Grande Bahia Journal | Source: Juarez Duarte Bomfim
Carlos Marques, the Brazilian Forrest Gump and "predestined apostle of the Santo Daime"
The journalist Carlos Marques has just released his autobiographical memoir entitled "Lá Sou Amigo do Rei" [There I am a friend of the king]. The surprising and adventurous life of the author brings tasty stories, told in a light style that captivates the reader and makes it impossible to stop reading.
The Brazilian Forrest Gump, Carlos Marques is the kind of guy who was in the right place at the right time, and this makes him the protagonist and eyewitness of many of the major political, social and cultural events in Brazil and the world, which leads him to collect friendships with many of the leading personalities of the twentieth century. We can also consider that sometimes he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, for example when he was arrested and more than once severely tortured by the Brazilian military dictatorship which compels him to leave the country as a stowaway on a cargo ship to France, his second homeland. He was also arrested and badly beaten in Argentina, after living with the leaders of the Casa Rosada in parallel with the urban guerrillas, the montañeros.
The press-release of the book presents him as "an adventurous reporter who faced the military dictatorship and was tortured in Brazil and Argentina; clandestine in Paris; friend of celebrities such as Salvador Dali, Jean Genet, Pelé, Krishnamurti and John Paul II; filmmaker; musician; an expert in UFOs; predestined Apostle of the Santo Daime; ambassador of UNESCO by accident and who returned to the country he left as he left it, almost anonymous and penniless".
A hilarious story happened at his home in Rio, when the author got involved in an imbroglio with the French writer and playwright Jean Genet, and the touted celebrity, canonized by Sartre as "Saint Genet" -- who in the past was a thief, a prostitute and a convict -- is almost kicked-out from the author's home due to insistent homosexual harassment.
To our amusement, Marques accounts: "I was kicking out of my house one of the greatest writers in the world and about whom Jean-Paul Sartre, the supreme intelligence of the twentieth century, had written a book of over 500 pages!"
Another story is that Marques enjoyed the friendship of Pope John Paul II when he spent a week with His Holiness at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. As undeniable proof of this story, the book brings attached a photo of the two, picturing the Holy Father attentive to that talkative and smiley native of Pernambuco as if he were listening to a priest joke.
Muniz Sodré writes in the Preface: "...his picture next to John Paul II, who seems to be on the verge of laughter. Popes don't laugh, unless carried by the narrative of a rogue"; in other words, someone picaresque, comical, burlesque.
These are just some of the celebrities he met and starred with in situations. Some others, many others, are present in his narrative, like General Castelo Branco, the economist Celso Furtado, the poet Ascenso Ferreira, the feminist Rose Marie Muraro, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa...
The extraordinary stories involving prominent public figures are so many that it is impossible for the reader to not read them with certain disbelief. To which Carlos Marques explains, "to those who ask if it is true all that I accounted, I will give the answer that Marco Polo gave when asked if all the extraordinary and wonderful things that were written in his book 'The Travels of Marco Polo' really occured: 'I have not told even half of everything I saw".
What attracted me to know the life story of this journalist was the capacity bestowed upon him, on the book cover, as "predestined apostle of the Santo Daime". An elegant phrase that summarizes a brilliant speech made by Toinho Alves, official speaker on the night of April 30th 2008, at the headquarters of Alto Santo (Rio Branco, Acre), where the official event took place in which was asked of the Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, that the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) commence the process of recognition of the use of ayahuasca in religious rituals as intangible heritage of Brazilian culture.
Toinho Alves said:
-- Mestre, knowing about the past, present and future of the journalist Carlos Marques, gifted the journalist exceptionally with a bottle of Daime so that he would pass it into the hands of the singer Gilberto Gil for him to drink and get to know it so that, after almost 40 years, he would come to Alto Santo, in the role of Minister of State, to intercede and make ayahuasca an intangible heritage of Brazilian culture (in my words, from memory).
Gilberto Gil drank Daime made by Mestre Raimundo Irineu Serra himself? How could that be? My friend José Murilo, adviser to Minister Gilberto Gil and affiliated to the Daime church Céu do Planalto (Brasilia-DF), could not understand it when, in conversation with the artist, the singer and Minister of State would brag about having drunk Daime given by Mestre Irineu himself. Perhaps he [José Murilo] considered this poetic license from the author of the meaningful song "Metáfora" (metaphor)...
Mr. Raimundo Irineu Serra, founder of the Daime Doctrine, is a mythological figure to his disciples and devotees, as much for the elders who lived with him as for the younger generations, no longer concentrated in the state of Acre, but spread throughout Brazil and the world.
His biography, his stories, the beautiful hymnbook that reveals his Doctrine through singing and the introduction by him of the collective and urban use of the brew ayahuasca makes this Brazilian hierophant a myth, a legend, and worthy of veneration by his followers.
The clue to understanding this episode of the Daime that was drunk by the then minister was in gathering the few local press reports on the visit of Carlos Marques to Acre, in 2006, oral testimony and -- crucial to complement the story -- the reading of the book "Verdade Tropical" [Tropical Truth], by Caetano Veloso.
I started putting together the pieces and I elaborated my most popular article, "The Daime, Caetano and Gil", but now we can read the version of this story from the words of Carlos Marques himself -- the Brazilian Forrest Gump.
The interesting thing is that from pages 67 to 77 the author changes the picaresque style of his book, leaving out any comic or gossipy comments and gives us a journalistic account from one who came face to face with King Juramidã -- sacred name of Mestre Irineu -- and who knows how to tell a good story. To my honor, the structure of the narrative is the same as I use in my aforementioned article. Twice he refers to the "journalist" Juarez Duarte Bomfim and transcribes more than two pages of my work.
The story: journalist Carlos Marques was 20 years old when the board of the Manchete magazine decided to send him -- in the company of a photographer – to write an article about distant Rio Branco, capital of Acre, in 1969.
Among the various interviewees, Marques spoke with Italian bishop Giocondo Maria Grotti, who two years later (1971) would die during an air crash in the district of Sena Madureira. Asked about the problems faced in the region, the bishop complained about the Santo Daime Doctrine, founded by the black man, natural of Maranhão, Raimundo Irineu Serra.
Marques decided to meet Mestre Irineu Serra, who was plowing the land of his property when the reporter visited him. Carlos Marques writes:
"Upon crossing the gate, I saw a hut in front of which awaited me a beautiful Creole, immensely tall and muscular.
-- Mestre Raimundo Irineu? -- I asked, uncertain. I could hardly believe it was him, because according to the little information that I had been able to gather about the sorcerer, he was a farmer, a son of slaves, and born in 1892. Which meant, he should be 77 years old. It turns out that the big man in front of me did not look over 50!
Without answering, he invited me to sit on the porch and, instead of saying who he was, he told me who I was, in what day I was born and what I did. He knew that I had been arrested, tortured and that I had a scar on my right thigh -- a souvenir of military hospitality. He said several other things that only I would know. I asked how he knew all this, and the answer was enigmatic:
-- You have been sent to us.
Stunned, I walked with him into the hut; inside what caught my attention was a whole wall covered by the vines and leaves from which the ayahuasca was made, a decoction dating back to the Incas. Mestre Irineu, as he preferred to be called, showed us the rooms where we would stay-- the photographer and I --, recommending that we get some rest because at night we were invited to attend a ceremony.
"It was very similar to the ceremonies of Candomblé, with hymns and dances to the sound of maracas, bongos and drums. I saw no Indians there, only small farmers and humble people. The highlight of the ceremony, like the communion at a Mass, is the ingestion of ayahuasca, or auasca, the so called brew that, according to Don Giocondo (Bishop of Rio Branco at the time), drives people crazy and turns them into murderers. I said this to Mestre Irineu when he handed me the tea. He laughed, showing powerful white teeth, saying:
-- The bishop knows nothing. This leads to God.
I drank, it tasted bitter, but quickly turned into something delicious in my mouth. The first thing that struck me was a keen awareness of the details of my hands, of what was happening around me. My vision became delirious, but the feeling in general was good, very good. I felt certain levitation, a certain detachment from myself, as if I left my own body. Unlike Caetano Veloso, I did not see Hindu angels*, but I was filled with a sense of peace and fulfillment that lasted almost the whole night.
*Caetano Veloso later on recounts his own experience with the Daime.
... I spent three days there, and upon leaving I received from Mestre Irineu a five liter jug of auasca to partake with people seeking enlightenment. I knew I would never see him again, and that I would never return to Acre, but he made a final prognosis, which I thought very unlikely:
-- You will come back.
When I arrived in Rio (...) I gave the bottle and its contents to my friend tropicalista Gilberto Gil, describing it as a sacred indigenous brew that produced breathtaking visions and very high states of mind.
