Their doctrine combines the core elements of Catholicism and ancient shamanic religion.

Green Energy in the Amazonian Rainforest

07.01.1994   New Texas Magazine • Heather McKissick © 1994


Heather McKissick - New Texas Magazine
June/July, 1994

It's difficult to describe the rush, the wave of organic life that washed over us as we walked into an endless realm of plants, insects, sunlight, and rain - following the sure footsteps of our local guide. The power of the Brazilian rainforest was evident from the first moment we set foot on solid ground - its vast, but fragile beauty a testament to Nature's intensity.

 The wind was kind, the water soft, and the insects on a single summer night in Austin are far worse than they ever were in Brazil! From the beginning, Wilbert Alix of the Natale Institute, who guided the journey, made it clear that the nine-day trip through the Amazon was about embracing Nature, not avoiding it. Through it all, his gentle wisdom, the local people, and the awesome force of creation itself taught us lessons that will last a lifetime.

 The purpose of our journey was two-fold: to experience the Brazilian rainforest first-hand and to participate in the spiritual practice and rituals of the people known as the Santo Diame Doctrine. The adventure began in Manaus, as large metropolis in the heart of Brazil. On our first day in South America, we rested and "vacationed" at the Tropical - a five-star hotel flanked by elegant fountains and luxurious swimming pools - a far cry from the swampy Amazon many of us originally imagined. That night, however, we left the familiar surroundings of the hotel and were taken by a small bus into a wooded area immediately outside of Manaus. There, we were welcomed into the local church known as "Ceu do Floresta" or "Sky of the Forest."

 The Santo Diame people are as pure and genuine as their forest home. Brazilians of all ages and backgrounds combine to create their community - individuals from across the continent who practice their faith and support each other in a simple lifestyle. Each are fed and housed by the fruit of the rainforest - the forest that is their protector, friend, and source of their spirituality.

 Their doctrine combines the core elements of Catholicism and ancient shamanic religion. They pay homage to God as expressed by Nature - the driving force of the wind, the healing energy within many plants, and the cleansing power of the warm and frequent rain. This worship takes the form of regular rituals filled with "channeled" hymns that recount the ecstasy felt when surrounded when surrounded by the majesty of the rainforest, where everything teems with seemingly inexhaustible life.

 From a special vine (Banisteriopsis Caapi) and leaf (Psychotria Viridis) found in the forest, the Santo Diame Doctrine creates their sacrament: a tea-like drink most commonly known as ayahuasca or "diame." Santo Diame, literally translated, means "Holy Reception." In Quechua, the language spoken by the pre-Hispanic Peruvian Incas, ayahuasca means "vine of the soul.. Specifically, the "diame" or ayahuasca descended from the Incan tradition of utilizing the spirit plants of the rainforest as catalysts for becoming one with Nature.

 Created with the care and respect passed down by generations of shamanic tradition, this sacrament - believed by the Diame people to literally contain the spirit of the forest - is used for what they experience as "the evolution of the soul." It is a tool used in a sacred setting to purify the mind, body and spirit. During these rituals we travelers tasted a timeless practice - the use of the indigenous "teacher" - plants used for spiritual transformation. Although we each had a unique experience, there was one common thread: We were lead by the "diame" to a place deep within ourselves - a place of self discovery, of connection with each other, and of communion with the essence that the doctrine so joyfully embraces.

 Between ritual experiences at Ceu do Floresta and Ceu das Aguas ("Shy of the Waters"), which is situated on the shores of the Amazon, we lived on a boat named Paradiso Verde (Green Paradise), which cruised the Rio Negro River. We slept in soft, wide hammocks that rocked us gently to sleep at night, as secure and inviting as private cocoons. The waters called the Rio Negro (Black River) was exactly that - black as Brazilian coffee - colored by the wood and earth and leaves of the 30 or so meters of rainforest that lies beneath the surface during the rainy season. The excess of water creates a "floating forest" - what appeared to be land was only an illusion - in reality, we were floating among the treetops, surrounded by lush greenery and an infinite variety of mysterious birds and Technicolor butterflies.

 Beneath us flowed thousands of miles of Ancient River. In the wake of the boat, or in shadow places, the water was the color of dark beer. On a still night the Amazon moon hung low and full and took on the color of an amber orb reflected by velvet. Under the stars, the floating forest literally hummed with life - a ceaselessly droning symphony of insects. This constant, natural "om" contributed to the powerful energies at work all around us. The forest itself vibrated at a higher frequency - singing a song which still resonates within us all, as does the spirit of the Diame and the fragile power of the rainforest: a fitting composition for the spiritual adventure of a lifetime.