We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

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The Grand Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU met in Arraiolos at the Vespers of Saint James of 2022. The Order was enlarged in quantity and quality. Please welcome Brothers António Q., KTJ; Frederico Galvão, KTJ; Ricardo Salgado, KTJ; Agostinho Seixas; KTJ; Jeff Perry, KTJ and Sisters Anabela Santos, DTJ; Carla Faria DTJ.

O Grão Priorado de Portugal da OSMTHU reuniu-se em Arraiolos nas Vésperas de Santiago de 2022. A Ordem foi alargada em quantidade e qualidade. Pedimos a todos que dêem as boas-vindas aos Irmãos António Q., KTJ; Frederico Galvão, KTJ; Ricardo Salgado, KTJ; Agostinho Seixas; KTJ; Jeff Perry, KTJ e Irmãs Anabela Santos, DTJ; Carla Faria DTJ.

How Star Wars’ Jedi were inspired by the Knights Templar

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Star Wars is once again in the spotlight and pulling on nostalgic heartstrings in the new Disney+ limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi, starring Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen. The series follows members of the knightly order of Jedi as they are persecuted across the galaxy. What many might not know is the idea of the Jedi was heavily influenced by the real history of the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar were a medieval religious order of knights created in the early 12th century following the First Crusade. The Order was created in 1119 by French knight Hugh de Payne but would consist of knights from all over Europe. The Templar knights originally patrolled the roads and protected pilgrims in the newly created Christian states in the Holy Land (an area roughly located between the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern bank of the Jordan River) but became rich and powerful over the next two centuries. The Templars’ sudden downfall in the early 14th century at the hands of a French King who sought their riches fuelled popular imagination for centuries – including, it seems, Star Wars.

In creator George Lucas’ 1973 two-page synopsis, titled the Journal of the Whills, which would outline what would one day become Star Wars, there is a mention of a Jedi Templar. American film historian J.W. Rinzler’s book, The Making of Star Wars, notes the link of the Templar and the Jedi in the character Chuiee Two Thorpe, who Lucas writes trains as a “potential Jedi-Templer [sic]”. “Templer” was dropped from the concept of Jedi in later drafts, it is clear, though, that the legacy of the Templars played a part in inspiring Lucas’ Jedi.

Orders of warrior monks

The Jedi are an ancient order of guardians who protect the peace and justice in the Galactic Republic in Star Wars.

In the original 1977 Star Wars film, audiences were introduced to the Jedi knights by Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who explained, “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old republic. Before the dark times before the empire.” But it wasn’t until the trilogy of prequels, which were made between 1999 and 2005, that the Jedi were depicted as a monastic order that possessed the Templar inspiration seen in the original 1973 synopsis.

The Jedi Order operated independently, much like the Knights Templar – who answered only to the Pope. The Jedi lived by the Jedi code, while the Knights Templar lived by a monastic rule, known initially as the Primitive Rule, which was bestowed on them by prominent leaders of the Church at the Council of Troyes in 1129. These were a strict set of rules by which the Templars lived their dual lives as warriors and monks and which bears a resemblance to the Jedi code.

Although the Star Wars films do not detail the content of the Jedi’s code, similarities in the philosophies can be seen. For example, in Revenge of the Sith (2005), Yoda tells Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), “attachment leads to jealously; the shadow of greed that is”. This resembles the Templars’ rule on owning property. In British historian Judith Upton-Ward’s book The Rule of the Templars(2002), she notes that the Templars were not allowed to keep personal items such as a lockable purse and even the ownership of horses and armour was under the house commander’s control and could be reissued to any other serving Templar.

Similar ends

Both the Jedi and Templars were ended by conspiracies led by tyrants. In the climax of the prequel trilogy, the Jedi were the last obstacle left to prevent the villainous Darth Sidious from completing his plan to rule the galaxy. So Darth Sidious falsely accused the Jedi of treason and had his soldiers massacre the unsuspecting Jedi. Meanwhile it was French King Phillip IV who accused the Templars of heresy in 1307 to get access to their vast wealth and had the Templars in France arrested, which led to the last grand-master Jacque de Molay eventually being burnt at the stake in 1314.

Both the Jedi and the Templars also suffered an attack on their temples. In Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi are murdered when Darth Vader leads an army into the Jedi Temple, while the Templars were arrested in a dawn raid by french soldiers at their Paris Temple on the infamous Friday the 13th in 1307.

Despite the similarities in their fall, the fate of the Templars was arguably more favourable than the Jedi. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, we see the remaining Jedi being hunted and killed by Darth Vader and his inquisitors. But, according to popular mythology, exiled Templars went into hiding before supposedly creating the Freemasons. This myth originated in the 18th century and was started when senior French Freemason Andrew Ramsey claiming Templar ancestry to market the Freemasons to the aristocracy.

The myth of the Templars in exile is akin to the fate of the Jedi depicted in Obi-Wan Kenobi, where surviving Jedi live in exile and are aided by an underground organisation, called The Path. But the reality for the Templars was that former knights joined other orders or started new ones, such as Ordem dos Cavaleiros de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo (Order of the Knights of Jesus Christ) in Portugal.

The monastic resemblances of the Jedi Knights and the Knights Templar and the similarities between the fall of both orders demonstrate how wide-ranging the Templars’ legacy is. Furthermore, the apparent influence of the Knights Templar on the creation of the fictional Jedi knights shows how an order abolished in the early 14th century still impacts popular culture today.

in theconversation.com by Patrick Masters

Templar heritage in Croatia presented during International Conference in Trakoscan Castle

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The first contemporary monograph dedicated to the Knights Templar in Croatia was solemnly presented at the Trakošćan Castle, entitled “Templar Heritage in Croatia”, a project carried out by the Croatian Knights Templar.

A number of Croatian scientists have been working on this issue for years. The Templars are one of the most important knightly orders that emerged in the Middle Ages. Breaking Mysticism and Taboos they represented a special form of religious community, embodying two ideals of medieval man – devotion to God in religious life and the virtues of chivalry. Their history has attracted the attention of both scientific circles and the general public from the Middle Ages to the present day. The way in which the order disappeared or was destroyed also played an important role, and this led to the emergence of various myths and stories related to the Templars.

That is why this book presents in a scientifically based way the development and history of this order, both in general and in the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom, and its cultural and historical heritage in Croatian lands, discovered by archaeological research. In addition, it points to the importance of nurturing Templar traditions in modern society – said the book’s editor, Ph.D. Marija Karbić, scientific advisor at the Croatian Institute of History. The reviewer prof.dr.sc. spoke about the importance of this publishing venture. Ivan Jurković from the Faculty of Philosophy, Juraj Dobrila University in Pula, who emphasized the importance of scientific facts in breaking mysticism, taboos, but also fiction about this mysterious order.

Dr. sc. Juraj Belaj from the Institute of Archeology, who wrote a chapter dedicated to archaeological finds related to the Templar heritage, stressed that throughout Croatia there are remnants of the rich Templar heritage that has yet to be valued and revealed to the local and European public. Namely, Croatia has a centuries-old Templar tradition, which is quite unknown to the general public. That is why Dr. sc. Damir Karbić, director of the Department of Historical Sciences of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, warned of the importance of rare preserved sources related to the activities of the Templars in Croatia, emphasizing the HAZU archive. In addition to the collected material, original scientific works of leading Croatian historians and scientists dealing with this issue have been made, as well as new maps that “draw” Croatia on the Templar map of Europe.

The Knights Templar, their work and heritage are certainly one of the most intriguing topics of popular culture and arouse public interest. However, too little is known about how Croatia, thanks to its Templar heritage, secured an important place on the map of Europe in the Middle Ages.

Templar forts, churches and chapels sprang up all over the then Croatian lands…

On their way to the Holy Land, European Templars met and stayed in Croatia. And when they were banned in Europe under the pressure of French King Philip, thanks to the then Bishop of Zagreb, today’s Blessed Augustine Kazotic, Zagreb gave them refuge in what today is Nova Ves. Croatia became their last legal refuge after persecution in France – said university professor Bozo Skoko, who published a chapter on contemporary Templar heritage in Croatia and the world in a monograph with professor and communicologist Ivan Tanta. A memorial plaque at the beginning of the street, which was unveiled in 2019, testifies to Nova Ves as the last European legal refuge in Europe.

