Damanhur’s theatre of possibility

The citizens of Damanhur believe there is more than one strand of this frayed weave. What Damanhur wants to do with its Temples and its vital community experiment is to remember a different future, to materialize a more distant time-line and to thereby rewrite our current course in a more positive direction. In less SciFi terms, they are mobilizing a theater of possibility. By embracing futurity as a positive field of action while reinvigorating the small-scale self-sufficiency of the past, Damanhur wants to show that, as Esperide says, “humanity can be different, that we can have a different relationship with the planet.” The symbol of Damanhur, scattered everywhere throughout the environs of the community, is the dandelion, a charming but thorough vector of dissemination.

One of my favourite authors, whose TechGnosis was very influential in my TechnoCalyps project in the mid-90’s, Erik Davis, has travelled to the Federation of Damanhur in northern Italy, and has penned a remarkable travelog, which you can read here, and I recommend it strongly. Obviously, despite the spiritual authority of founder Falco, the community is experimenting with many aspects of p2p economics and politics, and so of great interest as a material experimentation.

Below some material I’ve collected, covering the different aspects and controversies regarding the community

1. Basic Description

“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.”

2. Citations and P2P Context

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.” *

Eric Hunting:

“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?”

3. Details on Damanhur Economics

From the Trust Currency blog:

“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

4. The Spirituality of Damanhur

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?”

Erik Davis on Damanhur’s vision of evil:

“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/)

Lion Kimbro: Is Damanhur spiritually authoritarian?

I asked a few questions to an enthusiastic visitor, Lion Kimbro, here is his response and defense of the community’s governance.

“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.


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.”


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)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.