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The syncretic Santo Daime religion of Brazil is a fascinating mix of Catholicism, Spiritism, African animism and indigenous South American shamanism (such as the drinking of ayahuasca). In the talk above, Matthew Meyer – an expert on the various Brazilian “ayahuasca religions” – discusses how Western esoteric notions of currents, fluids and forces came to be incorporated into Santo Daime:

Although such recognizably esoteric terms as “current,” “fluid,” and “force” crop up frequently in talk about ritual experience in the Santo Daime congregational practice, we still know relatively little about how such notions came to be part of Santo Daime in the first place. This paper explores the influence of Western esotericist movements on the rubber tapper culture of Acre, Brazil, out of which Santo Daime emerged. The currency of these philosophies among military leaders and their aptness to make sense of Amazonian experience — with the forest, with Indians, with ayahuasca—also made possible their use as tools of social reform among the disadvantaged. With some understanding of the roots of these concepts in hand, we can better appreciate the moral basis of Daimista healing as individual and collective reform. The paper concludes with a consideration of the concept of mental or volitional “current” in contemporary ritual practice at Alto Santo, Brazil’s first “ayahuasca church.”