23 April 2003 | Draft
Complementary Patterns of Meaningful Truth and the Interface between Alternative Variants
- / -
Part 2 of Renaissance
Zones: experimenting with the intentional significance of the Damanhur community
: Truth about 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
in alternative truth handling
Degrees of explanation
: Levels of explanation
| Transparency and necessary misrepresentation
Meaningful truth: varieties of coherence
The assumption is easily made that there is only a single form of truth. However
in the complex global society of today, this is not the case.
Truth about truth: The contasting understandings
of truth are helpfully explored by Walter Truett Anderson (The Truth about
Truth: de-confusing and re-constructing the postmodern world. 1995) whose
central point is that:
...we are in the midst of a great, confusing, stressful and enormously promising
historical transition, and it has to do with a change no so much in what
we believe as in how we believe it. (p. 2)
In endeavouring to summarize the views of a range of authors, Anderson indicates
that this transition has four main dimensions:
- self-concept: transition from a "found" identity fixed by social
role or tradition to understanding of self in terms of a "made"
- moral and ethical discourse: transition from an inherited "found"
morality to a "made" morality forged out of dialogue and choice
-- a relativism as characterized by constructivists, ironists or postmodern
humanists with respect to the "ever-shifting ground of our own sociallly
constructed cultural worldviews"
- art and culture: transition from a domoinant style to endless improvisation,
thematic variation, and eclecticism calling upon all the world's cultural
- globalization: transition from restrictive stable boundaries to fluid boundaries
recognizable as social constructions that may be freely crossed
In concluding, Anderson asks:
What is it that people are discovering now? Ernest Becker said people are
discovering "the fictitious nature of the action world", developing
eyes to see that "flimsy canopy" that hangs over human life. Others
say people are discovering the symbolic universe, the socially constructed
nature of reality -- or, simply, culture. People are constructing maps that
enable them to find something new and different about the powerful symbolic
structures thazt shape our lives: We are beginning to see all manner of things
-- values and beliefs, rituals, ideas about childhood and death, traditions,
interpretations of history, ethnicity, even the idea of culture -- as inventions.
This discovery itself, now being made by people all over the world, becomes
a part of our common ground. It is central to an emerging understanding of
the human condition, and also a central part of a new global culture which
is, in a sense, a culture about cultures. (p. 241)
He then argues:
So, as it turns out, we have not one Englightenment project, but three: a
Western one based on rational thought, an Eastern one based on seeing through
the illusion of Self, and a postmodern one based on the concept of socially
constructed reality (p. 243)
It could be argued that at Damanhur the community navigates skillfully between
these different projects.
Seductive truth: Anderson might also have included
the view on truth of Jacques Attali [Noise:
The Political Economy of Music, 1985], as explored elsewhere.
The exploration of the nature of an appropriately meaningful truth ("an
answer") must take into account a most important phenomenon. That is
that few groups, projects, or schools of thought have difficulty in discovering
and promulgating a truth or answer. The difficulty for society as a whole
arises from the conflictual relationship between such answers, or their denial
of each other as irrelevant, out-of-date, erroneous, or unworthy of consideration.
In the words of Jacques Attali (#2) concerning remedial ideas about the current
"Au-dela des problemes que pose toute selection d'idees....voici 1'essentiel:
si tout ce savoir n'est encore aujourd'hui ni synthetisé, ni assimilé,
s'il reste un lieu d'affrontement et d'anathemes, c'est parce qu'il charrie
une image du monde d'une intolerable fixité; et que tout groupe social
trouve interet a en occulter certain fragments pour tenter d'asseoir sa domination."
(5, pp. 10-11)
Perhaps the most important feature of this phenomenon is that every effort
is necessarily made to ignore it, to deny its significance, but especially
to avoid exploring non-trivial routes beyond the barrier it constitutes to
social development. As Attali continues:
"Face a 1'immensité de 1'enjeu, faut-il alors cesser ce combat
rudimentaire entre un vrai et un faux, mettre un terme a cette denonciation
de la parole de 1'autre? Et avoir le courage d'admettre que plusieurs discours
peuvent etre simultanément vrais, c'est-a-dire peuvent valablement
interpreter le monde?" (5, p.11)
Attali notes in passing that the multiplicity of truth is also encountered
in physics (for example the wave vs particle theory of light). Clearly, as
he proceeds to demonstrate, the problem lies in the way truth is to be understood.
