There are magical places.
The problem is many of my readers don’t actually believe in magic. Oh, you might believe in pop magic: prestidigitation, sleight of hand, trickery. But hard magic? Where the laws of physics are getting bent or broken, where compelling coincidence is basically statistically preposterous? This is where our rational sides kick in and tell us this stuff is just not possible. I will tell you one of the stories, but you won’t believe me.
But we can get around this rationalism through stories. It has taken me over two years to get around to telling just a part of my Damanhur story. These are just the easiest to believe parts. I don’t think you are ready for the parts i am still struggling with and i am not ready to tell them in this format. Ask me at a party.
A group of young Italians shared a vision. A vision of a place where people would live in community and cooperation. A place dedicated to the idea that there is an artist inside everyone and the job of community is to get that art expressed. But it was also a place which was encouraging joint creative adventures, rather than promoting the works of single people and thus none of the tremendous artwork is signed.
This group was divinely inspired. They had all manner of signs that they were doing the right thing and they traveled the world looking for the right place. Oddly, it turned out to be just a few hundred kilometers from where they started, about 50 km from Turin.
A couple dozen people moved in back in 1978. They formed a commune. Shared income and assets. They worked straight jobs in the local area and started setting up their own cottage industries. Just like we do now when we are trying to start new communes.
Except there was the digging. Every night, for 16 years, some significant fraction of the members of the Damanhur community started digging tunnels and temples under the mountain that they lived in. They did it in secrecy. Driving down huge mounds of excavated dirt in trucks in the dead of night to be dumped far from the temples.
They were following a vision. They worked in secret and told no one outside their community about the project. But they grew. In the first 17 years, they went from a couple dozen people to over 400. It was a federation of communities, clustered in the town which was adjacent to the temples.
It is hard to keep a secret among 400 people, especially if they are as emotionally expressive as Italians tend to be. Rumor has it there was a domestic dispute. A couple of Damanhurians were splitting up and the one leaving the community demanded greater child custody and threatened to reveal the secret if they did not get what they wanted. When they did not they went to the local police (who has been hearing stories for years, but had never been able to find their way in) and revealed the secret doors.
The Italian authorities came in and stopped construction of the temple because it was an unpermitted mining activity. But the media rushed in to cover this beautiful space and the UK tabloid the Daily Mail called it the 8th Wonder of the World. And the tourists started following in to see it.
Through a somewhat inexplicable series of events, i was invited to Damanhur in 2015. My host Betsy Pool and i had met at one of the most exotic conferences i have ever attended called Building the New World, in Roanoke Virginia earlier in the year.
I was enchanted by Betsy’s story about how she got to Damanhur, about her work founding the Institute for the Mythology of Humanity and the collection of people she was pulling together to try to promote the complex message of Damanhur’s origins.
I lept at the chance to go to this most exotic place, which was made possible by a generous sponsor (communes don’t pay well, international travel is generally inaccessible). And for a week i toured the temples of Damanhur, learned their stories and chatted with Charles Eisenstein who was part of the same advisory group had been invited to as a storyteller.
I got to do a Transparency Tools workshop in the hall of mirrors (see the picture at the top) which was pretty amazing.
When we toured the temples i learned some curious things about Damanhur. One was that there were highly realistic portraits of all 600 living Damanhurians on the temple walls. On my tour of the temples, there was a current Damanhur resident. The portrait of her was so realistic that when i saw it on the wall i could immediately identify it as her. When members of the community die, their paintings within the temples are covered and a new portrait is created on the walls of the buildings Damanhur controls around the temples.
When people ask me what the most amazing thing about Damanhur is, i often reply that it is a group of 600 non-smoking Italians. Without a doubt the largest such group in the world.
But when pressed harder, i talk about the plants. It starts with the Music of the Plants. Research has been going on in plant communication for over 4 decades at Damanhur. The accessible amazing thing is that they are able to hear plants performing the music that they all regularly make, by hooking up the plants and measuring and interpreting the very low-voltage electric currents between the roots and leaves of the plant.
An even more amazing is the story of a plant which is used inside of Damanhur as a door lock. If the plant detected that the person who had been introduced to the plant was arriving in anger, it would not let the person into the room.
I said you would not believe me. And these are the more accessible stories of Damanhur.
Rez and i were chatting about mistakes, he was mentioning business school classes which instead of focusing on the decision making process of successful business highlighted the critical mistakes made by companies which were otherwise well run and now no longer exist. We agreed that this is where the most useful learning probably is.
My philosophy has long been to try lots of things and not fear mistakes. Which has led me to the aphorism “All honest mistakes are forgivable.” Hoping that those negatively impacted by my choices will embrace a similar philosophy and let me off the hook while also pushing me towards being a more forgiving person.
I watch the google news. It tracks what the mainstream media thinks is important and uses it’s artificial intelligence to connect related stories and rank them. The story yesterday which did not make it “above the fold” either in general news or US news was that the “ex-gay” ministry Exodus had closed and offered an apology to the LGBTQ community it had been attacking for 37 years.
The piece of the apology from Exodus leader Alan Chambers which spoke most loudly to me was:
I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.
I am unsure Exodus made an honest mistake, but i am glad they have changed their mind and hope for dominos to tumble.
Angie says- Pax asked me to chime in on this post and explain why it’s important, so I am. The remainder of the post is my own opinion, so don’t blame him (or do, if you agree with me).
“Conversion therapy” had been the name of the game in the religious community for years; it’s based around the idea that if we JUST TRIED HARD ENOUGH that we could change our desires (or at least our behaviors) and act straight. Conversion therapy takes many forms including talk therapy to find the “root” of the issue, behavioral therapy to encourage more “gender appropriate” behavior, and negative reinforcement such as electric shocks, pubic shaming, starvation, nausea-inducing drugs. It’s destroyed thousands of lives. Thankfully conversion therapy (sometimes called reparative therapy) is no longer an acceptable mainstream treatment, and is gradually being seen as an unacceptable practice even in conservative circles. It’s now even illegal to force minors into such “therapy” in some countries and states.
Exodus was a, more accurately THE, leader in the field of conversion therapy. Alan Chambers is himself a man who is attracted to other men, and the harm his organization did other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people is immeasurable. For decades Exodus was the go to organization for churches and religious families to “fix” LGBQ people (they didn’t address trans issues much, I am using a more appropriate acronym). Exodus’s apology is akin to the pope himself apologizing for their years of sweeping sexual abuse cases under the rug, then announcing that the Catholic Church would close it’s doors. Yes, there are other organizations out there which will pick up the banner, but they do not have the history, deep pockets, or visibility that Exodus cultivated and enjoyed.
Chambers’ public, blunt apology is almost unheard of in the modern world; apologies usually involve weaselly phrases like “I’m sorry you were offended” or “well, that’s just what I believe.” Chambers didn’t go the “being gay is AWESOME AND I’M GAY NOW” route; he remains married to his wife and committed to Christian ministry. He also didn’t go the “I changed my mind, the bible says it’s ok to be gay” route; he is quite clear that he believes the scriptures are clear on what is and is not acceptable sexual behavior. It’s not a complete 180, but it’s a huge step forward from a former leader in the “ex-gay” field. And you know what? This queer gal is okay with that (for now, at least). Because this is the part of his apology that mattered the most to me:
I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today….
I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine….
But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.
You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours.