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DMT is a hallucinogen that is considered a dangerous narcotic in many countries ... Yet this religious community is family-orientated, peaceful and deeply spiritual. There is no drug or alcohol abuse. But Ayahuasca is allowed. Followers of Santo Daime don’t consider it a drug at all. To them it is a holy sacrament. Legal Drugs
The Church of Santo Daime was founded by Raimundo Irineu Serra in 1930. He was introduced to Ayahuasca by Amazonian shamans. He spent eight days in the jungle drinking Ayahuasca. He had a vision of the Virgin Mary who gave him instructions for a new religion. Today, Santo Daime – a mixture of Catholicism and Shamanism – has spread as far as the United States, Europe and beyond. ibid.
The ceremony is a mixture of Catholic tradition and Shamanic ritual. At its heart is the Amazonian hallucinogen Ayahuasca known to the congregation as Daime. They believe it is the blood of Christ. ibid.
In the United States the active ingredient Ayahuasca is classed as a Schedule 1 drug. But since March 2009 it can legally be taken in the US by Santo Daime followers because it is part of their religion. ibid.
It’s late, past midnight, and guests are starting to arrive at a house in Butantã, an inner-city suburb of São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest metropolis. Some are carrying blankets, even though summer evenings in South America can be stifling well into the night. A humming air-conditioning vent rests above a row of mattresses. At the foot of each one is a small waste paper bin, lined with a plastic bag. Two female shamans greet the group in the living room. Soft chanting music begins to play, and one by one, guests drink their first dose of bitter, sludgy liquid – a potent brew of Amazonian plants.
‘I didn’t want to be out in a forest for a weekend, in a place I don’t know,’ says one young woman who has come to tonight’s ceremony from London. ‘Here, if I don’t like it, I can call an Uber.’ She carries her yoga mat to her place, where around 70 others will surround her for the next eight hours. The bin, she explains, is for ‘purging’, or vomiting. She paid £50 (R$250) to be here tonight.
Ayahuasca is renowned for the often extraordinary visions it induces. The word means ‘the vine of the spirits’ in the indigenous Quechua language. Ayahuasca is made from an Amazonian vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and at least one other leaf-based plant; typically Psychotria viridis from the coffee family. Up to four doses are taken in a single session.
For centuries, remote groups from the Amazon rainforest have prized this concoction for its healing and spiritual purposes. It is a central part of traditional shamanistic practice. Although it is not globally recognised as such, many view ayahuasca as a medicine, a way to treat internal wounds and reconnect with nature. Over the past 25 years or so, the rituals around the tea drinking have gone mainstream, offering psychedelic enlightenment to thousands worldwide. They partake in private homes and suburban business parks, at health retreats and community centres …
Ayahuasca is widely used by indigenous communities in both Brazil and Peru. But it is also a fundamental part of the Santo Daime Church, founded in Brazil in the 1930s. Santo Daime was formally recognised by the Brazilian government as a religion in 1986, and at the same time, ayahuasca became explicitly legal for religious use. That means that in Brazil, members of such churches are legally allowed to use the substance, while its use outside religious ceremonies remains a grey area. Santo Daime is an amalgamation of different faiths. Its sermons feature elements of Catholicism, African rituals and indigenous traditions. Daime (Holy Give Me in Portuguese) is actually another name for ayahuasca – which forms the religion’s primary sacrament. Santo Daime is not the only ayahuasca church. There are three main churches: Santo Daime, Barquinha and União do Vegetal (UDV). They do not track members, but estimates suggest hundreds of thousands attend the Santo Daime church each week. Lua Cheia in São Paulo has a congregation of roughly 7,000. The UDV – the most recent ayahuasca religion to appear in Brazil – has roughly 19,000 members worldwide. New Humanist online article 23 September 2019
This essay first draws upon the work of William James and others to propose a nonphysicalistic understanding of the relationship between the brain and consciousness in order to articulate a philosophical perspective that can understand entheogenic visionary/mystical experiences as something other than hallucinations. It then focuses on the Santo Daime tradition, a religious movement that began in Brazil in the early part of the twentieth century, to provide an example of the personal and social ramifications of taking an entheogen (ayahuasca) within a disciplined religious context. The essay claims that the Santo Daime is one example of a contemporary mystery school; gives a brief history of the development of this religion; discusses the key theological assumptions of this movement; investigates the important role played by visionary/mystical experiences within this religion; underscores the centrality of healing and spiritual transformation for members of this tradition; and ends with an examination of the crucial significance of spiritual discipline within this entheogenically based religion. Wiley online library, September 2014