He distinguishes three senses (5, pp. 11-14):
A theory is true if it can be articulated according to the rules of
formal logic, and if its consequences can be verified empirically by any
observer. This is the most common scientific criterion of truth, and is
that used by establishment institutions of every kind in every society.
It gives rise to difficulties if some of the consequences it implies are
contradicted by experience. The institutions are then obliged to construct
a representation of the world which denies any possibility of its own
- A discourse is true (and therefore scientific) if it provides a useful
mode of communication for a group in its struggle for power. Unanimity is
then forcefully imposed rather than emerging from agreement with a universal
- A discourse is receivable, and thus true, the moment it produces an understanding
of the world for those articulating it. Unanimity is achieved neither by
pure logic, nor by force, but by the virtue of seduction. As with beauty,
and because it is intimately related to it, truth is not in itself universal.
Truth is aesthetic.
Attali compares these three forms of truth in physics with mechanics, thermodynamics,
and relativity theories. The equivalents he suggests in economics are regulatory
theories, theories of value production, and theories of the organization or
management of violence (especially of the non-physical variety), each with
their appropriate modes of organization. The first two may be equated with
capitalist (most general sense) and marxist (theoretical) approaches. It is
the third approach, or basis for world order, which needs to be defined.
As Attali stresses, it is necessary to recognize that the reality of the
world, whether in physical or psycho-social terms, is too complex to be
encompassed by a single mode of discourse. The real cannot be separated
from each necessarily partial view of it. It is in fact the multiplicity of
views of the world, with all their differences and ambiguities, which renders
the world tolerable to the majority, permitting each to develop his own understanding
and to manage the violence done to it by others.
"Aujourd'hui cette multiplicité est difficile a preserver.
C'est que les deux premiers mondes de la science ont proné, 1'un 1'universalité,
le second la force: ni dans 1'un, ni dans 1'autre i1 n'y a place pour la tolerance.
Aussi, toute societe qui accepte de se representer le monde selon une seule
de ces deux classes de discours s'oblige a i'uniformite. Elle ne peut laisser
vivre le troisieme sens du vrai, et le voila inevitablement contrainte au
mensonge et a la dictature: tout ordre qui elimine 1'esthetique comme langue
et la seduction comme parole implique inevitablement la dictature." (5,
Just as in physics the three approaches continue to have their domains of
validity, so it should prove to be in the realm of psycho-social organization.
The human being has three brains, the third being essential to mediate between
the conflicting functions of the other two. The key question is then what
kind of organization is implied by this third order of truth such that it
could be of any significance for social development? Failure to take account
of this question can only result in an answer of essentially limited value.
Probability theory of truth: The Russian statistician,
V V Nalimov (Realms of the Unconscious: the enchanted frontier, 1982)
provides a remarkable synthesis, drawing on the entire range of knowledge (including
elements of semantics, natural and social sciences, mysticism, and the arts)
in an effort to understand how the human mind perceives the world. The methodology
is borrowed largely from physics (as capable of tolerating paradoxes within
its own theories), with considerable attention to the role of metaphor and the
function of human imagination in capturing manifestations of consciousness and
His primary ontological position is that the world is an open one, the outcome
of processes that are probabilistic in nature and constantly the domain of novelties
and uncertainties. The language in which one captures aspects of reality is
itself polymorphic, metaphorical, and constrained by Godelian principles of
Styles of truth: It is useful to recognize the essentially
different styles of truth associated with science, religion, politics, military
and busines, for example. Although it might be argued that each "discipline"
or "profession" is so distinguished by offering a distinctly meaningful
approach to truth and coherence, as explored by Paul Feyerabend (Against
Method, 1975). It is little wonder that communication between them is challenging.
Each offers a different sense of meaningful coherence and has different degrees
of tolerance of ambiguity.
