This is a story of mass suicide and suspected murder using the name of the Knights Templar. Let’s just be clear from the start that as with other dangerous groups using the Templar brand – they have nothing in common with the medieval knights. But this is a cautionary tale.
One of the most macabre groups to claim they are Knights Templar is the Order of the Solar Temple. Or the International Order of Chivalry Solar Tradition by its official name. What this group is most famous for is the mysterious death of 74 of its members in the mid-1990s. What this appeared to involve – echoing the Jonestown cult massacre – was a mixture of enforced suicide and murder.
Origin of the Solar Temple
The Solar Temple was set up in 1984 by homeopath Luc Jouret and a lecturer called Joseph di Mambro. Its headquarters were originally in Geneva but then moved to Zurich. The group established certain initiation rites adopted by chapters in Switzerland and Canada.
The Solar Temple latched on to the revival of the Templars in the early 19th century by a French man called Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat. He claimed to be one of an unbroken line of Grand Masters that had continued to be appointed from the execution of the last official Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.
Palapret set up a kind of pseudo-religion that was mainly Christian in theology. His Templar movement split into factions and Jouret was linked to a group that traced its history back to one of these factions: the Renewed Order of the Temple.
But at this stage – let me say that there are other groups today who claim a linkage to Palaprat and are perfectly sane, charitable organisations.
READ MORE: Do the Templars control the world today?
Suicide and suspected murder of Solar Temple members
As with other apocalyptic movements of the 20th century, there was a disturbing belief in the end of the world that meant devotees had to reach a higher spiritual level by…..taking their own lives. In 1994, 53 members of the Solar Temple were found dead and the buildings in which they had breathed their last had been set on fire. More deaths followed up to 1997.
Among those who died in 1994 was Joseph di Mambro. He stands accused of having ordered the deaths of others as well as committing suicide. Di Mambro (born in 1924) had a long record of involvement in esoteric cults.
In the 1950s, he became a Rosicrucian before going on to found the Golden Way in 1978, a pseudo-Templar organisation. He fell in with Jouret towards the end of the 70s founding the Solar Temple. Jouret seems to have been the outward facing PR man and recruiter while Di Mambro was a more sinister, controlling presence within the Solar Temple.
Solar Temple turns into a death cult
The descent of the Solar Temple into suicide and murder is a familiar trajectory established by cults like the People’s Temple led by the Reverend Jim Jones that culminated in the appalling Jonestown massacre of its own members in 1978 when over 900 of its devotees were found dead.
Hundreds of middle class, well educated people joined the Solar Temple. They bought into claims by Di Mambro that his son had been created by the union of gods while his daughter was the product of a sexless immaculate conception.
To my knowledge, an organisation of the same name still exists today and of course I do not suggest that current members or leaders have any link or responsibility for the events described above, which were the actions of individuals in the 1990s.