In today’s post, Allen Thayer discusses the history and influence of Rational Culture, a cult that heavily influenced Tim Maia and his music, and shares a story of meeting with two of the cult’s followers in Brazil in 2016.
In my effort to tell the most comprehensive story yet about Tim Maia’s Rational adventures, I figured I better go straight to the source and learn more about what Rational Culture is all about. In my book, I explain the origin of Rational Culture and a bit about its founder (see: “Interlude: Seu Manoel & Rational Culture”), but I don’t really talk about where Rational Culture is now. So here’s some further reading for those of you who would like to know a bit more about Tim’s time in Rational Culture and what a couple of Rational Culture adherents think about this legacy.
Before diving into this, I want to provide a 1,000-foot view of Rational Culture, as best as I can: Rational Culture believes that human beings are not from this planet, they are from a universe beyond our sun, a superior world in the realm of the Superior Star. Humans were banished (or left) here on earth, but our destiny is to return to our mother planet, which, like our extraterrestrial brothers of origin, is “pure, clean and perfect. Eternal, without defects.” Basically, the earth is wretched, filled with animal and magnetic energies, which are harmful to humans. Rational Culture, as a way of life, aims to purify oneself of those earthly, animal and magnetic energies through a process referred to as “Rational Immunization”. This process mostly consists of reading and rereading the thousand volumes of the Universe in Disenchantment series.
During my June 2016 research trip, I set up a meeting with Raphael, the same person who responded to my brief and direct request to interview someone and maybe visit the original Belford Roxo (satellite city of Rio de Janeiro) headquarters while visiting Brazil. Raphael runs the website for Rational Culture. “I’ve been a student of Rational Culture for 30 years, starting in 1986. I met Seu Manoel and my mother knew him well from his time in Belford Roxo,” said Raphael.
Prior to my arrival in Brazil, Raphael informed me over Skype that the complex in Belford Roxo no longer belongs to Rational Culture. In fact, since the dematerialization (more on that in a bit) of Seu Manoel Jacinto Coelho, Rational Culture continues without any direction connection to Coelho’s family or his legacy, except for the books, obviously. Raphael explained that Rational Culture is now a very decentralized thing with no central leadership, but with the internet providing a platform to spread their message far and wide and in many languages. “Rational Culture is for the public, it doesn’t belong to anyone, there is no boss,” Raphael explained. “You, yourself are the leader.”
I asked if there was anyone still alive and following Rational Culture that would remember Tim’s short time in and around Belford Roxo, to which he responded, “[it’s] unlikely that someone is still alive from that time with Tim Maia.” We decided to meet anyway while I was visiting Brazil and settled on a Tuesday morning in Barra Da Tijuca, a southern suburb of Rio de Janeiro in one of a few mega malls along the main commercial thoroughfare.
Meeting in the morning in front of the closed Cinemark movie theater on a few low-slung lounge chairs, I talked with Raphael and his Rational Culture colleague, Christine, for an hour and a half, about all things Tim Maia Rational. I’ll refer to Raphael and Christine by their first names only, per their request. It was the most difficult interview or language experience of my entire life, considering my less-than-fluent Portuguese and the esoteric and complicated vocabulary that Rational Culture is riddled with.
Raphael and Christine were dressed entirely in white, naturally, but other than that, they didn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary. The clothes needed to be white, but it’s not like they’re wearing togas or something. We got right into it, with Raphael gently and repeatedly reminding me, “everything is in the book, if you need to check, just look to the book.” It was hard enough to have the conversation in Portuguese and then I was feeling like I hadn’t done my homework, but they quickly let me off the hook, explaining that, “the book works on a very individual level.” Readers should approach it at their own pace and do what feels natural to them. This is no normal book, as Raphael explained:
…this book was made by an inhabitant of the Rational World and dematerialized by Seu Manoel Jacinto Coelho. So, what happened was that all of the knowledge that Seu Manoel dictated from the Rational Superior’s transmission, he published it, materializing Rational Energy in the words, in the subjects of the book. When you look at the book and begin to read, this other inhabitant inside the words reverses the process and dematerializes his Rational Energy that the reader absorbs. We call this process: Development of the dematerialization of the inhabitant of the rational world.
Beginning in 1969, just before Tim Maia joined, Coelho began rewriting these three volumes, which were written in “more erudite Portuguese, that you could read, but the ideas were very condensed and it could be hard to understand,” Raphael explains. At 1:20am the morning of July 16th, 1978, so the legend tells, Coelho completed the three sets of twenty-one books that would replace the original, compact, three-volume set. Somehow between 1978 and 1991 Coelho managed to dictate another 934 books, to bring the total to 1,000 books. There’s a lot to absorb and emulate in the 1,000 volumes of Universe in Disenchantment. “Rational Culture,” Raphael explains, “doesn’t dogmatize things. There are no rules telling you what to do. What does the book do, it explains to you what’s good and what’s bad and you choose.” Evidently the books contain the answers to it all, you just keep reading and rereading the thousand volumes until you find what you’re looking for.
