Trigger warning: This story contains child murder, murder and suicide.
Ever heard of The Order of the Solar Temple? Also known as the Ordre du Temple Solaire, OTS, the International Chilvalric Organization of the Solar Tradition or The Solar Temple, it was a religious sect started in Geneva, Switzerland in 1984. Many people became aware of this cult in 1994 and 1995, when it was associated with several murders and a mass suicide.
Let’s start at the beginning. The founders of the OTS were Joseph di Mambro and Luc Jouret. Di Mambro was a jeweller, orginally born in France in 1924. He moved to Switzerland in 1971 after he was arrested in France for writing bad checks. In Switzerland he worked as a teacher of yoga and the occult. He started several ‘secret’ societies, one of which was the Golden Way. Later Di Mambro would claim he was a Knight Templar in a previous life.
In 1982, Luc Jouret joined the Golden Way. He was born in Kikwit, Belgian Congo, in 1947 and was trained as a homeopathic doctor. In 1982, he started the ‘Amanta Club’, that managed his speaking arrangements. Jouret was a respected, charismatic and popular speaker on the topics of homeopathy, naturopathy and ecological subjects.
Luc Jouret and Joseph di Mambro were both members of the Renewed Order of the Temple (ORT). After the leader of the ORT, Julien Origas, died in 1983, Jouret claimed that he was the heir of his power and therefore the new leader of the ORT. The heirs of Origas did not agree and excluded Jouret and di Mambro from the ORT.
The Beginning and beliefs of the OTS
So, after being removed from the ORT Jouret and di Mambro had to start again… They started The Order of the Solar Temple in 1984 and quickly moved to Canada due to animosity with the members of the ORT. Jouret held lectures to interest new followers in Canada, the Caribbean, the US, Spain, France and Switzerland. This was the previously mentioned ‘Amanta Club’. The goal was to spread the OTS’s ideas and get the spiritual elite interested in those ideas. The lectures organized by the Amanta Club were popular and drew large crowds. However, only a few joined the OTS. After giving the new members more information, the suitable ones were invited to join the ‘Archedia Club’, where they would receive even more information about the ideology of OTS. After this, the ‘best’ members would be invited into the inner sactum of the OTS, the International Knighthood Organization. Membership was at its maximum in 1989 at 442 members, of which 86 in Canada.
Di Mambro was the real ‘behind-the-scenes’ leader of the OTS, while Jouret was their public image. Di Mambro claimed to be in contact with the divine and to be their representative on earth. He would receive messages during group sessions. The further beliefs of the OTS were inspired by the original Knights Templar. The OTS practiced various types of meditative and occult disciplines, with the goal to achieve an enlightened state of consciousness. Their other aims included ‘assisting humanity through a great transition’, waiting for the second coming of Christ and unifying all Cristian churches.
The OTS had a hierarchical system in place for leadership. The central authority, the Synarchy of the Temple, had only anonymous members. The most important members of the cult were known as the Elder Brothers of the Rosy Cross. There were 33 members of this order and they resided in Zurich, Switzerland. The rest of the OTS consisted of Lodges, run by a Commander and 3 Elders. You could progress in the order through leveling up. There were three grades per level, and the levels were named (from lowest to highest)… ready? The Brothers of Parvis, The Knights of Alliance and the Brothers of Ancient Times. Yes, really.
The lodges in the OTS used altars, rituals and special outfits. Each member ascending a grade or level up was celebrated with an initiation ceremony, including costumes, jewellery and initiation fees to be payed by the member. A sword was often used in ceremonies led by Di Mambro, which he claimed to be an authentic sword of the Knights Templar. The sword was given to Di Mambro, you guessed it, in his previous life as a Knight Templar (how he still had it hundreds of years later, is unknown…).
By the late 80ies, the OTS now believed that the world would end at the end of the ‘age of Christianity’. They based this on a 1959 book by French author Jacques Bryer, named Arcanes Solaires ou les secrets du temple solaire. Breyer named three possible dates for the end of the world: 1999, 2147 or 2666. He added that the specific date was not important, but the right preparation for the end of the world was absolutely necessary. The group also believed that they would produce the next generation of human, including nice ‘cosmic’ children that would lead the New Age. Di Mambro’s daughter Emmanuelle was one of these cosmic children. He also claimed she would be the new Messiah, and that she was conceived without him and her mother having sex.