That same day Gilberto Gil took a dose of the drink and soon after he went to Santos Dumont Airport, in Rio de Janeiro, to take the shuttle to São Paulo. While in the lobby of Congonhas Airport, in Sao Paulo, where there was taking place the inauguration of a military exhibition of the FAB -- Brazilian Air Force -- the effect of the Daime began to manifest and Gilberto Gil "in the presence of the military, perceived indescribable things".
It was the time of the military dictatorship and the Brazilian artistic and intellectual class was being severely persecuted, and the artists from Bahia themselves -- Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil -- were arrested soon after and "invited" to leave Brazil.
Under the effect of the Daime, Gilberto Gil felt, in a Glauber Rocha state of mind, "as if he had understood the ultimate meaning of our sense as Brazilians in that moment, under authoritarian oppression" ... and even then, under the fear cast by the military, he felt that he could "love -- above fear and their beliefs or political leanings -- the world in all its manifestations, including the military oppressors".
The Christic message came so in this way to the heart of the artist despite all the persecution and fears: "Love thy enemies". It was the Daime operating...
After this solitary experience in the Rio-São Paulo flight, Gilberto Gil gathers a group of friends in the apartment of the composer Caetano Veloso and proposes to everyone to make a "trip" together. Following the recommendation of Carlos Marques, Gil serves each of those present just over half a cup.
Caetano recounts: "the thick and yellowish brew tasted like vomit, but did not cause me nausea". From there, the inspired verve of the poet from Bahia conveys an interesting statement about the visions and perceptions of what he saw and felt; the realization of life in inanimate objects and, for example, "the story of every single piece of matter" of an ordinary nylon carpet in his apartment...
The experiment takes place in the narrow limits of the twentieth floor of a building in São Paulo, at the sound of the progressive rock of Pink Floyd:
"Sandra (Gilberto Gil's wife) came in and out of the music room with hard eyes and a serious face. She was scared. I thought she looked like an Indian. Gilberto Gil was in tears and said something about dying or having died, I do not know. Dedé (wife of Caetano) circulated around the room saying that she was seeing herself elsewhere. I was very happy to see that people were so clearly themselves... Spots of colored light appeared in the infinite space of darkness ... Circular forms were composed of beautiful bright dancing spots. Gradually I knew who each of these points of light were. And soon they actually showed themselves as human beings. There were many, of both sexes, all were naked and looked like they were from India. These people danced in circles of complex design, but not only could I understand all the subtleties of their complexity, I also had this serene focused capacity to know each person as far as I know myself or my closest loved ones."
It is said that from his experience (s) with the Daime, particularly peak experiences such as this, that Gilberto Gil (Gil said something about dying or having died) came up with beautiful songs for his repertoire, such as "Se eu quiser falar com Deus" [If I want to talk to God].
"If I want to speak with God
I have to be alone
I have to turn off the lights
I have to be quiet
I have to find peace
I have to untie the knots
Of my shoes, of my necktie
Of my desires, of my fears
I have to forget the date
I have to lose count
I have to have empty hands
Have the soul and body naked
If I want to speak with God
I have to accept the pain
I have to eat the bread
That the devil kneaded
I have to turn into a dog
I have to lick the floor
Of the palaces, of the castles
Magnificences of my dream
I have to see myself sad
I have to find myself hideous
And despite an evil so big
Rejoice my heart
If I want to speak with God
I have to be adventurous
I have to climb up to the skies
Without ropes to secure me
I have to say farewell
Turn my back, walk
Resolved, along the road
Which in the end reaches nothing
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing
Of what I thought I would find."
(If I want to speak with God - Gilberto Gil)
In bliss, Caetano gazed at his "angels from India" in this "heavenly experience":
"I alternated -- upon opening and closing my eyes -- the observation of the outside world and the experience of this world of images that became increasingly dense... I gradually recognized that the beings seen with closed eyes were undoubtedly more real than my friends present in the music room or its walls and the carpets on the floor."
With his consciousness expanded by the visions, Caetano acknowledges another conception of space, different from ordinary and precarious conventionality: "time was also judged by the highest instance in my lucid consciousness: with grace and without any trouble, I knew that the fact of living that moment was irrelevant in the face of the evidence that I already had -- or would have -- been born, lived and died -- and also never existed --, although the perception of myself in that situation was an inevitable illusion."