Croatia has a centuries-old Templar tradition, which is quite unknown to the general public. There are remnants of the rich Templar heritage throughout Croatia that has yet to be valued and revealed to the local and European public, in which interest in this mystical religious knightly order is constantly growing. That is why the Croatian Knights Templar, associations and fraternities, initiated the publication of the first modern monograph dealing with this topic.

The monograph was published with the support of the Adris Foundation and the support of the Templar Corps International.

Conference and Ceremony

On the following day the Grand Prior of Croatia, Fr+ Lovro Tomašinec was installed in Office by the representatives of the Magisterial Council of the OSMTHU in a ceremony that took place in the beautiful medieval Chapel.

Elections announced for the OSMTJ

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A procedure of elections was announced for the OSMTJ, that will take place this month of April. Since the procedure comes as a consequence of an illegitimate attempt made in 2020, if you wish to understand the details and how normalcy is restored, please do read the ANNOUNCEMENT made by the Independent Auditor that was invited to oversee the Election.

Templar Corps in Prime Minister Audience

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During his official March 2022 visit to Lisbon, Portugal, His Excellency Jorge Bom Jesus, Prime Minister of São Tomé e Príncipe, met in audience with Frei Fernando Ventura (Franciscan Capuchin friar) and a delegation of the Templar Corps International with TCI lawyer Marcelo Katter and TCI CEO Luis de Matos.

São Tomé e Príncipe is is an island country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. In the past few years, the economy of São Tomé and Príncipe has grown, driven by agriculture, tourism and foreign investments. São Tomé and Príncipe outperforms the sub-Saharan Africa average on the Human Development Index and has made great progress on most social indicators. All children in São Tomé and Príncipe are enrolled in the education system, life expectancy has increased to 70 years, the infant mortality rate has decreased dramatically and the vast majority of the population already has access to piped water and access to electricity. The Island of Príncipe is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserve since 2012, a prime eco-tourism destination.

Frei Ventura has spearheaded a few Humanitarian Projects in São Tomé e Príncipe in the last decade, with a significant impact on the local community. The Templar Corps International has been advocating for these projects, listing them as a priority and helping to gather resources and volunteers. The Banco de Leite (Milk Bank) has been helping young mothers who have difficulties to feed their young children in the earliest and important months of their lives. Casa Betânia [link in Portuguese], a home for the elderly, is another important project that is in the final stages of raising funds. Other projects are in early stages of development.

During the meeting the Prime Minister was informed about each of the ongoing projects and plans for 2022. These include areas such as heath care and fire prevention, with the donation of fully equipped medical vehicles, medicines, training and certification to be provided by the Templar Corps International unit of the Algarve, Portugal.

Frei Fernando Ventura was the Invited Speaker of the Global Forum of the Templar Corps titled “Poverty in Africa – The numbers, the action”.

HELP UKRAINE – REFUGEE RESCUE OPERATIONS 2022

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The war situation in Ukraine has sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Europe this century. In the first two weeks, more than 2 million refugees, mostly women and children, headed to neighboring countries, hoping to be able to return home as soon as possible. Left behind were the men, fathers, husbands, children, brothers, prevented from leaving the country due to the war situation and the need to enlist in the Ukrainian armed forces.

Portugal is one of the European Union countries that has taken measures to welcome war refugees, making bureaucratic processes easier and faster. It also provided the institutions with financial and human resources to face the upcoming humanitarian crisis.

The Templar Corps International, through its Outpost in Lagos, was called upon to provide its service in the context of this crisis. The Ukrainian community in the Algarve, closely linked to the Orthodox Church, yearns to see their loved ones out of danger and, if possible, taken to Portugal where they can, in the company of their family, wait for better days.

Please follow all the details of the Help Ukraine Operation on the Templar Corps website.

If you can contribute, please make a donation here.

