Order of the Solar Temple (OTS)

The Order of the Solar Temple (OTS, Ordre du Temple Solaire) gained international notoriety following the murders, suicides and arson that occurred in Switzerland and Quebec in 1994, in France in 1995 and again in Quebec in 1997. The group's history can be traced back to well before the 1990s. The group was founded in France in 1984 by Jo Di Mambro and Luc Jouret.fn 136 What follows is a summary of the history of the group.

Group history

Golden age of the OTS

The beliefs and traditions elaborated by Jo Di Mambro were inspired by his experience between 1956 and 1969 with the Ancient and Mystic Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), or Rosicrucian Order.fn 137

In 1976, Jo Di Mambro founded the Centre for the Preparation of the New Age. Shortly thereafter, a small group of men and women came to live with Di Mambro. He transmitted his knowledge and beliefs to them so that together they could prepare for the arrival of the new age. Their daily schedule was organized around propagating the group's philosophy, preparing for the new age and performing esoteric ceremonies.

In 1978, Di Mambro founded a second centre, in Geneva, called the Golden Way Foundation. As with the first group, the members of this centre believed that the universe was going to be transformed. Participation in this group would enable the members to prepare their bodies and spirits for passage into the new world.fn 138

In the early 1980s Di Mambro met Luc Jouret and saw in him the charismatic man who could present the group's philosophy to the public. Luc Jouret was rapidly integrated into one of Di Mambro's groups.fn 139

Foundation of the OTS: The active period

In 1984, the Golden Way Foundation approved and financed Jo Di Mambro and his spouse's move to Canada. Jouret and Di Mambro then founded the Order of the Solar Temple.

While Di Mambro led the group behind the scenes, Luc Jouret was its public face. He gave lectures in France, Switzerland and Canada and participated in radio shows where he talked about various themes addressed in the group's public lectures.fn 140

Between 1984 and 1990 three structures with different functions were created:fn 141

· 1st structure: Amanta Club

The goal of this club was to disseminate the group's philosophy and to bring together a spiritual elite in order to achieve a higher state of consciousness. This club offered lectures on various themes in Canada, the Caribbean, the United States, Spain, France and Switzerland. While these lectures drew large numbers, few joined the group or were selected to be part of its elite.

· 2nd structure: Archedia Club

After recruiting a small number of individuals to the Amanta Club and giving them some basic knowledge, certain participants were invited to joint the Archedia Club. The objective of this club was to provide members with more advanced knowledge that would enable them to move towards a higher consciousness.

· 3rd structure: International Knighthood Organization

Access to this structure was even more restricted. Its members had access to special publications and to initiations exclusive to this structure.

From 1984 to 1990, the number of members in each of these structures grew. Membership peaked in 1989 at 442 members.fn 142

Di Mambro presented himself to the members as a representative of higher beings and the receiver and transmitter of divine messages, which he would receive during group ceremonies.

During this period, the group's idea to build health centres in Europe and Canada prompted certain members to donate more money to the organization.

Conflicts and decline

In the early '90s, some members started to question Jo Di Mambro's authority and mystical powers. Di Mambro's own son, Élie, questioned the visions and messages his father claimed to receive from the Masters. Élie discovered that the spiritual visions, witnessed by several members, were staged by his father and that the divine beings and messages received were actually produced by special effects and holograms. He decided to share his discovery with the other members of the group.

This denunciation prompted the departure of some 15 members. Others, however, were sceptical of Élie's claims and continued to believe that the manifestations of the spiritual Masters were real.fn 143

Some members also began to question Di Mambro's change in lifestyle and behaviour. While all of the group's members lived humbly in the early years of the group, Jo Di Mambro lived in increasing opulence. For example, he travelled first-class and owned several luxurious homes. He also no longer participated in the centre's daily tasks as he once had.

