In 2001 I was introduced to the phenomenal healer, John of God, at his healing center in Abadiania, Brazil. I was there on a mission: a paraplegic friend of mine wanted to know if John could help relieve his pain. In the next few years my friend did attend John’s center several times and received help.
Like Oprah Winfrey and Wayne Dyer, I was awed by John’s abilities as a phenomenal healer and happy to tell others about it. Like Oprah, what was invisible to me for years was the shadow of John’s personality…that aspect of him that is a very ordinary man was kept secret. Now, John is in prison, has been indicted and is being further investigated by the police for crimes that have been brought forth by the international community. Crimes include rape, fraud, illegal gun ownership, possible tax evasion and more.
Gossip was in the air about John’s inappropriate sexual activities well before the press got the evidence. I had heard enough by 2012 to turn my back on John’s healing center, and walk away. The Brazilian press finally reported evidence they had in December, 2018. Twelve women had stepped forward to tell their stories. Soon after more than 600 women reported being sexually abused by John starting in the 1970s.
The Fork in the Road
What are our choices when our lives have been deeply touched by the positive aspects of being at John’s center in Brazil—and then we see the depths of the shadow? I’ll share what I did in hopes it may help someone else in their journey.
I had witnessed many people in positive transformation by being at John’s spiritual hospital: A woman who passed through a series of repeating psychotic episodes to an independent normal life free from signs of psychosis. A man who recovered fully from stage-4 brain cancer. A man who found a way of beating addiction. And many close to death who grew out of fear of passing away and then truly died in peace.
My decision to disengage completely from John’s healing center grew out of my own ethics and a compelling longing for a true spiritual teacher. I wanted to learn from someone who had transcended the grip of his ordinary drives and become fully Self-realized.
Being near the phenomena of John’s healing gifts had expanded my notion of what lies within us, i.e. what a human can do. I was grateful for this learning. However, I didn’t want to lend my energy to someone who was stirring his community with unending gossip about sexual exploits he had had. I was finished with teachers who siphoned off their energy into sexual or worldly exploits.
A True Spiritual Master vs A Phenomenal Healer
I knew there must be a true spiritual master-teacher who had successfully directed ALL his energies to helping others on their evolutionary paths. I wanted someone who had “mastered” his instinctual energies and was one-pointedly dedicated to helping others accomplish Self-realization (true communion with Source, God, All That Is).
My search ended when I found the Self-Realization Fellowship—followers of the direct line of Paramahansa Yogananda. He had brought a scientifically proven way to achieve Self-Realization to the USA from India in 1920. He had written books, including comprehensive lessons to transmit how to accomplish Self-realization. His extensive community was worldwide and his reputation was peerless. He did not ask for people to abandon their heritage or faith—instead he invited everyone to learn meditation techniques to accomplish Self-realization.
I don’t write this to convince you to become a follower of Self-Realization Fellowship. I write because there are peerless spiritual teachers who can help us towards our highest spiritual goals. Yogananda is one. You can find another who suits your unique needs best. Recommended: Get clear about what your unique needs are. That’s the first step in finding what you are looking for!
Discernment is Necessary
It can be an agony of disappointment and disillusionment when someone we have chosen to put on a pedestal falls from grace. We learn we made a mistake. We learn that we must have more discernment.
Students at IMHU often ask me, “How can I cultivate and learn how to use the spiritual gift of discernment? How can I tell the difference between a true nudge from the universe and one of my own bone-headed ideas?” Discernment is the key.
How do we learn discernment? The only way I know is to meditate; also, to use techniques of meditation that expand intuitive abilities. With discernment, we won’t fall in league with unethical teachers or healers.
I wish you well on your journey. May you find your most perfect teacher and learn true discernment on your path.
Author: Emma Bragdon, PhD is the Executive Director and Founder of IMHU.org. She has written 3 books on spiritual healing in Brazil. Two recent blogs reflect more on John of God.
Emma, thanks. This is the article I’ve been waitung for in many ways.
Thank you, Emma, for these wise comments – a great post-script to our SEC online meetup discussion on discernment as related to mis-leaders and deeply flawed healers.
Emma, It’s heartless to prey on the desperate. I too wanted to believe so bad that I sent away to Brazil for herbs when my husband was in the hospital. I feel like a sucker, duped. Never again.
I appreciate your article on JOG. I myself have been heartbroken to hear this news. I had a number of metaphysical experiences that occurred 8 years ago that led me to the Casa. I have been their 5x in the past 8 years. JOG and the Entities have helped many of my clients, myself and my family. I have had miraculous experiences occur in many visits. I have watched JOG for weeks on end tirelessly see people from am to night. Do I think the allegations could be true? It’s hard for me to believe but I also know the shadow side is their in all of us. As intuitive as I am this was never even a thought or feeling I had either during or after my visits. My experiences at the Casa were always profound and healing. The energy of the Casa and the dedication I observed was always beyond loving and kind. Many people dedicated decades of their lives to helping prople through the treatments offered their.
