The Solar Temple is among a number of contemporary groups that perceive themselves as fulfilling the tradition of the Knights Templar.
Some historians allege that the Solar Temple originates with French author Jacques Breyer who established a Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple in 1952. In 1968, a schismatic order was renamed the Renewed Order of the Solar Temple (ROTS) under the leadership of French right-wing political activist Julien Origas. Some reports have claimed that Origas was a Nazi SS member during World War II.
There were Solar Temple lodges in Morin Heights and St-Anne-de-la-Pérade in Quebec, Canada, as well as in Australia, Switzerland, Martinique and other countries. The Temple's activities were a mix of early Protestant Christianity, mixed with a New Age philosophy using variously adapted Freemason rituals. Jouret was interested in attractive, wealthy and influential members, and it was reputed that several affluent Europeans were secret members of the group. There were press reports that executives of Quebec's Hydro-Québec were building dams at the behest of Jouret, in order to provide electricity for a Quebecois colony that would exist after the group's prophesied doomsday event.
In October 1994 Tony Dutoit's infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group's centre in Morin Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Anti-Christ described in the Bible. He believed that the Anti-Christ was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.
A few days later, Di Mambro and twelve followers performed a ritual Last Supper. A few days after that, apparent mass suicides and murders were conducted at two villages in Switzerland, and at Morin Heights — 15 inner circle members committed suicide with poison, 30 were killed by bullets or smothering, and 8 others were killed by other causes. Many of the bodies when found were drugged, possibly to prevent the members from objecting. The buildings were then set on fire by timer devices, purportedly as one last symbol of the group's purification.
In western Switzerland, 48 members of a sect died in another apparent mass murder-suicide. Many of the victims were found in a secret underground chapel lined with mirrors and other items of Templar symbolism. The bodies were dressed in the order's ceremonial robes and were in a circle, feet together, heads outward, most with plastic bags tied over their heads; they had each been shot in the head. It is believed that the plastic bags were a symbol of the ecological disaster that would befall the human race after the OTS members moved on to Sirius. It is also believed that these bags were used as part of the OTS rituals, and that members would have voluntarily worn them without being placed under duress. There was also evidence that many of the victims in Switzerland were drugged before they were shot. Other victims were found in three ski chalets; several dead children were lying together. The tragedy was discovered when officers rushed to the sites to fight the fires which had been ignited by remote-control devices. Farewell letters left by the believers stated that they believed they were leaving to escape the "hypocrisies and oppression of this world."
A mayor, a journalist, a civil servant and a sales manager were found among the dead in Switzerland. Records seized by the Quebec police showed that some members had personally donated over $1 million to the group's leader Joseph Di Mambro. There was also another attempted mass suicide of the remaining members which was thwarted in the late 1990s . All the suicide/murders and attempts occurred around the dates of the equinoxes and solstices in some relation to the beliefs of the group.
Michael Tabachnik, an internationally renowned Swiss musician and conductor, was arrested as a leader of the Solar Temple in the late 1990s. He was indicted for "participation in a criminal organization," and murder. He came to trial in Grenoble, France during the spring of 2001 and was acquitted. French prosecutors appealed the verdict and an appellate court ordered a second trial beginning October 24 2006. He was again cleared less than two months later on December 20.
The Solar Temple group continues to exist, with thirty surviving members in Quebec at the St-Anne-de-la-Pérade center, with from 140 to 500 members remaining worldwide.
French Police Find 16 Burned Bodies at Cult Site; Solar Temple Members Laid Out to Form Star; 53 in Same Sect Involved in 1994 Murder-Suicide
Dec 24, 1995; Police today found the charred bodies of 16 people believed to be the missing members of a doomsday cult. Most of the corpses,...