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"WHO IS JOHN OF GOD" by Emma Bragdon

João Teixera de Farias is an ordinary Brazilian man, with an extraordinary ability as a psychic medium and healer. He says his mission is "to respect God". In that mission he allows benevolent spirits to work through him to assist people in their healing-for hours at a time.

João makes no claims that he is enlightened. He makes no claims to be a healer. He says, "I do not heal, God is the one who heals". People have given him the name, John of God. He speaks of himself as a simple, Brazilian man, who comes from a poor family.

João also does not claim a formal association with any religion. People gathering at his sanctuary often recite the "Lord's Prayer", and "Hail Mary", and thus evoke God, and orient themselves to do God's will…but John (English for João) says "I do not study Catholicism. I was raised in a Catholic family". The walls of the sanctuary are hung with photographs, prayers and graphics representing all faiths. Prayers are shared out loud from all faiths. His sanctuary has been built following guidelines set by benevolent spirit guides. This is his spiritual foundation.

Where does he fit in?

Is He a Spiritualist?
We could call him a Spiritualist-part of a tradition in the Western world that began in the United States in the mid-1800s. Like Spiritualists, he believes that an aspect of us, our spirit, continues life after life, to grow spiritually. He shows us that disembodied spirits can interact with us in meaningful ways. He demonstrates this when he incorporates a being who has died, and allows his body to be used by a surgeon who has extraordinary skills in performing sophisticated surgeries, including brain surgery. Without the incorporating spirit, John himself has no advanced education, in fact, he is illiterate.

Surely, the phenomena John exhibits through the healing are a source of inspiration-helping us see that miraculous things are possible when one communes with God and the benevolent spirits. And, as one participates at John's sanctuary one learns to define "wellness" in a new way-more like a Spiritualist.

For shamanic cultures and spiritualist societies, the purpose for life itself is spiritual development. Optimal health springs from the experience that all beings are interwoven in one fabric. Wellness is optimized by maintaining respectful connection to all of life, including animals, plants, and minerals.

Illness comes when one weakens one's connection to this state of spiritual connection-through negative thinking, negative emotions, selfish motivations (eg. greed or lust), or irrational fear. These internally generated stresses not only weaken the physical well-being of a person, but his/her emotional stability as well. All these contribute to weakening each individual's natural protection.

"The so-called primary external causes of major illness-viruses, bacteria, and the other invisible elements in the environment-are a threat to health only when a person's natural protective mantle develops a weakness."-Jeanne Achterberg, PhD.

Psychic abilities that allow an individual to contact the consciousness of other beings' across time and space obviously enhance one's feeling of connection. A capacity to be open-hearted, to feel compassion for others' suffering and joy in others' joy, also enhance one's sense of connection. Shamanic and spiritualist cultures alike, value these kinds of psychic abilities and personal qualities.

Is He Spiritist?
Although John of God holds the leaders of Spiritism in high regard-I've heard him say he aspires to be as great as Chico Xavier, one of the 20th centuries greatest Spiritists-John claims he is not Spiritist.

Spiritists are a large group in Brazil. It is estimated that sixty million, a third of the population, go to Spiritist Centers at some point in their lives-for healing and inspiration. Of those sixty, twenty million are members who follow the writings of a French man, and Spiritist, Allan Kardec.

Spiritists believe one needs to study books written by other Spiritists-many of whom are physicians. They believe in the necessity of studying the compilations of Kardec, including the Gospels of the Bible, as interpreted by Spiritism. They take Jesus Christ as the ideal model of ethical and moral behavior-and they champion the importance of following his lead in finding the right way to live.

Since John of God is illiterate, studying books is not his way. He does not tell people how to live. He models the wisdom of following the voice of spiritual guidance.

Another difference: Spiritists practice healing in a group format-rarely is healing done by an individual, working alone. This is also not John of God's way. His healing mission focuses on his being the major catalyst for healing and the most important medical intuitive at his center. However, this does not obstruct the reality that the whole place is filled with healing energy, and visitors often experience healings in and around the sanctuary-when he is not present.

John of God asks that people coming to him for consultation do not follow the advice of other healers while they are following his treatment protocols. Like a conventional physician, he assumes responsibility for those consulting him - and does not want the treatment protocol diluted or confused by the energies of other healers. He asks people consulting him to maintain taking prescription medications. He does not attempt to replace conventional care. He only asks that people consulting him recognize that the energies coming through him are subtle, and the healing takes time.

Most of us will agree that following the diverse protocols of several health practitioners simultaneously is not generally a good practice - no matter if one is following conventional medicine or alternative health practices.

Like the traditional Spiritists, John of God does not charge a fee for his healing work. Like a Spiritist, John believes, "That which comes freely from God, should be given for free."

Is He a Shaman?
"Shamans from very different cultures, at different times in history, share many abilities such as communication with spirits." - William Lyon

We can think of John of God as a shaman - a highly respected role played in shamanic societies for the last 20,000 years in every indigenous society on every continent. Shamans were intermediaries with the spirit realms and could contact the repository of wisdom of the ancestors, and sometimes divine the future. They, too, believed that life goes on giving us an opportunity to grow spiritually, lifetime after lifetime. They recognized that each individual gains birth to fulfill a mission - and fulfilling that mission is the main source of fulfillment we can aspire to.

