Blog #4 7-28-12: Con Te

Blog #4 Cob-building pic

When I first came to Damanhur, I saw that everyone greets others with the expression “con te” – for greeting one person, or “con voi” – for greeting more than one. I figured it was an Italian greeting, but soon discovered it is unique to Damanhur. “Con” means “with”. Te is the singular form and voi is the plural form for “you”. It is usually said instead of “hello” or “goodbye”, and is often accompanied by two hands clasped together to honor the the other.

The sense of connectedness has been one of the daily lessons in the New Life Program. As we do projects together – like the cob building project in the picture, we get to know and trust one another in our group. It’s similar to the process of building the temples that brought the first Damanhurians close with one another to create a sense of community.

It’s a simple notion to let everyone in the community know that “I’m with you”, but it has deeper spiritual implications. It really means to honor the belief at Damanhur that we are all one. As one of their myth stories says, there was once a mirror that shattered into many pieces. We are each a piece of the original mirror – reflecting upon one another and seeing ourselves in one another.

My time here at Damanhur as a New Life participant is at an end. I leave next Monday for a week at the European Permaculture Convergence in Germany, and then fly home. I didn’t really find any surprises in my three months here, but I feel I do have a much deeper understanding of this community.

Yes, one of the main purposes of Damanhur is to create a model of human sustainability. But rather than focusing on practical aspects of growing their own food – as in most Eco-Villages, Damanhur’s primary focus is on creating a melding of individual human consciousness into a more complex “community consciousness”. It’s not that they want everyone to think alike in order to be of “one mind”. Rather, it’s a belief that when humans can live together as if they were all part of the same organism, then they can help one another to reach higher levels of spiritual evolution, they can be functionally more effective and efficient, and they have the possibility of helping to manifest more of that sense of being all part of a higher consciousness throughout the world. There are beliefs here that such a “Gaian consciousness” is essential for humans to continue living as part of Gaia. Damanhurians don’t actually associate the word “Gaia”with their spirituality – that is my own way of envisioning a global organism that encompasses all matter in this part of the Universe. Damanhurians would probably think more in terms of being part of the living organism which is our Universe. In fact, when you consider that the Big Bang resulted in pure energy congealing into particles of matter, which acquired gravitational forces that created the organization of a complex Universe – with galaxies, solar systems, etc. – what is the Universe if not an organized complex living system? The fact that the gravitationally attracted matter of the sun creates the solar fusion energy which bathes our solar system and has driven the evolution of life and ecosystems, fits in with the notion that the Universe is an organized, complex living organism. Damanhur’s spirituality is oriented towards living in a way that brings our connection as part of the consciousness of the Universe into daily awareness. They also have developed their studies of esoteric research, which describes energy lines that envelope our planet, and join at the poles to connect to all the other systems in the Universe.

People hold the belief here, which I also believed before I came – that one’s attention and consciousness has the power to create and influence reality. If a person believes a particular story or dream, it is more likely to become manifest, and synchronic events are more likely to support that vision. So it also makes sense that if there is a shared vision of oneness, a community can also manifest its story of human sustainability.

Maybe they assume that what’s missing in the way of physical skills of permaculture and self-sufficiency will be synchronically brought in by people like myself, as long as the primary focus is spirituality and building community. Likely there were various “coincidental” events which led me to this place, and in my time here I have found considerable support for the ideas that I share about more effective ways of growing food and becoming more self-sufficient.

There is no “religion” here that I can see, although there is a a large commitment to rituals of respect and connection. The food is blessed before every meal. Whomever is in the dining room around when it becomes dark, joins in for a day’s end ritual blessing. The first time a particular type of vegetable or fruit is harvested, it is “offered” at the temple to be blessed before any harvest can be consumed. There are walking spiral labyrinths, sacred symbols, and a multitude of sacred statues, paintings and mosaics throughout Damanhur.

Blog 4 pic spirals

There are regular rituals that take place in the open temple and in the underground temples throughout the week and month – along with solstice and equinox rituals. I participated in some of these rituals, which were accompanied by beautiful live instrumental music, dancers expressing the ancient sacred language in dance movements, and symbolic fires and purification that have been drawn from a variety of ancient traditions from Egyptian, Greek, and other cultures.

There are also a variety of “paths” that people choose to follow: the way of the monks (who support the temples); the way of health (which includes the Oleo Caldo self-sufficiency group); and a variety of other “vias”.