In relation to ambiguity, truth can also be usefully related to fluidity or
- truth dependent on stasis, namely on the fixity of boundaries and procedures
(perhaps characteristic of fundamentalism)
- truth dependent on dynamics, namely on the skills and coherence (even elan)
in navigating contrasting truths (exemplified in "surfing", whether
literal or metaphorical)
- truth dependent on authenticity, namely the form of truth suggested by the
phrase "Man can embody truth but he cannot know it" (W B Yeats:,
- probabilistic theory of truth (V V Nalimov)
Engagement with truth: The forms and styles of truth
discussed above draw attention to the contrasting ways in which people can seek
to engage with truth and meaning:
- extraction of truth: typical of science, interrogation (possibly to be understood
in terms of the harassment of reality)
- control of truth: typical of the censorship and secrecy policies of authorities
(government, priesthoods, professions, etc)
- resonating with truth: typical of an aesthetic or celebratory perspective
(including extremes such as the ritual of Aborigines to "sing to the
- seduction by truth: typical of a marketing or a romantic perspective
- embodiment of truth: as valued in traditional village elders or wherever
"wisdom" is recognized
- possession by truth: as typical of those obsessed with particular perspectives
(conspiracy theorists), or in the case of phenomena of possession
Whether any of the above is "true" then depends on one's relationships
to truths and what one does (or intends to do) with such truth, on what (or
into what) one can project one's truth -- and especially if it cannot be contained
within one framework.
One of the most famous anagrams of all time was constructed in the Middle Ages.
The unknown author contrived it as a Latin dialogue between Pilate and Jesus.
Jesus' answer to Pilate's question "What is truth?" is phrased as an ingenious
anagram of the letters of that very question: Pilate: Quid est veritas?
("What is truth?") Jesus: Est virqui adest. ("It is the man before you.")
The effort by physicists to entrap and control truth in a Theory of Everything
is best framed in the words of Alvin Toffler (The Third Wave):
Even the most powerful metaphor is capable of yielding only partial truth.
No metaphor tells the whole story from all sides, and hence no vision of the
present, let alone the future, can ever be complete or final. The recognition
that no knowledge can be complete, no metaphor entire, is itself humanizing.
It counteracts fanaticism. It grants even to adversaries the possibility of
partial truth, and to oneself the possibility of error.
As pointed out by Donald Michael (On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn,
1973) regarding "On the requirement to embrace error":
More bluntly, future-responsive societal learning makes it necessary for
individuals and organizations to embrace error. It is the only way to ensure
a shared self-consciousness about limited theory to the nature of social dynamics,
about limited data for testing theory, and hence about our limited ability
to control our situation well enough to be successful more often than not
Games of untruth: Social processes depend in part
on the meaningful integration of "untruth" in different ways:
- marketing: this may well depend on judicious revelation and concealment
of truth in order to close the deal with the customer fo the product or service;
competing belief systems must increasingly use such techniques. the extreme
form is of course the confidence trick (tiger)
- bluff in games: lying in one form or another (by commission or omission)
may be an integral feature of many games
- relationships: many relationships depend on a complex mix of truth and untruth,
revealing and concealing matters which nourish and safegurad the bond
- humour: the combination of truth and untruth is fundamental to many forms
- performance assessment: use of misdirection
- politics: the making of electoral promises, "in good faith", is
basic to politics -- as are the subsequent broken of promises, or the denial
that they had ever been made as described
- ?netted / spiked by the truths / metaphors of others
Scope of truth and coherence: The viability of any
truth may be distinguished as follows:
- for self: namely a truth that one holds personally, possibly unbeknownst
to others, that provides a sense of meaning and coherence
- for group: namely a truth that one shares with others (such as as "common
values") that provide coherence and purpose to the organization of any
- for others: namely a truth widely shared (possibly claimed to be "universal")
Group think and self-reference: A major challenge
is to distinguish the conditions in which:
- a shared truth provides valuable coherence that is vital to the functioning
of the group, from
- a shared truth provides a dysfunctional form of coherence that precludes
the group from responding appropriately to its environment
The second can be pejoratively defined as "group think" [more].
But to what degree is any group dependent on a form of "group think"
for its coherence? When does this become dysfunctional? In both cases a group
may give higher priority to information originating and circulating within the
group (self-reference, self-citation). Many schools of thought may be described
somewhat pejoratively as "mutual citation networks".
