Damanhur: Italy’s Rainbow Renaissance
Legends, ancient evidence and modern day reports describe many spiritually evolved civilizations on our planet — cultures of people skilled in healing arts and fine arts, living in balance with each other and their surroundings, and actively seeking spiritual connection.
Accounts of Atlantis, Lemuria and Shangri-la provide us with images of what a utopian society might be like where spirit, beauty and love lay the foundations for daily life. The huge popularity of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies suggests that people are longing for a connection with higher powers, and radical — almost magical — change in their lives, and they are willing to explore new spiritual realities, even as fantasies.
If you follow to the rainbow’s end in a northwest corner of Italy near the town of Baldissero, you will find a real life, spiritual fantasy being lived in the community called Damanhur. Much more than a fantasy, and no less than a dream come true, for almost 30 years Damanhur has been experimenting with a new model of living where art and science blend with spirituality and daily life to awaken the divine spark in every human being. Damanhur’s aim is to create a society where contact with higher forces is a priority for each person, so individually and collectively our daily lives aid in the spiritual evolution of all humanity.
I first read about Damanhur six or seven years ago in an email which mentioned a huge underground temple in Italy built into solid rock, and rumored to hold the largest stained glass cupola in the world. Curious to see what it looked like, I visited the Damanhur website and discovered that this enormous hand carved subterranean work of art called the Temples of Humankind was composed of many beautifully decorated chambers, with names like The Hall of Water, The Hall of Spheres, The Hall of Mirrors, and others. The chambers were all linked to each other through a series of passageways, bridges and staircases on six levels, and were said to have been precisely designed to serve as a medium for accessing cosmic and planetary forces converging at that location. I was fascinated by this magical and complex underground spiritual work of art, completely reminiscent of Atlantean lore, yet it all seemed so surreal and Italy so far away, that I did not pursue it any further at that time.
Time has its own way of weaving loose threads into strong and vibrant creations, especially when you least expect it. In July, my globe trotting friend, Sandy Corcoran, contacted me to let me know that representatives of this unique community were visiting the East coast and were open for doing some interviews. Through the gracious hospitality of her friend Diane Jarvi, I had the opportunity to meet with Crotalo Sesamo and Gazza Solidago, residents of the Damanhur community, and delve into the mysteries of living this real life spiritual fantasy.
Crotalo and Gazza are part of the welcoming office at Damanhur, and also members of its worldwide outreach team. Friendly, yet unpretentious, they share the information about living the Damanhurian dream, which for them is an everyday reality, with sincerity and ease. We watched a 30-minute video together and then spent the next several hours in discussion. Speaking in his most comfortable native Italian, Crotalo narrated for most of the interview, while Gazza translated into English every few sentences or so. The effect of his visionary ideas presented in rapid fire, yet lyrical Italian was captivating and inspiring, and also instantly verifiable in the presence of the two people sitting right in front of me. The world which they speak about is real — not perfect — but a testament to the potential for all human beings to live in peace, fulfillment and joy, surrounded by the beauty of art, and guided daily by spiritual purpose. The success of their ideals ignite hope for the future of humanity that someday we may yet have our peaceable blue planet.
A Dream of Optimism
Born out of a dream of a society based on optimism and the idea that human beings can be the masters of their own destiny, Damanhur was founded in the early 70’s by Oberto Airaudi, a researcher, philosopher, healer, writer and painter. From an early age, Oberto (also known at Damanhur as Falco or Falcon for his long range vision) displayed exceptional paranormal and healing abilities which he undertook to develop through constant experimentation.
“He is, for sure, an extraordinary person with characteristics and qualities that are not common,” reflects Crotalo. “He is the first great dreamer, and the one who was able to be contagious towards other dreamers. He also had great courage, because in the ’70’s, thinking of building and creating something so different like Damanhur — and in Italy! — wasn’t easy.”
Damanhur grew out of the need for Oberto to set in motion the results of his research and discoveries about awakening memories, ancient knowledge, and artistic and healing abilities. Today, it is an internationally renowned center for spiritual and social research. At age 64, Falco continues to be very active in the research fields of therapy, art and new sciences at Damanhur, yet shies away from decision making positions within the community. The path he proposes leads to the awakening of the inner master in each person through study, experimentation, the full expression of individual potential and the elimination of dogmatic attitudes. As a consequence, Damanhur is a society in constant evolution and transformation.
“Damanhur was born to express new ideas, to go beyond what is apparent,” explains Crotalo. “Damanhur is something that you choose. Not what someone else chooses for you. What we do is because it is our pleasure, because it is what we have inside ourselves. If we didn’t like Damanhur the way it was, we would change it! We couldn’t live in a place that was different from what we feel is our vision. In fact, our guests come from all over the world and if, after a few months, they come back to visit again, they find a different Damanhur. Transformation is a fundamental element. We believe that each time you stop changing, you go backwards.”