All of this investment into “spiritual capital” and “cultural capital” supports the investment in “social capital” that has made Damanhur such a well-established community with 800 citizens. It also has created a place where many come for individual spiritual growth. There are over 8000 people who have become “spiritual people” in the rituals here, but live all over the world. I did the small ritual which entitled me to wear a yarn bracelet, and attend various rituals in the temples. The members of the spiritual people daily put their wrist bracelet on their head for a minute of meditation to feel their connection with the other 8000 spiritual people. Many of these are part of Damanhurian Meditation Groups which come to Damanhur for a week or two every year to participate in the School of Meditation. Damanhurian trainers also travel to teach these Meditation Groups in their home cities worldwide. There are many different schools and courses that provide deep levels of knowledge and research that are both practical for heathy human living and contribute to the quest for “enlightenment”.

I recently took a weekend course on “inner personalities”. By understanding the different aspects of myself – my “inner personalities”, I can learn to live in such a way that I can decrease the inner conflicts that often come about when parts of me are in conflict. Thinking of ourselves as a “community of personalities”, enables us to understand and negotiate mutual interests in our interior community. This inner harmony is similar to that seen in a nucleo which has harmoniously integrated its members living together in community in support of the common health of the nucleo.

Where those personalities come from is also part of the Damanhurian teachings. There is a belief that when the soul is being born it moves through a “shopping market” and picks out the inner personalities that will serve it best in its next lifetime. Then as I live my life and learn how to harmonize and integrate my inner personalities, I end up becoming yet a more complex individual as my soul passes on to its next life for further evolution. Enlightenment is about having greater integrity and harmony internally and externally by knowing oneself and living in a way that provides maximal evolution.

In one of our two-hour classes we learned about the Damanhurian study of dreams. It seemed similar to the way in which Aboriginals lived in “DreamTime” and interacted with and worked with their dreams. Our teacher suggested that just as many people don’t know when they are dreaming – there are many souls that don’t know when their bodies have died. So the more that an individual can become enlightened, the more likely that they will use their journey through the “threshold” productively, in preparing for reincarnation.

Whether a spiritual belief is to try to “do the right thing” so you won’t burn in Hell, or live in a manner with integrity so that you will know yourself and become more enlightened for the soul’s journey – both belief systems would lead to people living more harmoniously and in healthy connection to those they live with.

I sense there is a field that is created by a community like Damanhur, in which synchronic events are even more effective at enhancing ways of living in integrity, and revealing the inner conflicts when people don’t live with integrity. Something like a truth serum in the “ether” of Damanhur that further supports the spiritual evolution of everyone in the community.

If this seems to be the talk of someone living in a cult, I’d also note by the way free will is honored and supported here. For example, when the founder of Damanhur, Falco, speaks to the community every Thursday “saratta”(evening), he freely lets his feelings of approval or disapproval be known. But he has no political power, and some people almost wish he would give more answers and be more of a leader, rather than standing aside and letting Damanhurians make their own mistakes and take responsibility for their own behaviors. The nucleos also treat their members (and temporary guests like myself) in that way, too. We are on our own to take responsibility for our behaviors and contributions to the nucleo family. Of course there are ultimate borders which cannot be crossed without some consequence, but there is certainly no feeling of being controlled or coerced to live in any given way.

So my biggest surprise here was learning more about the depth to which spirituality is embedded in people’s lives, and how that relates to the larger purpose and the support of individual spiritual growth. I can now understand that when people devote so much of their life energy to spiritual pursuit and making a living, there is less energy for doing the things I value in the realm of growing food and living sustainably.

Now I have a clearer understanding of the situation here, and I see a need to augment the “spiritual and social self-sufficiency” with greater “material self-sufficiency”. It seems there is a niche here for people with knowledge and gifts in the realms of permaculture and local living economies.

Blog 4 pic terrace garden

After I leave I will be presenting my ideas for designing local living economy strategies at the European Permaculture Convergence in Germany. Perhaps my ideas might help Damanhurians to be able to shift some of their energy invested in pursuit of the global economy, to engage in a new local economy, and become more self-sufficient.. Just as there is great synergy and efficiency derived from people living together communally, shifting some of the energy from the global economy to the local economy could also harvest synergy of “the tribe”. Damanhur could harness their great investment in social, cultural and spiritual capital to create more living capital, material capital and conserve their financial capital. Integrating the spiritual with the material could result in a more self-sufficient community for themselves, and a model  for others to learn from.

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