Friday, September 04, 2009


Sometimes, when I am writing in front of my Fortaleza window unto the forest, the view seems to turn suddenly inward and I travel in reverie into the realms of my heart. It happened again recently. I had just finished reviewing my recent post about Sophie's fardamento when the memories of my own initiation over 11 years ago became very much alive.

Back then in Oregon I had not been looking for a new spiritual path as I was already walking the very strong and satisfying Red Road of the North American Indians. Yet, somehow, I was drawn into experiencing a Santo Daime ceremony where I met, for the first time outside of the realm of dreams, A Rainha da Floresta (The Queen of the Forest). I knew instantly that I had found a complimentary path. At least, I truly wanted the path to be complimentary, but harmony wasn't so easy for me to achieve.

Indeed, as time passed and I began to experience the inner call toward initiation, a terrible conflict arose within me. I simply could not make peace between the Doctrine of Jesus that I was receiving in the hymns and the history of horrors that have been perpetrated onto native peoples with the sanction and support of the official Church. [1]

The contradiction was simply impossible for me to resolve, so I did what is recommended -- I asked the Teacher. I attended a concentração ritual where I confessed my painful confusion and begged to the Spirit of the Daime for a teaching. Then I drank the Daime, recited the opening prayers and sang the opening hymns.

When the time for silent meditation arrived, I closed my eyes and was instantly transported into miração (the visionary state of Santo Daime). I found myself alone, sitting in a Native American sweatlodge and peering into the darkest darkness that I have ever seen. Then, a vision appeared within the vision that put total faith into my heart.

When the vision ended, I opened my eyes to reorient myself in the room. I started to turn to look at the altar on the central table but a voice from within screamed, "DO NOT LOOK AT THE ALTAR!" I shrunk back and whispered, "why not?" The voice answered, "We put something in your heart. Don't look at altars any more. Just look and listen with your heart."

That resolved all my confusion and I decided that Santo Daime would be my path along with my Native American ways. Since then I have never experienced any contradiction between Santo Daime and any other spiritual path. The lesson for me has been that each Path of Heart is part of the One.

But, as I have mentioned often, living in one's heart can be difficult. Indeed, I remember a Native American Church peyote ceremony that I attended. It was really hard for me. I spent most of my time throwing up (in Peyote circles that's called "getting well") and I recall only one thing -- somewhere in the ritual the very humble Roadman Ken Littlefish asked, rhetorically, "Why do we put ourselves through such ordeals?" He paused, turned inward and with tears in his eyes and a broken voice said, "Because the result is just… is just so sweet."

The language of the heart begs for prayer and poetry and music. To express it a bit, I have put together a loop of 3 recordings that I use as a meditation.

It begins with Saturnino, Luzirene and friends singing Padrinho Alfredo's hymn, # 157 of the Hinario, "O Cruzeirinho":

"The Angel of God"

Angel of God protect us
With Your holy blue mantle
From east to west, from north to south
Viva the star of the blue
Which makes the stars of heaven shine
Of the Archangel Raphael

This globe turns perfectly
With diverse displays of color
It's God in everything, it's the fruit, the flower
Life of my creator
That causes budding with all vigor
Life of the King of Love

Next comes Carioca's instrumental version of the same hymn, carrying the listener first into the starry firmament and then back to earth at the shore of a great water where I can see the Morning Star yielding to the light of the Dawn.

Finally, looking into the rising sun, I can imagine being there hearing the universal prayer of the great Lakota Holy Man Black Elk as recited by his biographer and voice to the world, John Neihardt.

Again, I must caution the reader that I have no special authority for interpreting the Doctrine of Santo Daime or Native American ways. My view here is one of a single pilgrim of the heart. It is a view that, for me at least, holds much sweetness. I hope that it might bring something heartfelt to you as well.


Endnote [1]: Sadly, I must report that the Papal Bull that authorized the taking of native lands has never been rescinded. After the return of Columbus, in 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a declaration sanctifying the conquest of people who were non-Christian and therefore “barbarous,” unworthy to own the land where they had been living for thousands of years. Known as the “Inter Caetera bull,” this document inspired England’s King Henry VII to issue his own royal charter of “Discovery” in 1496, and set the precedent for the domination of indigenous people worldwide under the vast empires of European nations who could now claim that their theft of land from native inhabitants was the will of God.

Our Grandma Aggie and the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers are among the many indigenous groups and supporters attempting to correct the 500 year old mistake that set the stage for the oppression of native people around the world.

There will be a Gala Benefit for the Grandmothers next month in San Francisco.

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