Order of the Solar Temple
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Order of the Solar Temple
These claimants to the new Order of Knights Templar became impatient when the underground masters failed to arrive on schedule.
On October 4, 1994, when authorities from Cheiry, Switzerland, investigated a fire in a farmhouse on the edge of town that was occupied by members of the Order of the Solar Temple, they discovered a secret room in which twenty-two corpses, many of them wearing ceremonial capes, were found. Some of the cultists had plastic bags over their heads; others had been shot.
On October 5 three houses burning side by side in the village of Granges-sur-Salvan, Switzerland, yielded the bodies of twenty-five more members of the Order of the Solar Temple. Later it was learned that the six charred bodies found in Morin Heights, Quebec, on October 4 were also connected to the order. In December 1995 sixteen more members of the cult were found dead in France, and in March 1997 five more killed themselves in Quebec. Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret, the leaders of the cult, whose corpses were among those at Granges-sur-Salvan, had made their transition to another world along with at least seventy-four of their followers.
Di Mambro and Jouret founded the Order of the Solar Temple in 1984, claiming a spiritual heritage from the Order of the Knights Templar (founded c. 1118 and dissolved in 1307). Among their declared goals were to help Earth to prepare for the return of Christ in solar glory and to assist humankind through a time of transition as spirituality would begin to assume primacy over materiality.
Di Mambro, born in 1924 in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France, had a fascination with the occult from childhood onward. In 1956 he joined the Ancient and Mystic Order of the Rosy Cross, a group which claims to be one with the Rosicrucian Order established in the sixteenth century. In 1976 he became a self-appointed spiritual master, and by 1978 he had established the Golden Way Foundation in Geneva.
In 1981 Jouret, a young physician (born in 1947 in the Belgian Congo) and former grand master of the Renewed Order of the Temple, another group that combined concepts of the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians, left that order over a dispute regarding certain policy matters. Di Mambro, who first became acquainted with him in 1982, appealed to Jouret to combine energies with him in creating a new organization. Jouret agreed, and the two founded the Order of the Solar Temple in 1984.
Jouret’s credentials as a physician and his dynamic platform personality drew large crowds to his lectures. From 1984 to about 1990 he claimed to relay the teachings of the masters of the Rosicrucian Order of the sixteenth century, who remained alive and hidden in a secret underground retreat near Zurich. These esoteric pronouncements, together with spiritual phenomena produced during various public demonstrations, convinced many new members that the time of the Apocalypse was drawing near and the best way to survive the growing negativity of society was in the safety of the Order of the Solar Temple.
By 1989 the cult had gathered about five hundred members, most of them in Switzerland, France, and Canada. However, by 1992 Jouret and Di Mambro had made too many unfulfilled predictions and promises, and some of their followers began to doubt the existence of the great masters hidden underground. Many cult members had been told by Jouret that they were Light Beings who had reincarnated on Earth with a special mission to fulfill, but too much time had passed and the promised New Age of Consciousness had still not arrived. Even Di Mambro’s son Elie declared that he doubted the existence of the masters who were allegedly guiding his father and Jouret, and he went so far as to expose some of the illusions his father used to create the spirit phenomena during the demonstrations. Since Elie had been promoted as a very special chosen one who had been born to bring about a new world order, his dissension caused a serious breach in the cult.
When the mass suicide occurred in 1994, membership had already begun to decline. With the structure of the Order of the Solar Temple crumbling around them, Di Mambro and Jouret prepared for their transition to another world. From October 1994 to March 1997, seventy-four of the most faithful to the order’s teachings made their own transitions.