Trigger warning: physical assault, rape, institutional betrayal, spiritual abuse.
João Teixeira de Faria — mugshot above — is a former alleged Brazilian Spiritist medium now convicted for multiple rapes. He was once famous for performing “psychic surgeries” utilizing unsterilized scissors and kitchen knives, ostensibly under the influence of one of 30-odd ghosts. Celebrities swooned over him as he travelled the world as a darling of the globalizing New Age economy.
João de Deus — “John of God” as he was humble-braggingly known — channeled more than ghosts. He channelled disenchantment with clinical medicine, and the modern world in general, into bloody spectacles that awakened religion in the most hardened heart. Before his prison shrinkage, he was a bear of a man who managed to seem gentle, even fragile, as he convulsed with whatever “entity” he claimed was pouring through him.
He also channeled a primitive calculus. João contained spirit, divinity, wisdom, and all good things. His followers were filled with sin and disease. João needed uninterrupted attention, orderliness and obedience, and they needed to be excised, bled, and emptied out. With dirty forceps, João extracted tumours and transgressions from Brazilian pilgrims, and from trembling white spiritual tourists who sought relief from their cancer and agnosticism, and perhaps forgiveness for their postcolonial privilege and guilt.
It may never be clear what happened between João, the spirit realm, and the New Age marketing teams that made him a global star. What is clear is that the stories about him, and the miracle claims made by those who flocked to him and those who promoted him, worked to cover up a more obvious truth. João was sexually assaulting and raping women, in public and in private, likely every day of his “working” life. As he did so, he amassed a vast fortune in affiliate businesses, farming operations, real estate, referral rackets, and sales…