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One degree of separation, miracle healing, me, Stan Grof, Ram Dass, John of God..

Some years ago, I had a few small glasses of Ayahuasca. And through that, I eventually met so many people, directly and indirectly. And stories. One led me to sitting on the same chair as John of God had. A Brazilian miracle healer, who was sentenced to 19 years prison for 600 rapes (allegedly), of which he had to sit in prison for 1 year.

So, here I am going to write about miracle healing. My friends were there at the time running a relatively upscale hotel for his guests, and they observed John of God from 2 meters close up. They became friends, invited and dined each other, and John of God made his only ever trip outside of Brazil to Portugal where my friends now live.

So, in their home in Portugal, I sat on the same chair as had John of God, and I had the opportunity ask some questions of direct observers, and in one case, of participants.

Personnel to explain how I got there

  • I / me / mine, in bodyguard pose

  • Norberto, a Brazilian Ayahuasca guide, deceased during Covid

  • a retired couple, my friends, in a Southern European country

  • Ram Dass, ex Richard Alpert, friend of Timothy Leary deceased 2023, during the 1960s LSD years, portrayed the in wonderful book "Outside Looking In" by TC Boyle

  • Stanislav Grof, the early LSD researcher and creator of Holotropic Breathing, and Transpersonal Therapy

  • John of God, the Brazilian miracle healer who later was depicted as criminal in a Netflix series and had a sentence of 19 years for hundreds of cases of statutory rape

One degree of separation

How can I bring these people together into one web of connections, not hopping more than one of the six degrees of separation until I arrive at John of God?

A few years ago, I naively found myself at an Ayahuasca ceremony organized by the wonderful endlessly generous and trustworthy Norberto, a Brazilian-German Ayahuasca guide with a pretty violent past. His widow, who co-hosted the ceremonies, now does "Tantrahuasca" retreats only for women. I still have an opportunity to guard their Brazilian retreat house when she is travelling....

Eventually thanks to Ayahuasca, I became close friends with people who knew John of God personally.

Also, as result of my Ayahuasca experience, I received an invitation for coffee from Stan Grof, who happened to be bored during Covid, and is practically my neighbor in Wiesbaden.

It turns out that Ram Dass sought advice from his friend Stan Grof, many years ago, on whether he should travel to Brazil to seek a miracle cure for his stroke from John of God. So there we are. Causes and contributing conditions!

The healer/gangster John of God

John of God, the miracle healer, talked with Oprah Winfrey, has received visited by the Dalai Lama and all kinds of scientists and psychologists who studied him. Shirley McLane was there. Ram Dass was there. Most people, including my friends, left John of God with their beliefs shaken. And sometimes parted with money. My friends were nearly seduced into emerald smuggling, and only stepped back at the last moment, when they heard of a near-shootout.

The Dalai Lama seemed occasionally to have a talent to see people who turn out to be a bit ...let´s say unusual.

Because John of God the healer, was also a crook and - apparently - a gangster (now on Netflix) .

The hotel for John of God

My friend called Abidiana, where he was located, the "Last Chance Saloon", because it was the place of last hope for many. His visitors had lost all hope elsewhere.

There were local people and an at the time, an increasing number Western patients.

My friends, who also had a successful Pizzeria in Spain, had opened a hotel close to John of God's "church". The plan was to accommodate John´s Western guests in the "one horse town" Abidiana in the middle of Brazil. In fact, they had landed there purely by chance, on a trip, and decided this on the spot: it seemed to be a business opportunity.

They had also been convinced by one of their first observations: at John of God´s location, there was a room stacked with thrown-away crutches, "thousands of them", simple crutches, often self-made, that had been left behind by those healed.

There is now a single foto of those crutches as an Alamy stock picture. My friend remarked that these were indeed the types of crutches he saw. But, at the time, the room was a shabby shack, not tiled, without shelves, and the crutches (many many more of them) were just thrown onto a huge heap on the floor. So, the foto was probably made later, staged.