Some members even noted a change in Di Mambro's attitude towards them. Where once he had been tolerant and open to criticism, he had become authoritarian, demanding unconditional obedience. He was suspicious of competitors, and certain members felt that he was trying to divide them in an effort to increase his control over the group. Others were critical of the fact that the group never fulfilled its plans to open health centres.

In the early 90s, these criticisms led to a drop in membership and financial contributions, and the group's revenue dropped from 483,683 Swiss francs in 1991 to 89,000 Swiss francs in 1993.

An internal report found in one of the group's computers also showed that some of Di Mambro's followers who had doubts about him still wanted to maintain their ties with the group and its members.

I personally believe in a cosmic law. I believe that messages were received 2000 years ago, and I am striving to live by them. I believe in a life ethic that my parents taught me and that I am working hard to apply. I believe in a consciousness that I am capable of finding. If I follow this path, I can't go wrong. And these claims, whether true or false, will not derail me from what I must do. I will continue to work in the Order and for the mission for as long as you need me and I am able to do so.fn 144

In 1994, two members of the Order of the Solar Temple wrote a letter denouncing Di Mambro's behaviour. Among other things, they criticized him for using video material to persuade members of his mystical powers. For them, Di Mambro's fraudulent actions had destroyed the fraternity built by the members. The disappearance of funds from the group's coffers and the use of holograms to simulate Di Mambro's powers had destroyed their confidence in the group, which in turn, led them to question their path toward a higher consciousness.

Social reactions

The group also generated reaction from the wider community. In 1991, when several members from Martinique decided to abandon their worldly possessions and move to Canada, Lucien Zecler, president of ADFI Martinique (Association for the Defence of Families and Individuals), investigated the OTS.fn 145 In fact, a former OTS member travelled to Martinique to raise awareness of the dangers of this group.

In this period, a number of Quebec organizations, including Info-Cult, received a letter from ADFI Martinique, in which Zecler expressed his doubts about the group. In particular, he was concerned about the use of mind control to subjugate members.

In 1993, Quebec's provincial police (Sûreté du Québec - SQ) was investigating the threats of an unknown terrorist group in Quebec. At the same time, the SQ was informed of an attempt by an OTS member to purchase three firearms equipped with silencers. This led the SQ to investigate the activities of this group.

When the SQ began tapping the telephone conversations of group members, it started to suspect that it was the OTS that was threatening the terrorist attacks. However, upon further investigation, this theory was discounted. Nevertheless, Luc Jouret and two other OTS members were sentenced to one year probation and a $1,000 fine for possession of illegally purchased firearms.

The events around the arrest and sentencing of Jouret and two others captured headlines in Quebec for weeks. Police surveillance and the publicity confirmed Di Mambro's feeling that the leaders of the group were being persecuted.

In this same period, an investigation was underway on the possibility of illegal currency dealings involving Di Mambro and his spouse, which made it difficult for her to renew her French passport. The French fraud squad was on the case and France's general consulate in Montreal was also investigating the couple with regard to the renewal of their passports. These events further contributed to a feeling of persecution.

In spring 1994, some of the group's members claimed that they were being increasingly rejected by their surrounding community and the world in general:

We are rejected by the whole world. First by the people, the people can no longer withstand us. And our Earth, fortunately she rejects us. How would we leave [otherwise]? We also reject this planet. We wait for the day we can leave . . . life for me is intolerable, intolerable, I can't go on. So think about the dynamic that will get us to go elsewhere.fn 146

Jo Di Mambro also felt that the group was under international surveillance:

We don't know when they might close the trap on us a few days? a few weeks? We are being followed and spied upon in our every move. All the cars are equipped with tracing and listening devices. All of their most sophisticated techniques are being used on us. While in the house, beware of surveillance cameras, lasers, and infra-red. Our file is the hottest on the planet, the most important of the last ten years, if not of the century. However that may be, as it turns out, the concentration of hate against us will give us enough energy to leave.fn 147

Preparing for transit

In the early 1990s, the concept of transit was introduced in the group.fn 148 This term was used to describe the voluntary departure of members to another planet in order to create a new world.

