Nelda Samarel – USA
João Teixeira de Faria – John of God
In 2011 I was scheduled to teach the winter school at the center for the Theosophical Society in Brazil, one hour from Brasília. It seemed an opportune time to visit Abadiânia, the home of the world-renowned healer, John of God. After all, I was “in the neighborhood” and, since I have been practicing and teaching the energetic healing modality known as Therapeutic Touch for over thirty-five years, my interest as a healer was keen.
According to Google Maps, the trip from the Theosophical center to Abadiânia should be two hours and thirty-two minutes. However, we took a “short cut” and the resultant four-hour ride took us through the bucolic Brazilian countryside.
Arriving in Abadiânia, my home for the next week, I was struck by the poverty of the rural town. As I learned the following day, most of Abadiânia is structured around and economically dependent on the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola or “the Casa” as the location of John of God’s clinics is known. Scattered throughout the small town are pousadas, inns where visitors to the Casa are housed; restaurants; Internet cafes; and shops selling essentials for travelers.
The pousada in which I stayed is owned by and designed for Americans, containing extra comforts not always available at other pousadas. This includes items such as window screens, Internet, familiar food, and an English-speaking staff. Although I tend to be an adventurous traveler, it seemed prudent to provide a high level of comfort for myself in the event that I would undergo a healing. The pousada provided three simple but delicious meals daily, a private room complete with hammock and writing desk, and beautiful grounds. Most importantly, the other guests, about twenty in total, all spoke English. We became like a family, sharing our experiences and taking care of each other.
Normally first-time visitors come with a guide who organizes transportation from the U.S., arranges for lodging, assists with formulating and translating requests for healing, accompanies you to the Casa, guides you through the phases of the process, and generally cares for you during your entire stay. Being comfortable traveling alone, and having read a fair amount about John of God and the healing process, I had opted for minimal guide services.
Who is John of God?
João Teixeira de Faria, internationally known as John of God, born in Brazil in 1942, is a medium and a healer. He maintains, “I do not cure anybody. God heals, and in his infinite goodness permits the Entities to heal ... I am merely an instrument in God's divine hands. It is estimated that, directly or indirectly, he has treated up to 15 million people during the past forty years. John of God, referred to as “the medium” has no medical training, but permits past doctors’ and spiritual teachers’ spirits, referred to as “the Entities” to use his body and consciousness to diagnose and treat individuals. When he is healing, he is referred to as “the Entity.”
It is said that thirty-three entities work with John of God. Some of these include medical doctors: Oswaldo Cruz (1872-1917), Augusto de Almeida (1871-1941), Bezerra de Menezes (1831-1900), and José Valdivino; saints: Francis Xavier, Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Ignatius Loyola; archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel; and great souls: Jesus Christ, Morya, St. Ger¬main, and Koot Hoomi.
From my own experience, I cannot attest to the fact that any of these Entities were present through John of God, the medium. But I can attest that, although I saw him, the physical man, on three successive days, and came within two or three feet of him each day, it was as if I was with three different people. It seemed that I was with the same person (or Entity?) the first two days, but on the third day he was entirely different. His eyes were the eyes of a different being, and his entire countenance was that of someone else.
João left school after the second grade. He had his first healing experience when he was sixteen and began performing healings in Abadiânia in 1978 at age thirty-six. Soon after, he founded the Casa there. In 1981 he was tried for practicing medicine without a license, but an outpouring of public support resulted in an acquittal. One year later there was an attempt on his life.
The medium is at the Casa every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and has healing sessions mornings and afternoons on each day, beginning at 8 a.m. and not leaving until all healings are completed. Every week, approximately 1500-2000 people visit for healing. He sees each one on all three days. Thus he may have up to 6000 sessions each week. There is no charge for healing, but donations are welcome.
Healing Practices at the Casa
The Casa is a complex of single-story structures, all painted white with blue trim. Both the interiors and exteriors are spartan and clean, providing only the bare necessities. The main building includes an assembly room where all enter and wait for the healing sessions. The room is open to the air and has a small stage at the front. Other rooms in this building include a room for surgeries, a recovery room, a room for discarded wheelchairs and crutches, and two “current rooms,” obtaining their names from the palpable healing energy, or current, generated by John of God along with hundreds of meditators. There also are buildings containing a kitchen and dining facilities, offices, restrooms, a pharmacy, and a store. Outdoors are sitting areas and gardens and a large parking area for buses, cars, and taxis.
Before arriving at the Casa, I was instructed to write three very brief requests for healing. These requests would later be translated into Portuguese, the only language the medium speaks. It is not every day that one has the opportunity to make healing requests of a medium in Abadiânia, so I obsessed over what to ask and changed the requests numerous times. I finally settled on three requests, two of a spiritual nature and one for physical healing of my spine. My rationale was that, given this unique opportunity, spiritual requests were of much greater importance as, unlike physical healing, they may be carried to future incarnations.
Outside the assembly room are a window and counter, behind which two volunteers, translating and and helping people to shorten requests. I had used an online translator program for my requests, so I asked one of the Casa translators to check them for me and make any necessary corrections.
