The Truth is Slippery: Fake Wisdom and modern-day Faith Healers
Real world healers who fooled the world and bent the truth to create an empire
Faith Healer takes place in a world painted entirely in muddy shades of grey; a world where truth and reality are movable, fluid. They shift and change form depending on who is telling the story, who is recounting events, and what their agenda is. Truth is constructed entirely through memory. As a result it becomes fallible.
The truth is slippery. Difficult to wrangle.
It’s something that we have become uniquely accustomed to. Every day we’re presented with a cavalcade of internet snake oil salespeople who want to make us better and fix the problems that ail us. It, like faith healing, is a profession without ministry or responsibility.
Here we collect some modern day faith healers (in the tradition of Friel) who have allegedly fiddled with the truth to present a reality that suited them, and the identity they were creating for themselves.
John of God
In the village of Abadiania, Brazil, John of God (Jao de Deus) reigns supreme. Born in 1942, he claims that the entity of King Solomon entered his body and performed a miraculous healing. Ever since, his body has become a conduit for a variety of notable doctors and healers to perform ‘miracles’ on patients, offering an alternative from traditional Western medicine. He has treated millions of people through spiritual healings, the prescription of herbs and physical and psychic surgeries, which see patients operated on remotely by spiritual entities. Oprah Winfrey has sung the praises of John of God and featured him on her network.
John has been billed as ‘the greatest healer since Jesus Christ. In 2015, a cardiologist found a tumour and was treated with surgery and extensive chemotherapy. When asked why he didn’t heal himself he responded “what barber cuts his own hair?”
Australia’s most infamous case of fraud. Belle Gibson turned a fake cancer diagnosis into a wellness-empire. Gibson claimed she was able to heal her cancer by rejecting traditional medical treatments in favour of eating organic, cutting out dairy and gluten and undergoing oxygen therapy, craniosacral touchpoint therapy and colonic irrigation. Her story went viral and she created The Whole Pantry, a wellness guide that would help people lead a better life. Her wisdom manifested itself in an app that was pre-installed on Apple devices and Elle Magazine named her the most inspiring woman of the year.
It was revealed that Gibson never had cancer after some charity donations she claimed to have made never eventuated. In an interview where she came clean, she said, “No. None of it’s true. I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”
This self-described ‘pioneering life-coach’ has built a career on helping people unlock their potential and overcome trauma and psychological ill-health through his aggressive brand of American optimism. His books, each of which is emblazoned with his headshot and plastered with titles like Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook and Unlimited Power, urge readers that they can change their life by changing their attitude. He runs three-day seminars that can cost up to $5000 a ticket. In the documentary about his work I am Not Your Guru (which he financed and had creative control in), he says “Problems are what sculpt our soul. Problems are what make us become more. If we can realise that life is always happening for us, not to us: game over. All the pain and suffering disappears.”
Started by actress Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008, Goop is a modern lifestyle brand that “curates a tightly edited selection of products” that readers can buy to make them a better version of themselves. Its blog, furniture, fashion and cosmetics brand and online community believes the ‘mind/body/ spirit are inextricably linked’. Recently Goop has been sued for $145,000 (US) for fraudulently claiming their topical ‘Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend’ could “assist in the clearing of guilt, shame, self-criticism and blame” or “help prevent ‘shame spirals’ downward towards depressive states”. A statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said the following:
“Goop is also barred from making any claims regarding the efficacy of its products without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence, and from manufacturing or selling any misbranded, unapproved, or falsely-advertised medical devices”.
The brand is currently worth approximately $250 million.