- / -
"The future is not a probable place we are being taken to but
a preferred place we are creating.
The tracks to it are not found and followed but are made by laying and constructing a trail."
Peter Ellyard, Preferred Futures, 1993
Intimations: A sense of the nature of time and time travel is perhaps first given, and best encapsulated, in the phrase at the beginning of many a story-teller's tale: "once upon a time" -- suggesting a special sense of oneness and togetherness in time. In Celtic cultures legends exist of the people of an earlier time who "withdrew into the stones" from which they can return at any time (see Judge, 2002). This notion is interwoven with that of Tìr-Na Nòg, the land of eternal youth. Although in Italian, it is perhaps not surprising that this is the topic of one of the publications of Damanhur (Lisa Nutti. Tìr-Na Nòg. 1997).
The possibilities of time travel and time machines are assiduously cultivated in fiction. There is much speculation on how such machines might be designed and operated -- stimulated by the widespread interest in UFOs. Damanhur nourishes this reflection and has designed machines in which to experiment with time travel -- and even has a web page on the topic. Their presumption in openly articulating their progress in this field has also attracted reactions [comment]. But for Damanhur: "The most important principle of all our researches is that art and science are complementary to each other, it is possible to obtain results that contemporary science declares impossible, if you combine human creativity and will with technology". Thinking about time travel may be severely handicapped by using the mental frameworks appropriate to thought about space travel.
For the Gameplayers of Zan, in envisaging the vessel by which to dissociate themselves from the constraints of those dominating them:
...in the beginning, we were not sure it could be done; it was a hope, a theory, a gamble. but the suspicion was so strong we could not ignore it; so we started at the mountain called Madness. Inside, it was hollowed out, a little at a time, a handful, a pocket-load, to make a place for the ark that was to be. And just as gradually, in the smoky mediation halls of Dragonfly Lodge, one pocketful of principle at a time, it began to come into view, to manifest itself. It was then we learned that the whole concept of ideas about space travel we had been labouring under was wrong, full of limits we would never transcend...like powering aircraft with coal-fired steam engines....Now we saw that space was a sea...we still call a container of people that moves according to control in that medium a ship. But the flaw in the old concept was that we tried to leapfrog to powered ships, fueled ships, before we even knew the nature of the new sea." (p. 366-7)
Varieties of possible timeship: A point of departure might be to consider the implication of a preliminary "brainstorming" range of timeship candidates, however tentatively indicative of possibilities:
Web as timeship: The tremendous socio-economic revolution created by the web has been the subject of a multitude of commentaries. Through the configuration of hyperlinks, the web may be understood as a convergence of semantic patterns and mnemo-technics. It is emerging as a planetary form of organization of significance beyond the simple transfer of knowedge along information highways. This may be described in memetic terms but it also resonates with the metaphor of songlines articulated by Australian Aborigines. Aspects of this have been explored elsewhere (Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of hypertext pathways, 1996; Sacralization of hyperlink geometry, 1997). The forthcoming "semantic web" will offer even more striking possibilities. It is an extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.
As yet the structure of the Damanhur website is relatively simple, but as the planned "virtual Damanhur" emerges it is probable that many of the mnemonic links in its Temple architecture will be reflected in hyperlinks. Engaging with the configuration of these hyperlinks may well take on many aspects of experiencing a timeship -- notably in the light of its Triad project (see below).
Symbolism: This is a classic approach to time-binding and may be considered fundamental to insight into the nature of any timeship. It can provide an intimately significant sense of coherence. Elements include:
Operation: The "art" of making a timeship operate may well make use of symbols in ways that might be understood as constituting a "magical" operation. The nature of this "magic" needs to be considered in the light of the perception of someone in 1900 observing computer-controlled facilities of 1999. The comprehensibility of the "magic" relevant to timeship operation may be like any present understanding of the technology of the year 2099. The control systems of any modern vehicle, whether automobile, aircraft or spaceship, all involve evaluation and manipulation of symbols. Ficino's "natural magic" required the appropriate disposition of symbols with the same care as would be invested by a professional event designer (involving interior decoration, etc) needing to ensure an appropriately harmonious effect. The concerns of a feng shui professional are of a similar nature. The challenge is how to think of different kinds of "magic" deriving primarily from:
A major challenge is how to get the various components to work together. In the case of a spaceship this is a control systems issue -- timed to match a "launch window". In the case of interior decoration, the whole art is to ensure that the different elements work together to create a transformative ambiance -- perhaps on an "auspicious" occasion selected by some means. It might be assumed that the operation of a timeship might involve an intermediary form of "magic".