Roberto Pellegrino described the scene like this:

They come in their thousands. The sick, the lame, the incurable and the medically discarded. Enduring long international flights and , for Brazilians living in the south of the country, gruelling thirty five hour bus trips to a small town high on the Goias plateau of central Brazil . Buses arrive all through the night. At 5a m it is still. Along the road to the sanctuary, the line of pousada, that cater for the thousands who pilgrimage here, is blanketed in a silent fog. People sit outside the simple lodging houses talking softly. There are not enough rooms to cater for them all so they sleep in cars or buses or simply stand around waiting for the dawn. The lodging houses provide free coffee for the weary travellers who spill from the newly arrived buses all through the night. 

Sleeping in busses or ramshackle multi-bed rooms was obviously not the choice of the Western guests, who by then had heard of the phenomenon and were streaming in en masse. So, they added a new flavor to Abidiania. This is my friend's perspective: for him, it was "a very avant-garde place".

The thing was, as I said, you know, Abadiania, where his centre was, or is, was a little one-horse town out in the central islands of Brazil. I mean, no one ever heard of it.
And yet it was full of all these foreigners. And I guess it wasn't hard to understand. These were all people who had been told by their regular medical carers that there was nothing left that they could do for them.
So these were people all in the last chance saloon. Which is what, actually what it, when I think back, it reminds me of. The real last chance saloon. You know. Because it was, it was a real wild west. I mean, bandits everywhere.
It was, the whole thing really, when I think about it, it was surreal.
There was this dirty little one-horse town in the middle of the boondocks in central Brazil. Full of people dressed in white, with tubes up their noses and down their throats and God knows where. All at the end of their lives, but having a ball.
I mean, by then they'd given up. So, they were having a ball. They'd lost all their hope from the medical, normal... Normal medical profession. Medical profession, and then had it all on the miracle man. And, yeah, this was it.
This was their last hope. Yeah, exactly. And, in fact, you know, they weren't idiots.
We had one guy there, a Jewish doctor from New York, who was very, very sophisticated, very, very well-educated. Very nice guy. Really nice guy. Well up on, you know, all the medical. And yet, he knew he was dying.
And so he was down there to see whether, by some miracle... Unfortunately, it didn't happen. He did die, but...
But, you know, so it wasn't just little wizened peasants from somewhere hoping, you know. A lot of them were really very well-off or very well-educated, many of them.
People from Japan, from Australia, lots of people from America. Well, yeah, I used to have great conversations with the people there.
So, it was a very avant-garde place, really.

Ram Dass

Ram Dass, the famous Western ex-Harvard professor and friend of Timothy Leary ("the most dangerous man on the planet" - Nixon) had hoped to be cured from the consequences of his stroke. He recollects a scene with the local population at the centre:

You see it was a mother, just wheeling a child in a wheelchair. The child was deformed and they have been on the bus for 12 hours to come and get healed . And the stream of human sufferings ... they were streams of faith.

What happened there: an "entity" possessed John of God, this entity was one of a number of a deceased medical doctors, and he cured.

Ram Dass wasn´t healed of the stroke, but he apparently had a non-dual experience. And then, he said, the local translator had forgotten to ask John of God the real plea - the translator had stuck it in his pocket trousers and forgotten about it.

It takes this generator of meditating people to make that happen, the people who come and speak to the entity "come walk through these rooms" and it's like a bath. You can get at the bus, and boy I want a healer. But by the time you see John, it's church and it's a healing church, because I got healed. But I didn't get healed with my stroke. I got healed by I now no longer feel "it's stroke or non stroke", all those divisions I have transcended them, so I'm a stroke .

Ram Dass here refers to a room of meditating people deep in concentration through which people had to walk to the main room. I can imagine the shared energy of this meditating "generator". Anyone who was in an Ayahuasca ceremony knows the. force of groups of people deep in their unconscious.