In Damanhur, change is often brought into the community through the element of games to prevent the society from becoming habit ridden and to allow for experimentation with new formulas for living and working together. “The Game of Life,” as it is called, helps bring innovation to the community while reducing social conflict. Conscious choice, research, art, games and transformation are all essential to the evolution of a new society.
“The game is very important,” notes Crotalo. “To create something new you need to be a little bit crazy on one hand, and on the other hand very practical. You also need to have a great vision. Play games have a little bit of all these elements, but especially the characteristic of breaking habits. Damanhur on many occasions needed to break limits and habits to go for new synergy to remain ‘real,’ because when you are having fun, and are in that state of mind, you are real. You are doing things that you really like. Working with the vital energy, being in contact with the green world, using your dreams and telepathy is part of our lives everyday. Listening is quite common. Maybe that is the atmosphere that people get when they come to Damanhur.”
Change applies to everything in the community, including its social and political systems which have changed many times throughout the years. From the first single community, Damanhur has grown into today’s Federation of communities with a social and political structure, a constitution, schools, its own currency and economy. The Federation now numbers over 500 resident citizens and approximately another 370 who live nearby and participate regularly in its activities. It includes over 50 economic activities and services, a daily paper, schools and a university open to researchers from all over the world.
The Constitution is the guiding political charter for the community, a social contract based on voluntary exchange, a respect for the environment, and on the sharing of ethical and spiritual values. The first 6 articles of the Constitution of Damanhur outline its most important philosophies:
- The citizens are brothers and sisters who help one another through reciprocal trust, respect, clarity, acceptance, solidarity and continuous inner transformation. Everyone is committed to always giving others opportunities to aim higher.
- Each citizen makes a commitment to spread positive and harmonious thought and to direct every thought and action towards spiritual growth. Each person is socially and spiritually responsive for every action they take, as everybody is aware that each act is multiplied and reflected through the Synchronic Lines all over the world.
- Through community life, Damanhur aims at developing individuals whose reciprocal relations are regulated by Knowledge and Consciousness. Fundamental rules of life are common sense, thinking well of others and the welcoming and exaltation of diversity.
- Work has spiritual value and is understood as a gift of oneself to others. Through it, everyone takes part in the material and spiritual progress of the people, carrying out assignments as they become necessary. Each citizen offers a proportion of their work in activities of common interest (Terrazzatura). Every task is precious and carries the same dignity.
- Spirituality, research and ecology inspire all relationships with the environment, also through the use of appropriate technologies, useful in improving the quality of life. Every citizen lives in communion with nature and the subtle forces, which inhabit it. Everyone is committed to resect and preserve resources and avoid as far as possible forms of pollution and waste.
Damanhur gives all its citizens and guests an opportunity to apply their own talents and learn the pleasures simply of doing and being. The community is considered to be a “university of spirit,” where everything offers the individual an opportunity to discover their own hidden talents and put one’s potential into practice not only for oneself, but also for others.
An on-site university open to both residents and non-residents is called Olami University. In addition to the degree programs offered at the School for Spiritual Healers, the School for Color Therapy and the School of Hypnosis and Self Hypnosis, numerous seminars and courses are offered in topics such as Sacred Dance, Reawakening the Inner Senses, The Art of Lateral Thinking, Inner Beauty, Spiritual Physics and Astral Travel. Natural and spiritual medicine is one the fields in which Damanhur has become most widely known in Europe.
Damanhurians are also interested in creating a sustainable way of living, and think of the planet as a living being to be respected and conserved. Since the very first day of its foundation, Damanhur has been recycling its waste and experimenting with organic agriculture. They have invested considerable resources in acquiring more and more areas of woodland to recreate the equilibrium between the plant and animal kingdoms and the forces of nature.
The heart of this territory is the Sacred Wood, which is located directly above the Temples of Humankind and represents a continuation of the Temples into the open air. In 1996, Damanhur began building many kilometers of labyrinth circuits in the Sacred Wood to be walked for both physical and spiritual benefits. For over 20 years, experiments on plant sensitivity has led to the creation of instruments capable of detecting electromagnetic variations on the surface of leaves and roots. The results have provided extraordinary recordings of what is known as the Music of the Trees. These concerts have been successfully performed in several Italian and European cities, as well as in a rare concert in Miami with Steven Halpern in 1999.
Art, History and the Temples of Humankind
Perhaps the most extraordinary element of living at Damanhur is the presence of art permeating every space and activity. Long recognized as a powerful tool for changing ways of thinking and transforming the self, the abundance of artwork visible everywhere at Damanhur creates an atmosphere of creativity without fear, and an open door to accessing the higher forces beyond. From huge outdoor murals and lifelike sculptures to daily “concerts” of the performing arts in the Temples which are considered sacred, ritual events, art is used in recreating all aspects of life at Damanhur whenever possible.
