Order of the Solar Temple

A highly secretive cult for the elite, which has committed three separate mass suicides so far

1984 - present

Reenactment of The Order of the Solar Temple's rituals

The Order of the Solar Temple is a famous suicide cult that began in 1984 by leaders who thought they were members of the Knights Templar in a previous life. Leaders targeted wealthy and powerful people and required large amounts of money to learn the cult's secrets and earn salvation. 

The Order started strong, gaining hundreds of followers, but tensions rose in the early 1990s. It was discovered that the leaders had been faking supernatural events with special effects. In addition, members killed a baby and its parents because he was born without permission. Plus, there was suspicion and anger about how the large amounts of donated money were being used. In light of these growing controversies, the leaders convinced followers to commit suicide, resulting in three mass suicides totaling sixty-nine deaths. In addition, at least two more mass suicides were planned among members but were stopped by authorities.

This organization still exists despite these tragedies and seems to be going strong.

Religion: New Age

Founders: Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret

Founded: 1984 in Geneva, Switzerland

Size: 442 (during its peak in 1989)

Location: Switzerland (Zürich; Cheiry; Salvan; and Morin Heights); Canary Islands, Spain; Morin Heights, Canada; Vercors Massif, France

Also called: Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS); International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition; The Solar Temple; l'Ordre International Chevaleresque de Tradition Solaire (OICTS)

Other info:

In October 1994, fifty-three members of the Order of the Solar Temple in Switzerland and Québec were murdered or committed suicide. This incident and two later group suicides in subsequent years played a pivotal role in inflaming the cult controversy in Europe, influencing the public to support harsher actions against non-traditional religions. Despite the importance of the Order of the Solar Temple, there are relatively few studies published in English. This book brings together the best scholarship on the Solar Temple including newly commissioned pieces from leading scholars, a selection of Solar Temple documents, and important previously published articles newly edited for inclusion within this book. This is the first book-length study of the Order of the Solar Temple to be published in English.

(Order here)

As we approach the Millennium, apocalyptic expectations are rising in North America and throughout the world. Beyond the symbolic aura of the millennium, this excitation is fed by currents of unsettling social and cultural change. The millennial myth ingrained in American culture is continually generating new movements, which draw upon the myth and also reshape and reconstruct it. Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem examines many types of apocalypticism such as economic, racialist, environmental, feminist, as well as those erupting from established churches. Many of these movements are volatile and potentially explosive.

Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem brings together scholars of apocalyptic and millennial groups to explore aspects of the contemporary apocalyptic fervor in all orginal contributions. Opening with a discussion of various theories of apocalypticism, the editors then analyze how millennialist movements have gained ground in largely secular societal circles. Section three discusses the links between apocalypticism and established churches, while the final part of the book looks at examples of violence and confrontation, from Waco to Solar Temple to the Aum Shinri Kyo subway disaster in Japan.

Other tags:

Documentary on the Cult