LIGHTS, SIGHTS, AND BRAZILIAN HEALING SITES
Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., and Hiram Yanez, M.D.
ABSTRACTIn 2005, we visited the Padre Pio Healing Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We interviewed two of the mediums and volunteered for healing sessions ourselves, along with a psychologist from Chile. The three of us were treated separately, and each of us reported sighting the "spirits of the light" who are the alleged healing entities of the Center. One of us visited Joao de Deus (John of God) as well; his healing center, The House of Dom Ignatius of Loyola, was filled with over one thousand people on that particular day, the anniversary of Joao de Deus' first reported "incorporation" of Saint Ignatius. One of us had visited the Frei Luiz Shrine near Rio on a previous visit; in 2005, a healer from the shrine performed a non-contact healing intervention that left stains on his white shirt, stains that were later analyzed in a medical laboratory and were found to contain no trace of blood.
Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822, and freed its slaves in 1888. Before either of these events occurred, homeopathic medicine had been introduced and a spiritual healing movement had evolved in an alliance with homeopathy. In 1858, this movement galvanized with the arrival of The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec, the pseudonym of Leon Hippolyte Denizarth Rivail, a French educator. Kardec’s book, based on interviews with and observations of practicing mediums, described a spiritual practice that, for many Brazilians, was more sophisticated and relevant than what they had encountered in either the Roman Catholic Church or the syncretic African-Brazilian religious movements of the day. Spiritism (or Kardecismo, as it is often referred to in Portuguese) fostered such doctrines as reincarnation as well as such practices as the “incorporation” of spirit guides in its healing services.
The House of Dom Inacio of Loyola
Each of Brazil’s many religious traditions boasts renowned healing practitioners, and in July and August of 2005, we visited a few of them. One of us (Krippner) arrived in Brasilia, the capital city, on July 29 where two friends met him at the airport and drove him 70 miles to “O Casa do Dom Inacio de Loyola,” The House of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in the hamlet of Abadiania. There were more than one thousand people at the Casa, as this date marked the birthday of Dom Inacio and the anniversary of his “incorporation” by Joao Teixara de Faria, better known as “Joao de Deus” or John of God. Although he only had a few years of formal schooling, Joao is reputed to have performed complicated surgeries without causing pain or infection, and without using anesthetics or antibiotics. Joao works with some thirty spirit guides or “entities,” the principle of which is Dom Inacio.
Ignatius of Loyola is an appropriate choice of an entity for alleged “incorporation.” He selected the first Jesuits for the flexibility of their perception and their powers of mental imagery. By learning how to control their mental imagery, the Jesuits became exemplars of will and achievement, eager to pursue novel and unusual experiences. According to John of God, Dom Inacio has lost none of his interest in novelty, even after death.
No spirit guides were incorporated during Krippner’s visit, but a colleague of his had taken his photograph to the Casa in 2001, shortly after Krippner had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Joao said there was no need for Krippner to make a personal visit to Abadiania because he would make a satisfactory recovery, and sold Krippner’s colleague a month’s supply of herbal capsules with the instructions that he should take one each day with water, praying before ingesting them. During the 2005 visit, Krippner joined the line of people (most of whom were dressed in white) asking for Joao’s blessing. Krippner briefly thanked Joao for his advice in 2001 and was given another prescription. Krippner went to the Casa’s “pharmacy,” bought (at a nominal fee) two bottles of capsules (made from passion fruit flowers), and received instructions not to smoke, drink alcohol, or eat pork during the two months it would take to deplete the supply. As he had in 2001, Krippner followed the instructions, remembering that the passion fruit flower blooms in the shape of a cross.
