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THE SOLAR TEMPLE

(INTERNATIONAL CHIVALRIC ORDER SOLAR TRADITION)

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The International Chivalric Order Solar Tradition was a destructive, doomsday cult founded by Luc Jouret in 1984. It absorbed the Foundation Golden Way led by Joseph Di Mambro (1926-1995). While Jouret assumed much of the public leadership, Dimambro convinced members that he was a member of the 14th Century Christian Order of the Knights Templar during a previous life and that his daughter Emanuelle was "the cosmic child." Together, Jouret and Dimambro convinced followers that they would lead them after death to a planet which revolves around the star Sirius. 1 They regard death as an illusion and that life continues on other planets. Solar Temple groups were organized in Quebec, Canada, as well as in Australia, Switzerland, and other countries. They follow a form of Christianity mixed with New-Age philosophy, homeopathic medicine and high finance. Jouret believed himself to be Christ. He ran into legal difficulties in Canada and was convicted of illegally possessing gun silencers.

The leadership felt that the Solar Temple was being persecuted by various governments. They anticipated the imminent end of the world due to an environmental catastrophe, and felt that they were to play a major role in the collapse. They decided that some members should leave the earth prematurely and "transit" to a better world. Fire forms an important part of their belief. They believe that the world will end in fire. In order for them to transit to another world, they must die in a fire.

For many months prior to the murder/suicides, rumors of financial mismanagement had circulated within the Solar Temple. An infant, aged three months, was killed in 1994-OCT at their Canadian site by driving a wooden stake through his heart. Former group members explained that Di Mambro ordered the killing because the baby was believed to be the Anti-Christ described in the Bible. A few days later, Di Mambro and twelve followers had a ritual Last Supper together. A few days later, mass suicides and murders were conducted at two villages in Switzerland and in Morin Heights, a ski resort north of Montreal, Quebec. 15 inner circle members (called the "awakened") committed suicide by the use of poison. 30 (called the "immortals") were killed by bullets or smothering. 8 others (called the "traitors") were also killed. 

On 1995-NOV-16, close to winter solstice, 16 of the remaining members of the group disappeared from their homes in France and Switzerland. Four left notes which hinted at a second mass suicide and expressing a desire to "see another world". 13 adults and 3 children were later found dead in a remote forest on the Vergers plateau, in southeast France. Investigators concluded on 1996-NOV-15 that at least four of the 16 did not die willingly. Three were children. The fourth, Ute Verona, 34, had her jaw fractured before she died; this indicates a struggle had occurred. Most had been given sleep-inducing drugs. During the trial of Solar Temple leader Michel Tabachnik, French magistrate Luc Fontaine stated that two members -- policeman Jean-Pierre Lanchet and architect Andre Friedli -- shot the others, including three children aged 18 months, two years and four years. The two poured gasoline over their bodies, set them on fire, shot themselves and fell into the flames. 2

Five additional adult members, and three teenage children apparently tried to committed suicide on the day of the spring equinox 1997-MAR-20, in St. Casimir, Quebec, Canada. The attempt failed due to faulty equipment. The teenage sons and daughter of one of the couples convinced their parents that they wanted to live. They were allowed to leave, while the adults made their second, successful, attempt to burned down the house with themselves in it. Four of their bodies were arranged in the form of a cross. The teens were found drugged and disoriented, but otherwise safe, in a nearby building. A note was found there which described the group belief that death on earth leads to a transit to a new planet where their lives would continue.

Members of this religious group appear to synchronize their mass murders/suicides to follow shortly after the solstices and equinoxes. The Quebec police carefully monitored the Queze family during the summer solstice in 1996. But there was no unusual activity at that time, or following the 1996 fall equinox in September or winter solstice in December. So, the deaths just after the spring equinox came as a surprise to the authorities.

The police decided on 1997-APR-25 to not charge the three teen-age survivors of the St. Casimir mass suicide with arson. They are aged 13, 14 and 16. Although they triggered the incendiary device, they were under the influence of sedatives at the time, and had been psychologically affected by living with members of the Solar Temple group. Other factors considered by the prosecutor were that they tried to persuade the adults to not commit suicide, and that they chose life for themselves.

The Solar Temple group continues to exist; it is believed to have over 30 surviving members in Quebec and from 140 to 500 worldwide. Additional mass murders and suicides in Quebec, France or Switzerland are possible following future solstices and/or equinoxes near the end of March, June, September and December. The Canadian police are limited by the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms; they cannot investigate religious groups that are registered as such with the government. They can only investigate individuals.

A splinter religious group with Roman Catholic Christian and New Age beliefs. Total deaths through murder and suicide (1995-1997): 74

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References:

  1. Jennifer Sloan, "Order of the Solar Temple," (1999) at: http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/
  2. "French magistrate rejects idea that outsiders killed cultists," AFP, 2001-APR-24, at: http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/afp/

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2004-APR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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