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.
A staple of any remarkable cult is their defining final en masse act. On October 5, 1994, 53 members of the cult in Switzerland and Canada were found dead, including its founders Luc Jouret and Joseph Di Mambro. The defining characteristic of the mass suicide was fire, which is what brought authorities to the crime scenes. A burned farmhouse in Switzerland held 23 bodies and 25 more were in burned down ski chalets in another part of Switzerland. The other 15 were found in Canada where the cult leaders lived.
Inner circle members appeared to have used poison to die while other members had bags over their heads and had been shot in the head. They wore white ceremonial robes and were arranged in a circle, feet together, facing a temple.
The following year another 16 bodies were found in the French Alps, also burned and similar in ritual to the first mass suicide. Among the casualties were three children and, in both instances, voluntary participation in the acts was questionable.
Among the many things that Jouret claimed in front of elite members of the cult was that in a previous life he was a member of the Knights Templar. He also told them that he was the third reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Using the "authority" this gave him, Jouret would choose female members of the cult to engage with sexually before ceremonies.
He claimed they gave him the spiritual strength to do his holy duties.
Several days before the first mass suicide, Di Mambro recruited 12 of his closest and highest ranked followers. They recreated their version of the Last Supper, the biblical final meal attended by Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
In this version, Di Mambro took on the role of Christ, and led his "apostles" through the traditional dinner. These inner circle members were aware of the forthcoming murder plans.
Joseph Di Mambro was in charge of the cult's rituals and ceremonies. He led prayers and guided members through meditation sessions. In order to emphasize his importance in the cult and his own status as "holy" he told members that his son was conceived through theogamy, or "marriage" with the gods.
He also stated that his daughter was conceived immaculately, like Mary's pregnancy with Jesus Christ.