Damanhur: The Ecology of Spirit – An Ethnographic Experience

by Giorgia Gaia

The Ten Commandments and the Genesis inform us about how to behave in the relationship between humans and encourage to proliferate and conquer Earth. Considering how the three Abrahamic religions have influenced Western culture and the perceptions that individuals have of themselves in the world, it is not surprisingly that the decline of mainstream religions corresponds with the progress of ecological ideals, often related to a rebirth of new spiritualities. Individuals are experimenting new autonomous spiritual and religious ‘gnosis’ and rediscovering nature religions, considered for centuries as primitive cults. Simultaneously, important changes are occurring in the social structures of every-day life.

In Western society are appearing different kinds of intentional communities, guided by spiritual or laic ideals and mostly oriented to create a more sustainable future. The phenomenon of ecovillages is representative of this trend. Ecovillages are typically constructed on various combinations of three conceptual dimensions: ecology, community and, for some, spirituality. These are also the key-concepts of my research, which aims to analyze how they influence and shape each other. In this lecture I will investigate particularly how spiritual practices and beliefs inform and shape in an unique way the shared understanding of ‘ecology’ in a specific intentional community in Italy, called Damanhur. I have conducted in this site an extensive ethnographic work, engaging as an anthropologist, in a deep participant experience with the community. During this research, I have had the opportunity to reshape my understanding of esotericism and its relationship with ecology, and I have proposed a new paradigm, called Esoteric Ecology, which will be explored in this lecture.

Giorgia Gaia bio

Giorgia Gaia is an independent researcher with a MA degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology and in Theology (Western Esotericism) at the University of Amsterdam. Since her early twenties she has been working as an electronic musician and event organizer. Her academic researches have focused on musical subcultures, psychedelics, esotericism, ecology and alterations of consciousness broadly. She made fieldworks in the psychedelic trance scenes around Europe and in various esoteric communities. Damanhur is the subject of her first extensive research, published as “Damamhur, The Ecology of Spirit”. She has completed a consistent historical and anthropological research on Changa, published as “Changa’s Alchemy”. Gaia also produced a documentary, based on her fieldworks, called “Chai, Charas and Changa”. She recently founded an intentional community in Italy, called “Villaggio della Luna”.