= a spiritual community in the North of Italy, famous for its temples carved inside the mountains, and its elaborate governance structure as a federation of villages, and the use of the Credito as alternative currency
URL = http://www.damanhur.org/ (official website)
Link collection by Lion Kimbro at http://lionwiki.taoriver.net/cgi-bin/wiki/FederationOfDamanhur
A note of caution, Damanhur may not be what it appears to be and hide spiritual and other forms of authorianism. For critical information, see the testimonies and investigations of former members, collated here: http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/ . A summary of what critical minds need to know is in their FAQ
In the West the only reality I’m aware of where a complete complementary currency system is working, is the Federation of Damanhur.
- Bernard Lietaer
Damanhur is the best example found of a collection of eco-villages - a Federation - with a strong spiritual philosophy and work ethic. ...
- David Kanaley
"The Federation promotes an economy based on cooperation and solidarity. In order to use a means of exchange exclusively dedicated to growth and development, Damanhur has created its own complementary currency system: the Damanhurian Credito. The Credito is accepted in many retail outlets of the Valchiusella and in centers linked to Damanhur in Italyand abroad.
The Credito is a bearer of high ideals. It was created to restore meaning to the original idea of money, as a functional instrument that facilitates exchange based upon mutual agreement." (http://www.dontleavetheearthuntil.com/page/1/default.asp)
“I actually first heard about Damanhur through Fortean Times magazine many years ago, long before the story seemed to break on the mainstream media in the US this year. I’ve had their original pre-tourist-board-push web site bookmarked for a long time. (http://www.tempio.it/) I put little stock in their mash-up of New Age beliefs and their pursuit of pseudo-scientific psychotronic technologies.
But, though it tends to look in style like a secret lair for the Abominable Dr. Phibes, I do think their temple is one of the great works of contemporary art and architecture and an excellent example of the potential of excavated architecture, which I have used as an example in discussions of practical strategies of lunar and planetary settlement. And it’s another good example of how people are cultivating images of the future derived from the ancient past.
What’s most intriguing about Damanhur, though, is the subversive nature of its culture. In ancient times it was common for cults, alchemists, herbalists, and early scientists to rely on encryption as a means of securing their research and knowledge from competitors or from exposure to authorities. But with Damanhur we have this situation - and still pre-Internet at the start, mind you - of a community of about 1000 people who effectively cultivated an encrypted culture flying under the radar of European authorities for decades! They even had their own secret currency, and yet somehow managed to avoid the ‘Waco Treatment’ long enough to secretly construct one of the largest and most sophisticated works of architecture ever created by such a tiny religious community in modern times. It’s like the plot of a science fiction story where the descendants of ancient astronauts are drawn together into a secret tribe with a secret racial language and pool together bits and pieces of the plans for a starship extracted out of their own DNA and then construct it in a secret underground hangar. It’s an amazing demonstration of the potential of small groups of people systematically cultivating surplus productivity through community structures and then applying that to a shared goal.
This is the sort of amplifying effect I have anticipated for things like cultivating post-industrial technology within a community setting - though, of course, with Damanhur there’s the factor of religious fervor as well. We squander a lot of our lives to other people’s profit in exchange for cash.
Though I wouldn’t consider it a model to follow, this is definitely a good picture of just how much that lost productivity amounts to. If 1000 determined people could build this in their spare time, what could a million do?" (http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-role-of-contemporary-spiritual-communities-in-the-post-industrial-reinvention-of-the-pre-industrial-past/2008/08/15)
"Damanhur has established itself in Valchiusella, in the alpine foothills of Piedmont, bordering on the Gran Paradiso National Park. Located in the heart of Europe 45 km from Turin, the Italian territories of the Federation are located throughout the valley.
Damanhur numbers 20 small communities, each community having approximately twenty members. In total the communities occupy more than 50 houses. Another 400 supporters live nearby and participate regularly in its activities. They are contributing to the creation of a new social model based upon solidarity, volunteering, a respect for the environment and the sharing of ethical and spiritual values.
The territories comprise approximately 400 hectares of woodland; residential development and farming land and another 100 privately owned buildings, artistic workshops, studios, companies and farms. Damanhur has centers in Italy, Europe and Japan and maintains contact with spiritual groups worldwide.
The Federation has internal schools for boys and girls up to 13 years of age, a daily paper, a publishing house, a Constitution and a University that is open to researchers from all over the world
The Temples of Humankind, built in the heart of the mountain, are a series of underground Halls where art and beauty become a means of communication with the Divine. The rooms are connected to each other on different levels in a pathway that is liked to the journey that every human being undertakes from birth to death and again at rebirth: the Temples of Humankind for those who enter represent a real initiate path.
