- Remembering an Ayahuasca Hero: Domingos Bernardo (1941-2020) - October 6, 2020
On August 17, 2020, Domingos Bernardo Gialluisi da Silva Sá moved on to the spiritual plane. It is safe to say that the entire ayahuasca community is in mourning over the death of this important lawyer, who made his mark in the fight to guarantee our religious freedom. He undertook this task not for financial rewards, but rather as a citizen and public intellectual who accepted this tremendous challenge and delved into this area of the law, subject to so much prejudice, with a spirit of liberty and transparency.
He undertook this task not for financial rewards, but rather as a citizen and public intellectual who accepted this tremendous challenge and delved into this area of the law, subject to so much prejudice, with a spirit of liberty and transparency.
Those who knew him closely admired the humility, sensitivity, and cordiality of his personal manner. Those who followed his work for more than two decades could appreciate his intellectual depth and acuity. It was precisely this balance between public and private, between empathy for a cause and scientific rigor in its treatment that helped guarantee positive outcomes in the legal cases he fought for. There was no shortage of difficulties to be overcome in achieving fair and just regulations around the religious use of ayahuasca in Brazil.
I met Dr. Domingos in late 1985, after Daime was prohibited and added to the list of illegal substances by DIMED (now known as ANVISA). He had been appointed coordinator of the “Ayahuasca Working Group” created by CONFEN (now CONAD), and I later received the group in our community at Céu da Montanha in 1986. I also accompanied him on the memorable visit they made to Céu do Mapiá later that same year.
He took the sacrament alongside everyone else and was visibly touched by the work.
During the visit, a Santo Daime ceremony was held in honor of the members of the commission at their request. I sat next to him and we sang the Antônio Gomes hymnbook. He took the sacrament alongside everyone else and was visibly touched by the work. This was an apt demonstration of the group’s commitment to participatory research, confirming what Padrinho Sebastião himself had told us a few days before their arrival: “Yes, these CONFEN people think they are coming to study me; but, in fact, they are coming to learn about themselves.” He smiled in his mischievous way.
The working group’s final report ultimately removed Daime from the list of banned substances and, for the first time, our religious practice received formal legal support, with user entities themselves in charge of regulating our activities. However, the issue remained, unfortunately, within the sphere of decisions made by police authorities instead of cultural and scientific institutions, as was our objective. Time and again, new problems emerged with each change of leadership in the various institutions involved in our case. And so, on many occasions, I returned to visit him in his office in a building half hidden on Beco dos Barbeiros, a relic of colonial heritage in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2006, I had the honor of taking part in the CONAD working group as a representative of Padrinho Sebastião’s church. Again, the serene attitude and wisdom of Dr. Domingos, the group’s legal advisor, were instrumental in overcoming the many obstacles and small discrepancies between the different ayahuasca churches represented there. At the end of nearly a year of meetings, we achieved great victory in the document, “Deontological Principles for the Religious Use of Ayahuasca,” which guarantees the rights and religious freedom of different ayahuasca traditions to this day.
On more than one occasion, I heard Dr. Domingos quote the apostle Paul, remarking on the importance of his own work, “I fight the good fight.”
For all of these reasons, I wanted to make this personal statement that reflects, without a doubt, the sentiments of our church directors and leaders, who share the great appreciation and recognition that Padrinho Sebastião reserved for Dr. Domingos. On more than one occasion, I heard Dr. Domingos quote the apostle Paul, remarking on the importance of his own work, “I fight the good fight.”
There is no doubt he did so, and his name will always remain on the pages of our history. We continue to reap the rewards of his work on the topics of psychoactive plants, altered states of consciousness, the religious use of sacred plants, and the regulation of rights and freedoms of responsible use that promise to arouse ever more interest in all those committed to solving the current problems of humanity.
I hope that, in these difficult times we are going through, we can turn to public intellectuals of Domingos Bernardo’s stature to help us find our path through the new challenges to come.
All that remains is to thank you. Rest in peace. May God and the Sovereign Mother guide your passage to the spiritual plane and comfort your family.
Art by Mariom Luna.
Read also: Tribute to Dr. Domingos Bernardo, the Legal Expert who Fought for the Liberation of Ayahuasca in Brazil (1941-2020), by Glauber Loures de Assis.
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