The artist from Santo Amaro keeps narrating his experience with inspiration, of which we recommend a careful reading because it is not possible to transcribe it all here; and who also talks is a former philosophy student of the University of Bahia who, faced with the representation of the "idea of God", did not know whether he had "the sudden withdrawal of one who had learned that the face of the Creator cannot be contemplated". Thus arises the doubt in the heart of one who had experienced an extraordinary and ecstatic moment and, upon being taken by Dedé to look himself in the bathroom mirror and seeing his "everyday face" after all that experience, was certain then "to be crazy". Although "that self that had such certainty was likewise indestructible: it does not go crazy, does not sleep, does not die, does not get distracted"...
Such a beautiful experience… We see that the light of the Daime was revealed to this sensitive poet and composer from Bahia with the merit of seeing himself as a spirit, to glimpse his essence -- which is Divine, like all of us.
Inebriated by the divine and wonderful that God is, playing with the philosophical questions likewise Rogério Duarte, a future Hare Krishna devotee: "I do not believe in God, but I've seen it!" Or "It's obvious that God does not exist, but the absence of God is only one aspect of its existence"... Parodying Nietzsche, Caetano would shout to the whole of Brazil: "God is at loose!" under the jeers of the festival presentation of his song "É Proibido Proibir" [It's forbidden to forbid].
From this transcendental experience, Caetano reflects thus: "...for more than a month I felt like I was living a foot above all that exists. And for over a year certain specific traces remained. Actually, something essential has changed in me from that night on."
The one who is godless and saw miracles as I did
Knows that gods without God
Constantly arise, don't get tired of waiting
And the heart that is sovereign and is the lord
Doesn't fit in slavery, doesn't fit in your "no"
Is beside itself with so much "yes"
It is pure dance and sex and glory, and floats beyond history
Ojuobá went there and saw
Xangô orders me to fetch guide Obatalá
Mother Oxum cries tears of joy
Iemanjá's petals Iansã-Oiá went
Ojuobá went there and saw
The one who is godless…"
(Miracles from the People – Caetano Veloso)
Going back to the very beginning of our story... It turns out that the journalist Carlos Marques did return to Acre after almost 40 years. At the end of an audience with the then Governor Jorge Viana, the latter asked the journalist if he knew Acre. Marques told him what we have already recounted and, to his surprise, the Governor Jorge Viana showed the journalist the invitation that he had received to participate in the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of Mestre Raimundo Irineu Serra and Madrinha Peregrina Gomes Serra, dignitary of the Centro de Iluminação Cristã Luz Universal – CICLU Alto Santo, for the next day, September 15, 2006. And he persuaded the journalist to stay for one more day in Acre.
Marques reunited with Madrinha Peregrina Serra, widow of Irineu Serra, to whom he apologized for the offensive content that his article had carried in the Manchete magazine's edition, because it was published amongst several pages in which the bishop's version prevailed, and which said that it was a diabolical sect: "It was the first among many other articles to displease Irineu Serra and his followers."
-- I could not reveal that I had found God -- Carlos Marques said.
On the night of April 30, 2008, at the headquarters of CICLU Alto Santo, an official event was held in which the Fundação Elias Mansour, of the State of Acre; the Fundação Garibaldi Brasil, of Rio Branco district; and representatives of the centers that integrate the three root lineages of the ayahuasca doctrines (Santo Daime, Barquinha and União do Vegetal), requested of the Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, that the Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) begin the process of recognition of the use of ayahuasca in religious rituals as an intangible heritage of Brazilian culture.
The event was full of success and a landmark for the Brazilian ayahuasca universe. In the closing speech of this religious function of April 30, 2008, already without the presence of the constituted authorities (minister, governor, secretary of state and politicians in general), the official speaker of CICLU - Alto Santo remembered the simple story of the journalist Carlos Marques, concluding that (in my words, from memory) Mestre, knowing about the past, present and future of the journalist Carlos Marques, gifted the journalist exceptionally with a bottle of Daime so that he would pass it into the hands of the singer Gilberto Gil for him to drink and get to know it so that, after almost 40 years, he would come to Alto Santo, in the role of Minister of State, to intercede and make ayahuasca part of the intangible heritage of Brazilian culture.
Sources: "Lá Sou Amigo do Rei". Carlos Marques, Editora Geração;
"O Daime, Caetano e Gil". Juarez Duarte Bomfim http://www.cultura.gov.br/site/2008/05/27/o-daime-caetano-gil/
The English version was kindly reviewed by Moonvine.
| Juarez Duarte Bomfim is a college professor at UEFS-Bahia, a sociologist and Master in Business Administration from UFBa and having PhD in Geography from the University of Salamanca, Spain.