The Temples are sited at the meeting point of Eurasian and African continental plates whose movement has brought to the surface an ancient mineral, over 300 million years old. This mineral known as Milonite carries the physical energy of the Earth. The Temples were constructed inside a seam of this particular mineral which precisely follows the flow of the ‘Synchronic Lines’ of the Earth. The Synchronic Lines are great rivers of energy that surround our planet and link it to the Universe, transporting ideas, thought and dreams. The Temples of Humankind rise up on a shinning knot; the point at which four of these Lines meet.
The Federation promotes an economy based on cooperation and solidarity. In order to use a means of exchange exclusively dedicated to growth and development, Damanhur has created its own complementary currency system: the Damanhurian Credito. The Credito is accepted in many retail outlets of the Valchiusella and in centers linked to Damanhur in Italyand abroad. The Credito is a bearer of high ideals. It was created to restore meaning to the original idea of money, as a functional instrument that facilitates exchange based upon mutual agreement." (http://www.dontleavetheearthuntil.com/page/1/default.asp)
2. The critical version by Damanhur Inside Out:
"Damanhur was created according to the precise wishes of Oberto Airaudi at the end of the 1970’s and the beginning of the 80’s.
There are currently 300 full time Damanhurian citizens (contrary to the number declared by the Federation) and the territories of the community amount to less than a hundred hectares.
Damanhur presents itself as a federation of communities but in reality it is a single community managed centrally by Oberto Airaudi (who supervises every decision) and his collaborators (the King Guides). The costs and economic commitments regarding investments, loans and building renovation, equal to many millions of euro are delegated to the so-called ‘Nucleo-Communities’ and citizens are required to fund Community projects from their own personal resources. The number of Nucleo-Communities varies according to the creation and dismantling of groups but usually numbers around fifteen units, each one inhabited on average by 12-20 people.
Damanhur, although it presents itself as an eco-society is in fact an esoteric community based on a strong initiate hierarchy headed by its unquestioned and charismatic leader Oberto Airaudi.
The Constitution of Damanhur was created to establish precise limits and behavioral obligations to which its citizens must abide, including the obligation to program the birth of children and the obligation to conduct arbitration without legal representation in the internal tribunal (The College of Justice). The tribunal, always supervised by Airaudi, has the power to express verdicts without right of appeal.
Damanhur mints its own currency (The Credito) which it manages by means of its own ‘bank’. It declares that it has its own health service, which in reality makes use of Damanhurian general practitioners (paid by the Italian state), a structure (called Free University) that offers – at a cost of many hundreds of euro, its own courses in esotericism and magic that promise to reawaken inner senses, reveal one’s previous reincarnations, help contact alien entities and even be possessed by them etc." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/damanhur-a-brief-overview/)
Aspects of Damanhur
"The Damanhurian economic system blends free enterprise with solidarity and communal sharing, with the objective of creating the most advantages and wealth possible at an individual and collective level. This “richness” is expressed in houses and land, schools and services, art and gardens, forests and meeting spaces, health and wellness, as well as a sense of belonging and security, and attention for the individual, from an economic and human point of view. This quality of life rivitalizes the Damanhurian territories, and in addition to the citizens of the Federation, everyone can enjoy the services and activities that exist here.
IS IT A SYSTEM THAT HAS EXISTED FROM THE BEGINNING?
No, this formula is the fruit of more than thirty years of experience, during which we have experimented with many different systems. At the beginning, the economic sharing was absolute, to allow us to build the first community structures. Over time, the system has evolved, until it has become what we are describing here. Many people appreciate the Damanhurian economic system because it combines the best of two opposing economic doctrines: liberalism and socialism.
HOW DO CITIZENS EARN THEIR LIVING?
Many citizens of the Federation have created cooperatives and businesses over the years, offering their products and services for economic compensation, in a way that is completely autonomous and respectful of the Italian law. Other individuals are self-employed professionals paid for their services, and still others work for Italian businesses. All the Damanhurian inhabitants, no matter what their source of income, directly manage their own money.
Sometimes, those who have responsibilities and roles that are socially useful, such as assisting senior citizens, taking care of the home, studying at a university, etc. they are sustained by the community.
HOW ARE THE DAILY EXPENSES DIVIDED?
Full time resident citizens live in houses constructed according to the criteria of energetic auto-sufficiency and ecological construction. The communities are composed of many nucleo families, of individuals and people of all ages. Damanhurians select where they live based on affinity and shared projects. These social groups are commonly called “nucleo communities” and they are usually comprised of about twenty people. Each Damanhurian has his or her own private space and shares the common areas with others, like the kitchen, meeting spaces, gardens, etc. All the choices made by the nucleo, including economic ones, are discussed and shared by its members. The various expenses related to house management – maintenance, heating, nutrition, investments in renewable energy, etc. are divided based on each person’s individual ability. If people in the nucleo do not produce a direct income for various reasons – because they are studying or have health or employment difficulties – they are economically sustained by the members of the nucleo community. In the case that more than one person at the same time is unable to produce income, and the family is not able to economically provide for everyone’s needs, they may rely on the sustenance of other communities.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO THE DAMANHURIAN CITIZENS CONTRIBUTE?