Murders and ‘Transits’
Trigger warning: Further reading contains child murder, murder and suicide.
Di Mambro’s son Elie discovered that the divine messages his father received were faked by special effects. He told members of the OTS. This led to 15 members leaving. Some members believed the visions were real, and some members had doubts about Di Mambro’s claims, but still believed in the goals of the OTS. This was also the period that the term ‘transit’ was introduced to the members of the OTS. It was used to describe the voluntary departure from the current world to reach a new world. The OTS believed that it was needed to enter a higher spiritual plane before the world ended to be able to get to this new world. OTS members initially thought the transit meant a change in conciousness. It is unknown when the OTS-members were told it literally meant leaving this world by dying and a ‘transit’ did not involve a spaceship or UFO.
Di Mambro started planning the ‘transits’ in 1993. To mythologize the cult, he wrote letters to public figures and destroyed most of the groups documentation, so no evidence was left. But then… the siege at Waco happened. Swiss police later found audio of a conversation between Jouret and Di Mambro, talking about Waco. Di Mambro commented that ‘People have beaten us to the punch, you know‘, to which Jouret replied ‘Well, yeah. Waco beat us to the punch‘. Di Mambro answered ‘In my opinion, we should have gone six months before them. What we will do will be even more spectacular‘. Internal texts from this time, found later, shows the state of mind of the cults members and their leaders: ‘Do you understand what we represent? We are the promise that the R[osy] C[ross] made to the Immutable. We are the Star Seeds that guarantee the perennial existence of the universe, we are the hand of God that shapes creation. We are the Torch that Christ must bring to the Father to feed the Primordial Fire and to reanimate the forces of Life, which, without our contribution, would slowly but surely go out. We hold the key to the universe and must secure its Eternity.‘
A fire destroyed a house in Morin Heights, Quebec, on October 4th 1994. In the house, owned by Di Mambro, the burned remains of two people were found. They were later identified as Collette Rochat and Jerry Genoud, two members of the OTS. Two days later, in the same house in a closet, police found the bodies of two adults and a baby. Autopsies later showed that the two adults were Tony Dutoit, his wife Suzanne Robinson and their infant son Christopher Emmanuel Dutoit (3 months). They all had been stabbed to death, before the fire, by two other OTS members. It was later revealed that Di Mambro had told the cult that baby Christopher Emmanuel was the antichrist (due to him being named Emmanuel, Di Mambro saw this as a challenge to his daughter Emmanuelle’s status as the new Messiah). Collette and Jerry, the other bodies found in the Morin Heigths’ house, ignited the fire and died there willingly.
Twelve hours later, across the world, in Cheiry, Switzerland, another house was on fire… Inside the firemen discovered a gruesome sight. The walls were full of mirrors and the windows were concealed behind thick crimson curtains. On the floor, 23 dead bodies were arranged in the shape on the sun (like the spokes of a wheel). Most were wearing the ceremonial costumes of the OTS. Autopsy showed that 19 of 23 died by gunshot wounds to the head and some were found with plastic bags covering their face.
Later that same day, yet another farmhouse was reported to be on fire in Granges-sur-Salvan, Switzerland. It was owned by… the OTS. Inside, 25 people were found dead, all reportedly from an overdose of drugs. Among these 25 bodies, the authorities found the bodies of Joseph Di Mambro, his daughter, Luc Jouret and the two people that were suspected of killing the Dutoit family in Canada.
A year later, in December 1995, another 16 bodies were found in France. They were also arranged in the shape of the sun. All were shot.
In 1997, a fire broke out in a house in Quebec. When firefighters arrived, three children (13, 14 and 16) claimed that their parents had drugged themselves and had died. The parents had wanted to drug the children too, but they managed to escape. In the house, 5 corpses were found. So, in total, 74 members of the OTS died, possibly by suicide. However, since the method of death was mostly drugging, asphyxiation or shooting, there is no real way to know what happened and if these death really were murders. After an extensive police investigation, the consensus was that most of the dead at Cheiry were murdered, while most at Granges-sur-Salvan died from suicide.
The OTS seems to have survived and is believed to still have active members. The have not been open about their activities lately, but then again, they are a secret sect…