While the method of transport between the planets was still unknown to Di Mambro, he described the transit as a passage across a mirror or travel in a spaceship.

When members asked Di Mambro what the transit meant, he spoke in terms of returning to the Father.

Over time, the concept of transit changed. In a statement, one member explained that transit was initially conceived as a change in consciousness.fn 149 In the 1990s, however, change in consciousness was conceived as requiring preparation for transfer to another universe. Di Mambro explained to certain members that one day they would be called to a meeting to accomplish the transit. He told them to be on 24-hour alert.

The desire to communicate a message: Preparing for what will be bequeathed

Documents obtained by police in France, Switzerland and Quebec reveal Di Mambro's desire to mythologize the OTS's transit. He wrote letters to various public figures, explaining their departure. He also tried to destroy all of the group's documentation in order to try to preserve the mystery around their departure.

In 1993, various paper and video versions of the myth were produced to explain the group's departure for Sirius.

But six months before their departure, the tragic events in Wacofn 150 stole their thunder. During its investigation of the OTS, the Swiss police found an audio cassette of a conversation between Di Mambro and Jouret on the Waco events. Here is an excerpt of that conversation: fn 151

Jo Di Mambro: People have beaten us to the punch, you know.
Luc Jouret: Well, yeah. Waco beat us to the punch.
Jo Di Mambro: In my opinion, we should have gone six months before them . . . what we'll do will be even more spectacular.

On October 3, 1994, Di Mambro gave 300 envelopes to a Swiss member to mail on October 7, 1994 to various locations around the world. These envelopes contained OTS texts, a copy of a letter addressed to the French Minister of the Interior and a video tape.

The objective of the letter to the French Minister was to establish the truth regarding the facts that precipitated the transit. Di Mambro wrote that the OTS held the French government responsible for the deaths of several members.

We accuse you of having attempted to deliberately destroy our Order for reasons of state. Mr. Pasqua, we accuse you of premeditated group murder. As a result, we have decided to leave the terrestrial plane ahead of time because we are aware of your desire to destroy the Work we have accomplished.

In the group, those who violated the code of honour were considered traitors. According to some group members, traitors were and would be suitably punished for centuries to come.

The transits

1st transit

In Quebec

On October 4, 1994, the police in Morin Heights, Quebec, arrived at the scene of a fire. Two charred bodies identified as Collette Rochat and Jerry Genoud were found in a cottage. Two days later, the bodies of two adults and their baby were found in a closet in the same cottage.

Autopsies performed on the bodies confirmed that the victims had been murdered on September 30, 1994. The police investigation revealed that the killers had fled to Switzerland following the murders. The other victims were identified as Tony Dutoit, his wife, Suzanne Robinson, and their young son, Christopher Emmanuel Dutoit, identified as the antichrist by Di Mambro.

In Switzerland

Shortly before midnight, on October 4, 1994, in the Swiss village of Cheiry, a fire broke out in a home. A few hours later, in Granges-sur-Salvan, fires broke out in three different cottages. Twenty-three bodies were pulled from the rubble in Cheiry and another 25 in Salvan.

Documents found at the locations of the fires enabled investigators to reconstruct events. They reported that:

· The Cheiry victims had been called to a meeting on October 2, 1994 and were probably dead before October 3, 1994;

· Most of the victims found in Cheiry had ingested a sedative;

· Autopsies revealed 65 bullets in the victims' bodies.

The police investigation in Switzerland and Quebec revealed that some of the 53 OTS members had been murdered. While the deaths by firearms in Cheiry can technically be considered murder, it is difficult to distinguish those who consented from those who were murdered.