By 7:45 a.m., everyone requesting healing is seated or standing in the assembly room waiting for the morning session. On the days when there are healing sessions, everyone entering the Casa is required to wear white, as it is believed that white helps maintain a higher vibrational frequency. In the assembly room were several hundred persons sitting on benches and on the floor, and standing far back into the courtyard. Many more were to arrive. Because I was aware of the crowds, I arrived at 7:15 and was seated in the first row of benches, directly in front of the stage. A few more formalities, and then all were requested to recite the Lord’s Prayer, the only religious rite at the Casa.
When it was announced that people who were to see the Entity for the first time were to form a line, I took my place in the long line, holding the paper with my three healing requests. The line moved slowly through the next room, the first current room, where approximately 100 people seated on wooden benches were meditating. We silently and slowly continued through this room and entered the second, larger, current room, also filled with people meditating, until we reached the front, where the Entity was seated on a small platform. Throughout this room were several extremely large crystals, some of them at least four feet in height.
As I approached the Entity, with three or four people ahead of me in line, an assistant approached me and took my requests. This assistant, like all who work at the Casa, was a volunteer. He waked with me until I was in front of the Entity and gave my requests to him. The Entity looked at me, looked at my requests, and said something to the assistant, which was translated to me as “Take the medicine.” The Entity then scribbled something illegible on a fresh scrap of paper and handed it to me. This was my “prescription” for the herbs I was to take. The entire process was less than fifteen seconds, and the assistant ushered me to the next room. I must say that I was terribly disappointed. I’m not certain what I expected, but this certainly was a letdown.
I proceeded to the Casa pharmacy to have my prescription filled. There I received a jar of herbs made, I believe, from dried flowers, that I was to take as directed for forty-two days. I later learned that all the bottles contained exactly the same herbs, but the Entity psychically impressed something on the prescription paper and the “pharmacist” filling the prescription, also a medium, transferred that impression into the bottle she handed to me. To my Western way of thinking, this all seemed far-fetched.
Following healings, everyone is instructed to go to the large kitchen and outdoor dining area, where each person who receives healing is given a bowl of homemade soup infused with healing vibrations. The soup is prepared in huge pots, more like cauldrons, by volunteers. As I stood in line waiting to receive my soup, I looked around and saw an amazing variety of others who were receiving healing. There were people like me who had the luxury of traveling thousands of miles out of curiosity, others who traveled in the hopes of curing serious illness, and people from all over Brazil who traveled great distances by bus to see the Entity. These travelers actually slept on their buses during the days of travel and while staying at the Casa. There were people in wheelchairs, on crutches, deformed children, and babies being carried. It seemed that I was surrounded by pain and suffering. I thought that if only a fraction of these people were helped, then all the effort was worthwhile.
As mentioned before, there is a room at the Casa that is filled with crutches and wheelchairs. I was told that these were left by people who came and experienced complete healings so that these items no longer were needed. I was told stories of others who experienced full healing from serious and life-threatening illnesses.
My own experience was not so dramatic. Within a few days my spiritual questions were very clearly answered in my meditations, and several weeks after I returned home, my unrelenting and long-standing back pain suddenly disappeared. Alas, the pain relief was short-lived: I needed to have back surgery several months later. I wonder, however, if I had returned to the Casa, would I have been completely healed? Or was the pain temporarily relieved in order to permit me to emotionality prepare for the surgery that I required?
For many who visit, the Entity prescribes his own form of surgery, which may be either visible or invisible. Those receiving invisible surgery are called to sit together in a room with eyes closed for about ten minutes. The Entity then says something and tells them that they are healed and need to proceed, with caution, back to their pousadas by taxi and lie in bed for twenty-four hours, during which time their meals are brought to their rooms. People having invisible surgery with whom I have spoken said they felt as if they actually had surgery, with all the associated discomforts, and slept for most of the next twenty-four hours, after which they felt fine.
Some volunteered for visible surgery, which is performed publicly in the assembly room in front of patients who are waiting to be seen. The second day, as I was waiting to see the Entity, he came out into the hall with six assistants and three patients. All stood on the small stage in front. At that point I was seated on the edge of the stage, approximately four feet from where the Entity stood.
The first patient, a man, was instructed to stand facing the group. He opened his shirt so that his chest was exposed. The Entity waved his hand across the man’s forehead, then chose a knife from a tray held by one of the assistants and made a vertical incision about four inches in length into the man's chest. The man was standing, eyes closed, smiling, and did not even wince as the incision was made. There were only few drops of blood, which was amazing considering the depth of the incision. The Entity then made another incision parallel to the first but somewhat shorter. While this was happening, I saw the outline of a red equilateral triangle on the man's chest, in a position so that the incisions were in the exact center. (The equilateral triangle is a symbol that is present throughout the Casa, with the three sides representing faith, hope, and love.)
The Entity placed his fingers inside both incisions, not wearing any gloves, moving his fingers. He then withdrew his fingers and took surgical sutures from a tray held by another assistant. He deftly and quickly sutured both incisions, obviously having much experience. Having worked as a nurse in emergency rooms in several hospitals, I never have seen more expert suturing.
