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Lackluster response to faith healing

Kevin Allerston
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A faith healer from Germany and his supporters claimed they found the cure for cancer and migraines during a recent visit to Yellowknife.

According to four members of the Medical Scientific Group of the Bruno Groening Circle of Friends, who held a workshop at Northern United Place earlier this month, observing the lessons of the group's long-deceased eponymous charismatic leader can cure everything from headaches to terminal illness.

On March 20 Yellowknife residents were invited to learn how the occultish teachings of the late self-professed German miracle maker, Bruno Groening, can purportedly rid them of almost any ailment. Unfortunately for the workshop's hosts, attendance was sparse.

Aside from Yellowknifer, three people showed up to the evening event, titled Healing on the Spiritual Path, making for a somewhat awkward atmosphere.

Wolfgang Vogelsberger, whose business card describes him as a representative of Bernlapp Pharmacy in Freiburg, Germany, led the workshop alongside three peers who waxed poetic about Groening and the power of Heilstrom - a.k.a. the healing stream. All claimed to have experienced miraculous healing themselves.

"I was in a tennis match, and I damaged my right inner cartilage (of the knee), and they said it should be operated (upon), and I didn't want it to be operated ... and I asked my wife and she said to tune in this Heilstrom, and I was doing that and within three weeks I could play tennis again," said Vogelsberger.

The Heilstrom, he claimed, can cure anything from severe premenstrual syndrome and chronic migraines to blindness and stomach cancer. Evidence to support this came in the form of a brief slideshow documenting a couple of cases where people became well, but only certain parts were translated into English from German. The other piece of supposed evidence was a 10-minute excerpt from a documentary the presenters said was five-hours long.

"This is true, real healing," said Vogelsberger, a slogan he repeated over and over and over again throughout the evening.

Groening, he said, was a religious speaker who drew crowds in the 1950s. People would gaze upon him as he spoke and reportedly weep with joy as their maladies would supposedly depart.

The few Yellowknife residents in attendance were instructed to sit with hands open and palms up, legs and feet uncrossed, while thinking happy thoughts. Fingers touching, hands closed, and legs crossed keeps the Heilstrom from working its magic, Vogelsberger.

They were told to expect a tingling sensation, or warmth, a sense of calm or possibly even pain, if they were experiencing the Heilstrom. It supposedly works best if done while staring at a picture of their dead mentor, Groening, offering him problems, while simultaneously not thinking about problems, and listening to peaceful melodies.

They said to do this twice a day, for days to months, though healing can be instantaneous, especially if large groups of people are doing it together.

And there they sat, for the full hour and 40 minutes of the workshop. Supporters claim Groening died in 1959 from an inexplicable "burning from within." The reason, they say? Authorities stopped him from doing his work. Others say there was a more Earthly cause: stomach cancer.

Vogelsberger purports to have personally witnessed between 400 and 600 cases of miraculous healing, but stumbled over the question of whether the cases are peer reviewed, as if he didn't understand the question, eventually saying they are reviewed by one or more members of the circle to assure authenticity.

When Vogelsberger was asked how he feels when the word "charlatan" is used to describe Groening and circle members, he said that was once a problem, but not any more.

"In the 1950s, because physicians were not able to look to this man without emotions," he said, "they did tell a lot of things that were not the truth. Today I think that is over."

He said the circle's current tour, with more than 40 stops worldwide by various circle members, is financed entirely by donations, which were requested at the end of Tuesday's workshop. The less than enthusiastic turnout troubled the presenters, but they said there are normally many who come out.

"I don't think Yellowknifers are ready for it," Vogelsberger said.

When asked if he would take famous American skeptic and television personality James Randi's challenge, offering $1 million for any proof of the supernatural, Vogelsberger said he was not aware of it.

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