At Damanhur various forms of operation are undertaken. these include: walking a labyrinth (including extensive stone cirucits) and rituals
Being the experiment: Given recent shifts in understanding in relation to physics and consciousness, and therefore to understanding of time, it is probable that any timeship or time travel would involve a much more intimate relationship between the person carried and the vehicle. Whereas traditionally a vehicle travelling through space required getting "onto" it, or "into" it, or hanging from it in someway, in the case of a timeship these may well need to be understood metaphorically in part at least. The traveller is no longer isolated from the vehicle to the same degree -- there may be the kind of bonding with the vehicle which some car owners experience, for example-- only much more so. In medical therapy there is a similar shift between providing medicine to others and testing the medicine on oneself (as is done in homeopathy).
In 2003, the DaVinci Institute (Colorado) is in process of launching the world's first Encyclopedia of Future Inventions. However the challenge of the invention process is precisely to traverse the logical interface into a new framework from which the principles underlying the new invention will tend not to be fully comprehensible. They may be treated in terms of quackery, superstition, ignorance, fantasy, or tainted by the "hand of the devil".
The UFO phanomena is therefore most interesting for the manner in which the possible technologies involved are subject to disparagement. It is unlikely that they would be powered by comprehensible technologies such as rubber bands or combustion engines. But if the principles on which they might be powered cannot be understood, it would seem that a measure of suspended judgement is appropriate in considering the possibility. This is the challenge for the "sceptical inquirer" who may not be able to acquire evidence in the form compatible with the methodology of future technology.
A table like that above might be used to show the challenges to communicating between different stages of understanding -- from "primitive" to "advanced". This table would suggest that successful communication between Stage A and Stage C might require an education process lasting one or two decades. It could help to distinguish the understanding Stage A has of Stage C from that that Stage C has of Stage A. Doris Lessing drew special attention to these challenges in her Canopus in Argos series (1979-83) of science fiction, partly based on sufi concepts. See also the work of Andreas Fuglesang (1982-5).
More interesting however is the insight from a disposition of these stages around the circumference of a circle. This would highlight the investment required to traverse the stages on the circumference to ensure communication between distant stages. However a line across the cricle between distant stages might well occur in the case of communication between some understandings of indigenous societies relating to space-time and those of advanced physics.
Array technology: In 1900 a radio antenna would have been as meaningful as the Native American devices called "dreamcatchers" -- and would be viewed with the same suspicion by sceptics. A century later many modern buildings carry complex antennas -- whose mode of operation few would be able to explain or comprehend, even though dependent on their daily use. The same might be said of extensive antenna arrays spread over kilometres, or of cosmic ray detectors kilometres underground. Dreamcatchers are still in use.
A conventional organization chart might be seen to be an array vital to that body's knowledge management process. Typically this is hierarchical with daring excursions into matrix management and network organization models. These may all be considered to be different styles of array. They reflect equivalent arrays in conceptualization: hierarchy, matrix, and network. Interestingly the French term for a matrix-based conceptual array is grille de lecture, emphasizing that it is through the conceptual array that external phenomena are read -- as through a pattern of window panes.
It is also worth considering how many conceptual schemes, whether theories or in the form of operational plans, can be considered as arrays -- ranging from lists of concepts (as in web menus), through tables, to more complex structures. The organization of these may be of special significance in practice (see Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the role of number, 1978).
