Damanhur

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Damanhur

(dämänho͝or`), city (1986 pop. 188,939), capital of Beheira governorate, N Egypt, in the Nile River delta. It is a communications center and a market for cotton and rice. Industries include cotton ginning, potato processing, and date picking. In Roman times it was called Hermopolis Parva.

Damanhur (Italy)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Damanhur is a large communal group of some 800 members founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi (b. 1950). The community is located in the Valchiusella Valley, in the Alpine foothills north of Torino, Italy. Damanhur is organized as a Federation of Communities and Regions, and for many years its members considered the community a separate nation, signaled most visibly by the issuance of its own currency. Visitors exchanged their lira (or more recently, their euros) for the local currency while moving through the valley.

While Damanhur is interesting for a variety of reasons, from its life as a commune to church-state relations, it has added significantly to the manifestation of religious phenomena through its secretly constructed underground temple complex. Through the 1980s and 1990s, members of the temple carved a vast complex of rooms out of the Alpine rocks. Although several members had left the community prior to 1992, none had revealed the secret project. Its existence came to light that year only because of a lawsuit filed by a former leader.

The Temple of Mankind includes a number of rooms expressive of the group’s own teachings, a form of Western Esotericism that draws on both ancient Pagan and modern theosophical beliefs and practices. Various halls in the temples are related to different aspects of the human psyche, and work within the temple is a visible representa ti on of the journeys within and alchemical explorations of one’s self.

When outsiders were admitted to the temple in the mid-1970s, they found it had seven large chambers connected by 150 meters of corridors. They were decorated with frescoes, mosaics, and stained glass. In one room was the largest Tiffany stained-glass dome in the world. The most important structures were the Earth Hall, symbolizing the male principle; the Water Hall, symbolizing the female principle; the Hall of Mirrors, which emphasizes the sky, air, and light; the Hall of Metals, symbolic of the struggle between mind and body; and the Hall of the Spheres, a place for Esoteric alchemical experimentation.

Integral to the temple’s construction was its alignment to what are believed to be the currents of energy that flow around the planet. These “synchronic lines,” similar to what elsewhere are called ley lines and to the flow of energy out of which Feng Shuideveloped, create a global network that can be imposed on a world map, with nine lines flowing basically east-west, and nine flowing basically north-south. Four of these lines are believed to cross where the temple is located, and its various rooms were placed to coincide with the flow of the lines under the earth. Thus, work inside the temple not only includes work within one’s self, but also connects individuals and the community with the larger cosmos.

Offended by the secret construction of such a large structure without reference to local building laws or even the knowledge of government officials, different authorities ordered the destruction of the temple, citing its violation of zoning regulations. However, academic and artistic voices were raised in its support and public opinion swung behind Damanhur. The move against the temple was blocked, and the planned construction to complete the project has been resumed. In the meantime, Damanhur has expanded its influence to the nearby City of Vidracco, where a majority of the city council is drawn from members of Damanhur.

Sources:

Introvigne, Massimo. “Damanhur: A Magical Community in Italy.” In Bryan Wilson and Jamie Cresswell, eds., New Religious Movements: Challenge and Response. London: Routledge, 1999.
Merrifield, Jeff. Damanhur: The Real Dream. London: Thorsons, 1998.