Page 18 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper March/April 2018 Edition
P. 18

18                        John of God: Healing by Entities?

            ‘John of God’: Healings

                      by Entities?

                  Continued from Page 17

          At my instigation, National Geographic filmed a
          performance of such an act at the Washington,
          D.C., showbar Palace of Wonders, operated by
          carny impresario (and friend) James Taylor. Our
          blockhead was “Swami  Yomahmi,” a.k.a.
          Stephon  Walker, whom I introduced with my
          best carny-sideshow spiel. Walker even cranked
          a rotating drill bit into his nose. He also used a
          blunt knife to scrape the white part of his eyeball
          and acknowledged that such stunts look more
          risky than they are.
                 A surgeon who commented on John of
          God’s incisions stated that they were superficial
          (little more than skin deep, apparently) and   own healing power, and other effects (Nickell    •  Bragdon, Emma. 2002. Spiritual Alliances:
          would not be expected either to bleed very much  1998, 133—137).                                   Discovering the Roots of Health at the Casa
          or even to cause much initial pain. The same is        Consider, for example, the case of          de Dom Inácio.  Woodstock,  Vermont:
          true of scraping the white of the eye or inserting  Matthew Ireland, a pilgrim from Guilford,      Lightening Up Press.
          something into the nasal cavity (“Controversial”  Vermont, whose doctor told him he had a type of  •  Controversial faith-healer schedules Atlanta
          2006). Physicians affiliated with the Skeptical  brain tumor that was fast-growing and             visit.      2006.       Available       at
          Inquirer voiced similar opinions. The brief nasal  inoperable.  After two years of radiation;
          procedure occasionally leaves someone’s nose   treatments and chemotherapy, Ireland made           accessed April 4, 2006.
          bleeding, but his or her body’s own healing    three visits to John of God. Subsequent MRI      •  Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 2000.  The
          mechanisms will no doubt repair the minor      testing did show that the tumor mass had shrunk     Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, 2nd ed.
          injury. The bottom line regarding the procedures  by fifty percent, but it was not gone as the entity  New York: Checkmark Books.
          is that they are pseudosurgeries that have no  had claimed. Ireland’s former oncologist         •  Is “John of God” a healer or charlatan? 2005.
          objective medical benefit other than the well-  attributes the partial success to the aggressive   ABC News, February 8. (Available at
          known placebo effect.                          radiation treatment and concedes it is possible;
                 Furthermore, the “holy water” that      that the specific type of tumor may have been       accessed  April 4, 2006. (The  ABC
          “João-in-Entity” blesses and that supposedly   misdiagnosed (“Miracle” 2006; “Is” 2005).           Primetime Live broadcast on which this
          helps effect cures is ordinary water. I provided a     Often, at healing services like those of    article is based aired February 10, 2005.)
          specially labeled bottle I had purchased in    John of God in Brazil, pilgrims’ emotions may    •  John of God in Atlanta. 2006a. Available at
          Atlanta, and National Geographic had it tested at  trigger the release of endorphins, brain-; accessed March 15.
          a major D.C.-area facility, the  Washington    produced substances that reduce sensitivity to   •  2006b. Personal communication from
          Suburban Sanitation Commission. It was found   pain. They may thus believe and act as if they March
          to have no unusual properties and to be entirely  have been miraculously healed—even throwing      8.
          unremarkable (“Miracle” 2006).1                away      their    crutches—whereas       later  •  Lucas, Richard. 1972. The Magic of Herbs
                 As to João-in-Entity’s herbal remedies,  investigation reveals their situation to be as bad,  in Daily Living. West Nyack, N.Y.: Parker
          actually only a single herb is prescribed, but  or worse, than before (Nickell 1998, 136).         Publishing Co.
          those seeking aid are told that the entities are  However, I did note that, at the Atlanta John of  •  Miracle Cures. 2006. Is It Real? TV series,
          able to use it to help cure a wide variety of  God event, those who came with walkers,             National Geographic Channel. October 9.
          ailments (“Miracle Cures” 2006).  The herb is  crutches, and wheelchairs left with them. Sadly,    Nickell, Joe. 1998. Looking for a Miracle:
          one of the many varieties of passionflower, a  the entities had not taken away their afflictions,  Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions &
          mystical plant associated with Jesus’          only their money.                                   Healing Cures. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus
          crucifixion, and it has been used since ancient                                                    Books.
          times   as    a   “sedative,   nervine    and  Acknowledgements                                 •  2005. Secrets of the Sideshows. Lexington,
          antispasmodic.” Herbalists say it soothes the                                                      Ky.: University Press of Kentucky.
          nervous system and produces restful sleep that                                                  •  Pellegrino-Estrich, Robert. 1995. John of
                                                         I am grateful to my wife, Diana Harris, not only
          brightens one’s outlook (Lucas 1972, 128—                                                          God.              Available             at
                                                         for her forbearance but also her direct assistance
          129). Small wonder it would be the drug of                                               ;       accessed
                                                         in this project. I am also grateful to Isham
          choice for a “healing” center to distribute                                                        February 21, 2006.
                                                         Randolph and others from National Geographic
                                                         Television and Film for their professional work,
                 Many people offer testimonials as to the
                                                         as well as to Timothy Binga, the director of CFI  About Dr. Joe Nickell:
          beneficial effects they have supposedly received
                                                         Libraries, and Lauren Becker, then CFI’s
          at the hands of John of God. In fact, however,  assistant director of communications, for             Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research
          the successes attributed to the entities may be
                                                         research assistance.                            Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
          nothing more than what occurs at other alleged
                                                                                                         (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for
          miracle sites, like Lourdes, where the vast
                                                         Note                                            Skeptical Inquirer.  A former stage magician,
          majority of supplicants remain uncured. Since
                                                                                                         private investigator, and teacher, he is author of
          such “healings” are typically held to be
                                                            At the event I attended in Atlanta on April 4,  numerous books, including Inquest on the
          miraculous because they are “medically
                                                         2006, at the Renaissance  Waverly Hotel, a      Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence
          inexplicable,” claimants are engaging in the
                                                         staffer told me the water could be replenished by  (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and
          logical fallacy of “arguing from ignorance”—
                                                         refilling the bottle when the level gets low, using  Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007).
          that is, drawing a conclusion from a lack of
                                                         ordinary tap water—the original water           He has appeared in many television
          knowledge.  Touted healings may actually be
                                                         energizing the newly added.                     documentaries and has been profiled in  The
          attributable to such factors as misdiagnosis,
                                                                                                         New  Yorker and on NBC's  Today Show. His
          spontaneous     remission,     psychosomatic
                                                         References                                      personal website is at []
          conditions, prior medical treatment, the body’s
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