Every citizen sustains projects that have a wide scope, based on personal desire and one’s economic ability. For example, projects may involve acquiring new land and buildings, safeguarding the environment, supporting educational programs, creating artistic works on the territories, assisting volunteer associations, supporting research and experimentation in many fields, etc. The communal sharing of choices and investments occurs during assembly meetings in which every citizen is involved. Every form of contribution that the citizens offer may assume the form of liberality and/or capital shares.
HOW MUCH TIME DO CITIZENS GIVE TO THE COMMUNITY?
Resident citizens offer part of their time for community activities and socially useful services like the Red Cross – blood donation, emergency calls, etc. – Civil Protection, prevention of forest fires, and assisting the elderly. There are more than 250 Damanhurian volunteers who participate in public associations in the area.
Based on one’s personal preference, each citizen can also choose an association to support to develop an enjoyable activity. In fact, there are associations that offer diverse activities, ranging from teaching art and antique trades to cultural and recreational activities, to health and wellness, etc. Many works on the territory – reclaimed land, retraining, etc. – were realized with everyone’s participation. Voluntary work is a valuable commonwealth that serves others and society as a whole, a practical instrument used to elevate the general quality of life.
WHO DO THE HOUSES AND TERRITORIES BELONG TO?
Damanhurian houses and territories are owned by cooperatives with a wide social base, in which the citizens subscribe to with capital shares. If a citizen decides to leave the community, he or she may withdraw the monetary value of the shares conferred. Choosing to keep houses and land in common ownership comes from the desire to protect collective property. This system allows the ideals and the conquests of Damanhur to be bestowed upon those who move forward with this dream in the future, whether it is the children or new citizens. Every community resides in a territory that may be comprised of one or more habitations where family groups live. The inhabitants enjoy the benefits of the improvements made by citizens who lived there before them, and in their time, they make modifications that increase the quality of the property.
MUST CITIZENS GIVE EVERYTHING THEY POSSESS TO DAMANHUR?
No, there are different levels of citizenship – A, B, C, D, etc. – that may be chosen by whomever would like to become involved in Damanhur. Each one of these levels requires a different participation in the social life of Damanhur and the various aspects of communal sharing. When a person decides to become a full time resident citizen, and to completely adhere to the social experimentation – level A – he or she does not need to give everything he possesses to the community. Personal goods, such as cars, furniture, computers and technology, etc. remain personal property, and also everything that is connected to one’s personal work activity. Capital and/or landholdings can be invested in activities of personal or common interest, and the choice is always based on the free will of the individual, in concordance with representatives elected by the citizenship." (http://trustcurrency.blogspot.com/2010/01/damanhur-economics.html)
Are the money and property arrangements in Damanhur exploitative?
Via Damanhur inside out:
"They sell their services for Euros, and pay their people in Crediti, which are not exchangeable. It's like "company store" scrip...
"It has made one man very wealthy and his followers exceedingly impoverished. Stripped of all their material assets, their debts increase as his wealth accumulates in Swiss bank accounts and off-shore investments. The latest scam has been to persuade all the remaining founder members of the real estate cooperative PEAL to sign away their shares in Damjl, leaving him the sole owner of all the original houses." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/about/make-believe/)
"Another system that keeps citizens imprisoned is our internal currency, the Credito which is sold as a ‘complementary currency system’ but is in fact a real swindle, it is used to avoid paying taxes to the Italian government, as well as for internal transactions.
All the internal economy is based on the circulation of the Credito: the citizens who work inside the Community are paid only in Crediti, which have no value at all. The ‘internal bank’, to all intents and purposes a proper functioning bank, promises to change Crediti into Euro but this rarely happens in practice, that’s because only a limited amount of Euros are available for citizens and there are not enough to go round.
A citizen who works for an internal company is forced to accept a salary paid in Crediti (regularly in the black, without contributions or with only a minimum number of hours declared) and when he or she asks to change them into Euros the request is almost always denied.
Each person can therefore only relate to inside the Community from an economic point of view: very often salaries are not even paid because the internal companies are heavily in debt to the ‘Federale’ (this is what the internal power base is known as) which lends money but often holds back the financial subsidies that arrive to support the cooperatives or internal companies by using the psychological blackmail of ‘brotherhood’.