The miracle man: cutting up bodies, and stitching them up again

And books were written about John , such as "The Miracle Man. The Life Story of John of God". Btw, the author of this book met my friends in Brazil. Here is one typical report which is confirmed by my friends.

Joao was already turning his attention to a woman with cancer of the stomach. He unbuttoned her blouse, slowly as if in trance, and lowered her waistband to expose her lower abdomen. From an assistant's tray he selected a scalpel and sskilfully made a small incision three centimetres long. It did not bleed and the woman seemed unperturbed. He cut deeper and inserted two fingers into the opening. Raul, from his front row position, saw the healer withdraw his fingers and with them a soft white growth the size of a golf ball. The woman remained motionless with no apparent discomfort. All of this, he noticed, was without anaesthetic or the stringent sterilisation of modern medical practices with which he was so familiar. The wound was stitched with a single suture and the woman led away to a small hospital style recovery room.

The exactly same observation was made by my friends.

The wife of the head of Johson and Johnson in Spain forgets being cut up by John of God

There is also other hard to explain narrative by my friends.

Because when he came over and stayed with us in Spain, he had a gathering in Portugal to come to, which was at the country estate of the head of Johnson & Johnson in Europe.
That's a huge company. Yeah, it was in Myrtle. And he said, well, would you like to come with me? Will you come with me? Can you take me, basically? Because he didn't like to travel by himself if he could avoid it.
So we said, well, yeah, we'll take you. So we drove all the way across Spain to Myrtle, a beautiful place. And they even had a little church on their estate where he was going to receive people and operate on them.
And in chatting to them, we then discovered that the wife of this head of Johnson & Johnson had been a patient of Medium Joao a few years before. Now, this is where the story... You see, I didn't get all of the information. But she had to have another breast operation.
I don't know whether she was having a mastectomy or something. But the surgeons in Portugal opened her up and they said, well, what's this? You've been operated on already. And she said, no, I haven't.
And they said, well, there's clear evidence here. And then she remembered that several years before, she'd been at John of God´s place and he'd operated on her. In this manner that I had described, where he cut open and pulled something out.
For that particular woman, he would have to pull out cancer growth, presumably a tumor. And they said, well, you've been operated on previously.
And she said, what? And then only when they said, well, there's all the evidence of old stitch marks here, that she suddenly remembered what had happened. That's also interesting, because normally you would not simply forget something like that. Well, this is what struck me as well, and why I should have followed it up a bit, and I didn't.
But again, I mean, why would she lie? We were staying at her house.
She told that to you?
Yes. If she wouldn't lie, I can't imagine why.

We then dove into the possibility that much of this was happening under trance, a kind of hypnosis.

Then, I read the book Miracle Man, one of the books on John, and found an interesting passage on "internal operations". In theory, this would explain the surprise by the Portuguese surgeons and the wife about the stitch marks.

Invisible and Simultaneous Operations.
Joao is capable of incorporating only one entity at a time, although he can change entity at any time as the need arises, and it does not preclude any number of entities perform ng operations at  the same tim e outside of his body. These are called simultaneous operations and occur without notice during the physical operations in public view , patients in the crowd are operated on by the accompanying spirits without warning. They si mply faint from the spirit anaesthesia and are carried away to the recovery room by assistants. ...
Invisible operations are those which leave no external sign of entry into the body. The operation occurs internally. Subsequent X-rays  frequently show the internal incision and sutures but there are no external marks. Most of the healings performed by Joao are invisible or instantaneous but each day there are two public demonstrations of physical surgery, visible operations , specifically performed to enable people to "see" the entities at work. This is done to fulfil the centre's m ission of, not only healing the sick, but providing irrefutable proof that there is another dimension a spirit world, where we all eventually go when this physical life expires.   

Well I don´t ask anyone to believe it. But then, my friends would never lie or make things up to impress anyone. The scientist among the two never makes any outrageous truth claims - he only reports what he saw, or believed to see at the time.