The danger is that they then develop mechanisms for blocking out and denying
the significance of other information, as delightfully characteristic of the
Archaeoraptor case (Groupthink:
the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale, 2002). There is an
irony to this case in relation to time travel, because Archaeoraptor
represents the evolutionary transition link from flight by reptiles to that
Logic of interface dynamics
The interface between two radically different styles of logic must necessarily
prove extremely challenging to the continuity and comprehensibility of any communication
in society. This has been best described by mathematician Ron Atkin (Multidimensional
Man, 1981) [more].
A major difficulty is to distinguish between the coherence of an alternative
perspective (which may well appear incoherent) and a perspective that is inherently
incoherent (even though allowance may erroneously be made for difficulties of
comprehension). Such challenges are notably evident in the case of fundamental
physics and cosmology, of which it has been said that it is not a question of
whether, as remarked by Niels Bohr, a theory is "crazy" but of whether
"it is crazy enough"
- The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem
worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe
it. (Bertrand Russell)
- We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides
us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own
feeling is that it is not crazy enough. (Niels Bohr)
The situation is complicated by the category manipulation practiced both by
those advocating or engaging in social experiments -- and by those opposing
such experiments. Both engage in definitional games of various kinds. The ensuing
dialogue about the merit of social experimentation is therefore highly confused.
This confusion is exploited by establishment forces to inhibit further experimentation.
The repression of experimentation then reinforces the perspectives of those
critical of the status quo. (see Social
Experiments and Sects: Beyond category manipulation by advocates and opponents,
Reactive responses: The typical set of social processes
at any such interface may include :
- mutual incomprehensibility of language or jargon
- accusations of dishonest fiscal practices
- problems relating to regulations (planning, construction, social security,
standards, local currency, telecommunications, energy, etc)
- problems associated with official belief systems, typically religions
- demonization (as "evil") in the light of particular religious
- scapegoating as a cause of other problems
- opportunity for media exposés, amplified and slanted by media bias
- problems associated with entrenched academic disciplines and concerns about
- problems associated with conventional medical practice, health standards,
and concerns about medical quackery
- concerns about privacy vs transparency
- accusations of unsavoury sexual practices
- venegeful betrayal by disgruntled participants
As a social experiment Damanhur has evoked many of these standard contextual
responses in the past. Its unconventional emphases have attracted much attention
from the Italian government, the Catholic Church [more],
the media, and local authorities (see Jeff Merrifield (Damanhur: the community
they tried to brand a cult, 1999). The point is made that social experiments
with alternatives are effectively an expression of dissatisfaction with mainstream
approaches -- easily framed as a dangerous threat to established mainstream
structures. Curiously it was only official recognition of the quality and amount
of art work in its Temple of Mankind that prevented the underground complex
from being destroyed.
There is however every effort to condemn and stigmatize such experiments --
especially when they can only be undertaken on the margins of society on the
initiative of enthusiastic groups with their own resources. The classic statement
in this respect is that of Henry Kissinger in November 1970 in justifying the
destabilization of Allende's experiment in Chile in order to prevent the emergence
of any credible alternative model to that advocated by the USA. Cuba continues
to be framed as a threat simply because it is so radically different from the
Paradoxical exceptionalism: It is not the case that
a single logical framework characterizes conventional society. Paradoxically
most of the arguments raised in criticism of experiments in alternative modes
of thinking do not apply to a range of "acceptable" logical frameworks
that may be strikingly different from what is assumed to be a mainstream perspective.
The philosopher Paul Feyerabend comes closest to reconciling such discontinuities
How is it that "sects" are considered problematic in comparison with
belief systems that include:
- supernatural notion of "miracles"
- supplication addressed to secondary invisible beings (angels)
- belief in unnatural processes such virgin birth and resurrection
- elitist process of beatifying influential members (often with unseemly haste)
- systematic indoctrination from an early age ("if they are young enough")
- regulation of process of marriage, choice of partner and sexual activity
- restriction of personal names to those associated with its own history and
- central symbolic focus on a process of torture (of which the contemporary
equivalent might be the electric chair)
- possibility of "rapture" or of being "born again" (as
distinct from any concept of "initiation" or "enlightenment")
- infallibility in discernment of "good" and "evil"
- use of idols and amulets in the process of worship
- manipulation of the senses through music, chants and incense in order to
psych-up a group (hooliganism?)
