For a moment I didn't know what to say. I'm going to see a Brazilian spiritual healer was more than I was willing to give up to a stranger, especially one I'd be sitting with for the next eight hours. "Pleasure, I hope," I said. "How about you?"
"Oh, I'm going to see John of God."
And with that we were off, the 757 lofting from Atlanta to Brasilia. Over a good Chilean red, Edwene, an ordained minister, motivational speaker, and author of The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, recounted the story of her brain aneurysm, deemed inoperable by five neurosurgeons. "'Get your affairs in order,'" she remembers being told. "'And try not to sneeze.' That's how fragile I was," she said. "So I did it. I went out and got my living will, my durable power of attorney. But then I realized, I'm not ready to go just yet." She laughed at the memory—that is all it is now. After her dire diagnosis, at the urging of her prayer group (all of whom said they received the same vision of John of God curing her), Edwene had traveled to the Casa. "I was nervous and I was skeptical," she said. "But what did I have to lose?"
Almost immediately the Entity performed invisible surgery on her, a 40-minute process that involved sitting in a group meditation with her right hand over her heart. Nobody touched her, but, Edwene remembers: "I could feel things moving around in my head. It didn't hurt, but it was...different." Afterward she collapsed in exhaustion for 24 hours. Eight days later, she was told by her guide, the "stitches" would be removed. "That night I could feel ping! ping! ping!—like stitches being pulled out." Eventually, a CT scan revealed the truth: Her aneurysm was gone. "I'm so grateful," she said, nodding toward the heavens. Since then she'd been back to the Casa once, at Christmas, and now she was headed down there for a third time, bringing a group of 20 people who also sought healing.
My reason for visiting John of God was less harrowing. Nonetheless, it was life-threatening. As I sat on the plane, it was two years to the day since my father had died suddenly of a heart attack. We were very close; he was only 70, and fit. Until that moment I'd been almost ridiculously sheltered from tragedy, and I was unprepared for the tsunami of grief that swept over everything I knew. We all have our dark encounters with heartbreak, but this kind of sadness was something unknown to me. It scoured everything, leaving my nerves and emotions exposed and raw; it was an actual physical weight that I dragged along. I wore grim-colored glasses, looking out and seeing nothing but gray days, angry at the universe for taking away my father. The sunny days had vanished—and I needed them back. When someone mentioned John of God in conversation, the name stuck to me. I'd never heard of the man, but for some reason I was compelled to find out more.
Despite widespread skepticism, evidence shows that energy healing not only exists but can be deeply powerful. Traditional Eastern treatments like acupuncture and Reiki act to strengthen the body's life force, known as chi or prana. Prayer as a conduit for healing is a long-held religious ritual, along with the laying on of hands. Though belief in the effectiveness of prayer is as old as civilization, the results are tough to pin down. Bernard Grad, PhD, a Canadian biologist from McGill University, worked with a spiritual healer named Oskar Estebany conducting controlled studies in the late 1950s and '60s. Using mice that had been uniformly wounded, Estebany would place his hands upon the wire covers on certain cages, willing those animals to heal. The results were dramatic: In one experiment, the wounds on Estebany's treated mice were "very significantly smaller" after two weeks than those of mice that had been left to heal on their own. The team also discovered that plant seeds exposed to energy healing grew at a faster rate. There was a force here, they agreed, and it appeared to be doing something beneficial. What that force was, however, no one could say for sure.
One physician I knew to be interested in John of God's work was Mehmet Oz. As a cardiac surgeon his training had been rigorously scientific, but he wondered about what Western medicine didn't yet know. "I think the next big frontier is unlocking the doors to energy medicine," Oz told me. "It dramatically broadens our vista of opportunities to heal. The challenge we have is that energy is not as easily quantified as the surgeon's scalpel."
Oz is right: A heart transplant, for instance, is an undeniable event—and without that kind of tangible proof we tend not to believe. But the stories coming out of Abadiânia challenged that stance. Five years ago, Oz had participated in a Primetime Live segment focusing on John of God. He'd examined hours of film footage from the Entities' healings; he'd looked at scans and biopsy reports, and there were results he couldn't explain—the shrinkage of an aggressive cancer, for instance. "This guy had a glioblastoma, which is a very deadly brain tumor," Oz recalled. "It was a grade IV. They biopsied it and proved it." As an added credential the biopsy was done at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a prominent hospital. "I took those films down to my radiologist, along with a new set of films the patient had [taken after his visit to John of God], which showed that the tumor had calcified and essentially died."