Although much studied, it is questionable whether array technology as applied to social organization is now as sophisticated as that applied to antenna design and operation. There has been little follow-up to Patrick Heelan's concern with "The Logic of Changing Classificatory Frameworks" (1974) in terms of the conceptual freedom of the lattices of non-Boolean quantum logic -- which is in complete contrast to the essentially mechanistic structure of conventional thesauri [more]. He noticed that meta-contextual languages able to unify two or more contextual languages are isomorphic.
One intentional community that made very intensive use of conceptual matrices (which they termed "screens") was the Institute of Cultural Affairs. Their screens [Jon and Maureen Jenkins; collective research] seem to be much more extensive than that presented for Damanhur by Jay Merrifield (1998, appendix II) . The question is how such conceptual arrays function to orient the flows of insights and control messages throughout a community. How does this contrast with processes based solely on logical chains of argument? Can an "argument" then be understood as an array of reasons to be best understood through insights into their complementarity and symmetry? This then raises issues about the kinds of visual literacy required to comprehend an argument, or conceptual complex, so presented. Again the work of Ron Atkin is helpful in understanding the difficulties that may be experienced in holding an array of perspectives of any particular degree of complexity [more]. Forms of intelligence may be cultivated that are more adept at this than those whose strengths lie in conventional forms of literacy and numeracy.
Taking the five alternatives:
At Damanhur, to a far greater degree than in the Institute of Cultural Affairs, use is made of arrays of people in ritual processes in order to carry and embody significance. A ritual, appropriately performed, may even be understood as performing an antenna-like role in binding time and insight. Unrecognized new principles of higher dimensionality may then become comprehensible. On the other hand, it is possible that common games like soccer, with its 11-player sides, may have acquired their fascination from the way in which they are intuitively understood to offer insights into the 11-fold dimensionality of superstring unified theory (see Into the Eleventh Dimension).
Damanhur invests in the construction of large labyrinthine arrangements, notably as healing devices. their role should be assessed in the light of the long tradition of using such devices in various religions (Sic Lonegren. Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses, 1996).
There is a case for exploring radiolaria as arrays. They are holoplanktonic protozoa widely distributed in the oceans (and in the fossil record) and range from 30 microns to 2 mm in diameter [more; more; more]. They have long been an inspiration as art forms in their own right [more]. Many are spherical in structure. Extremely interesting efforts by Nicholas Shea have been made to generate such spherical radiolaria structures [more] with graphic software within the context of other generated spherical arrays [more], including buckyballs. The question is whether such structures could be used to configure semantic content spherically -- a spherical semantic network map. This would then provide a context for exploring whether initiatives like that at Damanhur effectively involve the construction of such "closed" arrays as "grilles de lecture". Do such structures:
Selfic technology: One of the most unusual fields of research and development at Damanhur is that of "Selfica". Traces of this technology can reportedly be found in Egyptian, Etruscan and Celtic cultures; it was used up until the 7th century BC by Arabs. It might prove to be the case that the classical Celtic knot designs [more; more], as applied by monks in goldleaf to illustrate the pages of sacred texts, are a legacy of their early knowledge of selfic technology.
Selfic structures involve the use of spirals (the word Selfica actually means 'spiral'). Particular metals, colours and alchemical inks are used in geometric forms, to act as host bodies for highly evolved intelligent beings. The particular energies that inhabit these structures are in fact minute living forms, border intelligences that can pass from one reality to another, acting as a go-between from one plane of existence to another. Selfic energies belong to a sector of our universe characterized by ultra-light speed and when they enter inside a prepared host body it is as if they undergo a kind of deceleration. The interaction of the Self with a person is founded upon mutual advantage. The Self diverts or attracts useful conditions in the physical life of the individual, connecting itself to the aura through the 'microlines' -- the energy lines of the body. Entering into a pre-prepared structure enables the Self to perform specialist functions and there is a wide range of Selfica to aid and assist with an array of human conditions and problems, from dietary imbalances to failing eyesight, from protection against radioactivity to balancing sensitivity within the individual. The greatest selfic structure is contained within the Temples of Humankind. Seen in the context of a laboratory, the Temple is able to maintain the ideal conditions for reaching, conversing and interacting with superior forces. Each individual Self is personally linked to the Temples of Humankind. [more] [more]
Selfica is therefore the practical use of spirals and metals to concentrate and direct vital energies. The Damanhur temple is reported to contain over 300 tons of circuitry and connections based upon this technology (see Jay Merrifield, 1998, pp. 236-7). The technology is used to "charge" the spaces and shapes preparatory to ritual or healing. The subterranean position of the temple makes it ideally situated to store the energy which the Damanhurians say is flowing through the "synchronic" lines of earth energy.
