Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Review of Miracle Man: John of God

Discovery Channel's Miracle Man: John of God was generally a letdown with nary a skeptic among the resource persons consulted and interviewed. There were no professionals who had a skeptical perspective on this. All the MDs and PhDs interviewed were to a lesser or greater degree tendential toward pseudoscience and spiritual gibberish, with Gary Schwartz topping the list. An Indian guy named Goswami spewed nothing but gobbledygook about quantum physics, soul, and whatnot. The program had to rephrase what he said since, frankly, he was incomprehensible. I think this guy needs to do some serious searching on the floor for all the zillion bolts that have fallen off his cranium. (An aside: The Holy Text of Woowoo exhorts, "To impress your audience always append 'quantum' to all your drivel.")

João Teixeira da Faria known as Joao de Deus (John of God) we're told doesn't do miracles. He merely channels "entities." And among those spirits that he's channeled are--get a load of this--King Solomon and St. Francis of Assisi. I presume J.Z. Knight still wins hands down, at least in terms of the oldest entity channeled (her Ramtha lived some 35,000 years ago)

The program actually showed the somewhat graphic scenes--having forceps shoved up the nose, aggressively twisted and with bleeding in some cases, and having eyes slightly touched or gently scraped with a knife. Unfortunately, we are never told that the former is the Blockhead Trick introduced in 1926 by Melvin Burkhardt. Neither are we told that eye-scraping is a trick that another Brazilian named Jose Pedro de Feitas, aka Arigo, had used in his own healings about a quarter of a century ago. Not surprisingly, John of God copies yet another technique of Arigo: making cuts on the patient. Both Arigo and John make incisions on various parts of a patient's body. In John's case there are instances when he apparently takes tissues (perhaps cysts of some sort) out of a patient. Arigo had at least in one instance performed such surgery. He took out a lipoma--a fatty tissue growth. A lipoma is benign and its excision is by no means life-threatening nor does its removal require much expertise at all.

In Flim-Flam! (1982) James Randi explains all of the above devices by Arigo. In the same book there are two photos on page 177: one of Arigo with the tip of a knife tucked under his right eyelid and the other of Randi doing the same thing. Randi notes that "the stunt is easily done, and painless.... It simply does not hurt, and anyone can do it." (My lawyers demand that I issue this disclaimer: You should not try this at home or at work. And should you go ahead with the trick and out of sheer stupidity inadvertently stab your eye, sue Randi not me.)

Among the various patients featured was Asian-American Roland Nip. He traveled to John's center known as Casa de Dom Inacio, in Abadiana, Brazil in the hopes of foregoing with heart surgery to correct what is known as a mitral valve prolapse, a condition whereby a valve in the heart fails to close properly when the heart is pumping, thereby allowing backflow of blood.

Roland went through "invisible surgery" which was nothing more than sitting in a room, closing one's eyes, and meditating (we're not told whether these people were taught some specific type of meditation or not). The surgery itself was allegedly performed by spiritual entities while they were meditating. (I take issue with that claim. The truth is that it is aliens from the star system Zeta Ridiculi who perform the operation. These Ridiculeans miniaturize themselves and from their planet far far away on the other side of the Milky Way they beam themselves via Star Trek technology into the affected area of the patient and start having a medical crew do the necessary work. And by the way they have Klingon cloaking technology so they're invisible to any imaging device we may have.)

To cut to the chase, after the hocus-pocus surgery a check by Roland's doctor back home revealed that his heart still has a murmur--indicative that blood is still backflowing and that the valve problem remains unresolved. Unfazed, Roland has gone back a second time to John the scammer.

I can empathize well with Roland because I too have the exact same condition. Unlike Roland, however, I have my head screwed on right and would rather expose faith healers of all ilk rather than throw myself into their hands in some vain hope of mending my broken heart. (Guess what types of people and what kind of thinking break my heart.)

What made me roll on the floor laughing like mad was the case of a patient named Laura. She had some type of cancer which if I heard right had metastasized (I can't be sure because Laura was anything but medical savvy). Well, she went to the Casa to see John of course. But after some time instead of getting better she felt various new "tumors" (as she called them) erupting on her neck and head. What John did after hearing of her worsening condition simply threw me to the ground. He relayed to Laura that spirits had told him that she was to immediately go to the city of Brasilia and get medical help from (real) doctors. Hearing this Laura wasted no time and did as told. Examined by doctors she was put on an antibiotic regimen and had chemotherapy. And sure enough the swelling in her neck subsided and she began feeling much better.

Folks, it was conventional scientific medicine and treatment performed by MDs in a hospital which cured Laura! The most abominable thing in this fiasco is that even after it was obvious that it was mainstream medicine--something that Laura admitted to detest--that rid her of her "tumors" she continued to attribute her healing to the entities, saying that seeking medical help was how the entities wanted her healing to proceed. Now that's the kind of twisted thinking brought on by blind belief. Woowoos like Laura will believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence or lack of it.

I'm not as dissatisfied as I predicted I would be if only because the people whose lives the show chose to focus on were not portrayed as having been miraculously healed. On the contrary. For instance, besides Roland and Laura they featured a wheelchair-bound lady who looked as if she was beginning to be able to tentatively regain some movement in her legs during her time at the Casa. To the program's credit they showed footage of her trying with much effort to walk. Can her progress be attributed to spiritual healing? No. It was exercise and physical rehabilitation which the lady was undertaking not least because she firmly believed that time in the Casa would eventually lead her to walk again. If John of God had any part in it, it is that he and his center had inspired her to take up the cudgels to try and prove her doctors wrong by embarking on a physical therapy program of her own making. Nothing paranormal, mystical, or spiritual in whatever recovery and improvement she's experiencing (if any). Meanwhile, an 11-year old boy from Netherlands who's been living at the Casa for two years, still shows no sign of recovery. His disease--which is said to claim most of those afflicted with it before the age of 30--has yet to up and disappear.

For not being an out-and-out advert for João Teixeira da Faria the program deserves some commendation.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Brother, Nice Review and Blog.
Here's a little more on john of god's poster boy Matthew Ireland to read. The shit is still happenin'
Love and Light


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Faith healer Medium John of God honoured by Pope???