But this laissez-faire approach doesn’t square with the existing version of the Tim Maia Rational story where Coelho’s wacky religion mandates he quit everything all at once. “That’s because Tim Maia had such an explosive personality,” Raphael says. “He was more radical than anyone. Everything Seu Manoel published or said, Tim did. When he took something seriously, he couldn’t be calm . . . but the thing is Rational Culture is not that radical thing, like Tim Maia made it out to be . . . Rational Culture doesn’t tell you to give up drugs and to give up drinking.”
“It was really just Tim Maia’s interpretation, the book didn’t make him do anything,” Christine says. “He felt that these things were better for him. He created these rules in his mind,” to which Raphael added: “In Rational Culture nothing is prohibited.”
“Rational Culture exists to benefit society,” Christine says with frustration in her voice. “How can you say it was the best phase of Tim Maia’s career with his voice so beautiful and marvelous, when he quit doing drugs and drinking and then go and say he was also crazy,” Christina asks, rhetorically. “But no one ever thinks that maybe the book helped him, that it wasn’t bad for Tim Maia.”
Aside from learning first hand about the ins and outs of Rational Culture, I learned this tidbit, which no other Tim Maia scholar likely knows. When Tim appeared with his Rational caravan on Mauro Montalvão’s TV show towards the end of his time in Rational Culture, he was holding up a copy of the book Universe In Disenchantment, presumably his copy. Looking closely at the picture Raphael and Christine know it to be the fifteenth volume. “He read the book until the fifteenth volume, but in some of his lyrics there are topics that don’t appear in the first fifteen volumes,” Christine says, “so we in Rational Culture are certain that Seu Manoel enthusiastically influenced Tim’s lyrics. For example, “Supermundo Racional” from Tim Maia Racional Vol. 3, has things that are from the historical volumes [one of the 934 books coming after the first 66 volumes].
Shortly after Tim’s spell in Rational Culture, Coelho was forced to relocate due to the steady stream of converts, many thanks to Tim, wanting face time with their guru. How was he going to write one thousand books with all these interruptions?! Regrouping at an undisclosed location known as the Rational Retreat in nearby Nova Iguaçu, Coelho kept busy pumping out Rational Culture books, by my calculations about 72 books a year between 1978 and 1991, when on January 13th, Coelho, “terminated his principal mission which was to publish the Universe in Disenchantment,” Raphael explains. “He was transformed and returned to his original planet, which is our [humanity’s] original planet, Rational World.” He goes on to explain that in the wake of their leader’s death, Coelho’s family started fighting bitterly over his property and legacy. Coelho’s many followers watched as Manoel’s family, “acted so animalistic and magnetic.” The true followers, “pure, clean and perfect,” continued Coelho’s legacy spreading the word of Rational Culture through the book. Coelho remains central within the Rational Culture worldview, though Raphael and Christine both stress the need to differentiate that chapter from what’s happening now, “Belford Roxo, that was the past.”
I couldn’t help but ask. Had they read all the books? Were they demagnetized? How does one know if you’re rationally immunized? Raphael fields the last one: “You will know you’re rationally immunized when you have the absence of electric and magnetic energy.” Both Raphael and Christine aren’t immunized yet despite both of having read all one thousand volumes at least once. Aside from Seu Manoel has anyone else achieved rational immunization? “Others have returned too,” Christine responds. “How do you know?” I ask. “Because it was written in the book,” she said. “These books were not created by humankind,” Raphael insists, though they are, “a continuation of all of the cultures of the world and a revival of the original spiritualism that people don’t know about anymore.”
Both Raphael and Christine are clearly fans of Tim Maia and I bet you could guess which are their favorites of his albums. It’s clear they listen to these albums. “I connect with the words,” Christine says, “and the lyrics are the book. All of the songs on volume one, two and three are based on the book and musically, it’s all him.” There’s no official Rational Culture policy or statement about Tim Maia, but it’s clear they see Tim’s contribution as a good thing. “It’s very positive,” Christine says. “The albums have importance to us.”
Not only that, but if it weren’t for Tim Maia, I wouldn’t be talking to Raphael and Christine at a mall in suburban Rio de Janeiro about rational immunization. “The most important thing we have to consider with Tim Maia’s involvement with Rational Culture is the promotion that he did and does to this day,” Raphael, the Rational Culture Webmaster stresses, “because of the songs he recorded on these three LPs.”