Damanhur also sells personalized bracelets and amulets for specific purposes, notably related to healing. The bracelets resemble those in copper worn by many against arthritis. Many religions promote the wearing of amulets. In this context it is worth noting the beliefs held and promoted in relation to roasries and mala beads (see Designing Cultural Rosaries and Meaning Malas to Sustain Associations within the Pattern that Connects, 2000).
Developed using their selfic technology, the Damanhur "spheroselfs" function somewhat like psycho-social analogues to the computers foreseen as endowed with "artificial intelligence" and "personality". In contrast to digital "computers", they might be better understood -- not as "analogue computers" -- but as "analogue configurators" holding and reconfiguring patterns. In the account of the Damanhur experiments, they are "instruments able to perform many different functions. They make use both of Selfica and of alchemy at very high levels, applying more advanced principles of esoteric physics than the traditional Selfic circuits. As with computers, these spheroselfs are used as "memory cells" but also as vital "energy accumulators" -- in effect a psycho-technical manifestation of the adage "knowledge is power". As well as energy, they are able to hold wholly abstract "soul information", such as artistic talent, the potentiality of which can then be transferred from one person to another, through the medium of the spheres. In time travel the more ordinary "spheres", the size of footballs, are used like screens to monitor the process à la Houston Ground Control.
At Damanhur the Temple complex might be understood as an emerging analogue equivalent to mainstream digital initiatives towards an emerging "global brain" based on "artificial intelligence" [Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2000]. The interesting aspect at Damanhur is the functional symbolic isomorphism perceived between the structure of the Temple and the structure of the human body (cf R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. The Temple in Man: Sacred Architecture and the Perfect Man, 1949), with the added dimension explored by Mark Johnson (The Body in the Mind: the bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason, 1987), and the enactivist concern with embodied mind [more].
Synchronic lines: Research at Damanhur is extensively focused on "synchronic lines" which they variously distinguish from, or associate with, the more widely explored "ley lines". Cautioning readers against premature judgement, Jay Merrifield (1998, p. 222) reports:
The synchronic lines put our universe in contact with the entirety of the universe, both from a physical point of view and from a subtle point of view. They are roads where thought and information flow....Influencing the synchronic lines means you can influence the type of thought that flows out and thus influence events.
For Damanhur, synchronic lines are like rivers in which an infinite amount of knowledge is stored, as if they were a library containing all that humankind has ever thought. The network of synchronic lines is composed of nine major vertical lines and nine major horizontal lines, plus a few minor lines built by human beings. The intersection of two vertical lines with two horizontal ones creates a 'shining knot' of synchronic lines. This is an entry point to the entire network of lines. On Earth there are only two shining knots: one is in Tibet, the other goes through the valley where Damanhur is built [more; map].
Curiously another such knot is located in the lands of the Pitjantjatjara of Central Australia -- a focus of Aboriginal insights in to what have been termed "song lines". It is appropriate to contrast the metaphor of information highways with what might be termed "songlines of the noosphere" (see Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of hypertext pathways, 1996). Synchronic lines may relate very closely to the songlines of the Aborigines and to their radically different understandings of time -- through what they term the Dreaming.