Whatever the truth is I hold a vision of healing and compassion for all.
I do know that many miraculous healings and spiritual developments also happened at the Casa for thousands of people. I am personally forever grateful for these gifts.
Yes, I agree with your sentiments.
Thank you Emma…. wow another one hits the dust… good for the women who came forward, from bravery to risk taking I applaud their actions… it seems to be part of the unraveling I call it.. unraveling all the things that are getting in the way as well as illegal and simply wrong… I was shocked and the realize like so many in Hollywood have come forward as well.. I hope this is an end to the dominator male complex that has ruled this earth and is destroying it as we read… another attempt in the universe to evolve and hits a wall and goes backwards and even dies off since global warming is growing at such a rapid speed that people are looking at ten years and that’s it.. what a time to get involved like 16 year old Greta who has come forward in a big way and let’s ask ourselves what do we keep hidden, what needs to be exposed and healed so we can become larger in our growing sense of bec9ming better humans no matter if we only have ten years!! And do watch the important films about Chico Xavier… they are all brilliant!!!!
It is soooo difficult to separate the person from the healer/guru. Remember Gurudev from Kripalu. We all carry shadows. The challenge is to own it – not act it out. And we are all capable of duped by the promise/the hope of being healed from physical, emotional or psychic pain. And the healing does happen. I also wonder what in each of us allows us to either turn away, as Emma did, or become a victim of a perpetrator. I wish I had the answer. I do not – I wish I did
A great follow up article about the journey to trusting oneself and coming to understand the discernment process…….Thank you for your clear explanation of your journey. My teacher a long time ago once said that when my killer and brutal inner critic would mature and stop beating me up, I’d find myself with a discerning judge instead and this has seemed to happen at last. And, for my life I’m seeing how the more embodied I’m becoming which isn’t always an easy or comfortable experience, the more I can feel and trust that gut ‘knowing’ especially with things like leaky sexual energy. The body holds the score as the book title so beautiful says and thankfully at last it’s my ally….more of a gift than a curse as it was. I would miss signals as I was programmed to distrust myself and not notice. My animal and instinctual sense was cut off and I lost trust in my body’s implicit wisdom which now is much stronger, so I could easily be duped by smart thinkers or narcissistic charm. Great summary though thank you, yes I think you nailed it with the word DISCERNMENT!!
Thank you Emma for speaking your truth , I know that this has resignated very deeply with you and for many people world wide who have felt the repercussions of a man with such gifts to have been used in the most terrible way . I send everyone who had been hurt in anyway by this man all my love and healing , you are an inspiration to us all Emma and the work that you are doing is grately appreciated from everyone within this community . There will always be profoundly gifted people who use their gift to satisfy the demons within them at the expense of others well being , spiritually , emotionally and physically . Through bad experiences and good experiences we are all set on a path to find where we are meant to be and the people that will help
Us all towards a better understanding of spiritual emergency , to healing , to the higher spiritual self . Thank you Emma for the work that you do and the message that you spreading .
Thank you Emma for this story. I loved being at the Casa, seeing first hand what is possible, and contributing through the current room. I felt a part of something very special. I am glad I did not know what temptations John of God was succumbing to. I will always cherish the miracles I saw and experienced and pray for any talented healer who is in the spotlight.
Thank you, Emma, for your openness about your time there. One thing I think this, and many other instances of gurus/teachers/masters failing to own their shadow side is pointing to, is that we are at the end of the time of the guru hierarchy. There are a few truly realized people on the planet at all times, but not many. And most of the truly awakened ones are not “gurus, masters, etc.” in the public eye. Just as we are moving into a flatter earth, with the old patriarchy dying, and hierarchy collapsing all around us, we are being called to each be our own guru, our own teacher. Yes, we need teachers to help us along the way, but we are being challenged to no longer project onto others our own inner wisdom and strength. The old model was for the teacher to tell us what to do and how to do it in order to awaken. Now, we need to find this in ourselves, drawing on teachings from many places and masters, but not giving away our own inner mastery. This is a much more challenging path, one that requires from us a maturity that was not called for in the past. It is easy to get lost among all the teachers and teaching available to us today, unless we look inside where the true guru is to be found, our own inner wisdom and drive for awakening, the inner teacher that leads us on a daily path of teachings if we pay attention.
