by Steven Halpern

Experiencing the energies of the Temple of Mankind, and recording with the Damanhur musicians and plants (yes, plants)

Several months ago, I mentioned that I would be visiting the "eighth wonder of the world" in October. I have just now returned, and let me tell you that their brochure and video give only the tip of the iceberg! It's too early to sort out all the details about Damanhur but there are several key points I'd like to share with you. If you're interested in knowing more, I encourage you to visit their website: www.damanhur.com

According to their literature, Damanhur was founded near Turin in Northern Italy over 20 years ago, and is now an internationally renowned center for spiritual and social research. I've also read about them in magazines on intentional communities -- but Damanhur is much more than a large commune or retreat center. It is a federation that has its own currency, restaurants, internal schools, a social and political structure with a constitution, and a university that attracts philosophical and spiritual students of all ages from all over the world. They describe themselves as the result of the practical application of a spiritual philosophy in harmony with the environment and our planet, and that was certainly my experience.

In the six days that I spent with them, I did not get to do or see all of what is available. I was part of a special group organized by Heart Sanctuaries, who are their American partners.

My goals for making the journey were to experience the energies of the Temple of Mankind and to record with the Damanhur plants (yes, plants) and musicians. All of this was made a bit more difficult due to the fact that I had broken my toe a week before the flight. It was also made more difficult because it rained for five days in a row.

But that was all surface-level stuff. We had to go through several days of introduction and exercises to prepare to enter the Temple. But nothing really could have prepared us: it was mind blowing!

The Temple of Mankind is an underground work of art. It was carved out of solid rock by hand in the side of a mountain. It is a three-dimensional book dedicated to the divine nature of humanity and to the narration of the history of humankind through all forms of art.

Imagine being in a living museum, with Greek-like columns, polished marble stairs, Egyptian hieroglyphs gorgeously painted on the walls, the ceilings, the floors . . . in fact, some of the passageways were being painted as we arrived, and I actually have some of that paint on my clothing. (I don't think I'll clean it, either.)

Every one of us gasped when we first entered the Labyrinth, which led to the various sacred rooms: the Hall of Water, of the Earth, of the Spheres, of the Metals. What makes these more than just museum pieces, though, is that the sacred science upon which Damanhur is founded, and which is available to us through their jewelry, is embedded inside the walls! Of course, this meant that they had to carve out extra areas to place their energy focusing devices. Since the passageways were, in some cases, so narrow we had to turn sideways, we could not imagine how they carried in the large slabs of marble -- let alone how they were able to construct the rooms so perfectly. It's one thing to build a house from the ground up; it's quite another to carve it out of rock, in the dark, when you can hardly stand up straight.

Perhaps the most audible "Aaahhs" were heard when we entered the Hall of Mirrors. It felt like a cross between the Great Pyramid and the Taj Mahal. Meditating in this room, as in the Hall of the Spheres, we could feel palpable waves of energy. Remember the scenes of electricity arcing in the old Frankenstein movies? Well, that's what it felt like -- only there is no visible lightning.

The next biggest surprise for me was being told that the arrangements had been changed; instead of going to a recording studio in nearby Turin, we were going to record, with the plants, right here in the Hall of Mirrors! Thus, about 48 hours after arriving, and with very little sleep and virtually no rehearsal, I began a most extraordinary concert. My "band" consisted of two wonderful plants, which were connected via MIDI to a synthesizer, their "trainer" and a wonderful flutist in his own right, Capriolo, two female vocalists, and a time-traveling guitarist, Gatopardo.

The first song was absolutely mind blowing. We completely forgot about the 40 or so people who crammed into the Hall. The plants were really digging it, too. When you hear the album, which will be released some time next year, you'll know what I mean. You'll also be able to experience some of the incredible energy that circulated inside that room.

About the only other thing I remember is what happened after the Damanhur singers performed a song in their ancient, sacred language, which they say is based on a song from Atlantis. I chanted the invocation from Ancient Echoes, my album with Georgia Kelly. You may recall that this song invokes the power of the vowels (a-e-i-o-u) and uses the same amount of reverberation you hear inside the Great Pyramid.

Performed in the Hall of Mirrors, the experience took on a life of its own and left us all speechless. I have a faint memory of one instant in which I opened my eyes and I appeared to be levitating. (It will be interesting to see if the video captured that moment.)

Now that I'm back home, some of this feels like a dream. The technology to translate the changing voltage potential on the plant's leaves, which are connected via electrodes to the synthesizers, is being developed for home use. Imagine not only talking to your plants, but having your plants play music for you!

STEVEN HALPERN is an award-winning composer, recording artist and sound healer of over 50 albums. For over 25 years, he has been an impassioned advocate of the healing powers of music for health, healing and spiritual growth. His debut release, Spectrum Suite, was recently voted "the most influential New Age recording of all time" by New Age Voice magazine.

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