- regular consumption of the founder's body and blood (whether "literally"
- symbolic marriage of women disciples with the founder
- attribution of powers to relics of key figures
- approval of self-flagellation
- disparagement of beliefs previously held (as with the decision on reincarnation)
- intimate involvement with particular political tendencies themselves subject
to indictment (Christian Democrats in Germany and Italy)
- pattern of secret sexual abuse of vulnerable (minors, women, etc) by priesthood
- misleading proselytizing and fund raising techniques (in breach of advertising
- luxuries and privileges accorded to leadership despite vows of poverty
At the time of writing, at Easter at the end of the war in Iraq, these issues
are especially poignant as explored by Rev Dr Giles Fraser (Easter's
hawks and doves):
The Easter of the hawks insists that sin always has to be balanced, or paid
for, with pain....The idea that human salvation is premised upon the torture
and murder of an innocent life is one that has systematically weakened the
capacity of European culture to set itself against cruelty.... For this established
religion, based as it was on the practice of cultic sacrifice, was a way for
the community to launder its own proclivity for violent reciprocity.... Jesus
does not oppose the brutality of his treatment by an equal and opposite show
of force....Despite this alternative tradition, the punitive voice of Christianity
continues to exert consierable influence on public policy, not least in the
US. Here a retributive doctrine of the cross is the key link between fundamentalist
Christianity and rightwing politics. (Guardian, 18 April 2003)
"Anti-sect" initiatives are most assiduous in detecting dangerous
systematic flaws ("evil") in others but tend to treat their own extraordinary
behaviours and beliefs as specially sanctioned (see Apologetics
research resources on religious cults and sects). Any failures are treated
as unfortunate exceptions rather than part of a pattern only too evident to
It is a relief to hear, again at the time of the post-Iraq Easter, from such
as Rev Dr Martyn Percy (New
beginnings in an empty tomb) that the challenges of handling truth remain
paradoxical even for Christianity:
In recent years, theologians, bishops and church leaders have found themselves
in difficulties affirming what the resurrection is, and what it might mean.
For some, the litmus test of orthodoxy has to be a literal affirmation in
the historicity of the physical resurrection of Jesus. Anything less is deemed
to be dangerous and heterodox. For others, the gospel accounts can only be
the best that language could do to convey an event that was, almost by definition,
beyond words....So the resurrection stories are packed with paradox, not persuasion.
It seems that God's style is not to give proof but to pose questions. We are
left with clues, not conclusions....The resurrection stories play with the
borders and boundaries of our sense of reality....The followers of Jesus are
invited to write a resurrection conclusion with their own lives. (Guardian,
19 April 2003)
Experiments in alternative truth handling: Setting
aside alternative schools of philosophy, insights into sustainable alternative
approaches to handling truth may be partly obtained from work on new religious
and on intentional communities [more]. Examples
- Findhorn Community (Scotland): Founded
in 1962 as a spiritual community whose work is based on the values of planetary
service, co-creation with nature and attunement to the divinity within all
beings. Noted for its work with nature spirits and its belief in angels (for
a comment on a critque of Findhorn see Misleading
Insights into Sustainable Community, 1996)
- Auroville (India): Founded in 1968.
Kumaris World Spiritual University (Rajasthan)
- Tattvajnana Vidyapith (Mumbai): Established as a postgraduate college in
1956 in relation to the Swadhyaya community (see Challenges
to Learning from the Swadhyaya Movement, 1995)
- Pitjantjatjara community (Central Australia): traditional Aboriginal community
(see Dancing through
Interfaces and Paradoxes: group alchemy, 1997; more)
- Lindisfarne (New York
- Whidbey Institute
(Washington): Founded 1993 as a transformation of the Chinook Learning Community
- Schumacher College
(UK): Founded 1991 on the conviction that a new vision is needed for society,
its values and its relationship to the earth.
