The Cell-F Center
November, 2011 Newsletter
This is the first in a series of newsletters that will look at some of the pioneers in healing. The series begins with "The Cell-F Center," a personal account of my studies with a legendary chiropractor whose teachings reflect the origins of the chiropractic profession.
"I would rather get run over by a steamroller than to give up my principles about chiropractic," said Dr. Cerasoli in a booming voice, his right arm raised and index finger pointed toward the heavens. He was delivering one of his brilliantly crafted talks, a weave of anecdotes and facts displaying the man's command of the English language and his deep understanding of neurology, anatomy and cosmology. His speech emulated the orating power of the late Franklyn Delano Roosevelt in the way they kept his audience spellbound. Dr. Cerasoli was not tall in stature but his solid body and imposing gaze laid bare the rough and direct nature of his Brooklyn roots. "Look at those hands," a colleague said to me once, "they're like baseball mitts." Those large hands, we calculated, had delivered more that a million and a half chiropractic adjustments. He spoke with anyone who would hear the message of chiropractic and he continued to draw crowds of people to hear him speak until his death at age 98. I was one of his students.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and released me from the daydream. Images of the man and his riveting talks had danced before me as we stood shoulder to shoulder in the back of the Cell-F Center feeling the funereal silence that accompanies death. I looked around and saw that the available seats were filled by the family, friends, patients and chiropractors who had spent the last several years at Pasquale's side taking in his counsel and teaching. The Center had always had the ambiance of a church. The seats were rows of solid oak pews and the brick entranceway sported a miniature grotto. It was fitting that we would hold Dr. Cerasoli's memorial service here. In keeping with Cell-F Center tradition the podium was offered to anyone who felt called to address those who came to listen. The subject this time would be the passing of the man whose life purpose had been fulfilled in this building and later found its way to conventions and gatherings near and far from King's County, New York.
Pasquale Cerasoli was born in 1912 to Italian immigrant parents. He was an interesting mix of old world ethnicity and New Age consciousness. "Chiropractic comes from the spiritual world," he would posit in his lectures. "It is here to help us with the transition. It's a mess out there and we're going to help humanity become what it was intended to be. The chiropractic adjustment will help bring us into alignment and every cell will be filled with light. And, as it is said, the inner shall become the outer and things will start to change out there auto-matically. So do your job and don't worry about money or anything else. You will have as much as you want and more, as I did."
He would add flair to certain words, rearrange them, bring them down to their Latin roots and play with the language in a way that was both entertaining and informative. His talks took on a new flavor every meeting covering a landscape as varied as the importance of the pineal gland in human evolution, quotes from the Bible, lasers, photons and the fundamentals of tuning a violin. Pasquale would demonstrate how this all worked through diagrams he drew on the huge blackboard that lined the front wall of the lecture center located in the basement of his three story office and residence. The entire building was a testament to the skilled artisans who built it. Hand crafted wooden panels gave warmth to the walls of the Cell-F Center, the name Dr. Cerasoli gave to this place where we gathered every Thursday evening. The details of his home, office and the Cell-F Center were meticulously informed by the vision he had for bringing the practice and message chiropractic out to the world.
Pasquale, as he preferred us to call him often told us the story of his fated meeting with chiropractic: "When I was three years old I was vaccinated for polio and I developed encephalitis as a result of that vaccine. They didn't expect me to live, but I made it." The young Pasquale survived the initial crisis only to spend his entire childhood plagued by illness. "I would spend three weeks of every month in bed," he told us. "I barely went to school. And at night I had wild dreams. I dreamt of God and the devil and everything in between."
When Pasquale was a teenager his parents took him to a chiropractor named Dr. Verner who after two weeks of chiropractic adjustments was able to help change the course of the boy's health. "I continued to see Dr. Verner twice a week for the next year, travelling an hour each way by subway," Dr. Cerasoli recounted. "At the end of that year I was perfectly healthy. It was then that Dr. Verner told me he wanted to speak with me. He took me into his private office and looked me squarely in the eye."
"I've helped you a lot," the chiropractor said to the boy.
"You saved my life," replied the young Pasquale.
"Well, then there's something you can do for me." Dr. Verner looked directly into the boy's eyes and made his proclamation: "I want you to become a chiropractor."
Pasquale froze imagining the enormity of the task and objected, telling the man who helped save his life that he couldn't possibly accomplish what was asked of him.
Dr. Verner repeated his request and left the room.
"From that point on I read everything I could get my hands on," Dr. Cerasoli would tell us. "I studied science, theology and history; I taught myself Greek and Latin. I found doctors and professors who would let me follow them around teaching me anatomy and physiology. I did what I needed to do." Pasquale Cerasoli followed the call laid out by Dr. Verner and hung out his shingle in Brooklyn in 1940. He had one of the largest practices in the history of the profession until he retired in 1980. He would often tell us of the many people who were restored to health under his care. He lived and breathed chiropractic and spoke about it until his death in 2010.
The memorial service continued, taking on the tone and texture of the many meetings that had taken place in the Cell-F center over the years. I enjoyed listening to the stories of Pasquale's life as they filtered to the back of the room mixing with aromas of coffee and pastries laid out on long cloth covered table behind me.
"My wife and my son are my earthly family," said a chiropractor who had been a long time friend of Pasquale's, "and this here is my spiritual family. He always told us 'You are the crowning creation.' I tell this to my patients every day."
Men and women, shocked and teary eyed took the floor and one by one and spoke about Pasquale, the spiritual teacher, the iron fisted maverick, the friend and companion. A young man who had recently taken leadership of Cell-F Center meetings recounted his final experience with Pasquale.
"Last week I could see that he was making the transition. But he was still the Pasquale I've always known. He told me to go to the deli and get him a sandwich. And he told me exactly how he wanted it and made sure I had it right. The next morning I heard him walk to his study. You know, he did that every morning for sixty years. While I was walking upstairs to check on him I heard a crash and a loud thud. I ran up the last few stairs and when I reached the study he was lying on the floor. I could see that he was no longer with us."
Pasquale Cerasoli brought to his students knowledge he had garnered from many years of study. He had a voracious appetite for new information and kept us informed of the latest advances in science and technology. But what he shared came from another source as well. "They wake me up every morning at 4 a.m. and this is where I get the information I'm giving to you right now," he would explain. "I write it down, read it once and then it goes in the waste paper basket. So pay attention to what I'm saying. You won't find it written down anywhere or hear it anywhere else."
When I first became his student Pasquale would tell me, "You talk too much. Just do the job you're supposed to be doing and listen." It was good advice and in later years proved to be a practice that would serve me well. Now I smiled at the memory of my mentor's huge hand approaching his lips with a clamping motion to demonstrate his instruction. I as the last to speak that day and in a few words I conveyed the gratitude I felt having spent the last few hours listening and taking in the rich banquet of tales about a man who helped refine the art, science, and philosophy of chiropractic.
As I listened to friends and colleagues deliver their eulogies I was aware that this would be my last visit to the Cell-F Center. My studies with Dr. Cerasoli marked the beginning of a journey that would forever shape and re-shape the course of my life. I would be carried down a river of change nestled in currents of inspiration and beauty. I would be snagged by brambles of fear until the roots of misunderstanding were discovered and dislodged. I had learned a lot from the elder chiropractor and now it was time to move on. Pasquale laid the groundwork and planted seeds in the Cell-F Center that I would carry with me as I sailed out of its harbor in search of the great path of the heart that led to the blossoming of my own unique gifts. My gratitude was reflected in the expressions of my fellow travelers who were touched by the spark of Dr. Cerasoli's life.
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