It becomes very difficult for everyone, especially if you do not have parents, or external friends who can help you get out of the system. One has to bear in mind that relatives on the outside have probably already been economically stripped to the bone." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/testimonies/the-economic-prison-and-others/)
"Recent legal searches have revealed that Oberto Airaudi’s ‘personal wealth’ is not so easily separated from that of Damanhur, in fact it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Oberto Airaudi is Damanhur.
According to the national register he owns 49 houses/apartments and 60 areas of land. The Damanhurian houses registered in his name include the Temple House ‘Porta del Sole’, a house in Etulte, 3 houses in Tentyris Village, several apartments in Damanhur’s first settlement Damjl, apartments in the Damanhur Vidracco housing development project and the house of ‘Aval’ at Cuceglio.
He also owns 2 houses by the sea which are occasionally used by the Viaggio and 26 properties in Balengero.
The 60 areas of land are mostly located in and around Damanhurian settlements with the exception of a piece of land in Balengero which is used almost every weekend by the Viaggio as its secret destination.
The Temple of Humankind is now owned by the Temple Association but the right to benefit from its use is held entirely by Airaudi.
Damanhurians are not allowed to be property owners…they are required to donate all their houses and land to the Community housing Coops. If they ever leave Damanhur, they leave empty handed.
And who owns the houses in the Coops…? No one seems to know…most of the equity in the houses is guaranteeing bank loans, 10 million Euros worth…which citizens are paying off as part of their quota.
First you donate your house…then Damanhur raises a loan on the equity…then you get to pay back the loan in monthly installments…" (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/notes-for-journalists-and-film-makers/damanhur-distances-itself-from-its-founder-falco/)
By Giorgio of Damanhur Inside Out:
"I was a member of Damanhur for many years and I left recently because I woke up to the fact that I was helping to sustain a system of subtle psychological abuse. It is heart breaking to see how much damage Damanhur is causing to the people who have wholeheartedly pledged their lives to its ideals and social aspirations: people who sincerely believe that they are creating a new Atlantis, a new social model and a self-sustaining way of life.
The Damanhur ‘machine’ is very sophisticated, it presents a glossy image of life inside the community that for outsiders is hard to refute. Journalists and film- makers are constantly taken in by its glamor and naively perpetuate its myths and lies. The Internet is populated by glowing reports of its cultural events in an endless stream of propaganda. Green Party politicians are frequent visitors, endorsing its ecological projects and giving it an air of establishment approval. Anyone could be forgiven for believing it really is what it says it is and giving their support to its efforts. Unfortunately this perfect public image hides a reality that is anything but spiritual.
This seemingly democratic eco-village community with its own constitution, schools and daily paper is in fact structured as a hierarchical pyramid headed by its charismatic leader, ‘Falco’ – Oberto Airaudi who, as in all totalitarian regimes, decides everything behind the scenes. The ‘elected’ Guides of the Federation are just puppets nominated by him and voted in unanimously by Damanhurian citizens. The Guides do Falco’s bidding or they are removed, voters follow his indications or lose their privileges.
Initiates are subject to a subtle system of ‘thought reform’, which is exercised by the School of Meditation and the ‘Tecnarcato’, both designed to control, maintain discipline and suppress criticism within community. Public humiliation is used to create fear and obedience and a system of rewards for good behavior and status within the ranks ensures everyone tows the line. Those who do not follow the rules and disciplines are ostracized by their fellow Damanhurians and excluded from group activities. They are required to write letters explaining their actions to the ‘Vertice’ and are often subject to humiliating sessions of public apology in front of the whole School. I often saw grown men breakdown and cry when faced with this ordeal. All disciplinary procedures are made public during obligatory Meditation School meetings on Monday evenings. Initiates live in constant fear of the disapproval of Falco and the heads of the Meditation School: they are desperately careful to carry out all that is requested of them.
This system of control is imposed subtly and over a long period of time, at first it is barely noticeable. People do not realize how they are being manipulated and if they do criticize the system, they are told that it is they who are the problem. They are told they are lacking in some way, not sufficiently integrated, that they need to be less rigid and more open to change. Newcomers are told that it is early days yet and as they go on to become initiated they will understand better and realize that their doubts were unfounded. Even the most intelligent spiritual seeker, once challenged on an inner level, fails to see what is happening. People firmly deposit their dreams and aspirations in Damanhur and easily fall prey to its manipulation. Over the years they slowly become slaves to the system, giving all their economic resources, family inheritance, energy and life force to what they believe will save the world: i.e. Damanhur and its magic.
