Chico Xavier: medium and superstar

Despite being predominantly Roman Catholic, Brazil is currently celebrating the centenary and paranormal achievements of an incredible automatic writing medium – Francisco (Chico) Cândido Xavier – in a way that no other country has ever done before.

POSTAGE STAMP: the Brazilian Post Office has issued a first class stamp which depicts Chico autographing one of his many books, which Spiritists believe were dictated by spirits. It is the second time the South American country has featured Chico on its stamps: the first was his 50th birthday.

The new stamp went on sale on 2 April – the day on which he was born 100 years ago – and will continue to be used by the Brazilian postal services until December 2013. It recognises his dedication to others, humility and dignity.

MEDAL: the Brazil Mint has produced a commemorative medal  marking Chico’s centenary, which will be issued tomorrow – 16 April – to coincide with the opening of the 3rd Brazilian Spiritist Congress in Brasilia. The congress is part of the Brazilian Spiritist Federation’s “Chico Xavier Centennial Project”.

MOVIES: Chico Xavier: the Movie (see trailer at end of this post) debuted on 2 April – the day of his centenary. The film, which tells Chico’s life story, had already caught the imagination of the Brazilian media a month before its release, with a cover story about the famous medium in Brazil’s Time magazine.

Poster for Chico's movieLater this year, Twentieth Century Fox will release (on 3 September) Nosso Lar (in English, Our Home: the Astral City). This is based on a novel received by Chico from André Luiz, a doctor, describing his experiences on waking up in the spirit world (see second trailer). In doing so, it tackles many of the issues that people ask about life, death and the next world – at least, from a Spiritist perspective.

In addition to the above events, Chico’s remarkable achievements, both as a medium and a humanitarian, are being celebrated with a host of other events, including more films, TV documentaries, books and exhibitions, throughout Brazil.

I met Chico briefly when he visited England in 1965. A friendly, simple man with a ready smile and an ill-fitting wig, it was difficult to comprehend just how much impact his mediumship was having on Spiritism and Brazilians in general. He and physician Dr Waldo Vieira, who acted as translator, came to the UK and went on to the US to build relationships with Spiritualist organisations in both countries.

The purpose was also to create a foundation for Spiritism, which is based largely on the teachings of Allen Kardec and has a strong Christian theme as well as belief in reincarnation. His spiritual guide, Emmanuel, was said to have lived as Senator Publius Lentulus in Roman times before being reincarnated as Father Damian in Spain and then as a professor at the Sorbonne.

What made Chico special was his prolific output of books produced by automatic writing, which is known in South America as psychography. Over 400 books were written through his hand, including some in foreign languages in which he was not fluent, and he donated the copyright of all these works to be used by Spiritist charities to help the needy.

New medal for Chico's centenaryEach day, poor people queued outside his home in Uberaba to receive free food and for the opportunity to speak a few words with him. He was regarded by many as a guru and celebrities were among regular visitors to his home seeking advice from him or the spirits who communicated through him.

As for sceptics, Chico’s response was simple. The sheer output – around 100,000 handwritten pages – in different styles and on a diversity of subjects made it impossible for him to be the author. He was merely a channel.

Chico in his 90sI cannot help wondering what this simple, sincere soul will be making of the celebrations and superstar status that he now has. I think he will be amused and also pleased that the message of survival of death contained in his work is reaching an even wider audience.

Despite his advancing years, he continued to work until his death, on 30 June, 2002, the day on which Brazil won the World Cup. In doing so, he fulfilled an ambition, having said in a TV interview some years earlier that he hoped to die on a very happy day for his country, so that his death would not be remembered with sorrow.

Here’s a trailer for the biopic of Chico. It’s in Portuguese, but worth watching to catch a flavour of the movie:

And here’s a trailer with English subtitles for the Our Home: The Astral City movie, based on one of Chico’s books, which will be released in September:

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