Christ Returns from the Jungle

Ayahuasca Religion as Mystical Healing

By Marc G. Blainey

Subjects: New Religious Movements, Anthropology Of Religion, Psychology Of Religion, Religion, Transpersonal Psychology
Series: SUNY series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology
Hardcover : 9781438483139, 562 pages, June 2021
Paperback : 9781438483146, 562 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Part I: Framing and Tackling the Question: Why Santo Daime in Europe?

1. Introduction

2. How the Outsider Can Understand Daimista Insiders

Part II: From Amazonia with Love

3. Tracing Origins

4. The Current State of Santo Daime Studies: Brazil and Beyond

5. Passage to "Heaven" of Mapiá

Part III: Back to the Old World

6. Santo Daime and the Re‑Enchantment of Europe

7. National Profiles

Part IV: Santo Daime "Works"

8. Framework for Curing the Ego

9. Eclectic Symbolisms of Santo Daime Ideology

10. Being‑in‑the‑Astral: An Auto‑Ethnography of Ethnophenomenology

Part V: The Mystical Technology of Santo Daime Rituals

11. A Key to Solutions

12. Fardados' Conception of Santo Daime as a Mystical Path

Part VI: Fardados' Existential Values

13. Timeless Wisdom

14. The Aims of Santo Daime Perennialism

Part VII: Applying Anthropology to Public Debates about Ayahuasca

15. The Cosmopolitics of Entheogenic Healing

16. Closing Remarks: Toward Mutual Respect and Toleration


Appendix I: Glossary of Portuguese Santo Daime Terms

Appendix II: Liturgical Calendar of Santo Daime

Appendix III: Master List of Sacred Plants (Europe‑wide Sample)

Appendix IV: Master List of Great Spiritual Teachers (Belgian Sample)

Appendix V: Master List of Great Spiritual Teachers (Europe‑wide Sample)

Appendix VI: Triad Test Results and Statistics


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.


"Christ Returns from the Jungle is comprehensive, careful, insightful, engaged, and sincere in an exemplary way. I suspect that its quality will long remain unmatched." — Stefano Bigliardi, Politics, Religion & Ideology

"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