However, John does not act like any shaman we would easily recognize. He wears regular street clothes. He does not perform any rituals. He does not dance, or take mind-altering substances to evoke altered states of consciousness. He simply says prayers, and deliberately chooses the times his body will incorporate a spirit for the purpose of helping others heal. In this way, he is more like a priest than a shaman.

Should we look at him as a scientist?
John allows health professionals to stand by him to observe his work, to learn from him, even to study the reports of pathologists who analyze the tissue he takes from people during physical surgeries he performs. He is very willing to contribute to the practice of medicine, if he can. He archives peoples' stories, and their pathology reports, proving the extraordinary healing experienced at his center.

Spiritual Work and Healing
Like shamans, Spiritists and spiritualists, John knows that avoiding death is not necessarily the purpose of healing. Healing is a matter of the spirit. Disease originates in the etheric body, the subtle body which surrounds the physical body. Healing must address the roots of disease, and clear the etheric body of the seeds of illness. When the seeds of illness are cleared, one is not only healthy, but is more in alignment with one's soul, and one's true mission. Finding this purpose in life, preserving the integrity of the soul, changing one's life to fulfill one's purpose is the true healing. Anything short of this is just managing symptoms.

How does one attend to the seeds of illness? John of God often tells a person consulting him to "go do your work". He points to the current room, a room dedicated to meditation and prayer where hundreds of people sit quietly together, eyes closed. This is an ideal place to be supported in letting go of past resentments, forgiving others, opening one's heart in compassion, strengthening one's connection to one's spiritual guidance. One is asked to sit with palms facing up, in an attitude of receptivity, to receive the help that one is asking for. Many people coming to the Casa have been healed here: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Many have let go of all fear of death - as they come to recognize, like John, that death does not exist. We live in a continuum, our spirits moving from life to life, eternally changing form.

Medical Intuitive?
As a psychic medium with medical intuition, John is skilled in differential diagnosis. He can see into the depths of what is causing a person's suffering in an instant-whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual-by looking at the individual, or seeing his photograph, or even hearing his name and where he is located. One hears that John can see and attend to the seeds of illness seven years into the future. Although all mediums have psychic abilities, not all have this ability so well developed.

A Normal Man with Unique Abilities
We might call him a Miracle Man - but John himself says, "Magic does not exist…the treatment is slow…God and the Benevolent Spirits are the ones who heal." When observers comment on the lack of pain, minimal blood loss, and no infections after his surgery, John still does not claim to do magic. He simply allows God to come through him when he is working. He serves as a model so we can do the same, ie, be a vehicle for God's work.

We long to find a niche, a category, for this unique being. We try to figure out what we can expect of this man, who seemingly creates miracles. Some idealize him, thinking, "He must be like Christ because of what he can do." Better, I say, to listen to John himself, and hear how he thinks about himself, then, allow him to be unique. Let him be a normal human being with unique abilities. He himself knows that having paranormal abilities does not make him into a Christ.

In the end it may be best to be simple about what we call him, and let go of roles like shaman, medical intuitive, Spiritist, and Spiritualist. In one sense, he is an ordinary man, working as a farmer and a miner and fathering a family. In this life he faces the challenges, the joys and sorrows, of normal living. Like us he is growing and changing every day, and loves to laugh. Like us, he is fallible. In another sense, he is unique and has been given a great gift to help his fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, John has been persecuted. Physicians have tried to incarcerate him for practicing medicine without a medical license. The traditional churches have looked down on him for creating a spiritual sanctuary without a priesthood. Some individuals criticize him for having the traits of an ordinary man. Weathering the pain of being pushed away for not fitting into others' expectations, John continues to do his mission.

What is clear: when he is doing his mission of embodying spirits who help others in their healing, he is truly and simply a man of God-an extraordinary being, revealing extraordinary phenomena, sharing a divine compassion with all beings. Also, because he is unique and charismatic, John has inspired many people from all over the world to come to Brazil. He has thus introduced them to the richness of the healing traditions there.

When Creator created the world, the only law given was "You shall be in good relationship to all things and all beings." - Brooke Medicine Eagle

My prayer is that John's mission will continue to inspire others to bring more compassion and spiritual wisdom into all places dedicated to healing. My prayer is also that we can accept him, and celebrate him, for who he is - ever compassionate with the struggles he has had just to be himself, doing his mission.         _____________________________________________________________
Emma Bragdon, PhD, is the author of "Spiritual Alliances" (about John of God's work), and "Kardec's Spiritism: A Home for Healing and Spiritual Evolution" (about contemporary Spiritist Centers in Brazil). In 2001, John of God recognized her as a "daughter of the Casa". She has been leading small groups to visit the Casa since 2001. In 2006 she initiated and narrated a film on John of God working with an award-winning documentary film producer, winner of 6 Cine Golden Eagle awards.
Sign up for her newsletter at and you will be notified when the DVD is available (in English with subtitles in Portuguese, German and French).

Links the general website for John of God's sanctuary. It publishes a monthly newsletter, and gives information about how to travel to the Casa and consult with John of God. Although there are no guides who are officially sanctioned by the Casa, there are a group of guides from around the world referred to on this site who follow certain standards in helping visitors understand and follow the important protocols that must be followed for optimal healing. Each of these guides has been formally invited by John of God to guide people to the Casa.

Edited 9/05/06

Copyright © 2006, Emma Bragdon.
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