Chapter I: A Seeker is Born
Glimpses of Truth
I am a scientist and a skeptic. I have studied philosophy at Oxford, the sciences at Ivy League universities, and medicine at the oldest medical school in America. I have deeply questioned everything we think we know and how we think we know it. After more than four decades in the ardent pursuit of truth, I have come to the surprising conclusion that the world is a far more wondrous and mysterious place than most of today’s scientists are telling us.
Chapter I: A Seeker is Born
Glimpses of Truth
Slowly I approached Ryan’s tiny bed. A low, hissing sound escaped from the ventilator that forced air in and out of his young lungs. Swollen lips, eyelids, nose—every feature had grown distorted beyond recognition. He laid so still, his skin mottled with dark purple blood oozing beneath the surface from infection-ravaged capillaries. The tips of each finger had blackened where blood could no longer flow… Standing over Ryan, I sensed his tenuous grasp on life. Death hovered near, almost at my shoulder. As a doctor, I’d come to know death, to feel a strange comfort in its presence, as I did now. Christie and Tom needed me to help them find a parcel of that comfort, a solace that would come only when they could make sense of this moment, of Ryan’s terribly brief life, and their overwhelming grief. That’s what they needed from me now—not pat answers—but to stand with them with an open heart and to lend them courage as they faced this searing heartbreak
Ryan’s gonna make it, isn’t he, Doc?” Tom desperately implored before I could even sit down. Then he turned to the extended family that had come to rally around him and Christie in the ICU waiting room, proudly announcing, “This is the doc who delivered Ryan. He knows ‘im better ‘n anybody. He’ll tell us when Ryan’s gonna get better, won’t you, Doc?”
I looked from face to face, pausing, trying to find the words to say what I knew, that Ryan was dying. I could tell from Christie’s resigned sadness that she had come to the same conclusion. She looked lonely amid her own family, all of whom held onto Tom’s misplaced optimism.
“Yeah, they got the best doctors here at Children’s. They’ll fix ‘im up,” one volunteered.
“I know he’s gonna make it, I just know it. God wouldn’t have brought him into this world to take him out so young like this,” another added.
God…the word hung in the air. How could a good and loving God take a six-month-old from his parents? I thought of the atheism of my upbringing that had sustained me into my twenties with easy answers to such questions…
Chapter VI: A Spirit Directed Life
“There is only one religion, the religion of love.”
After the welcome and sharing from the ministers, the singing resumed, building the energy in the room until the moment was right for Ron Roth to enter. All turned to the back of the room, and we continued to sing as a tall, stout, white-haired man made his way slowly up the center aisle, eventually taking his seat at the center of the stage in the front of the room.
“Namaste to each of you,” he began.
Why is a former Catholic priest opening his teachings with a Sanskrit word I’d learned from yoga? I wondered.
“That word, namaste, means that the light in me, the Divine in me, the Christ in me honors and acknowledges the same in you.”
So it didn’t take long for me to have to deal with Christ in this retreat, but somehow Ron’s reference to Christ felt universal rather than sectarian. While this stretched my prior understanding of the word namaste, I was ready to hear more.
“We are all not only children of God, but we partake of God. Each of us has a spark, an essence that is of the Divine. Each of you is holy. Each of you is deserving of love. And I honor the holiness in each of you as we start our time together. Welcome.”
I had never heard a minister of any faith begin a religious service with words like these. Ron’s voice, his demeanor, his heartfelt smile, and his message of celebrating the Divine in every human being opened my heart…
Chapter VIII: John of God, The Brazilian Healer
Miracles happen. The question is what do these words mean.
After a quick lunch, we returned to the Casa for the afternoon session in time to get seats only three rows from the stage. Like the morning session, the afternoon began with the welcome, announcements, and prayers. Again the call came, “Operação!” and the translation, “Surgery!” This time I kept my eyes open and was rewarded when João came on stage, leading a woman and a man by the hand. I witnessed the moment of incorporation, recognizing the change in João’s posture and visage.
