What do you get when you combine survivalist obsession, Evangelical Christian doctrine, and new age ideas based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Knights Templar? You get a creepy cult founded in 1984 that may still have followers in existence. So what is the Order of the Solar Temple, as they so loftily call themselves?
Founded by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret, the Order of the Solar Temple was located in Switzerland, France, and Canada. They had several directives in creating a cult but their basic goal was to reestablish the notions of authority and power they thought the world needed. They did some especially crazy things that included murder, rituals, wearing hoods, and, of course, mass suicide in 1994 and 1997. Here are the most unsettling facts about this elite cult.
Three Members Of The Cult Were Ruthlessly Murdered For Revealing Secrets
On September 30, 1994, three members of the cult were found stabbed to death in Montreal, Quebec. One of the victims was a 3-month-old child found alongside his parents, Antonio and Nicky Dutoit. They were killed by two other members of the Order of the Solar Temple on the orders of Di Mambro.
Outwardly, Di Mambro told members that the Dutoits' new child was the antichrist. A conclusion he came to out of his anger that the Dutoits had named their child the same name as one of Di Mambro's own (god-like) children, Emmanuelle. Reports that Antonio (Tony) had recently admitted to other cult members that he'd helped install mechanisms in a lodge used for tricking members into thinking they were seeing miraculous things are also cited as motive for the murders.
Followers Believed They Would Be Reborn On A Planet Circling The Star Sirius
Among the cult's zanier beliefs was that life on Earth was ending. As a result the group's goals were initially based around survivalist behavior and doomsday prep. The members in Canada even started an organic farm that's still in operation. Members also stockpiled food, weapons, and ammunition to prepare for the impending ecological disasters, which they posited would be caused by volcanoes.
Of course, this wasn't proving to be the most sustainable of messages in keeping members invested. With their credibility, both internally and externally, starting to waver, a new credo emerged. The new message emphasized that life on Earth was an illusion. Elders told members that their only hope lay in shedding their earthly bodies in order to be reborn on an unnamed planet orbiting the Dog Star, Sirius. Thus, their eventual fiery end.
Membership Came At A Steep Price
Members of the Order of the Solar Temple had to pay to move up in the organization - a detail conveniently benefiting the cult's leaders. There were initiation fees, gifts were required to be given to leaders, and mandatory tuition.
In exchange, members were let in on the cult's secrets and promised salvation upon the return of the second coming of Christ (the solar God-King). Of course not everyone was on board with the cult's dues. A few regular members left the cult once they realized their leaders, Jouret and Di Mambro, were leading lavish lifestyles from the income earned from members.
Members Could Level-Up In The Cult
Over six years, the Order of the Solar Temple gained over 400 members and delineated itself into a three-part structure. The lowest, the Amanta Club, was designed for members who spread the cult's message to new people. These ambassadors gave lectures all around the world, proselytizing the group's doctrine.
The next level up, the Archedia Club, consisted of members who were allowed to know a bit more of the cult's secrets and were promised the reward of coming closer to a "higher consciousness." One had to be hand-selected to reach this level by an Elder. The highest circle of the cult was called the International Knighthood Organization. Reaching this level involved secret initiation rituals and its members had access to publications others did not.