Christ Returns from the Jungle
Ayahuasca Religion as Mystical Healing
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An in-depth, ethnographic study of the transnational expansion of Santo Daime, a mystical religious tradition organized around sacramental ingestion of the mind-altering ayahuasca beverage.
After more than 450 years of European intrusions into South America's rainforest, small groups of people across Europe now gather discreetly to participate in Amazonian ceremonies their local governments consider a criminal act. As devotees of a new Brazil-based religion called Santo Daime, they claim that they contact God by way of ayahuasca, a potent psychoactive beverage first developed by native communities in pre-Columbian Amazonia. This bitter, brown liquid is a synergy of plants containing DMT, a mind-altering chemical classified as an illicit "hallucinogen" in most countries. By contrast, Santo Daime members (daimistas) revere ayahuasca as a sacrament, combining it with rituals and theologies borrowed from Christian mysticism, indigenous shamanism, Afro-Brazilian spiritualism, and Western esotericism.
The Santo Daime religion was founded in 1930 by an Afro-Brazilian rubber tapper named Raimundo Irineu Serra, now known as Mestre (Master) Irineu. Presenting results from more than a year of fieldwork with Santo Daime groups in Europe, Marc G. Blainey contributes new understandings of contemporary Westerners' search for existential well-being on an increasingly interconnected planet. As a thorough exploration of daimistas' beliefs about the therapeutic potentials of ayahuasca, this book takes readers on an ethnographic journey into the deepest recesses of the human psyche.
Marc G. Blainey is an adjunct faculty member in Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy at Martin Luther University College in Waterloo, Ontario. He received his PhD in anthropology from Tulane University and is the coeditor (with Emiliano Gallaga) of Manufactured Light: Mirrors in the Mesoamerican Realm.
"If you could read only one book about Santo Daime, Christ Returns from the Jungle would be an excellent choice. More than an ethnography of Santo Daime in Europe, the book offers a comprehensive overview of the religion's historical emergence in Brazil and a careful account of the theoretical and methodological debates that characterize the burgeoning field of entheogenic spiritualities." — Nova Religio
"I read this book with great appreciation and admiration. Marc Blainey has managed to find a balance between emic, bottom-up fieldwork and etic philosophical, anthropological, and theological reflection. This book is a much-needed addition to many other scholarly works on Santo Daime and ayahuasca out there, which merely offer an outside-in approach." — Andre van der Braak, Professor of Comparative Philosophy of Religion at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
"In this clearly written text, Marc Blainey weaves together the empirical data from his years of fieldwork in Europe (including his own experiences within various ritual contexts) with a wide range of theoretical perspectives, resulting in a book that not only illumines this fascinating tradition, but also tackles, head-on, profound existential questions." — G. William Barnard, Professor of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University and author of Liquid Light: Ayahuasca Spirituality and the Santo Daime Tradition