Belief pays the ferryman and he can take you to the strangest of places.
And so it was for me on my voyage to and from the magic mountain.
People’s beliefs are a personal affair and I do not intend to intrude upon those intimate spaces that others reserve for a dialogue with their gods. Here, I want to tell you how my New Age beliefs led me into deep water, into a current so strong and influential that I was persuaded to swim against the tide of common sense into some very murky depths. Years later when I most needed to strike out for the safety of shore, my lungs were so full of poison and contaminated water I could barely gasp for air.
Far across the sea in the foothills of the Italian Alps lies a Community and I use the word ‘lies’ in both senses of the word. A Community, that to all intents and purposes appears eco-compatible with the New Age and full of worthiness and ethical pursuits. I use the word appears because in the case of this Community we are only talking about ‘apparenza’, as we say in Italian and not the underlying reality of the situation. The Community is called ‘Damanhur’ and according to its founder, is named after an Egyptian city known in ancient times for its esoteric knowledge and means ‘City of Light’.
Light is a rare commodity in the Italian Community of Damanhur, both in terms of spiritual attainment and physical location. The Community’s citizens have spent the best part of the last thirty years laboring night and day underground. They have been building themselves a temple inside a mountain. This labyrinth of dark, damp halls is illuminated solely by ‘artificial’ light; an amusing metaphor which is lost on the many thousands of New Age visitors who pay dearly for the privilege of spending three hours touring its chilling chambers. They are shown cabins for traveling in time and healing cancer, spheres for contacting other worlds, secret doorways, lavish mosaic floors, wall murals and stained glass cupolas. It is an immense piece of work and never fails to impress even the staunchest of detractors. Temple guides spoon feed everyone with dollops of regurgitated esoteric nonsense and the unwary lap it up like innocent babes straight out of fabled Hamelin.
Those who are swept away by the spurious delights of the magic mountain blindly pay the ferryman. And he, being a man of infinite resources, is always ready to take new passengers. “This is the last boat” he often cries as people jump eagerly aboard. And where does he steer them? I will tell you: far, far away from the sweet light of reason, to a belief that keeps them completely in the dark.
And so it was for me.
I became a true believer.
I will never do it again.
People will always believe what they want to believe, especially if it makes them feel good and provides easy answers. They are rarely interested in being told that those answers are lies or that they are being exploited and manipulated. Believers on the whole do not want to question their beliefs and any attempt by outsiders to challenge those beliefs is seen as an attack on personal freedom and choice. George Bernard Shaw said that “The moment we want to believe in something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it and become blind to all the arguments against it”. Unfortunately, it seems to be the easiest thing in the world to deceive ourselves about something we want to be true.
For some of us, believing is seeing.
But, would you willingly accept lies sold to you as truth?
This is what happens in Damanhur.
It has made one man very wealthy and his followers exceedingly impoverished. Stripped of all their material assets, their debts increase as his wealth accumulates in Swiss bank accounts and off-shore investments. The latest scam has been to persuade all the remaining founder members of the real estate cooperative PEAL to sign away their shares in Damjl, leaving him the sole owner of all the original houses. Do they ever think to question his directives? No, of course not, he is their spiritual master, their supreme authority, the reincarnation of the god Horus. He has time traveled from 600 years in the future to save humanity from disaster. Why on earth would anyone want to question such a mythical being. They never do. He gets away with murder and then has the cheek to call it suicide.
Charlatanism, fraud and psychological manipulation are an ugly recipe for a ‘spiritual community’. The trouble is, once you are part of the magic mountain you just don’t see it and no one can enlighten you either. Those of you, who do not believe that mental manipulation is possible, go and spend ten years in Damanhur as a resident citizen and see where your head is afterward…that is if you can still remember who you were ten years before or even want to.
Forgive me if all this sounds rather angry. But I have had enough of pussyfooting moderates who, in their New Age wisdom leave everyone to be where they are because everything is an evolutionary experience. Sure, we can all sit back and do nothing about the evils of this world; life is much easier that way.
Martin Luther King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and what happens to the lives of the people who get caught up in Damanhur matters. The world needs to make a truly informed decision about this Community. The fact that a great many people believe in it, is no guarantee of its truth.
You certainly cannot rely on the British or American media to give you an accurate picture. Film makers and journalists have all been taken in by its superficial glamor, efficient marketing and completely indoctrinated PR staff. Just look at what the Daily Mail has come up with! No English language journalists have ever managed to see through the façade and publish their findings. British author and journalist Tobias Jones came near to it in his book Utopian Dreams but merely poked fun at the system without seriously dissecting the darker side of its Italian heart.
In the mid 1990’s a BBC Newsnight program did manage to briefly feature Damanhur along with some of the world’s more destructive cults. Unfortunately their filming of the Temple was so inspirational that an English author decided to visit, believed the dream was real and wrote a book on the subject. That book has subsequently been responsible for changing the direction of many people’s lives and I do not mean for the better. It has been published in several languages including Croatian and Japanese and gives an embarrassingly glowing report of life in the Community. If I were that Newsnight producer I would be tearing my hair out in despair at the extent of human folly.
Such is the persuasive power of the Damanhurian machine.
It could even teach Scientology and the Mafia a thing or two according to local police, who, it seems, are powerless to intervene. Former members are too scared to talk or give evidence and it’s hard to build a legal case against the Community without it.
In 2007, one ex-Damanhurian, an English journalist with ten years experience in the Community, briefly opened a yahoo group to inform would be Damanhurians of the dangers of getting involved. The site lasted only two weeks and was repeatedly attacked by hackers from the Damanhurian PR office who entered the system, stole members’ email addresses and sent them letters discrediting the journalist. Already battered and demoralized by her Damanhurian experience she closed the site and has not been heard online since. The information files she posted continue to circulate on an informal basis but are not accessible to the general public.
How then can anyone outside of Italy make an informed decision about Damanhur when there is no reliable information in English?
This site aims to change that.
Buona lettura – as we say in Italian.