III International Conference “Order of the Temple – Spiritual Chivalry – Templarism”.

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The Templar Interpretation Center of Almourol (CITA) of Vila Nova da Barquinha promoted, on the weekend of November 13th and 14th, the III International Conference “Order of the Temple – Spiritual Chivalry – Templarism”.

The municipal auditorium hosted some of the best national and international experts on the subject, with speakers from countries such as Spain, the United States, Croatia and Portugal: Luis de Matos (Chancellor of OSMTHU), Carlos Trincão (Teacher and member of TREF), Álvaro Barbosa (Architect and former director of Convento de Cristo), Virgílio Alves (Philosopher and Senior Technician in Public Administration), João Pedro Silva (Researcher and member of OSMTHU), Ernesto Alves Jana (Historian and member of TREF), Jefferson Perry (former -military), José Miguel Navarro (OSMTHU’s Senescal expert in security systems), Lovro Tomasinec (Croatian Order of Knights Templar OSMTH) and Manuel J. Gandra (CITA Researcher and Curator).

The book “Almourol – 850th anniversary of its foundation, in the context of the Order of the Temple in Portugal”, was launched at the event.

Fernando Freire, Mayor of the City Council, and Paula Pontes, Councilor for the Department of Culture, were present at the conference. The initiative also featured the musical animation of Fernando Espanhol, in a medieval music moment.

The Almourol Templar Interpretation Center is the first of its kind in Portugal. It has a permanent exhibition room, a space for temporary exhibitions and a projection room for films on the theme of the Templars. The Library – Templar Archives is also located in the same building, which has a vast literary collection dedicated to this theme, the result of donations from Teresa Furtado and Manuel J. Gandra.

Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol; Largo 1.º Dezembro; 2260-403 Vila Nova da Barquinha Tel.: 249720358E-mail: cita@cm-vnbarquinha.pt

III Conferência Internacional “Ordem do Templo – Cavalaria Espiritual – Templarismo”

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O Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol (CITA) de Vila Nova da Barquinha promoveu, no fim de semana de 13 e 14 de novembro, a III Conferência Internacional “Ordem do Templo – Cavalaria Espiritual – Templarismo”.

O auditório municipal acolheu alguns dos maiores especialistas nacionais e internacionais na temática, com oradores oriundos de países como Espanha, Estados Unidos, Croácia e Portugal: Luis de Matos (Chanceler da OSMTHU), Carlos Trincão (Professor e membro do TREF), Álvaro Barbosa (Arquiteto e ex-diretor do Convento de Cristo), Virgílio Alves (Filósofo e Técnico Superior na Administração Pública), João Pedro Silva (Investigador e membro da OSMTHU), Ernesto Alves Jana (Historiador e membro do TREF), Jefferson Perry (ex-militar), José Miguel Navarro (Senescal da OSMTHU perito em sistemas de segurança), Lovro Tomasinec (Croatian Order of Knights Templar O.S.M.T.H.) e Manuel J. Gandra (Investigador e Curador do CITA).

O evento foi marcado pelo lançamento do livro “Almourol – 850.º aniversário da sua fundação, no contexto da Ordem do Templo em Portugal”, efeméride que se assinala este ano.

Marcaram presença na conferência Fernando Freire, Presidente da Câmara Municipal, e Paula Pontes, Vereadora do Pelouro da Cultura. A iniciativa contou ainda com a animação musical de Fernando Espanhol, num registo de música medieval.

O Centro de Interpretação Templário Almourol é o primeiro do género em Portugal. Dispõe de uma sala de exposição permanente, espaço de exposições temporárias e de uma sala de projeção de filmes sobre a temática dos templários. No mesmo edifício funciona também a Biblioteca – Arquivo Templário, que dispõe de um vasto acervo literário dedicado a este tema, fruto das doações de Teresa Furtado e de Manuel J. Gandra.

Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol Largo 1.º Dezembro2260-403 Vila Nova da Barquinha Tel.: 249720358E-mail: cita@cm-vnbarquinha.ptHorário:- Dias úteis: 9h00 às 12h30 / 14h00 às 17h30- Fins de semana/feriados: 10h00 às 13h00 / 15h00 às 18h00(encerra à 2.ª feira de 1 de outubro a 30 de abril).

