at Owen’s office for some months and told me that Marcus’s elderly referral (insurance) doctor had been taken ill and would not return to the office again.
I took on the new job a few hours each week and eventually made my own office there with the Marcus association for a short time. An ever-changing eclectic group had been assembled by the showy, yuppie, wheeler-dealer named Owen Marcus. Owen's real name, Robert Suckling, was far less appealing and not an attractive advertising label. For a bright, ambitious entrepreneur like Marcus, the name change was an obvious step.
Mr. Marcus’s trade was Structural Integration, generally known as Rolfing. He saw his work as remolding the “plastic“ body structure of his clients in a series of ten or more sessions. Using techniques developed by Dr. Ida Rolf, Marcus pushed, pulled, and prodded human connective tissue with his fingers and thumbs, knuckles, fists, and elbows. I subjected myself to his efforts as a personal experiment and as a way to get an idea of his capabilities. I came away with the sense that his method was pretty much mechanical and rotely applied. Marcus was no Ida Rolf, whom Gladys McGarey considered “a force of nature.”
Taking “before and after” Polaroid snapshots, Marcus tried to demonstrate the benefits of his therapy. In my own case, the results were fairly equivocal. That may have been due in part to my own ambivalence and skepticism. Regardless of my opinion, numbers of clients swore by Rolfing and its rewards. Owen Marcus was surely one of its most zealous champions. He went to great lengths to promote the profession and developed a steady clientele as did another Rolfer who worked for a time out of the same office.
Next door to Marcus’s consulting room worked a tiny sixtyish Japanese woman name Helen Ino. Helen was one of the first practitioners of Jin Shin Jyutsu in the United States as she was a sister to Mary Burmeister. Her Oriental healing art, which was akin to acupressure, relied on contacting and bridging a small number of points on the body surface. She set up healing “flows” in a gentle, comforting manner.
By that time, I had determined my own favorite in the field of body work: cranio-sacral therapy, as practiced by my English osteopathic friend, Peter Armitage. Peter was a major player at Owen Marcus and Associates for some time until he moved to Michigan. Dr. Armitage was also a significant part of my life in Phoenix (about which more in the next chapter). Peter and Marcus eventually developed their own “flow“ for certain patients “crippled” by injuries. Marcus worked on those patients from a gross structural angle while Armitage tried to influence their bodily disruptions from a subtler anatomical perspective. Their combined therapeutic efforts seemed to be well-received.
Marcus had taken another practitioner under his wing and had generously promoted him. Willy Larson was a degreed physician who had settled into a nutritional practice. Dr. Larson was in his late 20s and a recent graduate of America’s largest medical school located in Guadalajara, Mexico. After finishing med school, Willy returned to his native New York as an intern in a large city hospital. His hope was to complete a post-graduate medical training program and then take the board exams for FMGs (Foreign Medical Graduates). As it turned out, Willy didn’t get through the first phase of his plan. The internship overwhelmed the frail, anxious, bespectacled young man. Willy broke under the stress of the intensive internship and dropped out.
He made his way to Arizona studying nutrition en route. Larson became convinced of the importance of nutrition in health and disease, most particularly his own. He was quite sure that he had been unable to stand the strain of his internship because of his poor nutritional state at the time. When I met Willy, he told me that he was getting his body back into shape through scientifically-applied nutrition. He never mentioned getting his mind together and I didn’t broach the idea. I didn’t want to tip the scales.
I was more than skeptical regarding Larson’s application of nutrition. His whole program was based on the results of hair analyses. He simply clipped a lock of hair from the client’s neck, took a fee, and waited for laboratory data on hair minerals to direct his nutritional therapy recommendations. Willy studied the mineral “ratios“ and came up with two basic profiles. Patients were either “slow oxidizers” or “fast oxidizers” based on his calculations. I never knew him to discover a “normal oxidizer.”
All of his patients were recommended expensive supplements which they were expected to take indefinitely. Even though repeat hair analyses were done every six months or so, no one ever stopped taking Willy’s supplements. Unless they simply gave up on “Scientific Nutrition.” When I left Marcus’s, Willy was regularly swallowing his own vitamin-mineral combinations years after his internship illness. Maybe he still is.
My days with Owen Marcus and Associates were numbered just as were the times I spent with Meranto’s Think Faith Center and Grasse’s Health Awareness. I had gathered a treasure of experience and a modicum of knowledge as I observed and related to people, listened and counseled clients, and began my teaching efforts. But, I was more than relieved when new, fresh, and transforming possibilities touched me in subtle ways in the late months of 1983.