Spiritism and John of God: Shawn Tassone’s Ph.D. Practicum in Brazil
Each Ph.D. student in Saybrook’s College of Mind-Body Medicine is required to complete a 100 hour practicum at the culmination of the doctoral coursework. Shawn Tassone, a physician and third year Ph.D. student, coordinated a two-week trip to Brazil through Emma Bragdon, the author of Spiritism and Mental Health. Shawn’s plan was to learn about Spiritism, visit Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals, and visit John of God, or “Medium Joao,” which the healer prefers. During the trip Shawn was able to witness how Spiritism is practiced in the mainly medication-free psychiatric hospitals in Brazil, and then sit amongst the hundreds of followers with one of the world’s most renowned healers.
The Spiritist approach to mental health highlights the presence of a spirit, or a Discarnate entity, which attaches to the suffering person. It is thought that spirits attach or connect with the suffering individual, but they can communicate with all living beings. The negative energy can also manifest as an ancestral wound from many years ago. The process of breaking free from a discarnate spirit is called a dis-obsession, and Shawn witnessed this process twice during his visit. A dis-obsession takes place around a conference table, with or without the patient, and includes 8-10 mediums. Each volunteer medium has a different gift. Some are clairvoyant; they “see” beyond the present moment. Others are “clairaudience;” they receive messages from another realm. Others practice “psychography,” the practice of writing what is communicated. During the session the mediums communicate with the spirits, who in turn work through the mediums changing how they influence the suffering person’s life. The intention is to have the spirit dissociate from the living person, so he or she can return to a life free and dis-obsessed.
After a week of learning about Spiritism, and Spiritist hospitals, Shawn was off to visit John of God. He was filled with anticipation, curiosity, and admittedly a little skepticism. Some people come to Medium Joao for spiritual surgery, which can involve a surgical procedure such as eyeball scraping without anesthesia; others simply come to sit in his presence, in hopes of healing. A large number of people want to visit Medium Joao, but Shawn was able present himself before the Medium Joao on two occasions. The message Shawn took away from the experience is that the process of being with this healer has to do with more than just being ‘cured,” although many are cured. Instead the process often produces an expanded acceptance for one’s disease and for one’s source of suffering. Additionally, the person seeking healing must show participation and collaboration in the healing process, to reach their transformative potential.
Shawn reports that although he still has some Western skepticism, he realizes that he doesn’t need to be able to explain or make sense of everything. This trip allowed him the gift of looking back at his own life, re-connecting him to some of the spiritual experiences he has had as a physician, and with a key experience he had after his mother’s death. Shawn felt that this encounter opened him for the possibility of a broadened role as a healer.
For more details about the author and his integrative approaches to women’s health, readers may visit Dr. Tassone’s blog at http://thewomenshealthdoctorsblog.wordpress.com/category/features/