Alchemical research: At a time when the long-repudiated alchemical experiments of Isaac Newton are being reassessed, research at Damanhur is focused on an "advanced form of ritual alchemical operation" of which the most intriguing is a project known as Triad. This is a series of "theurgic magical rituals". In the light of historical research, the aim is to recall, one at a time, all the thosands of divinities of every culture in the history of humankind -- to determine whether they are willing to cooperate with each other for the future salvation of humankind. The divinities are understood as carrying what might now be termed memes that are features of the evolutionary force associated with a particular people. Part of the ritual involves removing negative aspects of such deities -- working with the essence of that divinity before it has been contaminated by dogma and religiosity. (Jay Merrifield, 1998, p. 240-4).
In psychotherapeutic terms, this process may be understood as an active effort to integrate the disparate understandings of divinity active in some way in the collective unconsciousness -- and as understood by humankind. At Damanhur, it is considered a spiritual duty of human beings to synthesise all aspects of the human experience, including the intellect. These various understandings may then be configured as facets vital to an appropriate collective spiritual integration -- facets that may be represented mnemonocally in the glass mandalas of the Damanhur temple.. As with personal individuation, much depends on the emerging understanding of the meaning of integration and unification in such a context -- whence the conventional function of a mandala in meditation. Such rituals can usefully be compared with the rituals of mainstream religions or of the Freemasons.
The unusual process of establishing a relationship with forgotten facets of humanity's cultural heritage, and then integrating them through special rites, can be compared with the Mormon approach to detection of their non-Mormon ancestors for proxy baptism in secret rites. Mormons are widely recognized for the immense resources they devote to genealogical research in order to be able to convert their ancestors from as far back as possible -- an exercise in "time travel" ! There is an irony to the fact that, despite such beliefs, Mormon-controlled computer companies have been closely associated with some of the most significant software developments worldwide.
Islam: Ummah is sometimes defined as as the community, sometimes the nation, simetimes the body of Muslim believers around the world, and it has a physical reality, without parallel in any other religion, that is nowhere better expressed than in the five daily times of prayer....The body of the individual believer, identical in its posture to the bodies of all other believers, becomes one with the Umma, the body of the Islamic community on earth. (Jonathan Raban. Guardian, 19 April 2003)
Buddhism: The Buddha did not write anything down, but left a remarkable legacy in the form of a teaching (the Dhamma) that was at first orally transmitted by the religious Order (the Sangha) that he founded and personally guided for forty-five years. This Order has survived the centuries, preserving the wisdom of the Buddha in lifestyle as well as in words. To this day, these three elements, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, are known and respected by all Buddhists as 'The Three Refuges' or "The Triple Gem".
Damanhur rightfully prides itself on its capacity to enhance the quality of community life -- in the light of continuing experimentation on itself. Whilst there is much concern around the world with the basics of community development, there is little insight into how to achieve a "climax" community. Indeed there is no appropriate term for this concept or condition -- although communities may be described as "magical", as having "good vibes", as "being together", or perhaps as "mature". Such terms point towards a form of psycho-cultural ecosystem in which the multiplicity of roles together carry and engender a larger life form -- a form of emergent organization of a higher order. This ecosystem has its social dimensions but it its semantic dimensions that merit highlighting -- the "semantic ecosystem".
A "climax" ecosystem in this sense is one which has over time reached a degree of equilibrium -- fulfilling its potential -- with respect to the range of species in the system. However, if the diversity of species is greater, more complex ecosystems can then be sustained. The question is what kind of human communities would be possible -- at "climax" -- with a wide range of personality types? If strongly disrupted, would it recover through the "succession" process as with natural environment ecosystems? "Community development" might then be understood as the catalytic aid to such succession processes. In non-subsistence communities such a catalyst might take the form of a symbol whose degree of order and complexity would provide a template through which vital links within the community could then be rendered credible -- whether or not they were meaningful to others.
Where might examples of such climax communities be found? How might they be recognized - or ignored -- by outsiders? The supposition is that they would tend to be rare and isolated -- and possibly vulnerable.