“His energy field becomes so much bigger after he incorporates,” Virginia whispered to me. “Can you feel it?”
“No,” came my one-word reply. But this had always been my answer whenever Virginia had asked me about feeling energy. I had always followed this with a comment like, “I’m too dense. I don’t sense the things you and your friends experience.”
I had had my moments of bumping into and manipulating energy. I had had visceral, subjective experiences of the energy of each of my chakras, the experiences in India, and that morning’s profound meditation. Was it time to stop describing myself as too dense to sense energy? Perhaps.
But what of those who have never had the experience of sensing energy, at least the kind of energy Virginia and I were talking about? It seemed arrogant to assert that since they personally could not sense this energy, and our current technology couldn’t measure it, such energy did not exist. It also seemed like bad science. Good science would identify the experiences of individuals like Virginia and João and would seek the truth about them. That, I realized, was one of my goals in making the trip to Brazil.
The two individuals following João stood with closed eyes and their backs against the wall at the rear of the stage while João addressed the crowd briefly. An assistant held out a tray with a container of clear liquid (blessed water, I learned later) and surgical instruments. I realized I was about to witness the Entity, as I was learning to call João when he was incorporated, doing physical surgeries, something I’d seen on a DVD about João that Virginia had insisted I watch before our trip. The physician in me came to the fore, intensely focusing on his every move…
…Next the Entity ran his hands over the abdomen, chest, and face of the man standing against the wall. He turned and lifted a straight Kelly clamp, a surgical instrument that has a scissors-like handle, extending from which is a pair of five-inch arms that come together firmly when the handle is squeezed.
The Entity placed a small, folded cotton gauze pad in the jaws of the clamp, squeezed the handle together to hold the gauze, dipped it in the blessed water, and in one swift motion thrust the entire clamp up the man’s nose to the hilt. Sitting just three rows back, I gasped as I heard a distinct crack. I pictured with a shudder the anatomy the clamp had just traversed, calculating that the tip of the clamp must have caused the cracking sound when it broke through the cribriform plate, the fragile bony portion of the skull just above the nose through which delicate nerve fibers travel. Yet the man had only flinched slightly with the initial thrust and remained standing against the wall with serenely closed eyes.
To my further horror, the Entity twisted the clamp, pulled it partially out, and pushed it all the way back up several times. Given the angle of entry for the clamp, the only place it could be was in the frontal lobes of this poor man’s brain. The Entity’s motions with the clamp reminded me of the coarsest technique for a frontal lobotomy, a procedure that scrambles the highest-functioning portion of the victim’s brain. Finally the Entity pulled the bloodied clamp out. Another rolling chair appeared, and the man slumped into it, his head bending forward as a few thick strands of blood oozed from his nose onto his white shirt. An assistant whisked him off to the infirmary.
No prior description, no DVD, could have prepared me for the experience of watching such a physical surgery from fifteen feet away…A five-inch metal instrument thrust up the nose had to have traumatized all kinds of critical anatomy, yet the man had seemed remarkably unperturbed.
The scientist in me longed to interview this man, assuming he would still be able to speak following such a mangling of his brain. That wish was granted one week later when, while seated on the observation deck at the Casa overlooking a breathtaking view of the valley below, I turned and recognized the man only a few seats away. Hesitantly I approached him and asked, “Are you the man who underwent the up-the-nose surgery last week?”
In a broad Australian accent he replied, “That’s me, mate.”
“I hate to disturb you, but I’m a physician, and I’d love to ask you some questions about what happened to you.”
“Sure. Go right ahead.”
“What did it feel like when that instrument went up your nose?” I asked, picturing the metal clamp lacerating the delicate tissues of his nose, breaking multiple bones within, and ending up who knew where.
“It felt like someone pressing a little on the side of my nose, like this,” he said, laying his forefinger alongside his nose and pressing a little firmly.
“What about the recovery period? What did you feel then?” I asked, picturing the days of painful healing required for lacerated tissues of the nasal lining to mend.
