Erik Davis has written a wonderful piece on the spiritual community of Damanhur in northern Italy - a travelogue that not only describes beautifully the grandiose 'temples' carved into the mountainside and the community that created them, but also the impact that this modern sacred site left on Davis himself, a 'seasoned spiritual tourist':
Over thirty years ago, a handful of initiates into a vibrant and esoteric Italian mystery school took up hand drills and picks and started to dig a hole into the side of a mountain in the foothills of the Alps. The property, an hour north of Turin in the Valchiusella valley, was called the Federation of Damanhur, and it is now one of the most complex, dynamic, and creative intentional communities on the planet...
...Over the weeks and years, without much formal training, working at night and with music blaring to cover up the drills, a select crew of Damanhurians hollowed out a series of mighty chambers and passageways, all without other members of the community—to say nothing of the greater world—clueing-in to their secret work. With tenacious devotion and a startling degree of art, they transformed these underground spaces into the Temples of Humankind: a remarkable otherworldly honeycomb of sacred murals, onyx mosaics, stained glass, sculpture, inlaid marble, hidden passageways, precious metals, mirrored stone, alchemical elixirs, and — who knows? — maybe even the cosmic energy circuits, intergalactic portals, and temporal wormholes that the people of Damanhur suggest are the ultimate functions of their sacred architecture.
...Spiritual tourism is partly about seduction, about the unexpected call one feels toward unknown gods, or invisible forces, or to other modes of being and perceiving. As a contemporary expression of the visionary imagination, the Temples were, for me, nearly unparalleled. But they only really got me off when I closed my eyes. The final stage of my tour was the imposing Hall of Mirrors, whose large polished trapezoidal surfaces are designed to mirror you back to yourself. I was taking in the hall’s remarkable glass cupola when Esperide took up a mallet and went over to a gong in the corner beneath a sculpted bird and hammered out crescendo whose insane peak went on far longer than sonic decorum would ordinarily permit. My eyes were closed, and the moment bent and shattered into a kaleidoscope of time-stretched events: deep terran drones, enveloping spectral reverberations, and high-frequency shimmers that seemed to signal from somewhere far far away, over the rainbow.