In this first transit, between October 4 and 6, 1994, 53 OTS members died (5 in Quebec and 48 in Switzerland). Three different methods were used to carry out the transit:

· In Quebec, members were stabbed and burned;

· In Cheiry, victims ingested sedatives and were shot;

· In Salvan, they were poisoned.

2nd transit

Fourteen months after the first transit, on the night of December 15 to 16, 1995, 16 people (13 adults and three children) were immolated in a clearing on a plateau in Vercors, France.

The police investigation revealed that 14 of the 16 victims had ingested sedatives and were then shot twice. Two of the members had been assigned the job of killing the 14 others. They sprayed the bodies with an accelerant to burn them. The two then sprayed their bodies with the accelerant, set it on fire as they shot themselves in the head.

Witness accounts collected by the Swiss and French police show that shortly after the 1994 transit, the remaining members continued to meet. Some regretted that they had not been part of the first transit. While some had been outraged by the circumstances surrounding the first transit, they gradually came to the conclusion that the methods used by Luc Jouret and Jo Di Mambro were in fact positive. The members had sacrificed themselves in order to save the world and pave the way for future transits. Some of the remaining members decided to use the same methods for their own passage to the new world.

3rd transit

On March 22, 1997, in St. Casimir, Quebec, five people, four OTS followers and the parent of one of the members committed suicide. Police discovered a letter explaining that they had taken this action to ensure a path to the new world.fn 152

Analysis of the internal and external functioning of the group

Group beliefs and their influence on the transit

The beliefs of the Order of the Solar Temple are diverse. Some originate in neo-templar dogma,fn 153 while others are derived from environmental and esoteric influences.

In 1952, Jo Di Mambro joined AMORC (Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis). He used many of this group's beliefs when he created the various structures of the OTS.

In October 1987, during two lectures, Luc Jouret presented the OTS's beliefs. He described them as follows:fn 154

· Rre-establish the correct notions of authority and power in the world;

· Affirm the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal;

· Give back to man the consciousness of his dignity;

· Help humanity through its transition;

· Participate in the assumption of the earth in its three planes: body, soul and spirit;

· Work towards the union of the Churches and to works toward the convergence of Christianity and Islam;

· Prepare for the return of Christ in solar glory.

The group had other beliefs around other themes including survival, the apocalypse, the environment and the specific nature of their mission in the universe.

Transformation of discourse and beliefs: From survival to the apocalypse

Some of the group's beliefs displayed a growing apocalyptic vision.fn 155 Luc Jouret's speeches often focussed on human health problems and the deterioration or destruction of the earth by natural forces such as volcanoes, pollution, etc.

Initially, Di Mambro and Jouret sought to recruit men and women who would be strong enough to survive the deterioration of planet Earth.fn 156 Analysis of lectures given by OTS followersfn 157 in 1987 shows that the group already held apocalyptic beliefs. The leaders and members believed that Earth would one day be destroyed and they would be the sole survivors.

In the early 1990s, the concept of transit became important in the group. The idea of living on Earth was becoming increasingly unthinkable, and the group's transition to another place became more and more logical for both leaders and members.

The chosen people

The members of the OTS described themselves as noble travellers awaiting their return to the source of consciousness.fn 158 They saw themselves as unique beings, set apart from the masses through their discovery of the truth. They believed that they had a special mission to accomplish.

Gradually, the feeling that they were different led them to believe that they had little in common with the rest of the world. Furthermore, Jo Di Mambro managed to depict the OTS as a very important group in the history of the world. In fact, he believed the group was being monitored and followed by the highest international authorities just prior to the 1st transit. This idea bolstered the members' sense of worth and their belief that they must be very important to merit so much attention.fn 159

Actualization of apocalyptic belief

Di Mambro's style of authority, the group's internal functioning and conflicts and its external relations are all elements that, taken together, created a context conducive to the suicide and murder of group members.

