Teaching Body, Mind and Healing: Brazilian Spiritism

piritism is a religion that is practiced by less than 5% of the Brazilian population; however, most Brazilians who suffer from diseases incurable by biomedicine seek the help of a Spiritist healing center. For the last eight years I have taken anthropology students to the town of Abadania in the central highlands of Brazil where the world famous Spiritist medium John of God treats patients from around the world. John of God is an unconscious trance medium who is said to channel 47 different entities for the purposes of healing the body as well as the spirit.  At his healing center, called the “Casa,” there are meditation and prayer halls, silent gardens, “crystal baths,” a pharmacy, shared sacred soup and a sacred waterfall. The medium is most famous for cutting his patients without anesthesia or antisepsis. The incision tests followers’ faith and directs the spirits’ healing energies. Based on ethnographic research, this paper discusses: What is the Spiritist worldview and how is it incorporated into the Catholic culture of Brazil?  What is the Spiritist concept of the mind/body/spirit/and the afterlife?  What is “healing” within this tradition?  How does one judge “effective” treatment?  How do Spiritism and biomedicine interact? 

Dr. Erin P. Moore with John of God