The Damanhurian week is filled with endless meetings, ritual tasks, reports to write, esoteric studies, domestic duties, community hours and devotional work in addition to earning a living. Most initiates live in a constant state of exhaustion; they eat very late in the evening in the family Nucleos, often combining supper with meetings that go on into the early hours." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/testimonies/a-damanhurian-life/)
The ‘Bodies of Damanhur’
Via Damanhur Inside Out:
"Damanhur declares that it is based upon four basic structures defined as ‘bodies’ that are interactive but independent of one another: The School of Meditation, the Social body, The Game of Life and the Tecnarcato. Meditation represents the religious sphere, it is the initiate school on which the truth of Damanhur is derived and founded. Its unquestioned Master and Divine Incarnation of God is Oberto Airaudi, who, through his ‘Vertice’ (heads) of Meditation (one of his female companions) issues his directives which are unquestioned and not open to discussion.
The Social body is represented by the Federation of Communities which should be independent. But in reality the Federation’s managers (called King Guides) are elected inside the School of Meditation according to the indications of Airaudi – who can by virtue of his unquestionable authority – call for elections to be repeated if citizens make mistakes by electing the wrong person and voting contrary to his indications.
The Game of Life is another of Airaudi’s emanations, which by means of another of his female companions* controls the lives of Damanhurian Nucleos (family units). The Game was founded to encourage innovation inside the Community but has transformed itself into an organ of control that supervises every aspect of life in the Nucleo-Communities. One of the emanations of the Game of Life is the ‘Viaggio’ (magic journey). Begun in 1983, it has always carried out the function of training young Damanhurians and bringing new ideas into Damanhur. For many years the Viaggio – which happens on a weekly basis– has been a cover for the fact that Airaudi’s weekends are spent in luxury motor homes (costing over a million euro each) enjoying the company of young female Damanhurians.
The Tecnarcato/Tecnarcalato was the last structure established to extend control over individual citizens. Damanhurians are obliged to keep a daily diary of their activities (the diary is checked periodically) and write fortnightly/monthly reports describing their financial position, personal relationships, feelings, sexual relationships, level of commitment to Community decisions and any other relevant personal information." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/damanhur-a-brief-overview/)
Via Damanhur Inside Out:
"Damanhur has created its own political movement which over the years has allied itself to various political campaigns both of the right and left (it is currently allied to Sinistra Ecologia e Liberta’ after a brief courtship of the Green Party) and as a result of cleverly orchestrating the movement of the residencies (the right to vote in the local Council elections) of its 300 inhabitants from one Valchiusella council area to another, it has left its mark on local politics. The Damanhurian phenomenon of moving residencies is well known and feared by the other valley administrators and has resulted in Damanhur taking the majority of seats on Vidracco Council and inserting its councilors in other Valchiusella councils.
Apart from facilitating legal permissions regarding the Temple, often by finding original solutions such as authorizing the building of a water reservoir and then transforming it into a new hall of the Temple, the Damanhur administration has also favored the economic development of the Community in the village.
Various attempts by Damanhur to enter the Mountain Communities Council (The coordinating body for local valley councils) have been met with fierce opposition on the part of a significant number of Valchiusella administrators and have always been successfully blocked.
From the beginning Damanhur has tried to penetrate many institutional structures by motivating its citizens and by using its position to gain advantages (for example to carry on activities undisturbed in its own territories and gain political support). This has also produced considerable benefit in terms of its public image with regard to civil protection, first aid, ecology, and the environment." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/damanhur-a-brief-overview/)
A Summary of The Doctrine
Via Damanhur Inside Out:
"Although it defines itself as a spiritual community and does not wish to be seen as a religion, Damanhur is to all intents and purposes a new religious cult.
It has its own god (The TRIAD HORUS) and a pantheon formed out of thousands of divinities. In the Damanhurian theogony a good part of the mission of Airaudi and Damanhur has been to return all the divinities of the planet– and of the planetary system – to the status of being ‘under control’. To recreate a new divine order presided over by a ‘Triad’ formed by the divinities Horus, Bastet and Pan, who reunite to form the higher divinity ‘Horus’. The real name of Horus is in fact ‘Lucifer’ (but this is one of the mysteries revealed only to initiates of the very highest esoteric grades).
Horus is the largest part of the ‘fragmentation’ of the primeval divinity Humankind (transcendent principle) who in descending into the material world of form shattered into tiny pieces to give origin to life in the material world of form.
Airaudi, who is the High Priest of the religion, is also the incarnation of the god Horus.
It is also said that Airaudi declares that he has come from the future (600 years ahead) and has reincarnated in our time to realize two fundamental objectives:
1) Save the planet
2) Turn every Damanhurian who faithfully carries forward their incarnation inside Damanhur into a divinity.
Below Airaudi there is a strict initiate hierarchy bound by a series of esoteric secrets.
