Arigo – Psychic Surgeon?
Known mainly from the Philippines and Brazil, psychic surgery is a supposedly paranormal medical practice where tissue is removed from the patient’s body by a ‘psychic doctor’ in a painless operation, performed without the use of anaesthetics or antiseptics. The procedure is often undertaken with bare hands or extremely basic medical instruments and leaves little if any trace of the skin having been broken. Most of the medical profession today considers psychic surgery a complete fraud, an irresponsible practice giving false hope to those suffering from fatal diseases.
In Brazil in the late 1950s many ‘spiritual doctors’ were associated with the philosophical doctrine of ‘spiritism’, founded in in the mid 19th Century by French school teacher Léon Rivail, using the pseudonym Allan Kardec. One of the first and most famous of these Brazilian psychic surgeons was an ex-miner known as Arigó. José Pedro de Freitas (he took the name Arigó when he became famous as a healer in 1950) was born in October 1921, on a farm 6km outside the mining town of Congonhas do Campo, east-central Minas Gerais, in the Brazilian Highlands. Arigó came from a poor family, he left school at 14 to begin work in the local mines.
When he was 30 years old Arigó began suffering from depression, and experienced fierce headaches, nightmares, sleep-walking and hallucinations.
Unable to get any relief from the town doctors the distraught young man went to a local spiritist named Olivera, who prayed for him and told him that the cause of the problem was a spirit attempting to work through him. One dramatic event was to convince Arigó of the truth of this statement.
Arigó’s Early Psychic Surgery
According to the story, in 1950, state senator Bittencourt apparently invited Arigó along with some other miners to attend a rally in the city of Belo Horizonte. Arigó was staying at the same hotel as the senator, who had recently learned that he was suffering from a cancerous tumour which required immediate treatment. The senator was intending to travel to the US to undergo surgery after the rally. That night Arigó entered Bittencourt’s room apparently in a state of trance, carrying a razor. The senator passed out only to awake the next morning to find his pyjama top slashed, blood on his chest and a neat incision in his ribcage.
In a state of profound shock the senator went to find Arigó who remembered nothing of the incident but helped the dazed man to a taxi which took him to his physician. After taking several x-rays senator Bittencourt ‘s doctor informed him that the tumour had inexplicably disappeared.
Overwhelmed by his seemingly miraculous cure Bittencourt started talking about it to his friends and associates and even included it in his political speeches, thus leading to instant fame for Arigó.
Another spectacular case occurred some time in 1956. Apparently, Arigó and his family were gathered round the bed of a female relative dying from cancer of the uterus. With the priest about to administer the last rites Arigó suddenly ran out of the room into the kitchen, grabbed a knife came back and thrust it swiftly into the woman’s vagina. Twisting the knife around for a few seconds he rapidly extracted the bloody tumour which he threw, together with the kitchen knife, into the sink. He then collapsed, and subsequently stated that he could remember nothing of the operation. The understandably stunned relatives immediately called a doctor, who confirmed that Arigó had indeed removed a tumour from the woman, without apparent pain or haemorrhaging. The relative soon recovered completely from the disease. The account of this miraculous cure is, like the majority in the case of Arigó, anecdotal, so it is impossible now to verify the truth of most of the stories.
The Spirit of Dr. Fritz
Arigó claimed that he performed his operations whilst in a trance state possessed by (or channelling) the spirit of a German doctor called ‘Dr Adolphus Fritz’, who had apparently died in 1918, during World War I. This was the spirit that Olivera had said was trying to work through him, and after Arigó began his work as a psychic surgeon his severe headaches stopped and only returned when he later decided to temporarily discontinue his surgery.
To perform his surgeries Arigó opened a small clinic in his home town of Congonhas do Campo, where he would carry out his swift operations free of charge. He possessed no medical knowledge whatsoever, worked in unsanitary conditions, and used only his hands, a rusty knife or occasionally a pair of scissors; his only concession to cleanliness was to wipe his knife on his shirt before and after surgery. Despite these apparently dangerous conditions he performed perhaps a million successful operations over a twenty-year period, regularly treating hundreds of people a day in his surgery. During the operations there would be little bleeding and the patients would feel no pain. There was no need for stitches and wounds would heal remarkably fast; there is also no record of a patient ever having become infected, despite the unsterile conditions.
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