Thanks for this comment John M, it resonates fully, and I will share some thoughts that may be quite controversial. I think, in fact, the concept of a “healer” is a dangerous one just as that of a “guru” or enlightened one. It seems to me that when the gift is enabled through discipline and training or just karmic happenstance we are simply allowing the healing energy to come through. We are not “healers” but conduits for healing. When we say there is a healer it creates an ego endorsement and grandiosity ensues. In order to deal with that a counter-balance of lessening/humbling/shaming oneself is necessary to balance and self-regulate. I feel this is in fact a universal law and when anyone gets too much attention it is a recipe for disaster. It is our fault for creating or sustaining this culture. That is only briefly touched upon in this film and is a very dangerous and difficult topic when operating in the realm of human laws. If this man was seeing thousands of people who came to HIM to HEAL them, then that is a lot of stored shadow work that must come out somehow. Yikes. As far as my limited knowledge of Kardecism goes, I understand he broke two fundamental rules: 1) there is to be no one central figure 2) there is to be no financial compensation for the work. Were these laws applied in earnest, and had the people held him accountable to this I suspect the outcome would have been very different. It is too easy to point the finger at one bad guy. This is something I have been working through for some time and it is very uncomfortable topic, so I apologize if it triggers anyone out there. I don’t claim to have it all figured out any more than anyone else. Thanks for writing this piece and sharing your journey. Yogananda was indeed a very pure soul and a great role model for us as humans.
I do believe there is healing energy at the Casa still to be had, and that the Entities operate on their own without Joao. Personally, I don’t think he has been incorporated since about 2012, and I spent a lot of time there from Jan. 2002 until April 2015. I did receive a great deal of physical help and am very grateful for that.
Thanks for this Emma!!
An aspect of this situation with JOG is that as a story builds and then gets large media attention, we tend to take sides and automatically believe the accusations that are being put forth because of numbers, 12 women, in this case, have appeared to testify regarding sexual abuse.
We are not personally involved, and we don’t know for sure what really happened, accusations fly around, speculation about the circumstances and possibilities start to appear.
I am not saying that the women who came forward are being untruthful, but at the same time do we automatically just trust what they are saying?
As well what formulates gossip in this situation?
I am not trying to defend JOG, maybe what happened is true or worse than what I can imagine, I just don’t want to judge him so quickly, or anyone in the public eye that I don’t know personally.
Apparently, if you look at some of the facts in the case, a woman who was from the U.S. was the first one who brought out accusations of sexual misconduct regarding JOG and Prem Baba around the same time then disappeared from Brasil.
It is important to understand that the media could have been used to bring down two of Brasil’s spiritual leaders based solely on accusations.
Any spiritual leader that has the fame that these two healers have had will be subjected to public opinion, and the possibility these days of a media slant in the collective consciousness.
I have personally been around both of these men numerous times over the period of many years, JOG and Prem Baba and many know they have helped many people heal and find well being.
I wish I could know what the absolute truth is in this situation, but that I may never really know in a case like this.
I request that before we jump to conclusions that we check deep within, and speak with clarity from the heart, will our words cause more harm, gossip, and speculation, or are we speaking from a standpoint of healing for all those involved in the situation.
I do not have faith in a system that punishes people or rewards them, based on my work with Non-Violent Communication, if the men involved have caused some suffering to these women or men with sexual misconduct what would be the healing strategies that we would use to help the men and women in this case?
I think of all the healing and work JOG gave freely, yes, there were profits made in Abadhania, but at the same time year after year JOG showed up and worked towards healing for countless people, and many tell their stories of being healed.
If these incidents did happen they must be brought out into the light and it is very sensitive to bring out such vulnerable sexual accusations into the public arena, it is difficult not to get swayed into public opinion, to judge, criticize, defend or blame.
I will be forever grateful to the healing I have received from JOG and Prem Baba and this does not mean I am saying I accept sexual misconduct that causes harm to others at any level.
Let us stay in the heart, and let’s see where the light shines in the future in this case.
All is going according to plan. GOD’’s Plan – not mine No judgement. No betrayal. No fear. This situation will resolve sooner or later. I am focused on the principles of the Casa and not the personalities Unfortunate as this situation is – many good things will come of this as bad as it all looks. I personally have been able to look at aspects of myself that I need to change. I wish all the people that have been to John of God the atonement they need to make it feel right. “Our common welfare must come first personal progress depends upon unity. “ Alcoholics Anonymous – but for the grace of God go I ????
focus on principles not the personalities! YES
Thanks for keeping the topic alive, Emma. One of our favorite descriptors of our work is that we dive into the darkness to find the light and rise into the light to release its shadow. From this, we always work with both light and its shadow. A teacher who preaches a message of light is very likely hiding their shadow.