Edge of Reason is a brand new travel show by Amuse. Bringing you the most out-there locations on the planet, we visit the places that must be seen to be believed – ones that are entirely open to the public. In our first episode, we take a trip to the underground Temples of Humankind in Damanhur. Thirty miles north of Turin, in the foothills of the Italian alps, the temples began in 1978 as an extraordinary secret – and finished, today, as the largest underground complex in the world.
Here, Daniel Pinchbeck, radical philosopher and author of the cult book ‘Breaking Open the Head: A Journey into Psychedelic Shamanism’, contextualises the music making plants, esoteric rituals and history behind the Damanhur.
Modern culture is very effective at convincing people that only one way of life is possible, or even conceivable. Most of us live in cities, use computers, and delight in the benefits of modern progress. We believe that technology like computers, cell phones, and particle accelerators prove our civilization is the best and brightest. People eagerly follow sports teams, politics, and the fluctuations of the stock exchange. It is surprising, therefore, when we discover other cultures emerging with radically different ideals, goals, and principles. Some of them seem to indicate different paths that humanity could take.
Damanhur—an esoteric community in Italy—is one of the most developed and radical alternatives currently happening in the world. Most people would find this community of 600 people living in Piedmont, an alpine region near the city of Turin, extremely bizarre and farfetched. Since the 1970s, the Damanhurians have believed and followed an amalgam of hippie-ish, New Age, and esoteric ideas and practices. These include group meditations, rituals, and energy work.
They also hold concerts where plants, wired to electrodes, make music in collaboration with human musicians. Damanhur’s founder, Falco—a former insurance broker, artist, and relatively gentle guru, born Oberto Airaudi—died in 2013. But his death has not seemed to slow down the community, which continues to grow and spread its philosophy around the world.
Damanhur became famous in the early 1990s, when the world learned about the Temples of Humankind – the extraordinary chambers, ornately decorated with frescos and crystals, they had burrowed out of the Alps. This project was executed in absolute secrecy for 16 years. The men dug the chambers out of the mountain with pickaxes and shovels, and the women carried the rocks to the surface and took them away.
When the Italian government learned about it, they rushed to shut it down, but the authorities themselves were amazed by the magnificence of the artistic creations. After a series of lawsuits, Damanhur was given permission to keep using their temples, which have been dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Damanhur has also revived something like the guild system that artisanal craftsmen used in the Middle Ages. Many in the Damanhur community pool their resources and live in group homes of 10 to 20 people, where they pursue different paths of esoteric self-development and study various crafts and healing techniques. The community seeks balance with nature, and uses technology to advance their spiritual goals.
Underlying the community’s practices and ceremonies is an occult cosmology, featuring extraterrestrials and the ancient lost civilization of Atlantis. According to Damanhur lore, Falco had psychic abilities as a child in Turin. He was able to remember a long-ago past life when he lived as part of a spiritual community amidst enormous, elaborately sculpted temples.
Falco’s goal for Damanhur was to recreate the peaceful, elevated society, focused on enlightenment, guided by spiritual forces, he saw in his visions. While it seems unlikely, is this dream any more farfetched than the goals of our postmodern civilization, which seeks to accelerate growth and industry beyond what the Earth can support? More then a half-century ago, the French philosopher Andre Malraux wrote, “The 21st Century will be spiritual – or it will not be.” Wacky as it seems, the success of Damanhur suggests this might be true.
Director: Tom Ivin
Director of Photography: Yannick Hausler
Narrated by Louise Brealey
Editor: Tom Ivin
Colourist: Dan Gill
Sound Mix: Dylan Leadley-Watkins
Music: Jingle Punks
Global Executive Producer: Ravi Amaratunga
Commercial Creative Director: Bunny Kinney
Talent Producer: Declan Higgins
Associate Producer: Matthew Whitehouse
Associate Producer: Kate Villevoye
Production Assistant: Lily Rose Thomas
Special Thanks: Xerxes Cook, Formica, Bertuccia, Barys and all at Damanhur.
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