Krippner found the assembly hall of the Casa to be fairly large; Joao was seated on a small cement stage at one end of the room, the same stage where various types of “operations” take place. Outside the hall, various speakers were providing testimonials about alleged “cures” or discussing the Spiritist philosophy underlying the Casa’s activities. As a teenager, Joao had a vision of a luminous woman who directed him to a nearby Spiritist center where he could study the books of Allan Kardec. Shortly after his arrival at the center, Joao began to heal people, even though he had no recall of his activities. He was informed that he had incorporated King Solomon and that many people had benefited from his ministrations. Because he insisted that God did the healing, he was dubbed “Joao de Deus,” a nom de plume that has stayed with him over the decades. The “entities” he incorporates range from deceased Brazilian physicians, who insist they want to continue to heal people, to Dom Inacio de Loyola, the famed founder of the Jesuit Order.
The Casa is surrounded by lush vegetation which leads to a waterfall and a small pool. There is a “recovery room” where people can rest following surgery, before returning to their hotel for a longer rest period. In fact, the Casa has brought prosperity to Abadiania, where a number of hotels and restaurants have been constructed to accommodate the steady stream of visitors. Krippner viewed another room filled with crutches, wheelchairs, and prosthetic aids said to have been left by visitors following their recoveries. Some “operations” are “spiritual” in nature, involving manipulation of what Kardec called the “perispirit,” one’s “spiritual body.” Many of those interventions that utilize surgical instruments have been videotaped, and Krippner had seen several hours of these procedures before his flight to Brazil.
Some of the “operations” that have been videotaped show Joao inserting a surgical instrument through a client’s nasal passage. The celebrated magician, James Randi, has questioned the purpose of this intervention, concluding that there is no evidence that Joao “has ever accomplished anything but revulsion by sticking forceps up a victim’s nose.” Randi (2005) has gone on to suggest that Joao’s organization “has set up a situation in they simply cannot fail.” If there is no recovery, the client came to the Casa “too late,” or did not have “the right attitude” or that it sometimes takes weeks or even years for the intervention to take effect – long after the client has left Abadainia.
The videotaped “operations” also appear to show Joao “scraping” the eyeball of a client with the edge of a knife. Randi pointed out that the sclera (the white section of the eye) is relatively insensitive to touch and doubts that Joao’s knife reaches the cornea. Randi’s reaction to these videotaped “operations” was that Joao typically blocks the view with his body when the camera zeroes in for a close-up.
An on-site investigation of 30 “operations” by de Almeida, de Almeida, and Gollner (2000) found no sign of infection after a three-day follow-up. Commenting on the lack of infection following the “operations,” Randi noted that not all breaking of the skin, through incision, scrapes, or punctures, results in invasion by bacteria or viruses.
Randi has been most critical of non-Brazilians who visit Joao de Deus instead of opting for medical treatment in their own countries, and some of the “advice” given by the spirits. Josie RavenWing (2005), a visitor from the United States, enthusiastically wrote, “A voice began to speak to me, telling me I’d been shown the gift of transmutation of energy, and that as long as I chose to continue to smoke tobacco, I could stop worrying that it would do me any harm.” Randi stated that there is “zero evidence” supporting the claims of Joao’s followers that his ministrations are effective, except for those that can be explained by expectation, the placebo effect, and the passage of time. Bragdon (2002), in her book about Joao, countered by claiming that Joao “has been studied by teams of legitimate scientists from Russia, Germany, Japan, France, and the United States. “Pathology tests reveal that the tumors, substances and tissues the Entity removes from the sick are indeed human tissues from the individuals operated upon.” A 1997 book by Savaris, published in Portuguese, details a number of purportedly successful interventions. From my perspective, an article in an English-language journal that is peer-reviewed is overdue. In the meantime, Bragdon wrote, “Nothing in this book is meant to replace the advice of a physician….No healer, physician, or disembodied entity who makes him or herself available for [this] healing is perfect.” This cautionary statement should be kept in mind and seriously considered by visitors to Abadiania.
