Mercante, Marcelo S. “IMAGES OF HEALING: SPONTANEOUS MENTAL IMAGERY AND HEALING PROCESS IN THE BARQUINHA, A BRAZILIAN AYAHUASCA RELIGIOUS SYSTEM”. Tese de Doutorado em Ciências Humanas, San Francisco, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center (Stanley Krippner, Jeanne Achterberg, orientadores), 2006.

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This dissertation undertook to investigate the hypothesized interdependent natureof subjective and objective elements of conscious experience within a spiritual context.This was done by studying the spontaneous mental imagery (the mirações) of people undertreatment in the Centro Espírita Obras de Caridade Príncipe Espadarte (the Center).The Center is a congregation of the Barquinha, a Brazilian syncretic religious system thatuses the psychoactive beverage Ayahuasca (locally called Daime) as a sacrament.

The ethnographic method, via experiential observation of the religious and symbolicuniverse of the Center, was used for investigating the Center’s history, the healingtechniques implemented during rituals, the concepts of healing and sickness among healersand patients, and the relationship between mirações and the healing process. Severalnarratives about mirações and healing experiences were collected on site, and five wereanalyzed more carefully.

The conjunction of ingestion of Daime and the participation in the ceremony appearedto reliably promote the occurrence of the mirações. These were considered by theparticipants as a process of inner perception, the moment when different entities (physicaliiibody, thoughts, feelings, culture, emotions, mind, soul, spiritual space, etc.) become connectedwithin their conscious awareness. The experience of mirações was considered tobe the source of healing.

At the Center, sickness is considered to have a spiritual source, being understoodas an unbalance of forces. Healing is considered to be accomplished when one puts oneselfinto a hypothetical “current of healing energy” that is felt during the ceremonies.

Mirações mediated and made conscious a coherent and workable whole that encompassed the ritual, the Daime, the processes of self-transformation/knowledge/ exploration, elements of the individual’s consciousness and physiological condition, and factorsin a spiritual space. Mirações were believed to occur in a non-physical although very objective spiritual space, one believed to be shared by participants in the ceremonies. This spiritual space is thought to be non-material and multi-dimensional, nesting and informingthe material world. This spiritual space is perceived as basic, generating dispositions, intentions, and meanings, and as containing within it the physical and psychologicallevels of existence. The exploration of that space during a ceremony was considered to accelerate one’s spiritual development.

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