Solar Temple

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Solar Temple

The Solar Temple (officially the Ordre du Temple Solaire or OTS) was an obscure French-speaking initiatory occult order that made front-page headlines following the suicide death of its leaders among 52 people who died in a 72-hour period in three incidents on October 3-5, 1994, in Switzerland and Quebec. Sixteen additional members of the group died on the winter solstice in 1995 and five more on March 22, 1997, in Quebec. It appears that some of those who died committed suicide in hopes of making a transition to a higher world. A few people were murdered, considered traitors by the larger group. The remainder were considered weaker members and were assisted (i.e., murdered) to make the transition.

The Solar Temple was one of a number of groups that emerged in France and neighboring countries in the years since 1804 that traced their authority to a lineage of grand masters of the Order of the Temple, a medieval order of knights that was suppressed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1804, a Parisian physician, Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1773-1838), claimed that he was the successor to a secret line of Templar grand masters who had kept the order alive through the years since its disappearance from public view. Following his death the order began to splinter. Among the modern splinters from this millieu was the Renewed Order of the Temple founded around 1970 by Julian Origas (1920-1983).

The Solar Temple was founded in 1984 as the Ordre International Chevalresque Tradition Solaire by Luc Jouret (1947-1994) and Joseph Di Mambro (1924-1994). Jouret was born in the Belgian Congo, but as a youth his parents returned to Belgium where he attended the Free University of Brussels and became a physician. After a short time in the army, he took training as a homeopathic physician and established a practice in France. In the early 1980s he became a popular speaker on alternative medicine in French-speaking Europe and Quebec. His travels brought him into contact with Di Mambro. Di Mambro was a French jeweler and watchmaker who as a young man had joined the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis (AMORC). In 1973, he founded the first of several successive organizations, the Center for the Preparation of the New Age, in Annemasse, France. One of the successor groups, the Golden Way Foundation, in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted Luc Jouret for some of his health lectures.

The Solar Temple was founded as a secret order in the 1980s. Its members were drawn from affiliates of the Amenta and Archédia Clubs, esoteric groups founded by Jouret, and the Golden Way Foundation. The Solar Temple members saw themselves as assisting in the arrival of the coming New Age. They practiced various meditative and occult disciplines and participated in elaborate rituals to achieve an enlightened state of consciousness. The rituals invoked the spiritual hierarchy of ascended masters to send light and love to bring in the New Age. The recitation of the popular "Great Invocation" that originated in the Alice Bailey's Arcane school was an integral part of their ritual life. Members also believed that the group would produce a next generation of exceptional children, including nine cosmic children who would initiate the New Age. To this end, group members listened to Di Mambro's identification of them with famous people in previous incarnations, his pairing them in cosmic marriages.

The group prospered through the 1980s, reaching a peak of 442 members in 1989, but in the early 1990s it began to lose members, a number of whom demanded the money they had contributed be returned. The leadership became increasingly pessimistic as members defected, no signs of the coming New Age appeared, and Di Mambro's health suffered.

By 1994, Di Mambro, Jouret, and a few members in their confidence began to think in terms of an alternate plan. Since the world was not responding to their message, they decided to escape the world to a higher reality via suicide. In the process, they also decided to take revenge on some of the former members.

In 1982, Di Mambro had fathered a female child, Emmanuelle, who was assigned a messianic role in the New Age. At a later date, against Di Mambro's orders not to have children, Nicki Dutoit became pregnant, and she and her husband left the order. When their child arrived, he was named Christopher Emmanuel. Di Mambro saw this act as a challenge to Emmanuelle's status and labeled the young boy the Antichrist. When the decision was made to make the transition, the Dutoits and their son were the first victims. They were murdered on October 3, 1994, and their two assailants then committed suicide in the house in Morin Heights, Quebec. On that same day, 22 people were found dead in Cheiry, Switzerland, 18 of whom were found in a room with their bodies arranged in a circular patterns as if they were the spokes of a wheel. On October 25 bodies were found in two chalets in Granges-sur Salvan, Switzerland.

It was later concluded that of the total of 52 dead, only 15 were suicides. Besides the three people murdered in Canada, the majority had been drugged and killed, many by shooting. Di Mambro and Jouret were among those who committed suicide. However, the next year 16 more who had not been invited to the original event in Switzerland died at their own hand near Grenoble, France. A final five died on March 22 (spring equinox), 1997, in Canada. In the meantime, the Solar Temple had been disbanded and its surviving members have melded back into the population.

The Solar Temple deaths were a unique event for the European Templar and occult community, though it has in the popular consciousness been tied to several other violent incidents involving small new spiritual/religious groups such as the murders committed by leaders of the AUM Shinrikyo Buddhists in Japan and the suicides of 39 members of Heaven's Gate, the American UFO contactee group. In France and Belgium, it led to a backlash against minority religions that continues to the present. The government of Switzerland carried out an extensive investigation of the deaths and concluded that it had been the outcome of the group's theological choices. Religious scholar Jean François Mayer consulted with the police in their investigation.


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. " 'Our Terrestrial Journey is Coming to an End:" The Late Voyage of the Solar Temple." Nova Religio 2, 2 (April 1999): 172-196.

Palmer, Susan. "Purity and Danger in the Solar Temple." Journal of Contemporary Religion 11, 3 (October 1996): 303-318.

Wessinger, Catherine How the Millennium Comes Violently. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 2000.