Di Mambro, Joseph (1924-1994)
Di Mambro, Joseph (1924-1994)
Joseph Di Mambro, was cofounder of the Solar Temple, an occult order that jumped into the public spotlight after more than 50 members died in an act of mass suicide/murder in 1994. Di Mambro was born in rural southern France. He did not go to college, but learned clockmaking and the jewelry business by which he was employed as a young man. He also was attracted to occultism, and in January of 1956 joined the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis (AMORC), the American Rosicrucian group which enjoyed great success in France in the decades following World War II (1939-45). In the late 1960s he became the head of the AMORC lodge in Nimes, France. He remained a Rosicrucian member until 1969.
In 1970, Di Mambro gave up his business career to become a full-time lecturer in what would become known as the New Age Movement. In 1973 he founded the Center for the Preparation of the New Age in Annemause, France, and three years later established a communal group, La Pyramide, in Geneva, Switzerland. La Pyramide was superseded by the Golden Way Foundation two years later.
During his years in Geneva, Di Mambro developed as a teacher and began to present himself as a representative of the Great White Brotherhood, that group of evolved beings which many theosophists believe guide the evolution of the human race. He claimed to be an incarnation of several notable ancient figures (including Moses and the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaton).
In the early 1980s, Di Mambro invited Luc Jouret, a popular New Age and holistic health speaker, to lecture at the Golden Way. Jouret was a member of another occult group, the Renewed Order of the Temple, and the two discovered their mutual interests and beliefs. Together they founded the Solar Temple in which they married traditional initiatory occultism with a belief in the coming New Age. Di Mambro prepared the rituals used by the group while Jouret continued to travel widely, bringing people into a club he had formed, and from the club members selected people to be invited into the new order.
The members of the Golden Way provided the core from which the Solar Temple grew. In 1982, Di Mambro fathered a child whom he named Emmanuelle. He saw her as a cosmic being who would lead in the coming New Age. As the order progressed, he chose mates for people, looking for them to have special children who would assist Emmanuelle in her New Age task. The rituals, drawn in part from the writings of Alice A. Bailey, called upon the Great White Brotherhood to release the energy through the world that would bring the awaited change.
All seemed to be well through the 1980s, but in the early 1990s, people began to challenge Di Mambro's authority. Trouble seemed to have started when one member who left in 1991 began to complain that the group was a cult and filed a lawsuit against it. Then in 1993, Luc Jouret was arrested when he attempted to purchase some illegal weapons. The resulting publicity not only destroyed his reputation, but called the group to the attention of the authorities. These problems might have been weathered, had not Di Mambro's health failed. Reportedly, he was having problems with his kidneys, had become incontinent, and had developed cancer. His cosmic child was also revolting against her treatment and had become unmanageable.
Di Mambro's problems set the context for the negative turn that developed in his thought by 1993. He felt that the public was not responding to the New Age and that it was best that he and those who were ready drop out and move on to a higher dimension. That occurred on October 3-5, 1994, when Di Mambro and some 50 members of the Solar Temple died in three separate acts in Quebec and Switzerland. At his direction, a couple who had had a child in opposition to his orders were murdered along with their son. The night before he committed suicide, Di Mambro and a small group of his closest confidants has a last feast together. It was determined that the majority who died were given tranquilizers and were subsequently shot. Their bodies were then arranged in a circular pattern.
Introvigne, Massimo. "The Magic of Death: The Suicides of the Solar Temple." In Catherine Wessinger, ed. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2000.
Meyer, Jean François. "&43'Our Terrestrial Journey is Coming to an End:" The Late Voyage of the Solar Temple." Nova Religio 2, 2 (April 1999): 172-96.
Palmer, Susan. "Purity and Danger in the Solar Temple." Journal of Contemporary Religion 11, 3 (October 1996): 303-18.
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2000.