The initiate with the highest grade is one of his female companions and on Airaudi’s behalf conducts rites of theurgic and black magic.
Descending the pyramid of initiates, we find the grade ‘Lanu’ at the base: initiates who begin their ascent by swearing an oath to Horus and offering to give their lives for the cause.
There are rites (which every initiate is obliged to attend), practices for worshiping divinities, dietary rules to observe, fasts, sexual prohibitions, individual control over the behavior of initiates and the imposition of obligations and oaths." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/damanhur-a-brief-overview/)
Anthony Judge: Damanhur's Time-based epistemology
"This is a reflection on the experiment undertaken at Damanhur. Founded in 1977, Damanhur is an internationally renowned center for spiritual research. Situated in the Alpine foothills of northern Italy, it is a Federation of Communities and Regions (currently 44) with over 800 citizens, a social and political structure, a Constitution, 40 economic activities, its own currency, schools and university, and a network of 25,000 supporters worldwide.
The focus of this reflection is on the way in which Damanhur has chosen to make very extensive use of symbolism, notably embodied in the construction of a massive underground complex: the Temple of Mankind -- 4,000 cu. metres, carved by hand out of the rock on 5 levels, with 150 metres of corridors. The complex is rich in mosaic (350 sq. metres), glass, frescoes (400 sq. metres) and sculpture, with the largest tiffany stained glass dome in the world (100 sq. metres). In a historical period in which peoples and races are disappearing and humanity is losing its history and diversity, Damanhur has created a human group with its own artistic, philosophical and social expression -- and its own language [more].
In contrast to many spiritually inspired communities, members adopt the names of endangered species -- my guide was Anemone di Mare. The developing processes of the community are explored through a Game of Life. The community engages in experiments in time travel and has constructed time machines in its Temple. These unconventional emphases have attracted much attention from the Italian government, the Catholic Church, the media, and local authorities -- a tale beautifully recounted and documented by Jeff Merrifield (Damanhur: the community they tried to brand a cult, 1999) in the best tradition of appreciative inquiry.
The following reflection is inspired by the possibility of ways of thinking that are radically different from those considered both normal and necessary (or even obligatory) by mainstream thinkers and organizations. Unfortunately the latter have proven themselves totally incompetent in their efforts to manage the resources and challenges of the planet and its vulnerable populations -- other than to the advantage of certain elites. At the time of writing, as remarked by many, the war against Iraq is an exemplification of this -- and especially of a failure of imagination.
The question here is how any group is sustained in such an extraordinary alternative endeavour. Specifically the focus is on whether there is scope for time-based thinking that might prove to be a fruitful alternative to the illusions of space-based thinking. How might any initiative towards a "timeship" contrast with the heavy investment in "spaceship" design and construction -- and the escapist fantasies of travelling "elsewhere" in the galaxy away from the problems of the planet to claim further territory for the new American empire? Where is "elsewhen"?
More particularly the concern here is whether the epistemological framework required for the coherence of such a sustained endeavour might offer valuable insights to many who have been unable to benefit from the funds misused for space-based endeavours. The reflection must necessarily highlight the nature of the discontinuity at the interface between space-based thinking/action and time-based thinking/action -- as characterized by the seeming incomprehensibility of the latter. This incomprehensibility has as a consequence that those introduced to time-based thinking/action must pass through a number of levels of interpretation in order to adjust to a reality whose coherence derives from unfamiliar ways. Conclusion
Does a timeship really fly? That would seem to depend on what "timeship", "really" and "fly" mean to you -- what "mean" means to you, and who you think "you" are? And perhaps also, why you want to know?
The concern of this paper is not whether the Damanhur beliefs about time travel are "true" for you. Arguments have been presented to demonstrate that "truth" may have other meanings -- and may be based on, or give rise to, other senses of coherence. What after all is to be understood of the truth of the 11-fold dimensionality of string space? It is not whether their belief is "true" but whether it "works" for them -- in ways from which others might benefit also. The counter-intuitive weirdness of superstring theory works well enough to attract research resources for 10,000 physicists!
What is to be made of the configurations of symbolic elements that are a key to the Damanhur time "technology"? How could they possibly "work"?
But then, a great many leading management consultants copyright their own configurations of concepts and models through which they interpret their world -- and offer training sessions at which their significance to more effective management is explained. How do recipients internalize those insights and apply them? Presumably they are believed to work, otherwise the consultants and their charts would not be viable -- although with the recent implication of major consultantcies in relationship to very severe corporate scandals, to what extent are their purported skills exercises in "smoke and mirrors"? Fads**** But the term "magic" is even used in phrases such as "management magic" [more; more]. To what do people resonate in the term "magic"? Can it be usefully described as a "transformational moment" -- as with a party that goes exceptionally well? What skills are brought to bear to ensure further, and more powerful, magical moments -- for the many rather than for the few?
