Page 17 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper March/April 2018 Edition
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John of God: Healing by Entities?                                                                                  17

            ‘John of God’: Healings

                      by Entities?

                      by Dr. Joe Nickell

          Known as “John of God,” a Brazilian faith
          healer claims spirits take control of his body to
          enable him to perform surgeries without
          anesthesia and other healing procedures.  The
          spiritual center he founded, located in the little
          town of  Abadianian Brazil’s remote central
          highlands, has been dubbed “the Lourdes of
          South America” (“Controversial” 2006), while
          he himself has been called a charlatan and
          worse (“Is” 2005).
                 First alerted by a CNN producer to a
          John of God healing service in  Atlanta, I
          determined to go undercover to get a close look  religious  movement,      overlayed    onto          Shrewdly, João’s entities avoided
          at what was transpiring. I worked with National  Catholicism. It may involve mediumistic       performing “visible surgeries” in Atlanta, where
          Geographic Television and Film on a segment     searches for past lives and even so-called     he might have been arrested. I was chosen for an
          for their Is It Real? series program, “Miracle  “psychic surgery” (Bragdon 2002, 14—20;        “invisible” procedure as I hobbled by with a
          Cures,” which included an analysis of the John  Guiley 2000, 360—362).                         cane, wearing the requisite white outfit that, I
          of God phenomenon.                                     Supposedly, psychic surgeons open the   was told, “helps maintain a higher vibrational
                                                          body     paranormally—without        surgical  frequency” (“John” 2006a; 2006b). I also wore a
          John of God                                     instruments or anesthetic—and heal diseases by  minor   disguise   since    frequent   media
                                                          manipulating vital organs. Typically, they have  appearances have made me more recognizable
          Known in his native Portuguese as João de       involved fraudulent practices including sleight  (see figures 1 and 2).
          Deus—“John of God”—João Teixeira de Faria       of hand. For instance, “tumors” have proved to        As I would discover, João is an unlikely
          was born in 1942 to poor parents. He grew up    be pieces of chicken intestines and blood that of  miracle worker. A grade-school dropout, he was,
          unable to stay in school or hold a job.  At     a cow (Nickell 1998, 159—162).                 reports an admirer, “forced to live as a wanderer,
          sixteen, he reportedly discovered his miraculous       John of God, however—styled “João-in-   traveling from city to city healing the sick and
          ability when, in a vision, a woman directed him  Entity” when supposedly possessed—has a       living from their donations of food” (Pellegrino-
          to a nearby church.  There, although he         different style. He performs dubious “surgeries”  Estrich 1995). Because, in Brazil, it is illegal to
          maintains he does not remember what             that are either “visible” or “invisible.”  The  practice medicine without a license, he has been
          happened, having been entranced, he allegedly   former may involve twisting forceps up a       charged and fined—even jailed briefly. A district
          performed a miraculous healing.                 person’s nostrils or using a knife to scrape an  attorney who investigated him has reported that
                 He thus began a career that impresses    eyeball or slice open a fleshy abdomen—all     João sent her—indirectly, through a relative—
          the credulous. Claiming to be a medium (one     without anesthesia.  According to a pro-João   death threats. John of God denies that, along
          who communicates with spirits of the dead), he  book, “In over thirty-five years of the Entity’s  with an accusation that he took advantage of one
          insists he is guided by more than thirty        surgery, it has been extremely rare for there to  woman who had come to him for healing.
          entities—although, curiously, João speaks only  be any infections” (Bragdon 2002, 11).                “There is a lot of jealousy. People talk,”
          Portuguese, regardless of which entity is              With “invisible surgery,” the entity du  he says defensively. “What dictates is the
          possessing him at a given time. King Solomon    jour gives a prayer, after which thousands of  conscience toward God.” Noting his apparent
          was his first entity. Others followed, including  “healing entities” busy themselves, allegedly,  wealth, some critics say his “healings” are
          Ignatius Loyola, the Spanish noble who          by operating on an organ, revitalizing a muscle,  merely a front to make him a rich man (“Is”
          founded the Jesuit order in 1540; João’s center  or otherwise “simultaneously attending to the  2005).
          is named for him: Casa de Dom Inácio de         problems of the people in the room” (Bragdon          Certainly, his procedures are a sham. The
          Loyola. Oswaldo Cruz, a physician who helped    2002, 11).  Augmenting the sessions are        twisting of forceps up a pilgrim’s nose is an old
          eradicate yellow fever, is another alleged entity,  encouragements to meditate, drink water    circus and carnival sideshow stunt, explained in
          along with other past healers, in a sort of     blessed by the entities, and take prescribed   my book Secrets of the Sideshows (Nickell
          spiritist pantheon (“Controversial” 2006; “Is”  herbal remedies.                               2005, 238—241). Looking far more tortuous
          2005).                                                                                         than it is, the feat depends on the fact that,
                 Spiritism is essentially spiritualism, a Investigation:                                 unknown to many people, there is a sinus cavity
          belief that one can communicate with spirits,                                                  that extends horizontally from the nostrils over
          but with the added conviction that spirits      I had already obtained a ticket to the John of  the roof of the mouth to a surprising distance—
          repeatedly reincarnate in a progression toward  God event in Atlanta when I was contacted by   enough to accommodate a spike, icepick, or
          enlightenment. In Brazil, which is steeped in   National  Geographic Television. We  then      other implement used in the “Human
          superstition and has a climate of belief in     worked together on an investigation that shed  Blockhead” act.
          African spirits, spiritism has become a powerful  new light on the Brazilian’s claims.                                (Continued on Page 18)
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