crystal
Casa mediums meditate near a crystal. See more photos
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It was hard to know what to think about this story: Janete had clearly been sick and now she was well, standing in a sunny garden telling me about the impossible journey she had taken, and nothing about her seemed even remotely exaggerated or duplicitous. And yet I was being asked to believe what science would flatly deny: that a pregnancy could occur in the absence of an egg. But there was Evelin, a long-legged sprite of a girl with wavy, brown hair, hugging her mother's waist as Janete recounted her story.

Then there was Zsolt Pap de Pestény, an Austrian physician in his 60s with a skier's ruddy glow and a thick shock of reddish blond hair. "I got colon cancer when I was 44," he told me. "It metastasized in my bones, my liver, and my bladder." The situation was so severe, he underwent a 20-hour operation at Yale–New Haven Hospital. "They took out my buttocks, both of them," Zsolt said, "then 75 percent of my colon, 85 percent of my sacrum, parts of my liver, and a bit of my bladder." He laughed wryly. "I think that was all." After some initial optimism about the operation's success, it became clear that Zsolt's cancer was just too advanced. "I had given up," he recalled. "It was April 2008. I had my last chemotherapy and I was suffering at home, lying on the sofa watching the Discovery Channel." The show that happened to be on was about John of God. Despite a career grounded in hard science and Western medicine; despite having zero propensity toward spirituality, staring at the screen, Zsolt said, "I felt Medium João looked at me as if to call me. So I said to my wife, Nina: 'We're going there.'" In September 2008 they made the 6,000-mile trip to Abadiânia. "From the beginning he said, 'I will help you,'" Zsolt recalled. It took several visits, but on March 2, 2010, the Entity told him, "You can go home now a healed person. If everybody had so much faith as you then they would be healed." Now, Zsolt says, he is in full remission.

The Entity's statement brings up a difficult truth. Despite awe-inspiring stories like Zsolt's and Janete's and Luiz's, not everyone does walk away healed. For many ill people who make this pilgrimage, the perfect, happy ending is elusive. Heather stressed that healing takes different forms; that sometimes the soul makes great strides but the body isn't able to keep pace. It is human nature to hope for the quick reversal, the sudden recovery, but the path might be twistier and longer than expected.

When it comes to transcending deep-seated problems, Heather said, one of the keys is the willingness to change even your most entrenched habits—your less-than-healthful behaviors, your unhappy job, your impossible schedule—to let go of anything that is holding you back. Far from being a relief, such radical change is almost always scary.

"The Entities like spiritual obedience," Heather said. In the past, the Entities had made many colorful requests, all of them intended to facilitate an individual's well-being. They'd told people to write books, get their pilot's license, stop smoking—in particular, quit it with the pot. "The Entities hate marijuana," Heather told me. "They say the people who smoke it have dense, red auras. It takes about a year for their systems to heal." Visitors are often requested to return to the Casa multiple times. One man was told to remain in Abadiânia "indefinitely." He did.

"When they operate on you in Western medicine, they might take out some organ, but they don't take out the reason why you got sick," Zsolt said. "What happens here is that you get a whole transformation." This doesn't happen, however, with the wave of a magic wand. Daily meditation, changing habits, improving diets, upgrading mind-sets: All are required. "The Entity does maybe 60 percent," he added. "But the rest you have to do yourself."

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