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 35, 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 FabréPalaprat
(17731838), 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
The Solar Temple was founded in 1984 as the Ordre International
Chevalresque Tradition Solaire by Luc Jouret
(19471994) and Joseph Di Mambro (19241994). Jouret was
born in the Belgian Congo, but as a youth his parents returned
Society Ordo Templi Orientis Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
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 Baileys 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 Mambros 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 Mambros 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
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 Mambros 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 Emmanuelles
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 spiritualreligious groups such as the murders
committed by leaders of the AUM Shinrikyo Buddhists in
Japan and the suicides of 39 members of Heavens 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 groups 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.