A remarkable collection of both small and large scale, exquisitely beautiful creations has accumulated here, looking more like the work of several generations’ time, than just three short decades worth. The Temples of Humankind, standing at over 200 feet from its highest point to lowest, houses the largest portion of this work. The Temples include works of monumental and detailed architecture, frescos, sculptures, embossed copper and wood inlays, as well as over 1000 square feet of mosaics covering the walls and floors. They are a collective work of art and considered to be no less than a three dimensional history of the knowledge of humanity.
When asked if there was a little bit of magic involved in the creation of so much art so quickly, Crotalo acknowledges, “There is magic in being able to create all these things together. We are expressing the faculties that we have inside of us every day, but that we have forgotten. So, in a way, magic is a bit normal. But art is not only expressive, it is a precise language of storing history, just like an ancient language. Those who have this knowledge would use architecture and art to leave messages to tell the future about who we are.”
According to Crotalo, one of the functions of the Temples of Humankind is to serve “like a great library similar to the one that we have inside. It tells the path of our spirituality. The Temples are like something very ancient and also in the future. It’s funny, but the more you go into the past, the more it seems you go into the future. There is nothing that is invented; everything comes from the past. So in a certain way, every discovery is really a rediscovery.
“The Temples speak the ancient language of the past that all of the people that had knowledge used, leaving signs of themselves in time. The ancient Egyptians, the Maya in Mesoamerica, the Incas in Peru, and all the other civilizations we don’t even know the names of left traces and messages that those who have the keys to interpret can read. In the Temples, there is not one step, not one word, not one color that does not have a meaning.”
Contact with the Cosmos
The Temples represent over two decades of spiritual and scientific research on various means of communication with the divine. Geologically, Damanhur is located on a meeting point of synchronistic lines, the energy rivers that surround our planet and connect it to the galaxy. The Temples, along with the trees in the Sacred Wood directly above them, act as a planetary antenna through which the doors of space and time are opened — a bridge between higher forces and Earth, as well as Earth and her inhabitants.
“Going inside the Temples is like going inside yourself,” Crotalo offers. “When you go beyond your personal limitations and accepted beliefs in the world, then there are secret passages, worlds that open, floors that become staircases. That is why when many guests come to visit the Temple, the visit is not a guided tour, but rather it is an experience. I can tell you that the only limits are the ones that we put there.”
One of the most fascinating fields of research in which Damanhur has brought forth great development is an ancient discipline called “selfica.” Reported to have been widely used in Atlantis, and the cultures of the ancient Egyptians, the Celts and Arabs until the 8th century BC, selfica makes possible the focus and direction of vital and intelligent energies through the creation of metal structures. These structures are based upon the spiral (“self” means spiral in Sanskrit) and on the use of metals, colors, special inks and crystal structures. Usually they are constructed out of copper, but the ideal material would be precious metals of gold and silver. All selfica are made by hand as they need to follow precise measures: number of windings, thickness of the metal, etc.
“In nature, there are many forms of energy, with vital energy being one of those expressions,” explains Crotalo. “Selfica can transform energy into living forms called ‘selfs’ which can move from one reality to another, linking planes of existence. There can be selfs used to make plants grow better, for those who are in back pain. They can be used to strengthen the aura into vital energy, have an influence on the house, or discharge nervous tension.”
Building a selfic structure is like giving the self a body to use. The largest selfic structure on the planet is in the Temples. There are hundreds of tons of selfic circuits that give this structure huge impact in the exploration of space and time. Among its many functions, one of the most important is that of correcting, balancing and codifying sounds, rhythms and time.
For Crotalo and Gazza, the goal is to bring the message of Damanhur to the world.
“The world changes as people change their way of life and the way they value things,” Crotalo reflects. “Everything that we own is a rental. We are renting it through this life and when we die we don’t have it with us anymore. We leave it to somebody else and they will rent it for another period, but what is left? Soul and experience are what remain.
“Damanhur is a message that it is still possible to have beautiful things, to make your dreams come true and to build a new social model that is different. We think that even if we are a small bunch of people, there still is the energy to change the world, and that the people who come in contact with us can be inspired by us and touched by this energy. Studying great civilizations like Atlantis are an inspiration for us to create a better world, something that maybe we achieved in the past but are blocking now. But this always needs to start from inside of us.
“We have taken incredible steps in opening up to the world to share our way of thinking and living. Bringing the culture of the world to Damanhur is another big change. When you are isolated or when you put yourself in a corner and you think that you are the best, you are more intelligent, you understand everything, you are the only one who understands how it works, then you’re being fanatic.
“In learning to live together, there is a direct link to spiritual research because it is one thing to speak about diversity, and it’s another of living it. Talking about the great ideas, everyone agrees: we need to change the world, the ecology, the planet, etc. But it’s in the ‘small parts’ of ourselves where transformation occurs: Who does the dishes that evening? Who left the bathmat on the floor? Who left the couch a mess? It is only thanks to others that we can improve. This is the spiritual school of life that is Damanhur. This is reality, a beautiful dream come true.
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine.