By Larry Karsteadt
My Damanhur journey began when my lovely wife Julie Caldwell said, “Want to go to Italy in October?” to which I replied, “Of course!” followed immediately by, “Why?” (we usually travel to parts of the planet with clear warm water and vibrant snorkeling reefs). And she responded, “Well, our Organization of Nature Evolutionaries (O.N.E.) is hosting a spiritual discovery experience at Damanhur.” To which I asked, as most people do, “What’s Damanhur?” and she replied: “It’s an intentional spiritual community with an amazing underground temple system that some say is the 8th Wonder of the World. It’s kind-a like Findhorn meets The Matrix. Pam has been there several times, and it’s the place where ‘The Music of Plants’ device we’ve been enjoying for months was invented.” So I said: “Sounds like a new kind of adventure so count me in!” We started doing some homework by, guess what, googling “Damanhur.” By the way, when you do so, what comes up are many things like: eco-spiritual community, hippy commune, a cult, a place dedicated to all of humanity and sustainable living. I felt intrigued.
With tickets purchased and bags packed, we made our way to Milan, met our group and headed into new terrain and a place called Damanhur. I arrived with an open mind and heart full of excitement, curiosity and little in the way of expectation.
Our wonderful group of 13 Nature Evolutionaries, including two men and the rest woman (always love such gatherings), arrived at Damanhur, nested in the Italian foothills with snow-capped Alps visible in the distance. A few things immediately stood out – beautiful nature- oriented murals adorned the walls and interesting sculptures, some Egyptian looking, were standing along paths leading in multiple directions. Everyone we met, from day one, were welcoming and exuded a genuine sense of kindness. Nice start and it only got better from there. We spent six full days and evenings learning about Damanhur guided by Pam, Jen and the citizens of Damanhur. Because the Damanhurians are interested in the work being done by O.N.E., we were given red carpet treatment and allowed to enter the Sacred Forest, walk special spirals and most amazing of all, visit the Temples of Humankind.
How did this incredible place come to exist in the foothills of Northern Italy? It all has to do with Synchronic Lines, which, according to the Damanhur story (explained on their website and in many books), comprise a communication system that connects all of the heavenly bodies where life is found. On Earth, 18 main Synchronic Lines connect to each other through minor lines. The 18 main lines join together at the north and south poles to form a single line at each pole that projects into the Universe. Anything that does not have a physical body can travel through the Synchronic Lines, such as thoughts, energies, emotions and soul structures. The network of Synchronic Lines is like the central nervous system of the Universe and being in contact with it means being at the center of a flow of thought and information, which can be extremely inspiring. It’s possible to contribute to this flow through awareness and the ability to direct one’s thoughts. The reason why Damanhur was founded in the Canavese area of Italy is precisely because of the presence of four Synchronic Lines, which can be contacted through the Temples of Humankind. This region is one of two places on the planet where four Synchronic Lines converge; the other is Tibet. This blew my mind a little and opened me to an expanded thought process.
Our Universe is jam packed with energy and we are, without question, energetic beings. It is beyond easy to feel different or more potent energy at Damanhur – it's a powerful place for sure and I’ve had enough experiences with such spots to at least allow the energy of the Damanhur story inform me. After all, we humans tend to like good stories. If those stories, myths, words help us be more open to any of the infinite pathways toward bliss and wonder, I’m on board with it.
The Sacred Forest of Damanhur lives on the hills where the Synchronic Lines cross, and the Temples of Humankind were built, largely by pick and hand, underneath the Sacred Forest. The chestnut, pine, oak, and bay trees here thrive, act as energy antennas, and each of us was chosen by a meditation tree ally…mine, typical of a Gemini, were two trees joined at the base, Oak and Chestnut.
Enter the Temples…we first did a guided mediation in the Hall of Mirrors. Amazing to see yourself and everyone else in this most amazing room reflected many times at once from different angles. The largest stained glass dome, perhaps in the world, towers above and it is beyond beautiful. For me this was a deep relaxing journey into my past and the stars. The narrative is that Damanhur is connected to ancient higher energetic beings – who are working with and through trees, Synchronic Lines and other beings to help humankind get through this tough time to help us avoid extinction. Hmm…not sure about the details or validity, but there’s no question folks, either we work together to sustain our planetary life support systems or the writing’s on the wall. Oh, and Damanhur originator, Falco, supposedly discovered from these ancient beings, now extinct languages that he wrote on some of the walls of the Temple to help teach us. It was beautiful and at times I could almost read the messages.
We returned several days to the Temple complex with wonderful teacher Lucertola (which means lizard in Italian) for meditations, contemplations and experiences. For me, the Hall of Earth we visited after the first meditation simply blew me away. It was full of accurately painted animals, plants and places from around the world, many of which this biology and natural history loving dude has been beyond fortunate to have visited, so I was immediately at home. And every other room or hall in the complex was as amazing, with paintings, carvings and globes that tell the whole story of life on this wonderful world, with deep visual teachings designed to lift us to our individual and collective highest potential so we can, together, work with our shared experiences to help sustain our precious one and only world. Julie and I visited many amazing art works in Italy on this and earlier trips. While incredible, the themes of most of this art (e.g, The David, Sistine Chapel, The Last Supper, the Duomo in Milan, etc) are religious…Christ crucified, Mary and baby Jesus…all beautiful…but only one main story is featured. This is the story I started life with and have incorporated much from, but with so many other narratives from around the world and thanks to Joseph Campbell and others, all are at their best symbols designed to help each of us arrive, at least for a moment, at that place of bliss and awe where we feel completely connected to and one with the Universe. The difference for me is that Damanhur wasn’t just telling one story, but seems dedicated to all stories, to all life, to helping humans become the best we can on this planet before it’s too late.
When we returned to the Hall of Mirrors I experienced a most powerful meditation. It all came together as I communed with my Oak-Chestnut Tree and had the distinct honor to mind-ride on Eagle-Owl wings through the Universe, visit my past, revisit the wonders of the world I have been privileged to know including Mother Trees and our own backyard redwoods, peeked into the future, and rode the winds of time. At some point in the meditation we returned to the Sacred Forest, and, with both trees grasped in Eagle-Owl talons, lifted off! To “our” delight, roots, miles of mycelial connections, and crazy I know, the entire Earth came along! “We” soared high and far and showed this beautiful living planet the best of the Universe and eventually flew to the edge of a Black Hole, where I struggled for moment not to be pulled in. But with a Joyful “why not?” dove in head first with the Earth along and came out looking at my wings-to-hands in the Hall of Mirrors, out-of-breath, refreshed and elated.
Damanhur’s next planned addition to the Temples is a World Parliament, intended to bring all peoples, including indigenous healers, together to fuse the many stories, all knowledge, wisdom and spiritual teachings to help ensure a sustainable future for humanity and life on Earth. I can fully get behind this goal, and left Damanhur and later Italy, feeling exuberant and with greater clarity that life and growing awareness will continue to unfold in amazing ways. My future role seems to be to bring everything I’ve learned and experienced together to be of service to all life, humanity and men in particular. There are many awake males but so many more would be well served by a bit more humility, kindness, compassion and empathy. We need a lot more of this today - it’s good for the world, the Universe and dang if it doesn’t feel right too. Hopefully, through my song and story, others will realize our very real inter-dependence with living systems and see “the wonder of it all.”
Our Damanhur mentor, Lucertola, said to me as we exchanged goodbyes, “Larry, be the best you can.” And in my usual undervalued self, I replied: “Sure, I’ll try to do the best I can” and she squeezed my hands and whispered, “No, BE the very best you can be.”
Always chose joy! “From wonder into wonder, existence opens.”
To learn more about Damanhur, visit their website http://www.damanhur.org/