“The blue of heaven is larger than the darkness of the clouds.” Anon
After living in the village of Neves for a while I came to know that the largest religious draw in that whole area was the Spiritist Center. The owner of an auto repair shop where I had my old van fixed repeatedly counselled me to attend their séances. He told me how his dad had been very seriously ill, had attended the Center, and as a result was healed. I had no doubt that it really happened but I have a different explanation.
I learned a good deal about this brand of Spiritism through my mechanic friend. That Center even had a pharmacy in the village and they told me that the spirits often spoke to the mediums giving them detailed instructions as to the medicines to buy at this pharmacy and how they should be taken. At this point I should explain that any person off the street could buy medications at a pharmacy, if they knew exactly what they wanted.
This branch of Spiritism in Brazil is not the one we might encounter here in Canada—here it would be the Allan Kardek Spiritism. In Brazil there is another very popular Spiritism called Umbanda that combines African religions, Brazilian Indian cultures and Catholicism. That movement began among the Afro-Brazilian population in Rio de Janeiro and spread quickly to touch Brazil’s neighbours. However the only Spiritism I knew in Neves was Racionalismo Cristão–it had a large following. When there was a séance, the yard at the Center would be crowded with horses and the streets lined with vehicles.
This picture might be typical of offerings to the spirits made by those who would be part of the Umbanda Spiritist movement. Whatever was in the bowl was eaten perhaps by birds or animals. Often a bottle of rum or part of a black chicken might be part of the offering.
Nabor was one of the young men in the village that left Racionalismo Cristão and professed faith in Jesus at our little church. We occasionally discussed his previous faith and one day he invited me to go with him to a séance. I accepted—they say “curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction resurrected it.” Some declare that going to such a séance did me serious damage but I would still smile and say, “It didn’t affect me, affect me, affect me, affect me.” Anyway, whatever you think about the power of a séance, I went one night.
This center, translated “Christian Rationalism” attracted almost as many people as the Catholic church. This is where I visited a séance.
The hall there held a couple of hundred people and was moderately well lit. A raised platform from the far wall extended about half way across the hall and was wide enough to accommodate a long table with chairs around it. The rest of the hall was filled with chairs and it was there that Nabor and I sat. Then the place went dark yet a small light burned on the far wall above the table. Then a number of people gathered at the table and everyone began to repeat a particular mantra—“Grande fóco, vida da universo, vibração dos nossos pensamentos…” and on and on. I used to be able to repeat all of that invocation.
It was not long into the meeting when I was invited to sit in one of the chairs at the table. I accepted and a medium supposedly in a trance began to tell of this stranger among them who had travelled the whole world looking for peace. Now he sat at their table where revelations occurred. Of course everyone in the village of Neves knew about Doris and me, the strange Canadian missionaries who were there preaching the Christian faith. Then someone in the almost total darkness walked behind us at the table and squeezed all of the shoulders including mine. That was a bit startling, a bit eerie.
The individuals at the table were the seekers and the mediums continued telling about their varied needs, illnesses and troubles; they often pointed out the cure or remedy.
So what do I make of this brand of Spiritism when those who were part of this movement declared that miracles occurred. Mostly I would believe what they said. Of course some good things happen just through positive thinking. Some other instances of good done could happen because of the kindly support and fellowship of that large Spiritist group. Yet I must admit that there might be some real miracles—but I should explain.
I quote from statements I wrote long years ago. “The fact is that Satan will do little favours so that we will turn our worship of God to lesser things where he (Satan) has some power. He is willing to cure the little vices and sins of the flesh—if he can trade those with the great ones.” The greatest of course is worshipping anything in our lives instead of the Eternal Father.
In any case, I believe it is true that the blue of the sky is greater than the darkness of any cloud. The Ten Commandments make clear that the God revealed in the Bible is the only one to be worshipped, the only one to hold first place in our lives.