That evening, when discussing this with others in my pousada who had also been sitting in the front of the room, I learned that no one else had seen a triangle. Much later on, when with one of the local young men who was driving me to the airport in Brasília, he explained that most people don’t see what I had seen, and that the triangle guided the location of the incisions. I have found no explanation for this. .
The “Current,” or Energy
It is entirely possible that the healing at the Casa occurs because of the powerful energy there. Being a Theosophist and a long-time practitioner and teacher of Therapeutic Touch gives me some familiarity with energy and healing. According to Theosophical teachings, human beings are energy fields. It is the pattern and rhythm of that energy, its vibration that determines our relative health or illness. Energy healing is strengthened when done in the midst of strong and vibrant energy fields.
It is said that part of Brazil has a geological foundation of crystal rock, a foundation that carries a high energy. This was quite apparent when I was at the Theosophical center outside Brasília, with its crystal foundation and abundant waterfalls. At the center, I taught Therapeutic Touch in the mornings and saw patients in the afternoons. Unexplained healings occurred during those afternoon sessions, healings that I could neither explain nor replicate. One such event was the case of a man with a large tumor which had been present for several months on his arm. He had seen a physician and had an MRI scheduled for the following week. He requested me to treat him with Therapeutic Touch. As I was doing Therapeutic Touch, I felt that my hands were being guided.
The next morning at breakfast he approached me and showed me his arm. The tumor was gone. There were other instances, but that is the most dramatic example, and I am certain that it was influenced by the energy present.
In addition to the energy of the crystal foundation in Abadiânia, there are several hundred people meditating in the rooms through which the patients to be healed pass as they approach the Entity. At the Casa, this is referred to as “sitting in current.”
Each who comes to be healed is expected to take their turn sitting in current, usually once every day. This involves arriving at the Casa before the start of the healing session, entering the current room between the hall and the large room where the Entity is seated, taking a seat on one of the wooden benches, keeping the eyes closed at all times, and meditating silently until all who have come to see the Entity have passed through the room and have been seen. The process takes between two and a half to four hours, depending on the number of people to be healed.
Also, in the large room where the Entity is seated, more people, both patients and mediums working with the Entity, are meditating while the line passes through. The large crystals mentioned earlier are placed throughout this room, further strengthening the energy.
The resultant power of all the beneficent energy created reminds me of the healing sessions at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center and Indralaya with the gifted Theosophical healer and clairvoyant Dora Kunz. Dora gathered large groups of nurses around her at her healing workshops for almost thirty years. All present, approximately seventy-five to ninety nurses and patients, meditated together before Dora’s healing sessions, producing a similar effect.
Additional Theosophical Parallels
According to John of God, illness may be explained karmically. It may be the result of karma for actions in a previous lifetime or earlier in this lifetime. Sometimes a life of illness may be chosen by the soul prior to reentering the physical world in order to more quickly work out previous karma, thereby achieving a more rapid spiritual progression. This is consistent with Theosophical teachings about karma and reincarnation.
Consistently with Theosophical teachings, John maintains that the body is healed from within. Theosophical doctrine also teaches that all manifests from within outwards.
John of God has said that, to be a medium “requires loving God above all else, and your fellow human beings as yourself.” He works long days and takes no remuneration. Clearly he is altruistic at heart. H. P. Blavatsky has told us, “True Theosophy is altruism, and we cannot repeat it too often.” Her teachers, the Mahatmas, emphasized having the welfare of humanity at heart. In this respect, we may say that John of God is a true Theosophist.
What Really Is Happening in Abadiânia?
Much has been written in the news media about what is going on in Abadiânia. Several have attacked John of God as a charlatan, denying the possibility of what they are calling “faith healing.” Those who pride themselves on having scientific minds say there is no proof that any healing has occurred. Experiment is the gold standard of scientific research and requires observation and mea¬surement. The physicist Max Planck said, “Experiment is the only means of knowledge at our disposal.” According to the paradigm of experimental science, if it cannot be measured, it is not real.
I, too, pride myself on having a scientific mind. For decades I was a nursing researcher conducting federally funded studies. However, more and more we are understanding that not all phenomena are observable or measurable. Yet those phenomena are no less real. In fact Shankaracharya, the renowned exponent of Advaita Vedanta, maintained that if something can be measured, it cannot be real, implying that the real is beyond measure.
In 2012 Oprah Winfrey journeyed to the Casa and was taken with the veracity of what was happening, saying she had a “most powerful experience.” Researchers from Harvard visited and came to the conclusion that “something” was happening, although it could not be explained.
The fact is that there has been no research examining the efficacy of what is happening at the Casa. We have only the anecdotes of tens of thousands of people, many who have experienced healing and many who have not.
I have no explanations, nor any certainties about what I experienced and witnessed in Abadiânia, but I do know that something is going on, something is happening, unexplainable as it may be.
[This article was previously published in Quest magazine, summer 2016.]