Retreats: Damanhur – NOWNESS

Nestled in the alpine foothills of Piedmont, Italy, Damanhur is a community of six hundred people coexisting as a federation of spiritual communities, and is based on a ‘constitution’ made up of culture, art, music, currency, schools, science, and technology. It was Damanhur’s uniqueness that first brought long-term NOWNESS collaborator and filmmaker Ivan Olita to this magical location, which was originally founded in 1975 by Falco Tarassaco, né Oberto Airaudi (1950-2013). Based on the principles of solidarity, sharing, love, and respect for the environment, Damanhur’s crowning jewel is a subterranean temple complex named the Temples of Humanity. Plunging some 30 metres underground, the seven chambers of the temple represent things including society, the human psyche, planetary contact, and the earth itself.

These structures—sumptuous, symbolic caves rich with imagery and icons—were built without formal planning permission, leading to a tense standoff with the Italian authorities who—tipped off on the location of the structures by locals—raided the temple in 1991. During the search, a state prosecutor demanded that the temples be revealed, “or we will dynamite the entire hillside.” Fortunately, the Italian government eventually granted the community retroactive privileges to build these unparalleled structures. They remain open to visitors to this day.

Olita, continuing his long-term filmic research into spiritual communities around the world, saw in Damanhur an alternative to more restrictive communes and dogmas; the spiritual path of each member being open, subjective, and ultimately an engagement with their own identity. Read below our full interview with the globe-trotting director, and find out more about this community’s unique view of the world. The film is the third instalment in Olita’s ongoing faith trilogy, which includes his powerful NOWNESS premiere Contra Daemones.

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