- Barefoot College (Rajasthan,
India): Trains "barefoot" teachers, doctors, solar engineers, hand pump mechanics,
designers, chemists, communicators, construction engineers and accountants.
It has created a non-formal education process for children, youth, and adults
which assists students to develop and maintain sustainable communities.
- Osho / Rajneeshism (Poona): Founded
- Maharishi University of Management (Iowa):
Founded in 1971.
- Goetheanum (Dornach): Founded in
1923 by Rudolf Steiner as the Free University of Spiritual Science.
- Institute of Cultural Affairs (Chicago): [collective
- Esalen (California)
- Falun Gong
- Ananada Marga
- Centre for Alternative Technology (Wales):
- Institute for the Harmonious
Development of Man (Fontainebleau): Founded 1922 by G Gurdjieff [more]
- Community of Pythagoras (Croton):
- Florentine Academy
In the case of Australian Aborigines, for example, it has been proposed that
intermediate ways of knowing are necessary to facilitate the shift between such
extremes -- as with the decompression stages required for deep sea divers (see
pattern of alternative community initiatives: based on their differences from
the conventional economic rationale, 1998)
It is curious that the increasing amounts of research undertaken on "new
social and religious movements" seems not to give rise to:
- recommendations for more balanced or more viable communities and movements
- suggestions for more innovative and interesting kinds of communities and
The concluding proposal of this paper for facilitation of "Renaissance
Zones" is a partial response to this.
Degrees of explanation
The previous section on the logic of interface dynamics raises the question
of how meaning is to be transferred from one logical framework to another --
across barriers of incommensurability. One example of the challenge has been
popularized in books such as Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus
There is a curious feature of the term "explanation" in that it is
apparently concerned with taking understanding out of the "plane"
of reality in which it is operational. Hence the particular stress on embodiment
in this paper.
Levels of explanation: Any educational system makes
use of levels of explanation, most evident in the progressive refinements of
the explanation concerning the nature of atoms -- from early school to the level
of the latest challenging theories of fundamental physics and chemistry. When
tourists are provided by Australian Aborigines with explanations of their cultural
space, these explanations are explicitly recognized as being "children's
stories". Other levels of explanation are only available through integration
into the culture. The Jataka Tales, Aesop's Fables and Nasruddin
stories are designed to serve simultaneously as children's stories and as carriers
of deeper systemic insights for those who can distinguish them.
It is fair to say that most explanations of democracy could be usefully understood
as "children's stories". "Civics 101" does not explore such
issues as vote buying, abusive campaign financing (and corporate llinks), carpet
bagging, gerrrymandering, intimidation of elected representatives, bribery,
stacking committees, etc. The undignified haggling associated with the appointment
of directors of intergovernmerntal agencies, and the extent of the privileges
accorded their personnel, are also reserved for initiates.
Given the levels of secrecy that initially prevailed at Damanhur regarding
the Temple complex, it is quite possible that the levels of explanation about
the community to visitors may also be "children's stories". There
may well be other levels of explanation. What visitors are shown may effectively
be a museum of where the community was some time in the past -- rather than
where it is in its current understanding of the signifiance of what it is undertaking.
It is possible that levels of explanation are associated with the level or
quality of dialogue through which meaning is transferred [more;
more]. Such levels
have been distinguished, although the notion of "level" has itself
been criticized by feminist scholars. Some branches of freemasonry, for example,
distinguish up to 33 levels. Many other secret societies have explanations associated
with a vartiety of initiations. Workers at Damanhur have a tradition of referring
jokingly to "33" units of work -- whether metres of rock shifted,
or some other measure.
Transparency and necessary misrepresentation: In
a period in which the secrets of many traditions have been published over the
past decades, it might be asked why any group should choose to be less than
transparent. This relates to the astonishment that indigenous groups continue
to make such radical distinctions between: the language of men and that of women;
the language of the young and that of adults; and the languages of particular
totemic groups. This astonishment fails to recognize the degree of secrecy characteristic
of the modern world: secret formulae (Coca Cola), military secrets, privacy
secrets, secret societies (freemasons), secret archives (Vatican), etc. Some
of these are a legacy of trade guild secrets. Why then should any groups be
especially open to inspection by outsiders?