Is the social construction of reality at Damanhur such as to engender vehicles that enable them to move between frameworks that they recognize? How is the question "what is the reality of such a vehicle?" to be asked and meaningfully answered.? How can Damanhur so successfully thrive despite arguments that these beliefs are meaningless (and even dangerous) examples of psyched-up self-referential thinking and groupthink? Is their "thrival" more preferable to some than the "survival" advocated for others with more "correct" perspectives? Does their approach engender and sustain a quality of life preferable to that of others?
The argument presented is that, metaphorically, the space-based assumptions of mainstream thinking have ensured that the spaceships remain effectively grounded. The possibility of a time-based emphasis has been explored inspired by the imaginative steps taken at Damanhur towards time travel. But of greater interest than this possibility is the manner in which semantic content can be symbolically encoded and embodied as a coherent whole to sustain such initiatives. It is the psycho-social operation of embodiment by a community that so strikingly contrasts with the bias towards monopolizing resources for the empowerment of spaceships of questionable design.
Damanhur has responded to the mnemonic challenge of associating the diverse cultural insights of humanity in a coherent whole to constitute a kind of semantic web through which time travel becomes a credible possibility -- to them. This embodied coherence is compared here to the elegance of spherically symmetrical organisms like radiolaria. Any place in the living structure is linked by a network of associative pathways to other semantic content expressed symbolically. Configured spherically these pathways reinforce one another and embody community insight -- keeping the centre empty. They are the pathways of the community's noosphere through which its insights variously flow.
The approach successfully taken at Damanhur to create a higher order of consensus, with high creative potential, suggests the need to recognize and facilitate such esxperimental environments. It is proposed here that they should be named "Renaissance Zones" to contrast with the proprietary preoccupations of "science parks" and "free zones".
Why do you believe that you cannot travel in time?" (http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs00s/horus.php)
Damanhur's vision of evil
From an extenstive travel account by spiritual tourist Erik Davis:
"the “anti-life” principle the Damanhurians call the “Enemy of Mankind”; Esperide explains that he represents limitation and decay as well as the ignorance that cloaks our sacred origins, with the result that we forget that we are not humans so much as “divinity having a human experience.” Unlike many of today’s New Age religions, which serve up a gooey custard of “all is one” non-dualism, Damanhurian cosmology acknowledges an evil or satanic force within reality. But rather than breeding paranoia and violence, this cosmic and psychological foe helps to inspire the community’s extraordinary commitment to practical labor and collective self-creation. On the wall facing the Enemy we see a sort of apocalyptic battle, only the combatants—whose faces once again are based on the citizens of Damanhur—are fighting their own restricted and limited selves. And they are smiling as they do it.
Part of the magic of the Temples, you realize, is that their very existence strives to confirm the reality of Damanhur’s esoteric sources of inspiration. How else could they have pulled off this immensely inspired and difficult task? you wonder. And I have barely scratched the surface in my account. I haven’t told you about the Hall of Metals, with its dense invocation of the elements and the ages of man; or the classy Hall of Spheres, with its rich red marble and globes of alchemical concoctions; or the labyrinth, with its extraordinary iconic wikipedia of stained-glass godforms from Africa, Sumer, Scandinavia, Japan, Greece. Other than the elevators, everything in these caverns and tunnels was created by the community itself—few of whom, the story goes, were trained in the arts, crafts, and engineering roles they were called upon to play. Though there are instruction maps of transformation everywhere you turn, the Temples are ultimately less about message than sheer manifestation—the expression of a workaholic DIY pragmatism that, you sense, wants to pervade and divinize the whole world of matter, not to transcend it but to awaken it. Earlier in the day, a woman I met named Magpie Goldenrod had insisted that the Damanhurian way was “not a religion but a philosophy, one that gives meaning to what we are doing with our hands.” (http://hilobrow.com/2010/06/30/pop-arcana-4/)
I (michel bauwens) asked a few questions to an enthusiastic visitor, Lion Kimbro, here is his response.
- "Is Damanhur Authoritarian?"
- "Is Damanhur Spiritually Authoritarian?"
- "How does Damanhur stay open to criticism?"
- "How does Damanhur engage in dialog with outsiders?"
IS DAMANHURIAN AUTHORITARIAN?
With respect to projects undertaken, Damanhurian has an essentially authoritarian society. They are quite up front about this.
The metaphore I like to use is in the social organization that characterizes Open Source, which very closely resembles Damanhur's vision for the world: Many many societies to choose from, with different policies and ways.
MOST (but certainly not all) Open Source projects are authoritarian ("benevolent dictatorship,") though there are societies like Debian, where voting and so on is essential to the character.