The leadership

Jo Di Mambro was the sole authority in the group. In fact, he was recognized as the human being chosen by the divine powers to transmit their messages.fn 160 This power gave Di Mambro major influence in the group, a power that grew when he communicated with divine beings in the presence of members. He was seen as having mystical power that enabled him to demand growing submission from the members.

He grew to hate members who questioned his power or authority. In the early '90s none other than his son questioned his powers of communication. Some members believed that Di Mambro had conned them by using special effects to simulate the presence of spiritual beings.

After this denunciation, Di Mambro became more controlling over the remaining members of the group. Certain documents even mention his intention to punish those who had harmed the organization. Those who left the group in this period were considered enemies who deserved to be punished.

Several events led to the deterioration of ties between Di Mambro and certain members. The sources of internal conflict were:

· Reduced revenues of the group;

· Departure of several members,

· Discovery of the use of special effects to simulate spiritual communication;

· Denunciation of Di Mambro by certain members, which created a climate of suspicion;

· Questioning by certain members of the change in Di Mambro's behaviour, lifestyle, financial management, and growing authoritarianism;

· Conflict between Luc Jouret and Di Mambro.fn 161

Relationship between the group and society

During the 1990s, the group encountered problems with former members, representatives of government organizations and representatives of institutions of social control. These difficulties contributed to a sense of persecution among the leadership, and eventually among members.

Di Mambro and the membership sensed growing social hostility towards the group. This feeling contributed to the perception that transit was an acceptable solution. The following events helped to develop and heighten the feeling of persecution:

· In 1991, ADFI Martinique investigated the decision of many of their citizens to abandon their worldly possessions and move to Canada. ADFI sent a letter expressing its concerns to several organizations in Quebec and France;fn 162

· Media coverage of a witness account by a former OTS member highlighting the group's negative influence;

· In 1993, the SQ investigated the OTS and arrested and sentenced Luc Jouret and two other members to one-year probation and a fine of $1,000 for the purchase of firearms and silencers;

· Di Mambro's wife had difficulties renewing her passport due to suspicions that she and her husband were illegally transferring large sums of money to Australia. France's general consulate in Montreal investigated the couple in order to determine if their visas should be extended.

In conclusion, an analysis of the internal and external functioning of the group points to various factors that may have influenced the group's first transit:

· The group's apocalyptic beliefs;

· The belief in mystical power: the existence of an original source of consciousness to which members of the group would one day return;

· The mission: the members of the group believed they had a special mission, which was to spread the knowledge to the world and then to return as the chosen people to the original source of this consciousness;

· The growing tensions within the group;

· The acceptance of transit as the only solution to their problems.

The Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and protection of the rights of members of the Order of the Solar Temple

On the basis of various studies on the Order of the Solar Temple, it is possible to identify behaviour by the leaders and members that violates the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter.

Clearly, the right to life of the members and children who were murdered was not respected. Furthermore, the rights of certain members and ex-members to the enjoyment and free use of their property was violated because they were not able to recover the money they had invested in the group.

In light of the history provided above, it is difficult to determine a specific point at which the police or courts could have intervened to prevent Di Mambro's spiritual simulations that were designed to convince the group's members of his mystical power or what kind of interventions could have prevented the murders, suicides and arson.

As for the tragic deaths of children in the group, no complaints of poor treatment or negligence were ever received by authorities before the transit in 1994.

While it is hard to believe that the freedoms of the OTS members were maintained within the group, it is difficult to speculate on this point. The lives of Tony Dutoit, his wife and child could have been protected, but only if he had filed a complaint with the police.fn 163

In conclusion, for many people, participation in the Order of the Solar Temple turned out to be fatal. Although seemingly simple, predicting the tragic destiny of OTS members was in fact difficult because no information about the leader's intentions had been transmitted to public or private organizations or anyone else on the outside.

Protecting members of the OTS would have required members or ex-members of the group filing a complaint. No such action was ever taken. It is difficult to intervene without concrete information about activities planned or already carried out by a group.


©Info-Cult 2006