THE FEDERATION OF DAMANHUR,
A SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY
IN N. ITALY
"Damanhur is an internationally renowned center for spiritual
research. Situated in Valchiusella Valley, in the Alpine foothills of
northern Italy, Damanhur is a Federation
of Communities and Regions with over 800 citizens, a social and political
Constitution, 40 economic activities, its own currency, schools and a
daily paper." 1 They have a "university
that attracts philosophical and spiritual students of all ages from all
over the world. They describe themselves as the result of the practical
application of a spiritual philosophy in harmony with the environment and
Damanhur was founded by Oberto Airaudi (1950 -) in 1975. It is
"the largest communal group in the ancient wisdom-magical
tradition." It may well be the largest spiritual communal group
in the world. 3
Airaudi and his supporters purchased property in the Italian Alps, in a
region of Piedmont less than 30 miles north of the city of Turin. Two
dozen pioneers organized the initial settlement. It was named Damanhur
after an Egyptian city, located 100 miles "northwest of Cairo in
the middle of the western Delta. It was once the site of the city of
Tmn-Hor, dedicated to Horus." 4 The
group grew to include 200 "citizens" in 1985, 450 by 1998, and
exceeded 800 by early in 2000. In addition, there are hundreds of associated
members who donate to the community and attend some of its functions.
Member satisfaction appears to be high; very few citizens leave the
||Damanhur is a unique spiritual and religious group whose beliefs are
derived from several ancient sources: Celtic Paganism, Celtic
Christianity, Egyptian and Greek Pagan religion. Influences from Gnosticism,
the New Age and Theosophy are also
||They believe in an extensive pantheon of supernatural beings,
||a single, unknowable God.
||Intermediate or Primeval Deities of which
nine are self-generated. The remainder have been created by
||Entities, including angels, demons and nature spirits.
||The first human was a Primeval Deity who suffered a fall and merged
with a human body. One of the goals of Damanhur is to help individuals
return to what they call the original "subtler" pre-fall
||In common with many New Age and occultic believers, they regard the
earth as a living entity. They believe that a series of synchronic
lines traverse its surface. The community located their site at what
they believe is a point of convergence of three such lines. These
"rivers of energy surround the earth and link it to the
||They believe that a major ecological disaster may occur in the near
future. They view one of their major tasks as attempting to
reintegrate the Earth and preventing the catastrophe.|
||They believe that three "Mother worlds" were
initially created; one each for humans, plants and nature spirits.|
||They have developed techniques that allow individuals to contact
what they call the "race minds" of humanity and of
||Members of the community live in homes. Each contains about ten to
15 people -- adult citizens with their children. Although their
eventual goal is self-sufficiency, many citizens hold jobs outside of
||Many married couples have joined Damanhur and live communally with
other couples. Single individuals have also joined the community. Many
have entered into one, two or three year provisional marriages. Most
of the latter are renewed at the end of their term. The result is a
form of serial monogamy for some members, that is not unlike the
lifestyle seen elsewhere in industrialized countries.
||Citizens abandon the use of their family names and adopt two new
names when they join the community. The first is the name of an animal
species, the second is of a plant.
||The community has a "programmed births" project
which attempts to time the arrival of children to meet astrological
and economic criteria.
||They use magic and alchemy practices to promote a return to
humanity's pre-fall state. Unique to Damanhur is "selfic"
science -- the study of spiral-like forms.
||The use of tobacco and illegal drugs is prohibited within the
||The most important activity of the community is the construction of
its underground temple.
||They are organized as a federation of separate communities, with
their own constitution, schools, flag, calendar, and daily newspaper.
||They own "woods, farms, and over 70 buildings including
private homes, laboratories, farms, schools, art and crafts studios
and semi-industrial units. Citizens can decide for themselves how they
will work and contribute to the communal economy. On a voluntary
basis, each citizen is encouraged to offer a few hours of work each
month to take care of the common facilities such as the gardens, the
theatre, the woods and...the continuing creation of the [Underground]
||They maintain their own currency, the Credito, which is tied to the
||Their publishing arm is called Edizioni Horus. (Horus is a
male deity within the ancient Egyptian religion; he has the face of a
hawk). They have produced over 150 titles.
||They run many businesses, including web design, health food, china,
jewelry, paintings, etc.
||They have built an Open Temple in Damyl, which is accessible by the
public. It contains statues of Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses.
Nearby is an open area which contains symbols from various religious
||They expect that Damanhur will expand in a controlled manner. There
is a waiting list of individuals who would like to become citizens.
There are no plans to transform Damanhur into a geographically
dispersed movement. They expect to limit growth to within the province
||Although they spread their beliefs through their publishing
business, they do not actively proselytize.
The underground Temple of Man:
This is a unique underground building carved out of solid rock inside a
small mountain. Its existence only became known to the outside world in
1992, after a disgruntled leader, Filippo Cerutti, sued the community.
After an investigation, the City of Vidracco ordered the destruction of
the temple. It had been constructed without building permits, and was in
violation of various zoning regulations. However, public opinion and
support from cultural and scientific sources has stalled the enforcement
of the order. The community has since resumed construction, and expects to
continue for decades into the future.
"The Italian authorities in charge of the preservation of the
works of art...declared it a protected 'collective artistic work.' For the
outside visitor, it is a breathtaking experience, offering -room after
room - amazing and unexpected discoveries...There are literally miles of
corridors, and thousands of statues, windows and paintings" in
the temple. 3 It contains a series of
halls, dedicated to water, the earth, the spheres, metals, and mirrors.
The chambers and passages which make up the Temple are aligned to what
they believe are three of the earth's intersecting synchronic lines. The
Damanhurians, view the Temple as a type of "alchemic laboratory".
Walking or meditating there is a metaphor for "going deep inside
oneself in a spiritual pilgrimage." 1
Attacks from outside sources:
There have been many accusations against Damanhur. They appear to be
lacking in documentation:
||Damanhur has been attacked by the media and anti-cult groups which
accused it of mind control practices. In an apparent reference to
their programmed births project, tabloids have falsely claimed that
Airaudi totally controls the sex life of the citizens.
||In 1992, Monseignor Luigi Betazzi, the Roman Catholic Bishop of
Ivrea, accused the community of immoral practices and brainwashing. He
appears to have echoed the beliefs that are held by the anti-cult
movement. He offered no proof for his allegations. Monseignor
Betazzi also pointed out that citizens of Damanhur cannot remain Roman
Catholics in good standing.
||Some in the media, referring to the community's practice of
provisional marriage, have accused the community of practicing
free-love. This is false.
||There have been allegations that "the leaders of the cult
have been using their members as virtual slaves, digging these caves
for up to 15 hours a day...the cult...are also suspected of several
scam operations." 5 The Italian
interior ministry has allegedly claimed that citizens' activities were
"regulated by rigid dispositions that limit the personal
freedom of its members." Two former members have apparently
claimed that they were forced to work 15 hours a day building the
temple. 7 However, there is no indication
that citizens are kept under any form of duress; they are free to
leave at any time.
"The Damanhur Federation," Home Page, at: http://www.damanhur.org/
Steve Halpern, "Damanhur and the Temple of Mankind,"
Massimo Introvigne, "Damanhur: A magical community in
Italy," included in B. Wilson & J. Cresswell, Eds.,
"New religious movements: Challenge and response," Routledge,
(1999) Read reviews or
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Copyright © 2000 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2000-MAY-10
Latest update: 2006-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson