As Oberto Airaudi – Falco is giving a new course on the 14th of August to teach his followers about the hidden dangers of media communications, I thought it might be rather fitting to take a look at the sincerity of Damanhur’s own media messaging.
Damanhur is happy to convince us that it is a ‘Laboratory for the Future of Humankind’ a ‘Community for Spiritual Research’ and an ‘Eco-society’ endorsed by many prestigious international bodies. In the light of these extraordinary claims we can justifiably expect very high standards from such an illustrious organization.
Let’s examine the message that Damanhur has recently sent out to ordinary folk in the rest of the world.
Everywhere you turn on the net you will find the same piece of marketing for Damanhur’s Temple. It appears in various forms but always with the same photographs and carrying the same or similar text. The original article appears to have been written by Hazel Courteney and published by the ‘Mail online’ (UK Daily Mail) on the 22 November 2007 … It is obvious to those who know Damanhur well that Hazel Courteney has probably never visited the Community and that the article is the forerunner of a marketing campaign by an Italian advertising agency. I can think of no other reasonable explanation for the fact that this exceedingly inaccurate piece of writing has cloned itself like a virus all over the web.
Why would a ‘Spiritual Community’ launch a marketing campaign that purposely gives false information about its own history and that of its founder? What is their objective and why are they using the Internet to achieve it? Why is Damanhur ‘selling‘ the Temple as the work of the unique visionary artist, Oberto Airaudi? In the past it was declared a collective work of art. Why is Oberto Airaudi suddenly in the spotlight? In the past he always kept a low profile to avoid being seen as a charismatic cult leader. Someone somewhere has changed Damanhur’s marketing direction. Why is the Temple being promoted just like any other tourist destination? Is Damanhur so short of cash these days that it has to resort to prostituting its sacred temple on the holiday circuit? Are we talking about a ‘Laboratory for the Future of Humankind’ or an esoteric Disneyland? Why has Damanhur created a marketing campaign that gives a totally false picture of the Temple and its history?
Let’s examine a few aspects of the original Daily Mail article entitled:
“Eighth wonder of the world?
The stunning temples secretly carved below ground by ‘paranormal’ eccentric”.
“Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret – one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government.”
False…the Temple has not been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government. The Temple is an acute embarrassment to the Italian government. It was built illegally and survived only because it eventually received a government amnesty. This little known fact was revealed by a well known Italian Judge during a Conference at Damanhur Crea on the Italian Justice system. Damanhurians and tourists are told that the Temple was legalized because of a special change in Italian law to permit underground structures. This is not true. After the amnesty Damanhur was required to pay 100-150 million Liras in unpaid building taxes (Condono) and the cost of the government geophysical survey to ensure that the structure was safe.
And who in all seriousness would call the Damanhur Temple “The Eighth Wonder of the World”…? This has been coined by the marketing team to advertise Temple visits.
“Few have been granted permission to see these marvels…..
…..But the ‘Temples of Damanhur’ are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.”
False…Thousands and thousands of people have visited the Temple since it was opened to the public in 1996. Damanhur has created a very lucrative tourist industry around it.
And by the way….Airaudi does not dig. Citizens do all the digging for him, mostly by hand or with pneumatic drills. He NEVER gets his hands dirty.
“It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.”
False… According to Airaudi in an interview for the Italian magazine ‘Dossier Alieni’ he had an encounter with an alien spaceship on the Monti Pelati hills which gave him the blueprints for the Temple. (See Alien origins). It is true that as a child he dug a hole under the family field in Balengero but he was 14 at the time. This later became a small underground room that was used for secret magic rituals by the founders of Damanhur and more recently by Viaggio groups camped on the field at weekends.
“But it was only as he began a successful career as an insurance broker that he began to search for his perfect site.”
False…He was in fact a very unsuccessful insurance broker and having left school at 16 had very little chance of advancement. He had to turn his attention to making money in other ways because he was hard pressed to support his wife and two children.
“A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur – named after the ancient subterranean Egyptian temple meaning City of Light – in August 1978.”
False… Damanhur is named after an Egyptian city originally known as Hermopolis Parva and not a temple.
A titular see of Ægyptus Prima, suffragan of Alexandria. Its ancient name,
Dimanhoru or Tema-en-Hor, signifies the town of Horus. The Copts call it
Tuininhor, and the Arabs, Damanhur. Situated on the canal uniting Lake
Mareotis (Mariout) to the Canopic branch of the Nile, it has no history and no
ruins. It was near Damanhur that, on 10 July, 1798, Bonaparte, walking
unaccompanied, barely escaped being taken by the Mamelukes. The modern Damanhur,
forty miles from Alexandria, on the Cairo-Alexandria railway, has 20,000
inhabitants and is the chief town of the province of Behera.
The house in question, now known as ‘Porta del Sole’ (PDS) was already in existence and was purchased by two of Airaudi’s followers. One died and the other left the community. The ownership of the house was transferred to Damanhur (in this case to Airaudi) as is all property owned by citizens. The illegal construction of the Temple began in 1978 but Airaudi did no more than ritually tap a chisel into the rock a few times with a hammer. It was his followers who dug out the hillside in shifts under appalling conditions, 24 hours a day.
And just to set the record straight…The start of the digging was not heralded by the sighting of a falling star as everyone sat round a campfire one evening, as is so delightfully described in Jeff Merrifield’s book. It had a much less illustrious beginning. Airaudi said he needed a ‘cantina’ – a cellar dug out for the PDS house in order to store provisions. There was no mention of a temple.
“As no planning permission had been granted, they decided to share their scheme only with like-minded people.”
The cantina eventually turned into a Temple and became an initiate secret, it had to be …it was an illegal construction and the financial penalties for abusive buildings are severe. For many years only a small percentage of Damanhurians knew of its existence. Citizens would go to work during the day and then work shifts secretly at night in the Temple. The work was heavy, laborious and extremely dangerous.
“Volunteers, who flocked from around the world, worked in four-hour shifts for the next 16 years with no formal plans other than Falco’s sketches and visions, funding their scheme by setting up small businesses to serve the local community.”
False…The ‘volunteers’ were all Damanhurian initiates (volunteering is known as ‘Terrazzatura’ in Damanhur, it is obligatory devotional work) very few initiates were of non-Italian origin. People certainly did not flock from around the world to dig out the Temple. There have never been more than 350 resident ‘A’ level citizens in Damanhur and only initiates are allowed access to the Temple.
The businesses did not serve the local community they served Damanhurians. The local community was extremely hostile and continues to be so. The construction of the Temple was funded personally by Airaudi for many years.
“The first time the police came it was over alleged tax evasion and still the temples lay undiscovered. But a year later the police swooped on the community demanding: “Show us these temples or we will dynamite the entire hillside.”
The first time the Carabinieri arrived it was because a former Damanhurian had revealed the existence of the Temple. Damanhur naively thought it would be able to fool the authorities into believing there was only a small room decorated in Egyptian style. This outer room was shown to the Carabinieri on their first visit. The Carabinieri however, having been informed that there was much more hidden behind secret doors returned armed with the Public Prosecutor and sophisticated surveying equipment. The Damanhurians had no choice but to reveal the whole Temple.
On July 3rd 1992 Airaudi personally took the Public Prosecutor, Bruno Tinti and several Carabinieri into the Temple but no one knows what was said that day. The Public Prosecutor, however, came out of the Temple and declared that he would help Damanhur save the building. He is now a close friend of Airaudi and a regular guest at his home.
A government amnesty later saved the Temple from being demolished.
In 1999 to secure the future of the building, Damanhur’s political movement took over the Council administration of Vidracco: the district in which the Temple is located. This was achieved by falsifying and moving Damanhurian residencies on mass into the village to ensure a majority vote for the Damanhurian list. They have been in power ever since.
