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White shirts drying at the casa. See more photos
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There are countless DVDs that document the Entities performing surgeries like the three I had just witnessed, but somehow they didn't capture the inexplicable aura of calm that permeated the scene. Web pundits often criticize these procedures as the equivalent of parlor tricks—noting that the nasal cavity extends farther than one might imagine; or that scraping a person's eyeball is really no big deal unless you touch the cornea—but nothing anybody could write explained to me how it was that none of the women had so much as flinched. Or how, after their encounters with the Entities, so many people feel better. After watching tape of similar events, Mehmet Oz had his own theory: "Those actions can stimulate aggressive immune responses. It may be that what he's doing is tapping into a long-lost healing tool that could be effective in treating other conditions."

Now the crowd surged forward expectantly, moving to the entrance of the Entity's room. Near the front, a girl fainted with a soft thump. I saw her little body being lifted above a sea of heads, a limp figure in a lacy white dress. The crowd surged forward expectantly, and I caught Heather's eye. She beckoned me into the line.

I wish I could tell you I felt something magical when I saw him; that when I kneeled down on the pillow at his feet, holding the photo of my father, with Heather translating and the Current-sitters in white all around me, a dazzling bolt of lightning shot down and cleared up my every last sorrow. Instead, I felt nervous. And the Entity seemed detached. Rattling off some instructions in Portuguese, he waved me away quickly. "He said he wants you to take a blessing and then come back later," Heather said, putting an arm around my shoulders. "Don't worry. This is completely normal."

The blessing, which consisted of a group prayer and took place in an anteroom, was over in three minutes. I felt stunned and somewhat disappointed by the brevity of the experience, but Heather was upbeat. "That's like a spiritual washing machine," she said. "And he says he will help you."

*****


The more people you talk to at the Casa, the more astonishing stories you hear. On my first day there, Heather had introduced me to Luiz Carlos Nunes, a former accountant whose tumorous growths I'd already seen bobbing in some of the jars. Luiz was smallish and portly, with glasses and an outdoorsy tan. In 1996, he told me (with Heather translating), the Entity had healed him of intestinal cancer. Despite this great news, however, Luiz didn't get much of a chance to celebrate: In 1997 he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Doctors gave him three months to live, his case considered so hopeless that chemotherapy wasn't even offered. He left his home in the south of Brazil and made his way back to the Casa. "I will help you, my son," the Entity told him. "You will be healed." But though it didn't kill him, the cancer persisted. For three years Luiz came to Abadiânia every other month, and each time: "I would say, 'Father, there's this problem....'"

"I am taking care of you, don't worry," the Entity always replied.

Finally, on October 12, 2000, Luiz was summoned to the stage, where his upper body was wrapped in a white sheet. First the Entity shaved part of his head. Then he made a large incision where a growth protruded. "And then he began to squeeze the wound where he cut," Luiz said. "Enormous matter came out, yellow and white, a lot of it. Then he got the medical tweezers and pulled out a lot more. He removed a kind of sac and he showed it to me. It didn't hurt at all." Afterward the Entity cleaned the wound with holy water. Stitches were not required. Gesturing at me to look closer, Luis pointed to a tiny scar on his right temple. It was barely visible. He was cancer-free now, he said.

I met Janete Lodia, a 40-year-old blonde woman from the south of Brazil, who had battled with recurring cancer. It had begun 17 years ago in her knee and migrated so thoroughly into her bones that no treatment was possible. She, too, arrived in Abadiânia with one last hope. "Come back 21 times," the Entity said. "And you will be healed."

This was a pretty tall order, considering that Janete's commute required a 40-hour bus ride that left her racked with nausea. "I was very weak," she told me, of that time. But she did as he said. Eventually, she began to feel well again. Three years later, however, the cancer returned with a vengeance, this time in her uterus. She went back to the Casa, disappointed and upset. "Don't be unhappy," the Entity told her. "I'm going to give you the present you hope for." Once again, Janete followed his instructions. Six years later she became pregnant, and on April 26, 2000, her daughter Evelin was born. This would be a miraculous event for any woman who'd been that sick. But the bar was even higher: In a calm and measured tone, Janete told me that she had given birth despite having previously undergone a complete hysterectomy. "Janete had no tubes, no uterus," Heather would elaborate for me. "The doctors said it had to be a psychological pregnancy, but then they did an ultrasound. She was already five months along."

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