The globes of light

Then, let me just add another strange phenomenon he reported, confirmed by his wife, and - as they said - seen as totally normal by the Abidiania residents then:

Globes of light hovering in the air around the hotel, on the road between it and John of God´s place.

I print our original conversation to show the nature of their impression.

(She) Yeah. I actually had your little camera, which on the way to the casa one evening, or end of day, people were walking, and I saw a light bulb. A light bulb next to their legs. In fact, I had also taken... I saw one in the garden. 

A light bulb? Energy. Globes of light? 

(He) Globes.A light globe, it's called. It's like...  Are these these lightning balls that kind of... No. Well... Not as far... Not like ball lightning. These were just... It's a globe.  A globe. Globes of light. That would... sometimes be stationary and sometimes move. There was always one, I remember, that used to be positioned next to that triangular window we built into the hotel. It was almost as though this thing was looking in through this window. And it was often there at night. It's the only time you could really see them.   And I took a photograph of that same globe, walking with some people. They were walking to the casa. There wasn't just one globe. It was... At times, there would be... They'd be all over that little part of Adyania, that street.
You know, that led down to our hotel. Now, what... Do you have any physical explanation? Because the only one...  It's the place had a lot of energy. Ah, it's in Abidjan, yeah. Only in Abidjan.Only in Adyania. Only there. Oh, interesting. In the little garden of the hotel. And you see, I... The most obvious explanation to me is that... it's seismically active there, because some of the hot springs that come out of the ground are hot. Yes.
And so I think there could be gases. But it doesn't explain why there was always one at the front of our hotel. Because we... Like that triangle, we built a triangle into the front of the hotel, which illuminated the whole reception area.And it was always there. Well, not always, but on nights when they were there, there was always this one that would be... not moving, not, you know, just hovering, stationary. 

What did you think at the time?

 I mean, it was... I think we talked to someone, the neighbor that was there. The light... The globe, energy globe. 

What was the neighbor doing with that energy? 

I don't know.  Yeah, it needs to be a spiritual energy, sort of. Physical energy, I think. I don't know. I don't know, too.I can't tell you. Whatever I say to you, it's a guess.  I know... But it's certainly the only place in all my travels, the only place I've ever seen those, was Avaniania. Yeah, never seen this anywhere. Never. And it was something so unique. I've never even heard about it. Except in the form of these like lightning bulbs, lightning balls. Yeah, I mean, they're... They didn't frighten you. It was almost serene, really. The light that came out of them... The energy light ball. Wasn't threatening or something. 

Then you... What colour did they have? 

Well, they actually... Well, they're very... What? They're very new. Very new. Yeah. Some would be... There were no strong colours, but some would be a pale blue, sometimes a yellow or a green, even a pink. But no strong, strong colours. No. Must have been an esoteric something, I was looking at.

Were the locals somehow talking about those? 

I mean, if there were locals. I don't know. Oh, yeah. Our neighbour, Betty, she is... They knew about it. Yeah. It was not...  
The best thing to say is... What? Globes of light, Abadiani or something like that. OK, let's see. Because that's the only location I've ever seen. What is that? What else could I put? Spiritual, esoteric, I don't know. The only way is to link it with Abidjana.   It was. It was a very weird phenomenon that. Hmm. But you wouldn't see them all the time. It's not that you see them every day or all the time. You didn't.


My host took photos of them. But it was the time when fotos were not immediately uploaded to the cloud, and their camera was stolen in a restaurant - they are still angry about it.

Driving in a trance

My friends also recollect, that this "entity" occasional also took possession of John of God when he once chauffeured them on a dusty Brazilian road, and it frightened them consider - he was obviously driving in a trance.

Should / can one believe it?

Some of it is well possible, at first sight. Hypnosis can eliminate pain. I saw a German TV documentation about doctors in Africa who did leg operations routinely without anaesthesia - but with hypnosis.