So confident has been Damanhur in its community "technology" that it achieved some notoriety in 1986 in proposing to act as adviser to NASA concerning the community dynamics of future orbital space colonies -- given NASA's lack of research in this area (see Jay Merrifield, 1998, pp. 169-70). The notion of orbital "time colonies" might also merit reflection.
Future studies: A particular area of exploration at Damanhur involves what is termed "time prospecting" in collaboration with a "group of divine forces". This is "an investigation in time able to move and modify events" -- processes reinvented from those of the Oracle of Delphi. Questions submitted to the Oracle are answered monthly at a full moon ritual open to the public (see Jay Merrifield, 1998, pp. 95-8). The Findhorn Community integrated a similar process into its early processes.
Timeship design: The arguments above suggest that the challenge of timeship design may be more one of imagination and language than of mechanics. Unknowingly, we may well be confronted in daily life with a variety of modules of a timeship. The difficulty is that we do not know how to recognize them or how to configure them together. Perhaps our situation is like that of a group of indigenous people who encounter an abandoned automobile that has broken down on a jungle road -- is it out of fuel, is the tyre punctured, etc?.
Temples, mosques, pyramids, or cathedrals may be timeships -- all but ready to go. As explored elsewhere, the configuration of chambers and stages is suggestive of an insight into some other form of travel (Entering Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002). Is it possible that the differences between the architectures developed by different faiths signal the design elements that need to be reconciled to ensure a functioning timeship? For example, the emphasis on the amount of mass characteristic of pyramids suggests an awareness of a factor that has been largely omitted from mosques and cathedrals. Whereas the configuration of chambers in the latter imply a sense of articulated structure and symmetry omitted from pyramids.
Most challenging perhaps is the insight necessary for the coherence of a timeship -- a missing design metaphor. The suggestion in the title of the paper is that timeships may need to be "embodied" rather than "constructed". It may then be the "construction" metaphor that prevents understanding of the relationship between the vessel and what it might carry.
Some of the following remarks are based on an account published in Kindred Spirit (33, Winter 1995/1996, with images) of some early experiments in time travel as understood at Damanhur. Variations were published in Pendulum (March 2003). The account has also been posted by artist Ashley Rye, appropriately focused on trompe l'oeil murals.
Timeship embodiment: The Damanhur community has been very coherent in recognizing a degree of isomorphism between the structure of their temple and the interconnected organs of the human body. "Walking the temple" is understood as engerndering a healthy sympathetic relationship with a sequence of particular organs -- although such "health" may merely be the easiest way of explaining the "integrity" or "wholeness" of the resonant system. Excavating the temple and decorating it with symbols are understood as magical operations that preserve a resonance between the individual and the temple. The intricate detail of the symbolism suggests that this is far from being a general resonance but one that is closer to the relationship between a pilot and a control system. This symbolism is enhanced and intertwined with selfic technology that interconnects the chambers of the temple. The process might be understood as embodying thought patterns -- articulating "the pattern that connects" (Gregory Bateson. Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979). It may be of a similar nature to Aboriginal "singing of the land".
The Gameplayers of Zan provides an interesting account of the paradoxes involved in the "construction" of their space-time ship hidden within a mountain:
Let me build a dynamic identification-series for you: consider vehicles. You make a cart, a wagon, hitch it to a pony, and off you go. Its purpose is to go, but it can be stopped, and it doesn't change, or stop being a cart. ..Now consider a bicycle, which must be in balance to go...Now an aircraft; it can only be stopped when it is finished being a functional airplane...You can't stop it just anywhere, and never in the air...Just so the leap to the Ship. It is a quantum leap into a new concept in machines, if indeed that is the proper word. Before, we had machines that could be turned off. The more complex they became, the harder to turn off. With the Ship we enter the concept-world of machines that can't be turned off -- at all. They must be on to exist. Once you reach a certain stage in the assembly of it, it's on and that's all there is to it. (pp 369-70)
It must be manually flown to hold it in place...Its position at a specific place upon the Earth is not held by gravity and momentum...that it