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 suicidemurder 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 La Pyramide was superseded by the Golden Way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
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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.
Sources
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.