Braco (pronounced Braht-zoh, born 1967 as Josip Grbavac, a.k.a. The Gazer) is a Croatian man who stares at
goats people. This is supposed to make them feel better. It's even claimed he can make people feel better by gazing at photos of them! He doesn't directly claim to have healing powers but, instead, uses careful language such as "people claim to have found inner strength and sometimes all-encompassing solutions to life problems". How did those claims first come in the world? Well, by staring intensely obviously! Or maybe it's the books and DVDs (not written by him, but that he's peddling on his site anyway) that claim he's not any ol' healer, but a "super healer". Braco never speaks in public, although there is a ten-minute 2002 recording known as The Voice, which is played back at some events and is purported to have healing properties. His chief methods of communication seem to consist of staring sheepishly, smiling gently, and waving; but not magic tricks.
Braco himself has never been tested under rigorous scientific conditions. He has a few endorsements from scientists active in parapsychology (such as William A. Tiller and Stanton T. Friedman), which is not the same as serious scientific testing with a randomized controlled trial. There are also testimonials from experts with reputable achievements in science and medicine such as authoring the script for E.T. or being an ambassador, which also don't prove anything.
The chief "scientific" explanation being put forward is a piece of word salad, which is based on the 2012 German book Braco – Die faszinierende Welt von Mythos und Wissenschaft written by the Swiss Alex Schneider, an alleged professor with no publications and almost no internet presence. It borrows heavily from some of Burkhard Heim's theories, which have been rejected by the scientific community since the 1960s (and a number of them have since been demonstrated to be false).
Actually refuting the piece is difficult, as much of it makes little sense and is not even wrong. It starts off badly by simply stating that "analogous processes such as telepathy, spiritual healing, etc. are today statistically proven by numerous reliable studies", which is simply not true. It goes on to explain how Braco's powers work by stating that there are 12 dimensions, and that the seventh and eighth "form an information space" through which Braco works his wonders; because of this multi-dimensional approach, the physical (third dimensional) distance to a person doesn't matter (which is why holding a photo of someone in front of Braco also works).
None of this is proven—or even hinted at—by science in any way. It simply doesn't make any sense. Perhaps needless to say, the piece doesn't link to any studies (peer-reviewed or otherwise), and simply states these as truth.
There is no force known to science that even comes close to supporting these claims. Even just the direct gazing claim (discounting the gazing-through-photos claim) is completely unfounded; there have been studies to check if people can detect if someone is looking at them, and these have found that people aren't able to sense this. This is expected, as looking at something is only passively detecting photons and not active probing. Some might argue that this doesn't apply to Braco and that he's special; we can't refute that as we can't prove a negative. But what is more likely? An unknown and undetectable force that contradicts our current understanding of the universe or that people are emotionally uplifted by high expectations and a few moments of silent reflection and meditation?
The Gaze in action
|“||Only adults (18 years+) may gaze with Braco. Children, and pregnant women past their 3rd month, should not gaze—rather, someone close may hold the child or person’s photo during the gaze to create the optimal loving connection for any non-gazing individual.||”|
Braco's gazing sessions are fairly simple; the tone and specifics vary with each gazing session, but the general pattern is always the same. First, you get about ten minutes of foreplay with some music and someone mumbling about how fantastic it's all going to be. Then Braco comes up on the stage—always in a white shirt—and proceeds to sheepishly stare at everyone for about five to ten minutes, first with some music, then in total silence. After this, he leaves and the audience is left to "ponder and reflect" on their experience for a minute or two, and then some people share their experiences for a further 5 to 10 minutes. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.
All of this will set you back about: €5/$8, although many people get a "day pass" for nine sessions which goes for €45/$72 (you don't even get a discount for attending all sessions).
There you have it. Now, you too can use The Gaze and waste the time of hundreds of people. At least they'll think they feel better.
Most of Braco's followers romanticize him to a point where it's damn near religious; hearing someone talk about Braco in a positive light is like hearing a pious Christian talk about Jesus. This is because some members of his following really do worship him and demand that others do, too, if they want to promote peace and love. It's rather astonishing that so many people crowd around someone who doesn't really claim anything spectacular about himself, only to be stared at for a few minutes. Don't believe us? look here.
Braco can get away with claiming not to claim that he has spiritual powers because by claiming that he doesn't claim that he has spiritual powers, he is implying that he may certainly have spiritual powers. By making these non-claims, Braco attracts individuals who believe in spiritual powers and, by putting on a show, he implies that he has paranormal powers to show them. Another trick they use to non-claim spiritual powers is a large disclaimer that warns that pregnant women are forbidden from attending gazing events or even watching live streams "due to the intensity of the experience for some".
The audience trusts his unspoken word and implications because, by simply implying that he has powers, his audience feels as if they're right and know something that others don't. The illusion of knowledge empowers the audience, who spread Braco's implications to others as their own personal claims. Braco was popular enough in Croatia to have Novkovic—a musical icon who has been topping charts in Croatia and the Balkans—dedicate an entire album of songs to Braco. When on tour, Braco charges $8 per session to cover the cost of the room and transportation.
Last but not least, his non-claim, combined with his non-speaking and sheepish staring, implies a sort of gentle humility to his followers, which only furthers his Messiah-like profile.