BRASILIA (Reuter - March 8, 1995) -- Belying a sterile drabness that even the president of Poland criticized, Brazil's capital is alive with New Age sects, UFO enthusiasts and hallucinatory tea drinkers who have included British rocker Sting.
Mysticism inspired by Brasilia's location, its creation and prophecies reaches into the cabinet offices and military headquarters of the fifth-biggest country on Earth.
Analysts say an atmosphere where crystals salesmen go door to door and taxi drivers chat of astral planes makes the capital unique in Latin America.
"There are literally hundreds of sects. The number you could find in all of California or Colorado, that's what you'd find in Brasilia," said Jose Jorge de Carvalho, an anthropology professor at the University of Brasilia.
"You could say that Brasilia is the first non-Catholic capital in Latin America," said Carvalho, now a visiting professor at Houston's Rice University.
Brasilia's image is such that the local government wants to cash in on it to boost tourism. Plans are under way for a convention of flying saucer devotees, with Federal District Tourism Minister Maria Lourdes Abadia saying, "I want Brasilia to be the gateway to the mystical world."
As it is, the biggest tourist draw by far is the Goodwill Legion's seven-sided pyramid-shaped temple topped with a 21-kg (46-pound) crystal.
More than 220,000 people last year visited the temple, where barefoot worshippers circle on inlaid marble spirals with palms upwards the better to channel cosmic energy.
The ecumenical sect's devotees see the huge crystal as "a catalyst of natural energy symbolising the unifying nature of God," said Legion spokesman Vladimir Alves Coite.
Rock singer Sting is the best-known among recent visitors to Brasilia seeking spiritual enlightenment.
The entertainer, a defender of Brazil's rainforest, spent his New Year's Eve outside Brasilia attending ceremonies of the Vegetable Union, a group devoted to the use of a bitter hallucinogenic tea from the Amazon jungles called ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is used by the Vegetable Union and its allied sect Santo Daime in rituals that can include chanting, wind chimes, taped whale cries and dancing until dawn.
"With this tea ritual you are much more conscious of what is going on in your life and work," said Edmir Oliveira, a masseur turned Santo Daime guru, before starting a ceremony surrounded by candles, statues of saints, Stars of David, books on Hinduism and numerology and a cross with a crystal at its junction.
Brasilia's lively spiritualism comes despite its reputation for sterility. Even Polish President Lech Walesa criticized the endless freeways and worn concrete high-rises on a recent visit, saying, "The buildings are just like we have in Poland."
The attraction of Brasilia's scrubland plateau for such groups as the New Acropolis, the Extraterrestrial Team of Sobradinho and the Valley of the Dawn Aquarian community arises from several factors, said anthropologist Carvalho.
Brasilia is built on rocks more than a billion years old, some of the most ancient on Earth. That makes the area safe, some believe, from earthquake and nuclear attack and the likely site for the return of Jesus Christ.
The 19th-century mystic Dom Bosco also foresaw a great city arising in central Brazil that would start a new civilisation.
The city is built on a pattern of a rough cross and was founded in 1960 by President Juscelino Kubitschek, who foresaw in it a "dawning" for Brazil. Planners also distributed land to all religious groups and sects, not just the Catholic Church.
Jose Roberto Mariano, an astrologer who has designed tarot cards based on Brasilia sites, said the city's greatest source of mystic energy arose at Kubitschek's tomb.
"There's an energy rift there," he said. "The city is like the Grand Canyon in the United States, a centre of power."
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