What I get from Damanhur is that they'd like the world to be made of myriad communities, perhaps with enclaves of non-affiliated people living "out there" as well, engaged in politics in existing (and to-exist) real-world political bodies (such as the nations of the European Union, the United States, and the myriad countries of the world.)
The Damanhurian vision of "Freedom" is that people should live in communities that manifest their ideals, values, and positive visions. They see our society as very UN-free, because the society does not work in such a way as to cultivate our individual virtues and strengths, but rather to prey on our weaknesses and vices. That is, if we are slave to our passions, if we cannot make our dreams come true, if we even forget the value of making our dreams come true, and fritter our lives away in consumerism and so on -- they do not see this as "freedom," but rather, as bondage.
COMPARE: If you go to a training program to become a trained artist, you are not "free" by the discpline of the arts. But in another way, you are more free than you've ever been, because you are now in a track, voluntarily chosen, that allows you to manifest your higher nature.
Like Aristotle, who said that the society exists for the Individual, and that the individual can only *really* develop in the Polis.
Damanhur *requires* that children LEAVE Damanhur, and see the outside world, and live in the outside world. (And further, pays for all of this, as a collective.) And then, IF the child wants to return to Damanhur, then the child can begin the application process into Damanhur, just as any other person.
They envision tons of communities, sharing and visiting with one another, exchanging members, and so on, so that ideas can transit, and so that individuals can transit, to the place that will serve them and their spiritual development best.
IS DAMANHURIAN SPIRITUALLY AUTHORITARIAN?
I don't think so;
Damanhurian thought (Falco's philosophy) is explicitely non-dogmatic.
True: You'll be kicked out, if you're not going with their program of action, which includes some aspects of valuing their beliefs. (Not necessarily *believing* it, but for sure at least *valuing* it.)
But as far as making ontological statements about reality, "no way."
HOW DOES DAMANHUR STAY OPEN TO CRITICISM? HOW DOES DAMANHUR ENGAGE IN DIALOG WITH OUTSIDERS?
In some ways, this is like: "Who is Damanhur accountable to?"
Damanhur is directly and deeply accountable to the citizens of the primary town that hosts them, to three neighboring towns, and to the sovereign government of Italy. It is also politically accountable to the Catholic church.
I'm going to copy and paste something here from a different version of this email that I was writing to you; No point in wasting good explanatory text:
- snippet begins - Damanhur is quite open to criticism, and is engaged in vigorous dialog with outsiders.
I don't understand their political philosophy (it's probably in a number of people and books in Italian at Damanhur,) but I do understand that they are deeply committed to politics. When I say "deeply committed to politics," what I mean is that they hold it as a key part of understanding for every individual in their society, and that it is core to their philosophy. Put simply (and perhaps subtly incorrectly,) the commitment is to exalt the uniqueness of the other, and to commit to working together for high objectives.
This is to be applied at all levels of society.
This is a big part of how they have achieved use of the Credito (their alternative currency) in many locations in the three neighboring towns, how they have integrated with their primarily traditional Catholic town, and how they have achieved majority city council positions in these towns. The nearby town trusts them to a very high extent, and has elected a Damanhurian for their mayor.
Response to criticism is definitely something they have had to do as a society, especially since the temples were found out.
Response to *philosophical* criticism may not be so urgent, and I don't think they feel that they are accountable to any particular individual.
That said, you can stop by any Friday evening for a Q&A with Falco, and voice your questions and criticisms. He's very open and will just say what he thinks. He's friendly, joking, and also shows sensitivity to people, if they aren't hostile." (email, August 2008)
- Reportage in WIE magazine, at http://www.wie.org/j36/damanhur.asp?page=1
- Anthony Judge on the time travel epistemology, seen as superior to the space-based epistemology, in the community. Fascinating insights at http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs00s/horus.php
- Good general intro, with interesting critical discussion in the comment area at http://www.arcanology.com/2007/11/23/damanhur-in-the-news/
‘Damanhur Inside Out’ brings you information on the reality of life inside this world famous esoteric group from former Damanhurians who have spent decades inside the Community. The majority of the posts have been translated from two important websites: the first, that of the Italian scientific magazine ’Focus’ www.focus.it which, in 2007 ran an article naming Damanhur as one of the most prominent ‘psicosetta’ (mind control cults) in Italy and the second, www.cesap.net the site of Italy’s Center for the Study of Psychological Abuse.
Recent articles on Damanhur by the Italian press have also been added with accompanying translations.
This material has not been made available to the English speaking world before. We publish it here to give everyone with an interest in Damanhur the opportunity to understand some of the life threatening mechanisms operating inside the Community." (http://damanhurinsideout.wordpress.com/about/)
Some critical articles: