30 April 2003 | Draft
experimenting with the intentional significance of the Damanhur
- / -
Part 1: Imaginal
education: Game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making.
Indicates the varity of ways in which imaginative thinking can be catalyzed
and ordered -- with examples from Damanhur. The focus is on the epistemological
challenges of engendering and comprehending complexity and other ways of knowing.
Eliciting imagination: Game playing
| Role playing | Science fiction |
World-making | Art | Architecture
| Imaginal synergies
Epistemological challenges: Traditional
knowledge | Embedding | Mnemonic encoding
| Language | Present in the moment
Part 2: Complementary
patterns of meaningful truth and the interface between alternative variants.
Points to the variety of understandings of "truth", the pscho-social
dynamics of the relationship between them, and the distinction between levels
of explanation necessary to preserve the integrity of subtler insights.
Meaningful truth: Truth about truth
| Seductive truth | Probability theory
of truth | Styles of truth | Engagement
with truth | Games of untruth | Scope
of truth and coherence | Group think and self-reference
Logic of interface dynamics | Reactive
responses | Paradoxical exceptionalism | Experiments
in alternative truth handling
Degrees of explanation: Levels of explanation
| Transparency and necessary misrepresentation | Security
/ protection | Misdirection
Part 3: Timeship:
conception, technology, design, embodiment and operation. Considers,
in the light of the context provided by Parts 1 and 2, how time travel and
timeships might be understood, and the kinds of technology thar might be relevant
to their operation -- as illustrated by the approach at Damanhur.
Conceiving a timeship and its operation: Intimations
| Varieties of possible timeship | Web
as timeship | Symbolism | Operation
| Being the experiment
Imaginative technologies: Comprehending
new technologies | Array technology | Selfic
technology | Synchronic lines | Alchemical
research | Community "technology" | Future
Timeship design and operation: Timeship
design | Timeship embodiment | Timeship
operation | Journey
Part 4: Embodying
a timeship vs. Empowering a spaceship. Considers how conventional
thinking has given rise to "spaceships" which are effectively "grounded"
and unable to "fly" -- in contrast to the potential of timeships.
Concern is expressed about possible missing dimensions in the Damanhur approach.
Arguments are presented for the recognition and creation of such experimental
Grounding paradoxes for spaceships and timeships
Missing dimensions and dangers?
Zones" vs "Technopoles"?: Science
parks | Free
zones | "Agricultural
zones" | Eco-villages
and ecosteries | "Renaissance
Part 5: References:
Resources on "Renaissance Zones"
This is a reflection on the experiment undertaken at Damanhur.
Founded in 1977, Damanhur is an internationally renowned center for spiritual
research. Situated in the Alpine foothills of northern Italy, it is a Federation
of Communities and Regions (currently 44) with over 800 citizens, a social
and political structure, a Constitution,
40 economic activities, its own currency,
schools and university, and
a network of 25,000 supporters worldwide.
The focus of this reflection is on the way in which Damanhur has chosen to
make very extensive use of symbolism, notably embodied in the construction of
a massive underground complex: the Temple
of Mankind -- 4,000 cu. metres, carved by hand out of the rock on 5 levels,
with 150 metres of corridors. The complex is rich in mosaic (350 sq. metres),
glass, frescoes (400 sq. metres) and sculpture, with the largest tiffany stained
glass dome in the world (100 sq. metres). In a historical period in which peoples
and races are disappearing and humanity is losing its history and diversity,
Damanhur has created a human group with its own artistic, philosophical
and social expression -- and its own language [more].
In contrast to many spiritually inspired communities, members adopt the names
of endangered species -- my guide was Anemone di Mare. The developing processes
of the community are explored through a Game
of Life. The community engages in experiments in time
travel and has constructed time machines in its Temple. These unconventional
emphases have attracted much attention from the Italian government, the Catholic
Church, the media, and local authorities -- a tale beautifully recounted and
documented by Jeff Merrifield (Damanhur: the community they tried to brand
a cult, 1999) in the best tradition of appreciative
The following reflection is inspired by the possibility of ways of thinking
that are radically different from those considered both normal and necessary
(or even obligatory) by mainstream thinkers and organizations. Unfortunately
the latter have proven themselves totally incompetent in their efforts to manage
the resources and challenges of the planet and its vulnerable populations --
other than to the advantage of certain elites. At the time of writing, as remarked
by many, the war against Iraq is an exemplification of this -- and especially
of a failure of imagination.
The question here is how any group is sustained in such an extraordinary alternative
endeavour. Specifically the focus is on whether there is scope for time-based
thinking that might prove to be a fruitful alternative to the illusions of space-based
thinking. How might any initiative towards a "timeship" contrast with
the heavy investment in "spaceship" design and construction -- and
the escapist fantasies of travelling "elsewhere" in the galaxy away
from the problems of the planet to claim further territory for the new American
empire? Where is "elsewhen"?
More particularly the concern here is whether the epistemological framework
required for the coherence of such a sustained endeavour might offer valuable
insights to many who have been unable to benefit from the funds misused for
space-based endeavours. The reflection must necessarily highlight the nature
of the discontinuity at the interface between space-based thinking/action and
time-based thinking/action -- as characterized by the seeming incomprehensibility
of the latter. This incomprehensibility has as a consequence that those introduced
to time-based thinking/action must pass through a number of levels of interpretation
in order to adjust to a reality whose coherence derives from unfamiliar ways.
Does a timeship really fly? That would seem to depend on what "timeship",
"really" and "fly" mean to you -- what "mean"
means to you, and who you think "you" are? And perhaps also, why you
want to know?
The concern of this paper is not whether the Damanhur beliefs about time travel
are "true" for you. Arguments have been presented to demonstrate that
"truth" may have other meanings -- and may be based on, or give rise
to, other senses of coherence. What after all is to be understood of the truth
of the 11-fold dimensionality of string space? It is not whether their belief
is "true" but whether it "works" for them -- in ways from
which others might benefit also. The counter-intuitive weirdness of superstring
theory works well enough to attract research resources for 10,000 physicists!
What is to be made of the configurations of symbolic elements that are a key
to the Damanhur time "technology"? How could they possibly "work"?
But then, a great many leading management consultants copyright their own configurations
of concepts and models through which they interpret their world -- and offer
training sessions at which their significance to more effective management is
explained. How do recipients internalize those insights and apply them? Presumably
they are believed to work, otherwise the consultants and their charts would
not be viable -- although with the recent implication of major consultantcies
in relationship to very severe corporate scandals, to what extent are their
purported skills exercises in "smoke and mirrors"? Fads**** But the
term "magic" is even used in phrases such as "management magic"
To what do people resonate in the term "magic"? Can it be usefully
described as a "transformational moment" -- as with a party that goes
exceptionally well? What skills are brought to bear to ensure further, and more
powerful, magical moments -- for the many rather than for the few?
Is the social construction of reality at Damanhur such as to engender vehicles
that enable them to move between frameworks that they recognize? How is the
question "what is the reality of such a vehicle?" to be asked and
meaningfully answered.? How can Damanhur so successfully thrive despite arguments
that these beliefs are meaningless (and even dangerous) examples of psyched-up
self-referential thinking and groupthink? Is their "thrival" more
preferable to some than the "survival" advocated for others with more
"correct" perspectives? Does their approach engender and sustain a
quality of life preferable to that of others?
The argument presented is that, metaphorically, the space-based assumptions
of mainstream thinking have ensured that the spaceships remain effectively grounded.
The possibility of a time-based emphasis has been explored inspired by the imaginative
steps taken at Damanhur towards time travel. But of greater interest than this
possibility is the manner in which semantic content can be symbolically encoded
and embodied as a coherent whole to sustain such initiatives. It is the psycho-social
operation of embodiment by a community that so strikingly contrasts with the
bias towards monopolizing resources for the empowerment of spaceships of questionable
Damanhur has responded to the mnemonic challenge of associating the diverse
cultural insights of humanity in a coherent whole to constitute a kind of semantic
web through which time travel becomes a credible possibility -- to them. This
embodied coherence is compared here to the elegance of spherically symmetrical
organisms like radiolaria. Any place in the living structure is linked
by a network of associative pathways to other semantic content expressed symbolically.
Configured spherically these pathways reinforce one another and embody community
insight -- keeping the centre empty. They are the pathways of the community's
noosphere through which its insights variously flow.
The approach successfully taken at Damanhur to create a higher order of consensus,
with high creative potential, suggests the need to recognize and facilitate
such esxperimental environments. It is proposed here that they should be named
"Renaissance Zones" to contrast with the proprietary preoccupations
of "science parks" and "free zones".
Why do you believe that you cannot travel in time?
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot
read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."