When you consider the countless unseen things that have undeniable power—sound waves, microwaves, radio waves; emotions like anger or envy; wind; and of course the awesome, universal power of love—it seems silly to rely on the naked eye for proof of anything. Yet that is what we do. Numbers on charts and graphs, X-rays, those we believe in. But belief without documentation, something we perceive with one of our five senses, is considered blind faith. Sweet, but we don't really trust it.
I was thinking about this and gazing out the plane's window as it streaked south through the night. What did I believe? I wasn't sure. Stories like Edwene's were intriguing, but I wasn't buying it wholesale (that would require before-and-after CT scans). I wondered if the additional proof I was seeking would be found in Brazil. I wondered if John of God could patch up the hole inside me and help me love my life again, a life that did not contain my father. "No physical or psychic illness is beyond the possibility of cure," Casa's literature said. "Healing may be physical or spiritual." Below us great cumulus clouds heaped like fantastic castles and lost kingdoms, gleaming in the moonlight. It was impossible to see this majesty and not wonder about miracles, mysteries, and the powers that created such grand beauty.
The hotel Rei Davi is a modest, two-story stucco building painted a soft jade green. Eight times a year, Heather Cumming houses about 15 visitors in its rooms, guiding them through the process of seeing John of God. Born in Brazil to Scottish parents, raised in the cattle ranching interior of the country, Heather speaks perfect Portuguese as well as Spanish, French, and a melodically accented English. She is tall and has a gentle manner. When my taxi pulled up on Sunday morning, she greeted me with a hug. A group who'd arrived the previous week was there, she explained, but I might not see them all because several were recovering from invisible surgery, sleeping around the clock.
In Abadiânia the week is divided into two parts: Saturday through Tuesday, when the Casa is sparsely attended because Medium João is not in residence; and Wednesday through Friday, when he drives his Ford 250 pickup from his farm outside the nearby town of Anápolis, leaving behind his wife, Ana Keyla Teixeira Lorenço, and sees hundreds of people from dawn to dusk.
Heather's connection to the Casa is a close one. A student of Reiki and shamanism, she had come to Abadiânia ten years ago as a spiritual seeker. During her visit, when the Entity invited her onstage to observe a physical surgery, she passed out cold. "I suddenly felt this surge of energy, very pleasant but very strong," she recalled. "And then I woke up on a stretcher." On another occasion she was moved to tears. "I was crying, and Medium João asked me why. I told him I had experienced unconditional love for the first time."
Now Abadiânia is Heather's home. (She has also literally written the book on John of God, coauthoring the volume John of God: The Brazilian Healer Who's Touched the Lives of Millions.) As I hefted my luggage up to the second floor, a small sign on the wall caught my attention. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK, it advised.
My room was spare and clean, with an aura of peacefulness that made me immediately lie down and sleep for five hours. I woke at dusk, feeling disoriented. Gold evening light poured through my windows. The place was still, no one around. I let myself out the front gate and walked along the road to the Casa, a half mile away. The sky was tinted lush orange and red, birds were still singing, and a happy-looking yellow dog picked itself up from the road and trotted along beside me. I walked by little stores selling jewelry and acai drinks, houses ringed by flowering trees, a pizzeria. Several businesses had displays of white clothing—the Casa requests that only white be worn; this makes it easier, apparently, for a person's aura to be seen. There were a number of vividly painted small hotels, lined up side by side: lilac purple, canary yellow, lime green. One of them, a coral-colored one-story building, opened up to the street, and inside I could see a John of God video playing on a large screen. An audience of about 20 people sat in straight-backed chairs watching him cut into a man's chest with what looked like a rusty paring knife. The man's eyes were closed, and he was peaceful and still as rivulets of blood ran down his white shirt.