The Frei Luiz Shrine
On two previous visits to Brazil, one of us (Krippner) had taken groups of Americans and Canadians to the Frei Luiz Shrine, a healing center outside of Rio de Janeiro. The work at this center also has been influenced by the writings of Allan Kardec, and attracts many Brazilians as well as visitors from other countries. It is named after a Franciscan monk, born in Prussia in 1872 as Teodoro Henrique Reinke. After his ordination, Frei Luiz arrived in Salvador, Bahia, in 1894. After spending two years at the Sao Francisco monastery in Salvador, Frei Luiz was assigned to Pernambuco and later to Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro. He also lived and worked in the state of Minas Gerais before he died in 1937. Frei Luiz was venerated for his kindness, for his devotion to charitable projects, and for his healing powers.
We arrived in Rio on August 2 and during the evening one of us (Krippner) was taken to a private home. He had suffered an insect bite a few days before leaving for Brazil, one which left him with a fever and a large abscess on his neck. Antibiotics had brought the fever under control, and Yanez had brought medication to reduce the swelling. However, a “carioca” friend, Maria Lucia Sauer, had arranged for him to be seen by Fernando Gilberto Arruda, the chief medium of the Frei Luiz Shrine.
Krippner reclined on a long padded table while Fernando incorporated the spirit of Frederic von Stein, an alleged Nazi physician who died in the final months of World War II. “Dr. Frederic” regretted the wartime role that he had played, and now works from “the other side” to bring healing and restoration to people who are sick or suffering. Krippner was told that “Dr. Frederic,” working through Fernando, directed a team of half a dozen people also affiliated with the Frei Luiz Center. “Dr. Frederick” allegedly “drew from the channel” to bring about the desired healing, a non-contact healing intervention.
Krippner expected the team to work on his abscess, which was still highly visible. Instead, they focused on his groin area. One of the members of the team, Luiz Augusto de Queiroz, directs the House of Padre Pio, which Krippner and Yanez were to visit the following night. During the healing session, Luiz Augusto claimed that Padre Pio had told him that Krippner’s abscess would disappear in a few days but that he had prostate cancer in his “perispirit.” As a result, the healing session focused on the prostate gland. Krippner had not told anyone in the group about his 2001 treatment for prostate cancer, but it was no secret to his friends and colleagues in the United States.
Krippner watched much of the procedure because it was performed under soft lights while recorded music was playing. Luiz Augusto chanted, “We are giving our brother our love so that he will be free of prostate cancer.” Krippner closed his eyes and listened to the chants and the music. About half an hour later, the session came to an end. “Dr. Frederic” left Fernando, and the room’s normal lighting was restored. Luiz Augusto told him that his “perispirit” was now free of cancer and that it would not return.
Krippner climbed off the table, and noticed a large orange, red, and white stain covering both his white shirt and the t-shirt underneath. It felt cold and wet, although he had not noticed the sensation earlier. When he asked for information about the stain, Fernando replied, “It is blood, lymph, and ectoplasm.” Krippner had the stain analyzed by a medical laboratory in Mexico in July, 2006. Despite the passage of one year, the stain was still red; had it been blood, the color would have changed to brown. The laboratory examination concluded that there was no trace of blood in the stain.
The House of Padre Pio
Padre Pio, a Capuchin priest from San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, was said to have manifested a variety of unusual phenomena. Among them were the stigmata, bilocation, prophecy, conversion, anomalous scents of perfume, and remarkable healings (Mary, 1999). Although he died in 1968, his Brazilian supporters claim that people are still being healed through his intercessions. They also feel a connection with the American seer Edgar Cayce, and derive inspiration and direction from his “readings” and from books about his life and work. Padre Pio was canonized in 2002 as a result of so-called “miraculous healings” that supposedly resulted from his post-mortem intercession.
Krippner’s “carioca” (i.e., a resident of Rio de Janeiro) friend, Maria Lucia Sauer, works at the House of Padre Pio where she practices “Lightbody Infusion.” She describes this treatment as a type of “mind-body-spirit healing” that was introduced to her by the Brazilian medium Luiz Gasparetto in 1979 at the Esalen Institute in California.
The director of the Padre Pio Center, Luiz Augusto, claims to incorporate the spirit of a Chinese master, Chung In-Lang. Maria Lucia studied with him, and now teaches “Lightbody Infusion” in seven countries. She returns to Esalen each year where she is eagerly awaited and enthusiastically received (for information, contact email@example.com).A Casa do Padre Pio (The House of Padre Pio) is supported by a group of about 200 patrons, members of the Associacao Holocentric Spritualistica Padre Pio de Pietrelecma (Pietrelecma was Padre Pio’s birthplace). Krippner and Yanez were told that a hospital is being planned by the Association, and that 20% of the beds will go to people unable to pay for medical treatment. Members of the Association believe that spiritual work needs to be accompanied by social work. Also in the planning stages is a Padre Pio Community for poor people, a model that can be taken out into the world.
On August 3, we visited Luiz Augusto de Queiroz at his bank in Rio de Janeiro. He told us that he has a Jewish name that was originally brought to Brazil by the Dutch when controlled part of the Northeast. Luiz Augusto’s father is from Serra, and his mother is from Rio. His grandmother came over from Portugal when she was pregnant. She was renowned as a medium and was said to have transmitted complex medical and philosophical information. She had 15 children, and worked with people in the neighborhood, transmitting messages from their deceased loved ones. Neither Luiz Augusto’s mother nor father had any inclinations toward mediumship but when he was in the fourth grade he began to experience mediumistic phenomena. Luiz Augusto reported the phenomena to his parents and they supported his interest. He knew of his grandmother’s mediumship and when she was dying in 1983 she asked Luiz Augusto to continue her work.
He told us that after his grandmother’s death the phenomena increased. He went to study at the Frei Luiz Shrine when he was 29 because when he was 16 he had met Dr. Rochalima, the founder of the Shrine. His grandmother had advised that he go there because she had done social work at the Shrine, and Rochalima treated him “like a son.”
In 1993, a friend gave Luiz Augusto a book about Padre Pio, and he put it on his bookshelf, unread. Luiz Augusto left the Frei Luiz Shrine in 1995, sensing that a new chapter in his spiritual life was about to begin. In 1996, he heard a voice identifying itself as that of Padre Pio. The voice told Luiz Augusto that they would work together. The book fell off the bookshelf while he was asleep that night. He read the inscription from his friend: “Muito gusto, my friend. Padre Pio will always be at your side to accompany and protect you.” Luiz Augusto’s began to “talk” with Padre Pio through intuition, clairvoyance, and—on occasion—auditorially. In 1997, he started meeting weekly with friends who were interested in spiritual matters; Maria Lucia Sauer was a member of this group.
Luiz Augusto continues to work in the bank he owns because it helps him remain a “balanced” person. On Mondays, the group holds study sessions that involve discussions as well as “energizing therapy” treatments by Luiz Augusto. The group studies the Kabala and other spiritual systems such as the work of Swami Yogananda.
We told Luiz Augusto that we appreciated our time together and looked forward to our visit to the House of Padre Pio that evening.
With a friend of ours, Sergio Schilling, who had just arrived from Chile, we arrived at the House at 7:00PM. Before we started the session with the healers, Maria Lucia suggested that we begin to pray so that we would have “a more intense experience.” At 7:25PM we entered the waiting room, guided by a woman dressed in white. There was absolute silence, except for soft relaxing music, and the hum of an air conditioner. There were 13 women and 10 males in the waiting room, all of them praying. Everybody waited to be guided into the darkened healing room by the woman who tried not to disturb the prayers when she indicated to people that they were next to experience “Light Infusion.”
There was complete silence in the waiting room which was suffused with a soft red light. A black curtain separated the waiting room from the area where the healing sessions took place. The floor of the waiting room was covered by a colored carpet. Yanez recalled, “I was sitting against the wall, so a beautiful painted landscape named ‘Hope’ was in back of me. I could not distinguish the specific pathologies of the people in the waiting room with the exception of a dark-skinned woman who seemed to have a short leg. There was a table with some glasses and water in one corner of the room; a vase of three beautiful white, red, and pink roses graced the table. I took a closer look at the painted landscape in back of me and could see the face of ‘Hope,’ which thrilled me. I was so overcome with emotion that I closed my mouth and began to cry softly.”
We waited for two hours, while clients entered and left the healer’s area. Yanez remembered that “during that time, I closed my eyes and experienced a light show. There was a sudden flash of lights, the same lights that have appeared in my prayers on several occasions. Finally my time had come and the lady in white took my hand. When I walked through the black curtain, I noted that some mediums were sitting on a black sofa, while others were standing by a wooden table made up like a bed covered with white sheets. Some healers had their arms elevated, and some were making strange noises. I counted a total of 16 healers. Once I reclined on the table, they began some sort of examination followed by the restoration of my energy. They started touching some of my acupuncture points, with subtle gentleness and love. Specifically, they touched my three-thumb point, my thymus point, my liver and spleen point, and a point in my ankle. They stretched my hips in order to reach the latter point. They proceeded to touch areas all over my body. At times, when they touched me, their arms started to vibrate. It felt really wonderful.”
Yanez continued, “They paused before touching my nose, passing their fingers up and down the very place where I once had surgery due to a chronic allergy. And finally they checked my carotid pulse. The ‘light show’ continued until I was told that I could go back to the waiting room.”
Krippner did not see “lights” in the waiting room but saw several once he was on the bed in the healers’ area. He recalled, “I assumed that the tiny lights were painted on the ceiling with some sort of phosphorescent substance. However, I closed by eyes and the lights were as vibrant as ever.” Schilling told us that when he was in the healer’s area, he experienced one large light above the table. It resembled the moon and floated slowly across the ceiling during his healing session.
The three of us had the opportunity to speak to some of the mediums after the sessions had ended. All of them had come to the House of Padre Pio as a result of different life experiences, but each spoke of the inspiration they derived from Padre Pio, either through what they knew about him or from a sense of “presence” when they entered the House.
Sergio Schilling left us the following day, carrying Krippner’s shirt with him. However, the laboratories in Chile told him that a DNA analysis required a judicial order. Yanez took the undershirt with him to Mexico to have it analyzed at a Mexican laboratory.
In March 2006, Krippner received his prostate examination report from Kaiser-Permanente where he had been tested twice a year since his radiation treatment in 2001. His PSA level was 0.5, about the same as it had been for four years. The report concluded with the statement, “We will now check you only once a year since you are remaining stable.” The effectiveness of the treatment can not be measured by PSA levels, of course, because “Dr. Frederic” had worked with the “perispirit,” not the physical body. Nevertheless, our experience with the lights, sights, and sites of Brazilian healers provided an experience that was unique for us, but part of the everyday reality for many Brazilians.
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Bragdon, E. (2002). Spiritual alliances: Discovering the roots of health at the Casa de Dom Inacio. Woodstock, VT: Lightening Up Press.
Mary, F. (1999). Padre Pio: The wonder worker. Fort Collins, CO: Ignatius Press.
Randi, J. (2005, February 18). The ABC-TV infomercial for John of God. Swift, Online Newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved July1, 2006, from http://www.randi.org/jr/021805a.html#1
RavenWing, J. (2005). Joao de Deus, the miracle man of Brazil. Shaman’s Drum, 70, 49-58. (Original work published 2001)
Savaris, A.A. (1997). Curas paranormais realizadas por Joao Teixeira de Farias [Paranormal cures performed by Joao Teixeira de Farias]. Curitiba, Brazil: Curitiba Press.