For nearly 30 years, the Rev. Don Zanghi has been involved in Ault Lyceum, also known as Sunday School, at Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association.
Rev. Zanghi, 71, first attended Lyceum on Father’s Day in 1991. There were two people in charge of Lyceum before he took over unofficially 15 to 20 years ago. He said he was an unofficial assistant to the last person in charge, the late Rev. Phoebe Rose Bergin.
“I grew into it. I was just drifting along doing it,” he said. “I was running it without the title” for many years. Eventually, about 10 years ago he became the Lyceum Director.
Lyceum is from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. in the meeting hall of the Andrew Jackson Davis Educational Building, 1112 Stevens St. Rev. Zanghi said topics have included spiritualism, comparative religions, natural law and parapsychology, all areas of curriculum in the student program.
“The most profound topic I spoke of was about the soul,” he said. “Some people confuse spirit and soul. Spirit is equivalent to soul in some traditions. In the Bible it says God is spirit and soul is a spark of God.”
Rev. Zanghi’s last day at Lyceum is June 28.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, that new blood should go in there,” he said. The Rev. Gregory P. Kent is scheduled to takeover.
It’s not as if Rev. Zanghi doesn’t have plenty to do. His class, Ancient Wisdom Teachings is from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays in the AJD Building. He has anywhere from 20 to 25 students in the class. Donations are accepted.
“Half the time I don’t know what I’m going to teach until I sit down,” he said. It could be connected to “metaphysics, esoteric studies, truth teachings. It’s the truth teachings of where all religions sprang from – universal law, cosmic law and natural law.”
Rev. Zanghi is also a teacher at the Winter Springs ashram at 4811 E. Lake Drive. He’s normally there on Tuesday nights, where students sit for Satsang, which is to sit and listen to the truth teachings.
“Our group is not a religion,” he said. “Again, it’s the teachings and experiences from what all religions have risen.”
Rev. Zanghi said he first got involved with Eastern religions in 2008 when a friend continuously talked about gurus, which is someone who can lead you from darkness to light. One time a friend’s guru from India was in the central Florida area and came to the Spiritualist Camp.
“There were six people there,” he said. “It didn’t deter him (the guru).
Eventually Rev. Zanghi, his wife and many other members of the Spiritualist Camp traveled to India and received knowledge. He has now became a devotee of the guru.
“I find that the teachings of spiritualism and the teachings of the guru are not incompatible,” he said. “To me, they are part of greater whole.”
Rev. Zanghi was born in Buffalo, N.Y. As a young man, his main jobs were working at the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science. For one year, he worked at the zoo in Maryland. Later, he worked at the Erie County Juvenile Detention Center in Buffalo.
“During that time, I started my schools in martial arts self-defense,” he said. “I got tired of seeing people being victims.”
Rev. Zanghi, who is in the Black Belt Hall of Fame of Fillipino Martial Arts in Manila, Philippines , had two schools and taught hundreds of students. Before moving to DeLand, he attended a message service at Lily Dale Assembly in western New York.
“It was the last medium of the day. I was sitting way over there in the corner,” he said. The medium “hit me square between the eyes. What do you do with that? You store it back here,” pointing to his head.
In 1990, he made his way to DeLand. Some months later he attended a Wednesday Night Message Service.
“It wasn’t clear and straight up like Lily Dale,” he said. “Sometime later when we went home, everything he talked about played out before my very eyes.”
Religious education has always been at the forefront of Rev. Zanghi’s mind. He grew up in a Roman Catholic household. He had 12 years of Catholic education – eight years with the nuns and four years with the priests.
“I am grateful for the education they gave me,” he said, “but I learned more in some individual lectures here (the Spiritualist Camp) or at the ashram, than I did in those 12 years.”
As for Lyceum in the Spiritualist Camp, “I used to tell people if you don’t like it, we’ll give you your money back,” he said and then chuckled. “Where else can you get an education free like that – 35 to 40 minutes every week?
“I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in Lyceum all those years,” he said. “I am grateful.”