It is then understandable that a group should defend itself from destructive
criticism through misdirection and misrepresentation -- perhaps reinforcing
the tendency of visitors to apply conventional categories to Damanhur phenomena
where unconventional categories, however challenging, would be more appropriate.
The focus may be on first order credbility to satisfy the curious. Superficiality
may be used as a decoy to misdirect visitors, or render them indifferent.
In an experimental environment there is also the fact that many explanations
may be tentative rather than definitive. Some "truths" being explored
may be "quenched" through being subject to simplistic explanation.
Some artists are notoriously reluctant to show or discuss unfinished work because
of the negative effects of such a process on creativity. The emphasis may be
on creative speculation -- elusively combined with a degree of "looking
in the mirror" for the source of any patterns given a degree of credibility.
To what degree is the publicly available understanding of Damanhur maintained,
deliberately or inadvertently, as a form of Trojan Horse concealing other agendas?
To what degree is it a matter of having the eyes to see and the capacity to
read everything that is openly presented through symbols?
In the Gameplayers of Zan the "shadow-play" protecting the
distinct integrity of the culture is described in the following terms:
The whole thing with us, the entire culture, the way we perceived, everything
was engineered to convince all outside observers that there never could be
such a thing [as a space-time craft] of the people. A vast prestidigitation
that also had to fool the magician as well, or at any rate most of him. And
of course it was successful...So successful that even our own imagine it to
be no more than a child's fable; so successful that the disguise has taken
root on its own, and now guides the inner long-range plan as well. The values
of the disguise have now permeated the real plan. (p. 367)
Security / protection: Damanhur might be termed a
"gated community", but the gate is kept open or unlocked. One group
of members is responsible for its security and protection -- and for vital firefighting
duties in its wooded surrounds. They place emphasis on a preventive attitude
deriving from their alternative worldview -- reinforced in the case of the Temple
complex by a large black dog, Cerberus?! The gates are understood to be "magical
gates" for example. As with secret societies like the freemasons, the community
might also be understood to be protected by being "conceptually gated".
The best protection may be in the disparate nature of what is visible to visitor's
eyes. The apparently disconnected elements (artwork, sculpture, etc) can easily
evoke indifference as "non-sequiturs" [Atkin,
1981]. It is the pattern that connects that may be neither visible nor comprehensible.
The best protection is through allowing visitors to interpret what is shown
to them as being laughable nonsense, inviting mockery.
At Damanhur, an interesting example of the challenge is provided by the selfic
technology it markets as therapeutic bracelets. Any printed circuit board from
a computer or TV would be equally mysterious to the average person. An explanation
of the circuitry on such a board would be equally incredible. A different example
is provided by "bone
pointing" amongst the Australian Aborigines or the "evil
eye". Foreigners may choose to laugh at the process, but even the sceptical
who live in the area would adopt a precautious attitude on any final judgement.
Misdirection: People exposed to new levels of knowledge
are frequently tested for their understanding of that knowledge in a "fail
safe" mode based on misdirection. The Damanhur Temple has a multiplicity
of secret doors and staircases -- some controlled electronically. Many societies,
secret or otherwise, use social misdirection to determine whether someone is
part of the in-group or an outsider. Similarly spiritual misdirection may be
used, as exemplified by the methods of G
Exposure to the symbolic artwork of Damanhur can also constitute a form of
misdirection if its operative dimension is meaningless -- because it cannot
be read. The aesthetics can be contemplated and appreciated as such, but this
appreciation may have very little to do with why it is there -- as with the
aesthetics of the console of a vehicle, or of a control room. In the case of
Damanhur this is the reverse of the challenge of the Parthenon in Athens --
now appreciated for its austerity and purity of line, when at the time it was
swathed in colour. It is like admiring a woman without cosmetics, although in
reality it was through cosmetics she normally encountered the world.
Jay Merrifield (1998) clearly stated that at Damanhur "straight answers"
were not necessarily available to "straight forward questions". But
as the above suggests, meaningful answers cannot necessarily be given in the
language in which the question is asked. This is especially problematic if the
questioner has no knowledge of the language in which the answer can be given.
How should an inherently non-linear perspective be communicated as an answer
to a question from a linear mindset?