On Sunday Alli and I went to a guru, a spiritual healer. We’d heard about him from a friend who swore the man was a conduit for universal Source energy, that to be in his presence was to enter a sacred contract with divinity. Naturally, I was a little skeptical, but also fascinated. Both the skepticism and fascination stemmed from the guru’s manner of healing: the gaze. Apparently the guy just came out, stood on a platform and stared. For this, the gazee was charged $8.
The healer’s name is Braco. He comes from Croatia and looks like a boyish hippy with beautiful locks of silvery hair sweeping down over his shoulders. He wasn’t always a spiritual guru. He started off skeptical of a healer named Ivica that his mother was going to. Braco accompanied his mother to a session and found himself completely transfixed and overwhelmed by admiration. He began to spend every day with Ivica, until Ivica drowned while the two were swimming in the ocean. His community demanded that Braco take over Ivica’s healing duties, so, reluctantly, he did. Now his God-given gift for transformational healing draws over 200,000 people a year. Thousands upon thousands of them claim miraculous recoveries and transformations have occurred in their lives since standing in Braco’s gaze.
We arrived at the Marriott in Woodland Hills eating breakfast burritos. Quickly bypassing the throngs of people and merchandise tables stacked with DVD’s and books, we bought our tickets and entered the crystal chandelier-decorated ballroom. A blond publicist with a cinematically cadenced voice told the healer’s backstory, adding–much to our chagrin–that at one point in his life Braco had actually escaped from a mental institution. My friend, who was volunteering for Braco’s slate of weekend staring contests, had left out this detail during his initial pitch. It’s not a deal closer, but definitely a game changer. You can wage as many Foucaldian critiques of institutional psychiatric evaluation as your heart desires, when the cook tells you he escaped from a mental institution you don’t eat the mystery meat.
Then New Age flute music started playing and Braco came out, stood in front of the projection screen, on which they had shown some video clips, and commenced gazing. His head moved from left to right almost imperceptibly as he slowly swept his line of sight across the ballroom. This went on for about twenty minutes. My friend had predicted I would see an aura around him. Sure enough, I did start to see a kind of white force-field of energy outlining his head. But I also saw this outline on the people in front of me, who also happened to be backdropped by the white projection screen. Later, Alli explained to me that a white backdrop, combined with a spotlight, could easily produce an effect like that. Or, I was actually seeing their spiritual aura. I couldn’t see the force-field on anyone not standing in front of the projection screen though.
When the gazing was over, several people in the crowd raised their hands and testified to feeling the awesome powers of Braco’s gaze. One man said he felt “activated”, like he was flying through the air. He also said he had been there at the Marriott attending Braco gazings for three days, then started laughing maniacally. Another man stood up and gave a very earnest and touching testimony of a boy who had died of cancer recently. The boy had witnessed a Braco gazing and afterward had called forth all of his friends to his hospice in order to write them each a personal love letter before he died.
I can’t say I felt anything out of the ordinary. But the blond publicist did say that some people wouldn’t feel any energy directly but would rather act as vessels, carriers, disseminating the energy to others who come into contact with them over the following days, months and years. Like a virus of goodness.
When my friend had first told me about Braco, a couple months earlier, I happened to be staying at this house in Agoura Hills. I went down the street one day to get a bite to eat at the local diner, the Canyon Grill. There I saw a man that looked exactly like Braco, to a T, sitting with a woman who looked like the blond publicist. Braco had a tattoo on his arm and sat staring at the floor. At the time, my friend said it was a sign that Braco was already a part of my life, which kind of creeped me out. Now, having witnessed his gaze, I can say that my experience of him staring at the floor of the diner was the climax, retroactively attained through irony and gastrointestinal discomfort caused by a breakfast burrito.
I’m sure any number of crowd psychology studies, peppered with convergence theory, groupthink, noosphere, collective hysteria, and communal reinforcement, would help explain why so many people feel that their lives are transformed by a man staring at them for twenty minutes. Or, Braco could legitimately be a vessel for the resplendent energy flowing through the conjoined universal fibers of mind and matter. Or, he’s a bat-shit crazy con artist who drowned his mentor in the ocean in order to take over a potentially lucrative spiritual healing business. Or maybe both, “one of God’s own prototypes…too weird to live, too rare to die.” Though in this case, he was considered for mass production.
The only truly nebulous thing that happened to me during Braco’s gaze occurred about halfway through, when I looked to my left and saw a middle aged woman making direct eye contact with me. She sustained it for two full minutes, then slowly looked away. Thanks, Braco!