“Retrospective permission was eventually granted and today the ‘Damanhurians’ even have their own university, schools, organic supermarkets, vineyards, farms, bakeries and award-winning eco homes.”
False…No planning permission has ever been granted for the further construction of the Temple but Damanhur continues to ignore the law and build in secret. There are now 5 new halls with linking corridors. They are not reported to the local authorities because the local authorities are now Damanhurian.
“They do not worship a spiritual leader, though their temples have become the focus for group meditation.”
False…Damanhurians do in fact worship their leader (Oberto Airaudi – Falco) because, according to the Damanhurian esoteric school, Falco is the reincarnation of the god Horus and all citizens are initiates of Horus. He is considered their Spiritual Master and they publicly vow to give their lives for him.
This rather less than accurate piece of journalism was undoubtedly approved by Damanhur and is being used to encourage tourism and recruit new members. You can find it in dozens of specially created blogs. Unfortunately people tend to believe what they read on the net because it is seen as an independent and alternative source of information. The new media enjoys a credibility that older forms of mass media do not.
*McLuhan was right about the media being the message.
However the real question that we have to ask ourselves here is: why would a celebrated organization such as Damanhur decide to take advantage of our trust in the net to sell us a pack of lies?
*McLuhan’s most widely known work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), is a pioneering study in media theory. In it McLuhan proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study — popularly quoted as “the medium is the message”. McLuhan’s insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.
It is worth checking out Hazel Courteney’s own website for the original unedited version of her Daily Mail article:
Amazingly she tells of how Bruno Tinti found the lower part of the Hall of the Earth with its zodiac sky and stars of 22,000 years ago…
‘In July 1992 Damanhur was raided again, but this time the state prosecutor Bruno Tinti shouted an ultimatum ‘Show us these temples or we will dynamite the entire hillside. ‘
His fearful stance stemmed from the fact that for centuries Italy has been a Catholic country and any questionable structures linked to any kind of beliefs outside of the Church’s jurisdiction were viewed with extreme suspicion. And the area around Turin has a long tradition of magic and alchemy. Nostradamus lived in Turin and the Shroud purporting to show the imprint of the crucified Jesus is kept in Turin.
With little option but to comply, Falco and his colleagues opened the secret door to show what lay beneath…
Three reticent policemen alongside the Prosecutor entered with their film camera at the ready. As they navigated the labyrinth of corridors and steps which took them thirty metres under the hillside they were amazed to see walls painted with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and paintings. But as they stooped down to enter the first temple, the Hall of the Earth their jaws dropped.
Inside was a circular chamber measuring 8 metres in diameter. A central sculpted column depicting a three dimensional man and woman supported a ceiling of intricately painted glass portraying the explosive birth of the universe surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac. Set against this backdrop bright stars glowed depicting exactly how the night sky would have looked 22,000 years ago, when Atlantis was supposedly at its height.
On the walls a huge mural in vivid colours showed the diversity of nature on our planet, complete with paintings of endangered species. Like an underground Noah’s Ark.
Underfoot was intricately inlaid marble depicting man at work and at play. The astonished group walked on to find themselves in the upper chamber of this hall, with towering sculpted columns covered with golf leaf, over 8 metres high.’
Former Public Prosecutor Tinti must have also been a time traveler like his friend Airaudi because the lower Hall of the Earth was begun in 1997 and only completed recently. It certainly had not been dug out of the rock in 1992!
Hazel it is time you went to Damanhur and got your facts straight…and try not to swallow everything the PR Department tells you …
What you have written is encouraging young people to believe in Damanhur and set out to join it. No health journalist with a reputation to protect would want to make such a tragic mistake.
p.s. This same piece of ‘esoteric’ marketing appears in various forms on the following sites and many more, far too many in fact to mention here. If you want further references search Google with ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.