Dieter Duhm celebrates his 80th birthday on September 19 2022.
Words by his publisher Monika Berghoff about his life and work
Dieter Duhm was born in Berlin in 1942 in the middle of World War II. He experienced violence first hand, in Berlin during the nights of bombing, on the refugee trail to Southern Germany and then afterwards in his new homeland by Lake Constance. He was a stranger and was seen as not belonging in the village. One day, barely six years old, a group of local boys grabbed him, tore his clothes off, tied him to a lamp post and smeared him with tar from head to toe. Again and again they banged his head against a stone kerb. He had done nothing, but to them he was “the stranger”. They needed someone on whom to take out their own anger and their own homelessness. It was there that he received his first lesson on the nature of fascism.
He was about 14 years old when he first heard of the concentration camps. At first he refused to believe that it was true and his mind struggled against the idea telling himself that they must all be criminals and as they must be adults they would not find it so hard or suffer too much. Then he began to persistently ask questions of his parents and of people he knew. He must have troubled them quite a lot. His hopes of finding easy answers soon faded the more facts his research unearthed. There was no consolation in Auschwitz: it was a reality, a reality that could never be undone.
He clung to one last hope that the horrors were the reality and would perhaps never be repeated. But also this hope shattered. Years later he became one of the leaders of the leftist German ‘68-Student-Movement. Together with his comrades he fought against imperialism and the Vietnam War. He saw the photos of Vietnamese women with their breasts cut off. He saw the pictures of people burnt by napalm. He realised then that this was the reverse side of Western morality and culture.
Then he experienced the murder of a man whom his comrades believed to be an informer. This made him realise that an elementary fact of political life is that ideological beliefs are interchangeable as long as man’s character structure remains the same.
In other words it will all remain the same as long as human beings grow up under the same old conditions, as long as they are exposed to the same sexual prohibitions during puberty and as long as they experienced the same fear of loss and jealousy during adulthood.
Why was it that the visions of an ideal human society could not be realised? Because the obstacle does not exist in outer conditions only, but is to be found primarily in the inner structures of human beings and in their ways of thinking. It is impossible to build a free society with people who have been formed and shaped in authoritarian circumstances. It is impossible to create a humane form of free love with people who have been repressed and who have condemned sexuality. It is impossible to establish a non-violent society if inner impulses of hatred and violence are simply suppressed and left unresolved. A revolution that has not taken place in the inner realm will never succeed in the outer world. This is one of the lessons of history.
However, the leftist movement did not go along with these ideas.
Dieter Duhm did not re-integrate himself into bourgeois society. He declined various offers for professorships. In the face of global violence he was not able to put up with the daily routine.
He decided to retreat to a lonely farm house in Lower Bavaria and there to reflect on it all. The massacre of My Lai and the massacre of the Second World War… – where did this continuum of violence stem from? How was it possible for the Holocaust to happen? How could good family men turn over night into concentration camp executioners? Is it possible to end global violence once and for all?
His country retreat turned into an intellectual and spiritual workshop for a humane future. He occupied himself with many different sources of thinking and wisdom, with Nietzsche, Hegel and van Gogh, Rudolf Steiner, Jesus, Lao Tse, Wilhelm Reich, Prentice Mulford, Teilhard de Chardin. Slowly the individual fragments of knowledge began to fall together and show a new overall picture, a preliminary stage for his later holographic view. A new intellectual and spiritual pattern began to form itself based on the latest findings of biology, cybernetics, psychoanalysis and mathematics as well as art, history and theology. A vision emerged: yes, it was possible! Peace could prevail.
Out of the vision he formulated a political concept beginning where wars are an occurrence of daily life and are forever breaking out anew as in the relationships between human beings, between man and woman, between children and adults, individuals and society, nature and man. It is in these areas that a change has to take place, where a shift in practise has to be shown, not only intellectually, or in words, but also by concrete example.
He began to put his ideas into practise, created in 1978 the first “Social Experiment”, suffered many setbacks, met resistance, slander and hostility from society at large. He started from scratch again ever deepening and correcting his concept. Long years passed without any visible sign of success. But he kept at it.
His belief in that inner life pattern which in later works he calls the Sacred Matrix still grows. Although he turned away long ago from Christianity and all other religions, a prayer for help and support started to grow inside of him that became forever louder. He does not know to whom he prayed – it was simply prayer all by itself.
He founded his belief on compassion, research and experience rather than on traditional dogma. Above all of this was his belief in humanity, in its powerful insight and capacity for truth.
In 1995, after long years of preparation, he finally founded the Peace Centre Tamera in Portugal together with his partner in life, Sabine Lichtenfels; the physicist Charly Rainer Ehrenpreis and others, where Dieter Duhm lives and works today.
His greatest wish for his 80th birthday: May the “Plan of Healing Biotopes”, the possibility of a global healing of man and earth, will be taken up and realised by the first people and groups! May this wish become true!