My now pensioned friend , who was and is a devout scientist, having worked in agrobusiness, and who had negotiated deals with Fidel Castro and his brother, confirmed having seen many such healings by John with his own eyes

And more: this hard-core scientist, when he once came to John of God´s place, began to see the walls of the location "breathe" with some kind of energy, as he heard the wailings and meditations mentioned by Ram Dass. So, it is well possible that the shared energy of assembled humans enabled unusual things in a kind of mass trance.

But who knows...

The mind can to tricks : Bayesian brain

I know how it is when solid objects seem to breathe, or flowers to dance. It´s what routinely happens with LSD or Ayahuasca etc .

For example, to see things "breathe" in this way, the mind, modified by psychedelic molecules, can create a prediction of the visual scene without the usual assumption (priors) that fixed objects do not breathe. The book "Reality Switch Technologies" looks at this in great detail, from the combined perspective of neuroscience and the predictive processing or Bayesian brain theory.

Because that´s what psychedelics do: they destroy beliefs and perceptual priors. Or, expressed in Bayesian terms: they "reduce the weight of the priors", so that we can "upload new programs".

Apparently, John of God was able to act a little bit like a Tibetan teacher, using pointing out instructions to deconstruct the mind a little, or like a psychedelic.

Or, he just bamboozled everyone with a series of clever tricks, as the "fraud buster" Randi explained. But then, how to explain 1000 left-behing crutches? The invisible operation? The globes of serene light globes clearly perceived by those two serious people who no spiritual attachment at all?

Randi - the fraud buster

Randi is the man who for many years had a running bet that he would pay 1 million USD to anyone who could replicate a paranormal activity in his laboratory before running cameras, in clean experimental conditions.

He wrote two articles on John of God (here and here), explaining how his tricks worked. For example, the "scissors up the nose" trick wasn´t invented by John of God - it had a tradition.

From my hypnosis training, I would frame the scissors trick as a subsidiary tool. John of God may have used it like a stage hypnotist would use a "confusion induction" : the subject is presented with something so unexpected, that the mind momentarily blanks out.

Together with what my friend described as a specific "hypnotic" way in which John of God looked at the patients on stagw, this might have been a perfect hypnotic induction. An effective hypnotic technique is for the hypnotise to go into a light trance, too, and thereby "model" the outer signs of a trance.

And, under hypnosis, the self healing capability can get a tremendous boost, way more than the placebo effect. We all know from the Bible that Jesus was reported to be a miracle healer (people becoming seeing again, or throwing away their crutches).

However, even this would not explain the phenomen of - for example - internal operations.

The rape accusations

And, if bamboozling was not enough, he was accused of abuse and rape, including by his own daughter . He got a sentence of 19 yesterday years for it.

My friends were sceptical. They assume, without being 100% sure, that he was set up. Here my my questions.

You know the months that you were there, you never saw a sign of wrongdoings or rape? 

No, no. No bad treatment of women. No, quite the opposite.

Was he respectful to women?

Yes, I would say he was.  All the time I was there, I never really caught my attention at all. No evidence at all. I mean, the totally untrustworthy woman that we got to run the hotel, suggested that he exposed himself to her.

So who knows...

They knew that he had many enemies, among them the Catholic Church (the home of child molesters). But he also had many powerful friends. He had cured many of them, among them judges, police staff, even President Kubicek's son, and there was a thank you letter by the President on the wall for healing his son.

So, they suspect his enemies put him behind bars, and his friends got him out early. He only had to serve a short time of his 20 year sentence.


Pellegrino-Estrich, R. (2016). The Miracle Man: The Life Story Of Joao De Deus.

Foto of Ram Dass:

Por Joan Halifax (Santa Fe, New Mexico) - zalman, ramdass, CC BY 2.0,

Foto of Stan Grof:

Por Форкуш - Obra do próprio, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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