Order of the Solar Temple
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The Order of the Solar Temple, also known as Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS) in French and the International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition or simply as The Solar Temple, is a secret society that claims to be based upon the ideals of the Knights Templar. OTS was started by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret in 1984 in Geneva as l'Ordre International Chevaleresque de Tradition Solaire (OICTS) and later renamed Ordre du Temple Solaire.
Some historians allege that the Solar Temple originates with French author Jacques Breyer, who established a Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple in 1952. In 1968, a schismatic order was renamed the Renewed Order of the Solar Temple (ROTS) under the leadership of French right-wing political activist Julien Origas.
The OTS is perhaps most notorious for being associated with a series of murders and mass suicides in 1994 and '95 that claimed several dozen lives.
According to "Peronnik" (a pseudonym of temple member Robert Chabrier) in his book, "Pourquoi la Résurgence de l'Ordre du Temple? Tome Premier: Le Corps" ("Why a Revival of the Order of the Solar Temple? Vol. One: The Body") 1975, pp. 147–149, the aims of the Order of the Solar Temple included: establishing "correct notions of authority and power in the world"; an affirmation of the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal; assisting humanity through a great "transition"; preparing for the Second Coming of Christ as a solar god-king; and furthering a unification of all Christian churches and Islam. The group reportedly drew some inspiration for its teachings from British occultist Aleister Crowley, who headed the Order of Eastern Temple from 1923 until his death in 1947, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a 19th-century Rosicrucian Order Crowley belonged to briefly. Both occult groups had a grade system somewhat similar to the Solar Temple. Another Rosicrucian group, the Rosicrucian Fellowship headed by Max Heindel, also mentioned that Rosicrucians worship Christ as "The Solar Logos" (Rays from the Cross Magazine, June, 1933), although this is not orthodox Christian doctrine.
There were Solar Temple lodges in Morin Heights and Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Quebec, Canada, as well as in Australia, Switzerland, Martinique and other countries. The Temple's activities were a mix of early Christian Identity, UFO religion and New Age philosophy using variously adapted Freemason rituals. Jouret was interested in attractive, wealthy and influential members, and it was reputed that several affluent Europeans were secret members of the group.
According to the literature of the OTS, the central authority was the Synarchy of the Temple, whose membership was secret. Its top 33 members were known as the Elder Brothers of the Rosy Cross (an alternative name for the Rosicrucians), and were headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland. The Council of the Order formed Lodges that were run by a Regional Commander and three Elders. Progression in the Order was by levels and grades, with three grades per level — the levels being The Brothers of Parvis, The Knights of the Alliance and the Brothers of the Ancient Times, in ascending order. There were many organizations associated with the OTS, including the International Archedia Sciences and Tradition, Archedia Clubs, Menta Clubs, Agata Clubs and Atlanta Clubs, all of which offered the teachings of Luc Jouret both to the general public and privately to OTS members. The Lodges had altars, rituals and costumes. Members were initiated at each stage of advancement in ceremonies which included expensive purchases, jewellery, costumes, regalia, and the payment of initiation fees. During ceremonies, members wore Crusader-type robes and were to hold in awe a sword, which Di Mambro said was an authentic Templar artifact, given to him a thousand years ago in a previous life.
Mass murders and suicides
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In October 1994, Tony Dutoit's infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group's centre in Morin-Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Antichrist described in the Bible. He believed that the Antichrist was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.
A few days later, Di Mambro and twelve followers performed a ritual Last Supper. A few days after that, apparent mass suicides and murders were conducted at Cheiry and Salvan, two villages in Western Switzerland, and at Morin Heights — 15 inner circle members committed suicide with poison, 30 were killed by bullets or smothering, and 8 others were killed by other causes. In Switzerland, many of the victims were found in a secret underground chapel lined with mirrors and other items of Templar symbolism. The bodies were dressed in the order's ceremonial robes and were in a circle, feet together, heads outward, most with plastic bags tied over their heads; they had each been shot in the head. It is believed[by whom?] that the plastic bags were a symbol of the ecological disaster that would befall the human race after the OTS members moved on to Sirius. It is also believed[by whom?] that these bags were used as part of the OTS rituals, and that members would have voluntarily worn them without being placed under duress. There was also evidence that many of the victims in Switzerland were drugged before they were shot. Other victims were found in three ski chalets; several dead children were lying together. The tragedy was discovered when officers rushed to the sites to fight the fires that had been ignited by remote-control devices. Farewell letters left by the believers stated that they believed they were leaving to escape the "hypocrisies and oppression of this world."
A mayor, a journalist, a civil servant, and a sales manager were found among the dead in Switzerland. Records seized by the Quebec police showed that some members had personally donated over C$1 million to Di Mambro. Another attempted mass suicide of the remaining members was thwarted in the late 1990s. All the suicide/murders and attempts occurred around the dates of the equinoxes and solstices in some relation to the beliefs of the group.
Another mass-death incident related to the OTS took place during the night between the 15 and 16 December 1995. On 23 December 1995, 16 bodies were discovered in a star-formation in the Vercors mountains of France. It was found later that two of them shot the others and then committed suicide by firearm and immolation.
On the morning of 23 March 1997, five members of the OTS took their own lives in Saint-Casimir, Quebec. A small house erupted in flames, leaving behind five charred bodies for the police to pull from the rubble. Three teenagers, aged 13, 14 and 16, the children of one of the couples that died in the fire, were discovered in a shed behind the house, alive but heavily drugged.
Michel Tabachnik, an internationally renowned Swiss musician and conductor, was arrested as a leader of the Solar Temple in the late 1990s. He was indicted for "participation in a criminal organization" and murder. He came to trial in Grenoble, France during the spring of 2001 and was acquitted. French prosecutors appealed against the verdict and an appellate court ordered a second trial beginning October 24, 2006. He was again cleared less than two months later on December 2006.
The sect in Spain
The Order of the Solar Temple is also based in Spain, especially in the Canary Islands. In 1984, the founder of the sect, Luc Jouret, lectured on the island of Tenerife. In the south of the island he lived the leader of the order in Spain, also the only Spaniard who died in the suicide of the Order of the Solar Temple was a barber from the island of Tenerife. In 1998, a sect was suspected of plotting ritual suicide in the Teide National Park. Both the Spanish and German police initially have linked the group to the Order of the Solar Temple.
In popular culture
The OTS and the suicides are major plot points in James Rollins' Sigma Force novel 6.5, The Skeleton Key (2010). The story opens with cataphile/urban explorer Renny MacLeod, who has tattooed a map of the Catacombs of Paris on his body, learning he has been kidnapped and forced to guide former Guild member Seichan to find and save the kidnapper's son, who is scheduled to be sacrificed, at noon, by the Order of the Solar Temple.
In the Season 2 episode "Cross-Pollination" of the Syfy television series Helix, a character makes a passing reference to the Solar Temple along with Jonestown in a scene involving a dangerous cult leader.
The Order of the Solar Temple is mentioned in Chapter 27 the Chuck Palahniuk novel Survivor by the The Agent, when explaining to Tender Branson how they knew that he would be the sole survivor of a similar mass suicide by the Creedists.
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