Damanhur in the News
Damanhur is in the news again, which brought them to my mind today. They seem to be discovered or rediscovered every few years in the English speaking world and then promptly forgotten again (until the next time). This time it is the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK with an article on the group.
Damanhur or the “Federation of Damanhur” is a spiritual organization dating from the 1970s in northern Italy. They are based about 30 miles outside of Turin in a rural community that they have established. Spiritually, they are kind of a New Agey mishmash of various beliefs inspired by the visions of Oberto Airaudi, their founder. Because of my interest in Western Esoteric beliefs (it is the area in which I did my Master’s degree) and also because it is a current organization, I’ve found the group interesting and keep an eye on what is going on with them, at least in public, from time to time.
I’m not going to get into their beliefs, which are not entirely easy to summarize but are largely focused on the spiritual evolution of humanity. The main reason that people have heard of them is because of how the group has expressed those beliefs symbolically and artistically. Airaudi organized friends and followers, throughout the late 70s and 80s, to secretly carve a temple complex underneath a rocky hill on land the group owned. The didn’t tell anyone that they were doing this work, especially the Italian government. When it was discovered in 1991 in a very Catholic nation, people freaked out a bit about this weird cult and its secret temple. For a while, the government was threatening to demolish it (because, officially, it was done without permits). Eventually, people calmed down a bit and the temple (really a complex of them by the definition of the Damanhurians), called “The Temples of Humankind,” was officially permitted. Later, they opened it to the public in a controlled manner. At the time of the discovery construction was stopped but the group was allowed to continue to work on the artwork in the existing spaces. The complex is only 10% of the projected final size and it is still huge.
You can see a two dimensional map of the complex below:
This is also a three dimensional representation of the space occupied by the temples drawn from the Damanhur interactive guide:
The temple is quite beautiful in a way and full of detailed artwork following a variety of themes. After carving out the rooms and connecting passages in the rock by hand, all of the artwork was created from scratch by the members and then placed in the rooms over time. One sees a combination of moasics, glasswork, carving, and a variety of other arts. From the images that I’ve seen, the place really is quite beautiful. You can see an image below of the Hall of Earth, which is a very large room:
Below is an image from the Hall of Mirrors:
Remember, all of this is underground and was built with hand tools or created in their workshops and carried through a small tunnel before assembly.
The Damanhurians state on their website:
The Temples of Humankind symbolically represent the inner rooms of every human being. Walking through its halls and corridors corresponds to a profound inner journey. The Temples weave their way inside the mountain for more than 8,500 cubic meters on five different levels, linked by hundreds of meters of corridors. 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.
As I said, a bit New Agey in that their beliefs don’t derive from any one specific tradition but a bit borrowed from many many traditions plus the inspiration of their leader.
Their main web site is available in an English version for those inclined to view it.
I’ve read Jeff Merrified’s “Damanhur: The Community They Tried to Brand a Cult”, which has many pictures. He has done a number of other books as well, such as “Damanhur: The Story of the Extraordinary Italian Artistic And Spiritual Community”. These books discuss both the spiritual beliefs of the organization and their work as a communitarian and spiritual organization (they run a number of businesses and have centers elsewhere now). Oberto Airaudi has a book that he has written available in English now called, “The Book of Synchronicity”. This is some sort of divinatory text along the lines of the “I Ching” or other divination manuals but oriented around the Damanhurian spiritual beliefs.
There is also a book dedicated just to the Temples of Humankind, “Damanhur: Temples of Humankind”. This is probably the book to get if someone is interested in just the fascinating history of the secret construction of the Temples of Humankind, the art within the chambers, and the ideas that tie all of it together into their spiritual vision.