“It didn’t hurt at all,” came the surprising answer. “I had a few small blood clots come out when I blew my nose for the next day or two, but it never hurt, and it didn’t stop me from doing anything else.”
“What did they do for you in the infirmary?”
“They made me lie down on a cot, which is what I felt like doing anyway. After drinking some of the blessed water, I fell asleep for a while. A few hours later, they told me I could return to my pousada, and to follow the instructions they give everyone after spiritual surgeries, stay in bed for twenty-four hours and all that.”
“How did you end up getting a physical surgery? Did you ask for it?”
“Yeah, you might say so. They explained that everything can be healed through the spiritual surgery, herbs, and other stuff done here, that nobody needs a physical surgery to be healed. But something in me thought it was what I was supposed to do.”
“Is there a specific physical condition you came here to have healed?” I asked, wondering what would move someone to volunteer for such a physical surgery.
“No, not really. I have a list of physical things I’d like healed, and some emotional ones, but when I heard about the Casa and John of God, I somehow knew I would come to this place, just like something in me knew to raise my hand to volunteer for that physical surgery. It seems to be working out OK.”
As I walked away from this unusual exchange, I knew I’d been gifted a glimpse into a phenomenon, a data point, I could not explain.
I have since visited the Casa on seven more trips and seen John of God at New York’s Omega Institute six times and in Toronto once. I have learned that the Entity is particularly partial to physicians who are open to the data points occurring around and through John of God, data points I now understand the Entity hopes will serve as triggers for our seeking a new medical paradigm for illness, health, and healing. Sometimes when João is incorporated, the call goes out, “Médicos! Doctors!” Then all physicians present are invited to come forward to see, as closely as they choose, the inexplicable physical surgeries and other miracles of the Casa. I have held the tray for and been only inches away from multiple incision surgeries, up-the-nose procedures, and a third type of physical surgery, eye scraping. In the eye-scraping procedure, the Entity uses a kitchen paring knife to repeatedly scrape the cornea of the person undergoing the procedure. Again, no anesthetic, local or general, is given. I have been close enough to see small mounds of soft, translucent material accumulating on the leading edge of the knife as it scrapes across the cornea, the Entity then casually wiping the knife blade on the subject’s shirt before returning to more scraping. I have spoken to another physician who, upon his first visit to the Casa, was handed the paring knife and personally performed an eye scraping, his hand allegedly controlled invisibly by the Entity. These truly were data points for which I had no explanation, data points calling out for us all to be open to a new paradigm of what is possible.
Early in these experiences I thought of the individuals who identify themselves as quack busters, those whose goal is to debunk unscientific claims of miraculous healing. They recommend that magicians, not physicians, watch so-called miraculous procedures to discover the fraud behind them. Such investigations have demonstrated that some practitioners claiming to perform miraculous healings are indeed frauds, performing a sleight-of-hand maneuver to give the appearance of performing the impossible. Could such a sleight of hand be responsible for these otherwise inexplicable procedures?
That question was definitively answered one day during my second trip to the Casa when a woman approached me…
…I had experienced precisely what the physical surgeries are intended to do. They push us to recognize that our own mental models, medical and otherwise, are too limited to encompass the fullness of truth. I’ve heard repeatedly that no physical surgery at the Casa is needed to treat any condition. Spiritual surgery, herbs, and the many other known and unknown interventions occurring at the Casa are enough. Yet physical surgeries are what John of God is most known for, or in some circles, most notorious. He has been accused of practicing medicine without a license and has suffered beatings and jailings as a result. Those who seek to either sensationalize what he is doing or demonize it point most to the physical surgeries. Yet of the thousand or more people who come to the Casa on any given day, typically no more than five and often fewer receive a physical surgery, and only when they personally ask for one. The physical surgeries represent just a tiny portion of the healing work at the Casa, but they constitute some of the most potent data points, calling upon all who would open their eyes to see them to in turn open their web of belief. In my case, they helped shatter it.