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Monday, August 6, 2012

John of God (and I) Visit Toronto

By Anna Olson

It wasn’t my idea to go to the John of God event in Toronto, the middle of March of 2013. The push to go started when I was having a Craniosacral Therapy session with Tanis, my therapist for four years. I have a spirit guide who often appears to add her energy and to give messages for me. This time, she told Tanis to tell me about John of God.
When I got home, I looked him up on the Internet and found that the 68-year-old Brazilian healer (spirit entities work through him) was going to be in Toronto, March 15 to 17. Too bad, I thought. I can’t go because I’ll be speaking at a conference that weekend.
Then I looked up the conference website and found the speaker page. There I was, my picture and my write-up. As I read my blurb, the type gradually melted off the screen until there was nothing left but my picture. What?! I scrolled up and everyone else’s material was there. I scrolled down and ditto. Back to my spot there’s my picture but no write-up. Oh, I think I’m supposed to go to Toronto, was my painful realization.
I wrestled with the decision for two days. I was keen on talking at the conference, already planning my speech, and I was annoyed at this interference in my life. But what won out was the appreciation for the spirit guidance I have had in the past. I have learned to trust that good things happen when I follow it, often life-changing in the affirmative. So I phoned the organizer of the conference to explain my dilemma, and scrambled to get ready for TO.
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre 
You can spot the John of God attendees; they are a moving sea of white because the organizers asked everyone to dress in white. Some women are dressed in layers of filmy white: billowing skirts, lacy shawls and white shoes. The “fancy” men are in Nehru-type shirts and white slacks. These are people who enjoy dressing up and like the challenge of doing it in all white. Others have a “cobbled together” look (my type). It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m not spending any more money. This is what I have in my closet and it will have to do.” Some are rebels, wearing cream and beige, as if that’s close enough to white. One fellow had on a cream-with-black-stripes pullover. Those black stripes really stood out. No one else rebelled to that extent.
I was tempted to wear a silky purple tank top under a white blouse with white slacks but I didn’t have the nerve. It was an interesting exercise deciding what to wear: do I dare rebel against the wear-white order or do I submit to authority and wear what they tell me to? I submitted – but my runners were gray with purple laces. That was my way of asserting myself against the demands of conformity!
I guessed about 90% women, some men and a few children. Many canes, a few in wheelchairs. No one on a stretcher. Most looked like white, middle class “walking well.” But it’s hard to tell what anguish lay beneath the placid exteriors. 
There were drawings of the Entity helpers tacked to the front wall of the room. (Capital E is used for the Entities, the spirits who work through John of God. He goes into a trance and the Entities perform the medical procedures: physical surgery at his clinic in Brazil, psychic surgery everywhere else.) A wooden triangle (each side about two feet) graced the front as well, with a big basket on the floor beside it for written wishes. People lined up to interact with this “wailing triangle” (as I called it), to ask for help with their own and others’ health or emotional problems. They would lean their heads against the middle of the triangle, hands on the sides. We were encouraged to bring pictures of loved ones so that they could receive help as well.
John of God (I don’t know if others called him that and it stuck, or he chose the moniker) came up on the podium to speak. He was unintelligible as far as I was concerned. His heavy Portuguese accent made every third or fourth word a blur. Other speakers came through more clearly. One woman got us chanting his name plus “tulo bono” (or something like that) to raise our excitement level. It was like a New Age revival meeting with the purity garb and high hopes for a cure for what ails us. Just before the Entities worked on us, we held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary Full of Grace.
Someone had a bottle of essential oil and wafted through the crowd with it.
We were supposed to buy a case of 12 2-litre bottles of water (the label had John of God’s picture on it) to help us with our recovery ($36 per case). The Entities would bless it at the point of sale so that the blessing was special for each of us. I refrained because I didn’t have a means of carrying it.
For eight days after the intervention we were supposed to rest as much as possible. No spicy food like peppers (black peppercorn and chili peppers), no alcohol, no fertilized eggs, and no heavy lifting. Also, we were warned against psychic readings and energy work for eight days. No sex for 40 days! A woman complained to me that she had just started dating a guy and didn’t like that restriction. We were given blessed soup and a sandwich (unblessed) before we were sent off to rest.
My criticism: why weren’t we told no sugar? Sugar pulls down the immune system as much as alcohol.
Our psychic stitches would be removed in seven days, we were told. We’re to wear white to bed, pray to have the stitches removed, put a cup of the blessed water next to our bed, and in the morning drink the water.
My reaction: My skeptical mind had a lot of fun poking holes in the routine. But I trusted the spirit guide who asked me to be there so I tried to keep an open mind.
At the event, I asked for help dealing with a sore on my face that could be cancerous. Maybe there’s a deep root that needs pulling out. My spirit guide wanted me to have surgery here in Winnipeg but I refused. I didn’t believe the surgeon would get it all, and I didn’t want a hole in my face. Refusing surgery is the only suggestion from her I have nixed. But I was willing to travel 1,300 miles and pay $1,500 for the trip (includes the $188 ticket for one day at the event) to have psychic surgery. Go figure! I could have stayed home and had physical surgery for free. So far (three weeks later), it looks like the sore is clearing up.
The trip as a whole was worthwhile. I saw relatives and friends in the “far east,” and I met interesting people on the train. Adam (from Australia) and I had a great talk about the damage cane toads are wreaking there. The toads were brought in to eat the cane beetles but the sugar cane heads where the beetles live were too high for the toads to get at. So now Australia has a problem with the proliferating toads and the beetles as well.
I also met an interesting man from Seattle who used to be an engineer on freight trains. The glass at the front of the train is bulletproof, I learned. Also, counseling is now available for engineers after the train hits animals, people, and various vehicles. “You didn’t cause the accident,” engineers are told. “You have witnessed one.”
So, is John of God a true healer or a charlatan? Perhaps I should declare my bias: first, I would not have gone had not my spirit guide suggested it. The event was too big for my taste, handling a few thousand people each day. One helper told me that if all the tickets sold, there would be 12,000 people put through in three days.
Second, I am inclined to believe in the possibility of spiritual healing. I am familiar with therapies like Reiki where energy is directed to problem areas of the body and often effects a cure. Also, I benefit from Craniosacral Therapy, a form of energy healing. I also believe in spirit entities wanting to help people on earth.
The success of this event is hard to assess. On the positive side, it looks like this John of God “business” has grown gradually over the years. As John says, “You can fool people for a year or two, but not for 35 years.” In the beginning, doctors and politicians in Brazil tried to shut him down for practicing medicine without a license but he’s still going strong. One article on the ‘net says his methods helped a number of high-ranking officials who then supported his work and protected him from the critics.
Another aspect to admire is the number of volunteers willing to help organize and oversee such a huge event. To be accepted as volunteers, they need to have been to John of God’s clinic in Abadiania, Brazil. There must have been over a hundred workers willing to give their time and energy free of charge. They were all well dressed (in white, of course), calm and smiling in their duties. The whole event was well organized if my experience was any indication.
On the negative side, it’s hard to assess the success of whatever medical procedures were done as people disperse after the event is over. We were told to allow 40 days before deciding whether the intervention was successful or not. How do you contact thousands of people to judge the rate of healing? (You can browse the Internet for articles for and against. Pro: An Oprah staff person investigated and was helped to overcome her deep grief about her father’s death. Con: One woman states she was assaulted at the clinic in Brazil, in that she was operated on physically without her consent, and later developed an infection.)

My inclination is to accept that John of God and the Entities must be doing something right for this high level of public interest to continue for so many years.

Anna Olson is a Winnipeg freelance writer and editor. You can reach her at Check out more articles at       

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