Frequently Asked Questions.
What is the Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal (or UDV)?
The UDV is a Christian Spiritist religion that originated in Brazil and is now practiced by over 21,000 people in 11 countries. The UDV has received numerous civic awards for its community and environmental service and is recognized as a church under the laws of the United States.
Why the controversy?
The apparent controversy surrounding the UDV’s religious practice is the use of a sacramental tea with psychoactive properties that is received by church members as a form of communion within our religious services. The tea, called Hoasca, has been the subject of numerous scientific studies and found within the UDV’s circumscribed religious use to not be harmful to human health in any way.
What is Hoasca?
Central and essential to the UDV religion is the sincere, sacramental use of Hoasca, a tea made from two plants indigenous to the Brazilian Amazon – the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and a bush botanically related to the coffee plant, Psychotria viridis.
The use of Hoasca has drawn the attention of researchers from numerous areas of study: anthropology, sociology, history, biology, pharmacology, neurology, and psychology and there are numerous scientific and academic studies on the topic. Those who are interested in the science of Hoasca tea can find more information here.
Is use of Hoasca Legal?
The religious use of Hoasca by the UDV in the United States has been affirmed as a legitimate free exercise of religion by The Supreme Court of The United States.
In Brazil where the use of Hoasca as a religious sacrament has been authorized for decades, government agencies work closely with the UDV in developing policies related to its use.
What is the effect of Hoasca?
The communion with Hoasca creates an enhanced state of consciousness, capable of amplifying one’s perception of his/her essentially spiritual nature, bringing about positive development in the moral and intellectual aspects of a human being.
What is the long term effect of drinking Hoasca?
After a comprehensive seven year study, Brazilian Federal Narcotics Council concluded:
“The followers of the sect appear to be calm and happy people. Many of them attribute family reunification, regained interest in their jobs, finding themselves and God, etc., to their religion and the tea…The ritual use of the tea does not appear to be disruptive or to have adverse effects upon the social interactions of the sects’ followers. To the contrary, it appears to orient them towards seeking social contentment in an orderly and productive way.”
What are your ceremonies like?
The sessions of the União are respectful and spiritual in nature, with an emphasis on the enhancement of mental concentration and solemn reflection on the teachings of our guide, Mestre Gabriel, and of Jesus. The sessions last about four hours and contain periods of silent contemplation as well as the study of religious teachings.
How is the União structured?
The UDV has núcleos – or active, practicing communities — in over 100 cities and villages throughout Brazil with a membership of over 21,000. Approximately 600 UDV members live in the United States and there are active núcleos in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Connecticut, Texas, Florida, and Washington.
Members of the União come from all walks of life. The followers of this path include doctors, lawyers, political and business leaders, hard working citizens and people from many diverse backgrounds all brought together with a common vision of peace.