This brings me to a Blog post- Why is Religion Popular in the Third World from the blog website “Don’t feed the Animals” by Andrew Gonsalves. The writer examines the reasons of religion as being very popular in many third world countries. Third world countries have an infrastructure which is ‘in the ditch’, due lack the lack of trade, poor education, limited social services, and countless management issues just to name a few. According to Gonsalves “low education, high occurrence of violence, high corruption, and high religiosity are all typical characteristics of third world countries.” He believes wealthy first world countries are usually at the opposite ends of those scales.
Gonsalves point out how third world citizens are more familiar with suffering than first world citizens, they recognize the worth of religion more, in turn utilizing it more intensely than in wealthier places with less suffering as I noted earlier. However another reasons he gives for religion being poplar in the Third World (nations online) is the lack of education and knowledge flow which introduces the modern day way of thinking as a means to live an alternative lifestyle. As Gonsalves himself is an atheist, he believes once they attain this ‘flow of information’ they are quick to toss out religion, like many of the first world population does, such as Gonsalves apparently did. However, the symbolism of the Catholic religion used in Brazil does not necessarily mean that they are strictly religious, but maybe in a sense turning towards mysticism. Let me explain the concept of mysticism.
Mysticism can be distinguished from ordinary religious belief because its emphasis on the direct personal experience of unique states of consciousness. Mysticism (webster’s dictionary) is the pursuit of communion with, identity with of an ultimate reality, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Mysticism usually centers on practices intended to nurture those experiences versus a set of rules which are set to govern people like organized religion.
The use of miracles and ‘signs’ in Brazil is something of mystical powers which seems to serve as a kind of sovereignty to the masses living in poverty, as a way to escape and survive in a money driven, repulsive, hierarchical society. Kazumasa is one of many characters which is formed in this novel which serves as a person with special powers, a man who has the means to pay you money when you’re at your wits end. A man who is representing hope to millions of people. The inspiration which encapsulates the use of miracles/pilgrimage and signs in the sense of prophecy in this book is something which could be based on real life occurrences in our world.
Our world, which brings me to John of God. According to the Healing Quest website “For 43 years he has served as the channel for over 30 spirit entities who perform healing for the thousands every week who visit him at his center, the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola in Abadiânia, Brazil.” John of god is a medium, he mediates communication from the spirits of the dead and other human beings. The Roman Catholic Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the guiding Entity of John of God’s healing center. It wasn’t an easy road for John of God, he never profited from his mediumship, but it was a threatening practice to local religious and medical authorities. His supernatural work was seen as non-religious from a strictly religious standpoint, religious authorities would call the police and at many times he was arrested, beaten and jailed.
Kazumasa as well as other characters in Through the Arc of the Rainforest could be compared to John of God, not exactly performing miracles under an authoritative religious source, but practicing the mystical aspects of a religion as John of God did or Kazumasa’s use of other prophetic powers which aren’t based in religion. There are positive aspects of religion, I think that the third world may look at religion as an outlet to practice their beliefs, instead of letting religion dictate and control their lives from an authoritative point of view. They can use it for other purposes, taking a mystical approach towards religion instead of ‘tossing it out’ as Gonsalves explained in his blog.
John of God, known as a medium and healer in Brazil
John of God has played a role in my personal life. My aunt who suffers from paraneoplastic syndrome and cancer resulting in paralysis, she is unable to walk and has a hard time expressing herself through speech. For several years she has been in very bad shape, dropping weight and even suffering from depression. We have taken her to different hospitals across the country which specialize in cancer and disorders of this nature, but it’s been hard to live with the fact that nothing has truly helped her.
We weren’t able to physically take her to John of God, but once my mother and I learned of John of God we actually ended up setting up a session with him by mailing him a photo of her, what his center calls ‘distant healing.’ Shortly after seeing her photo, his spirit entities knew exactly what she needed, and communicated this to John of God. Either they recommend she travels there, which is done in very extreme cases, or he sends us herbs which are tailor made for her. The herbs arrived 2 months ago, since she has taken them her health has improved tremendously, she has more energy, she has put on a healthy amount of weight, and most importantly she has hope in her eyes again. Many of my family is very please with this outcome, my conservative Grandparents (who are usually closed to these third world healing practices) are even interested in getting her more herbs. It hasn’t cured her syndrome, but it’s definitely miraculously improved her condition. The experience has served as a way for my family to come together again, to believe in something a higher power that is not of this world.