Training centre for release of the Atma-energy

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Training centre for release of the Atma-energy (German: Trainingszentrum zur Freisetzung der Atmaenergie[1]), also known as Atman Foundation, was a new religious movement active mainly on the island of Tenerife and in Germany. This sect was originally a splinter group of the Brahma Kumaris[2] and is known for a police and media scare in which an alleged attempt to commit ritual suicide took place in Teide National Park in Tenerife. The group believed in the end of the world but according to the religious studies scholar Georg Schmid[3] and the sociologist Massimo Introvigne had no intention of collective suicide.[1][4]

Apparently, the 32 members of the sect believed that they would be collected by a spacecraft and taken to an unspecified destination. Failing that, they were believed to be going to commit suicide.[5] However, more recent articles in Tenerife News and Diario de Avisos question this, saying there was no intention to commit suicide by the group.[6][7]

The Spanish media referred to the group as "secta de Heide Fittkau", after the name of its founder.


It was founded by a German psychologist, Heide Fittkau-Garthe, who, on August 15, 1994 sold all her assets and moved to Tenerife.

On January 8, 1998, Fittkau-Garthe was alleged to have attempted suicide with her followers in Teide National Park, resulting in a police raid on the premises that the sect had in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.[8] [6]

According to Spanish and German police, the group was going to perform a sacrifice similar to that performed by the Order of the Solar Temple on October 4, 1994 in Cheiry and Salvan, two villages in Switzerland.[9] It was later clarified that the Atman Foundation had nothing to do with the Solar Temple.[2]

The group was thought to be planning to drink fruit juice laced with poison which was confiscated during the raid. On analysis the fruit juice was found not to contain any poison. In Germany all charges were eventually dropped in against members of the group due to lack of evidence although the accusation still remained in Spain as of 2004 with no trial scheduled.[7][10][2] The acquittal of Fittkau-Garthe in Spain received almost no attention in the news.[11]

When interviewed by a local daily, Fittkau-Garthe made the following statement, "The group was no sect and I have never worked in one. I was accused of planning the suicide of a group of friends who had merely come over to spend Christmas in Tenerife. What actually happened in 1998 was the result of an act of a daughter’s vengeance on her mother who was one of the group. Six months before they had had an enormous family row and it was the daughter who contacted Interpol and told them her mother and another hundred people were in the mountains of Tenerife intending to commit mass suicide. The daughter, she said, had informed the authorities that the group was a destructive sect. What happened was terrible. And the worst of it all were the lies that were told concerning children."[6]


According to Angela Gabriela a former member of the sect, the highlight of the ritual was the "love ring". This practice consisted of huge orgies, even between members of the same family.[12]

There were two children in the sect, a boy of twelve and a girl of eight; apparently, the sect believed that when the eight-year-old girl turned sixteen she would beget Jesus. In an orgy she would be impregnated by one of the men of the sect and nobody would know who was to be the child's father.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schmid, Georg; Eggenberger, Oswald (2003). Kirchen, Sekten, Religionen: religiöse Gemeinschaften, weltanschauliche Gruppierungen und Psycho-Organisationen im deutschen Sprachraum; ein Handbuch (in German). Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. pp. 269–271. ISBN 3-290-17215-5. 
  2. ^ a b c James T. Richardson (2004). Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe. ISBN 978-0-306-47887-1, p. 157. "The case refers to the Atman Foundation (originally a splinter group from the Brahma Kumaris) and made international headlines on January 8, 1998 when it was announced that the Canary Islands police had prevented a mass suicide of “a branch of the Solar Temple” by arresting its leader. German motivational speaker Heide Fittkau—Garthe. and a number of followers During subsequent months‘ the case disappeared from the international media. At the local level, it was clarified that the Atman Foundation has nothing to do with the Solar Temple but, according to a family of disgruntled German ex-members, may be “just as bad". Police investigations in Germany failed to detect any evidence that the Foundation was preparing a mass suicide. However, the accusation is maintained in Spain at the time of this writing, together with some others, although no trial has been scheduled."
  3. ^ de:Georg Schmid (Religionswissenschaftler)
  4. ^ Introvigne, Massimo. "Atman Foundation: No Evidence of Attempted Mass Suicide". CESNUR. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Rod Usher. Near-Death Experience, Time, January 19, 1998 Vol. 151 No. 3 Archived from the original on May 22, 2011
  6. ^ a b c Beam them up, Heidi - Remembering the Las Cañadas suicide sect scare, Tenerife News Online, Retrieved, 2007-10-13
  7. ^ a b Suicidio colectivo con zumo de frutas Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Diario de avisos, 21 april 2004
  8. ^ La policía frustra el suicidio colectivo de los 33 miembros de una secta en Tenerife (La Vanguardia, 9 de enero de 1998)
  9. ^ La líder de la secta de Tenerife recaudó 300 millones entre sus fieles
  10. ^
  11. ^ Palmer, Susan (2011). The new heretics of France. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-19-973521-1. 
  12. ^ a b Heide Fittkau y el "anillo del amor" La Opinión de Tenerife