Gaztelugatxe – Hundreds of stone stairs and a winding medieval bridge connect this haunting Spanish island to the mainland

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SITTING OFF THE BASQUE COAST of Spain, the tiny island of Gaztelugatxe would probably just be another tiny isle left off of maps and all but forgotten, were it not for the fantastical stone bridge and famed steps that connect its single hermitage to the mainland.

Today, the crooked stone bridge that connects Gaztelugatxe to the shore looks more like something that one might see on Game of Thrones,  but when it was originally built in the 11th century, the span was simply a sturdy lifeline to the religious hermitage erected atop the sea crag. The structure, along with its attendant stone path seems to have been established by the Knights Templar. Down the centuries, the little church has been sacked, burned, and otherwise destroyed, but was rebuilt each time.

The church is still standing on the little rock, looking, maybe more enticing than ever, its history simply adding to its charm. The ancient bridge and the hundreds of stairs leading up to the church are still a popular tourist attraction and can be accessed by a well-groomed modern path. Along the bridge are smaller staircases that lead down to reflecting spots at the edge of the water. The hermitage can also be visited, and legend says that after ascending the old staircase, visitors should make a wish.

Whether or not you are interested in ancient construction or churches at all, doesn’t really matter as this spot can just as easily be appreciated for its uncanny resemblance to a location you might use in a Dungeons & Dragons game.   

in atlasobscura.com

The Order of the Solar Temple. 9. Learning from the Tragedy

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What does the homicides and suicides tell us about which among thousands of pacific new religious and esoteric movements may turn violent?

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 9 of 9

Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer talks to the media after the 1994 tragedy involving Order of the Solar Temple members. Source: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Paris.
Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer talks to the media after the 1994 tragedy. Source: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Paris.

In the latest article, we insisted that external as well as internal factors contribute to explain the tragedy of the Order of the Solar Temple (OTS). One was the members’ persuasion that the world was approaching its fiery end, and the only way of escaping apocalyptic tragedies was a “transit” to another planet to be accomplished through suicide, for the stronger members, and homicide, for the weaker.

While a similar logic was at work in another mass suicide of an esoteric movement, Heaven’s Gate, it would be of course wrong to believe that all groups announcing dates for the end of the world become violent or suicidal. History and observation of new religious movements illustrate that such a conclusion would not make sense. Thousands of date-setting movements quietly await the end of the world without resorting to violence.

However, unlike the OTS and Heaven’s Gate (or the Peoples  Temple at Jonestown), most of these groups do not produce narratives in which suicide can be interpreted as something else. The OTS documents collectively known as the Testament, which Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer has studied in great detail, claimed that what the OTS was about to do was not suicide, but something radically different. The OTS members, as explained in three videos they wanted to be preserved after the 1994 tragedy, believed that through the force of the Blue Star (connected to Sirius) they would be able to reach Jupiter, where they could eventually become Secret Masters themselves.

A very similar ideology (although with a different background) was present in Heaven’s Gate. The members of Heaven’s Gate who committed suicide near San Diego in March 1997 (probably the same night, between March 22 and 23, when the third suicide of the OTS occurred in Quebec) were persuaded to leave the Earth simply to reach the interplanetary Kingdom of Heaven.

Certainly, in the cosmic vision of the OTS or of Heaven’s Gate it made more sense to become a Master on Jupiter or a god on the planet called Kingdom of Heaven than to remain on planet Earth about to be destroyed.

Such narratives are by no means impossible (as proved by the mass homicides and suicides of a fringe Catholic group, the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, in 2000 in Uganda), but much more difficult to produce in a contemporary Christian context, where there is a strong taboo concerning self-inflicted death.

Other factors may have played a role, including a possible copycat effect connecting one “cult suicide” sensationalized in the media to another. Mayer mentions a disturbing tape found by the Swiss police in Granges-sur-Salvan, on which Jouret and Di Mambro discuss their plans in spring 1994. Jouret complained that “we have been anticipated by Waco,” referring to the death of 82 members of the Branch Davidians movement after a confrontation with federal agents and the resulting catastrophic fire in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Di Mambro replied that in fact “it would have been preferable to leave six months before them.” But, at any rate, “what we will do will be more spectacular.”

Image 2: A cross used in the rituals of the Solar Temple. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.
A cross used in the rituals of the Solar Temple. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.

The media had become so important, that “making headlines” was the only way for a suicidal movement to find a confirmation that, far from being marginal, it had an important role to play in this world. In a similar vein, Heaven’s Gate mentioned the OTS and the Branch Davidians in a web posting of September 20, 1996.

The most astute scholarly speculations notwithstanding, we will never know whether the OTS members would have committed their suicides and homicides without what they perceived as their systematic persecution. The external factors did play a crucial role according to American scholars Hall and Schuyler, while Mayer regards the factors internal to the group as primary.

A comparison with Heaven’s Gate—which, in one of its “exit videos” described as “persecution” the “mixture of ridicule and hostility” experienced when the group started posting its apocalyptic messages on the internet—seems to confirm that, when internal factors are sufficiently strong, even moderate external opposition is easily translated into a narrative of cosmic persecution. On the other hand, the opposition experienced by the OTS—while not as obviously harsh as that directed against the Branch Davidians—was not exactly moderate. An international police action might have been perceived as more serious than a number of jokes posted on the internet.

From a video of one of its rituals the Solar Temple left behind. Courtesy of Sûreté du Québec.
From a video of one of its rituals the Solar Temple left behind. Courtesy of Sûreté du Québec.

Cult-watching groups like Info-Secte in Quebec (in fact, one of the most moderates groups of this kind internationally) were right when they alerted the authorities about possible violent developments in the Solar Temple, although they did not suspect mass suicides and homicides. Other anti-cult organizations shamelessly manipulated the tragedies to add the “preparation of mass suicides” to their laundry list of accusations against the groups they label as “cults.”

In Russia, the notorious anti-cultist Alexander Dvorkin falsely accused a good dozen of new religious movements of “preparing a mass suicide.” Similar accusations were directed at the Jehovah’s Witnesses and La Luz del Mundo, organizations not only  firmly opposed to suicide for theological reasons but with millions of members, which would make secretly planned generalized suicides a little bit difficult to organize.

Perhaps the lesson to derive from the tragedies is not only that the OTS was not a “typical cult,” but that the “typical cult” is a fictional construction that does not exist in reality. “Cult” stereotypes do not help in predicting which, among tens of thousands of religious movements, would likely engage in violent or criminal acts.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


The Order of the Solar Temple. 8. But Was It a “Typical Cult”?

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Few days after the 1994 tragedy, Swiss media had already to deal with the problem that it did not look like the average “cult.”

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 8 of 9.

A typical French reaction to the Solar Temple. Source: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Paris.
A typical French reaction to the Solar Temple. Source: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Paris.

Was the Order of the Solar Temple (OTS) a stereotypical “cult”? Many of those who made this diagnosis did not know anything about the OTS before the homicides and suicides. As Swiss sociologist Roland Campiche observed, media in Switzerland and beyond initially had it all wrong. When they learned about the 1994 carnage in Cheiry and Salvan, they described the OTS members as “typical” “cult victims” living on the margin of Swiss society. This position became untenable when it came out that many if not most members were solid bourgeois, including businesspersons, journalists, and wealthy socialites.

In 1994, I was frequenting the Geneva professional milieu for reasons unconnected with my study of religions. I remember the astonishment of several friends when they read the names of those who died in the tragedy, whom they know as businesspersons and socialites more often found busy in Geneva’s business district or skiing in St. Moritz, without even suspecting their involvement in strange neo-Templar rituals.

Unlike “cults” who had been part of previous mass suicides such as the Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, the OTS, strictly speaking, was not even a religious group. Rather than with religion, it dealt with magic and esotericism. Rather than with the Peoples Temple, it can be compared with Heaven’s Gate, a UFO group 39 members of which committed a collective suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California, in 1997. Yet, unlike the OTS co-founders Di Mambro and Jouret, Heaven’s Gate leaders and members, while professing certain esoteric ideas, were never part of the esoteric milieu where a great number of Rosicrucian, para-Masonic, and neo-Templar groups kept in touch with each other.

Local San Diego media reporting on Heaven’s Gate suicide. From Facebook.
Local San Diego media reporting on Heaven’s Gate suicide. From Facebook.

The OTS did not belong to any catastrophic millennial tradition, and was part of a larger esoteric subculture in which apocalypticism is not widespread, and violence and suicide are extremely rare. Why exactly, among hundreds of groups in the magical milieu (more than a hundred in the neo-Templar subfamily alone), only the OTS evolved towards suicide and murder is not an easily answered question.

The anti-cult movement and some journalists influenced by the stereotypes of French and Swiss anti-cult organizations initially suggested the usual model of brainwashing. When, however, they took a closer look at the personalities of those who died, they had to recognize that the large majority of the Templars did not fit the usual profile of  “brainwashed cultists.” As mentioned earlier, the Templars were not unemployed poor nor college students but solid middle-class citizens—in some cases, even members of the Geneva jet set.

As Campiche noted, the brainwashing explanation was, thus, converted into the claim that the OTS was not what it claimed to be, but a facade to hide a conspiracy involving secret services of different countries, organized crime, and large-scale money-laundering operations. When scholars, including myself and Jean-François Mayer (who, as I mentioned earlier, participated in the Swiss official investigation), dismissed these theories, they were simply accused of being themselves part of the conspiracy.

Although entire books have been devoted by militant anti-cult journalists to the alleged Solar Temple conspiracies, no hard evidence has emerged, and these theories have been rejected by both the Canadian and the Swiss investigators. Once sensationalist pseudo-factors are discarded, a number of concomitant factors, both internal and external, contributing to the tragedies emerge.

External factors include the campaign started by ADFI-Martinique and Rose-Marie Klaus, and the subsequent police investigations in Quebec, Australia, and France. There is little doubt that this was interpreted by Di Mambro and his closest associates as intolerable persecution. Indeed, the fourth document of the “Testament” they left behind in 1994 was entirely devoted to accusing those organizing the “systematic persecution” of the OTS, including the government and the police of Quebec, of “mass homicide.” Should we, as a consequence, interpret the “Transit” as a response to the opposition?

“Testament” documents sent to media and scholars in 1994. From Facebook.
“Testament” documents sent to media and scholars in 1994. From Facebook.

As American scholars John R. Hall and Philip D. Schuyler observed in their 2006 study “The Mystical Apocalypse of the Solar Temple” (part of the volume edited by James R. Lewis The Order of the Solar Temple: The Temple of Death, London: Routledge), “whether the deaths would have been orchestrated absent the opposition and ensuing scandals is a counterfactual experiment that cannot be completed.”

As we have seen in a previous article, the dates when the first documents clearly hinting at a radical “Transit” were created on the Swiss computer of the OTS more or less coincide with the first police investigations of the group. The question remains why the OTS reacted to the perceived persecution as it did, while a large number of other spiritual movements have endured a much larger amount of ridicule, anti-cult opposition, and police harassment without any violent reaction.

Internal factors should also be considered. The perverse effects of Di Mambro’s threatened loss of charisma have been emphasized by Canadian scholar Susan Palmer (“Purity and Danger in the Solar Temple,” Journal of Contemporary Religion 11,3 [1996], 303–318) and were indeed a key factor. Similar problems seem to have affected Jim Jones (1931–1978) of the Peoples Temple, and Marshall Applewhite (1931–1997) of Heaven’s Gate. All had health problems coupled with disconfirmed prophecies or claims.

Not only may they have re-interpreted their loss of health and charisma as a cosmic tragedy, but the group itself may have collectively read the problems of the leader as a metaphor for planetary illness. Additionally, one is forced to recognize that there are ideologies and doctrines more prone than others to propel a group into violence and suicide. After all, the choice of exiting this world becomes somewhat rational if earth is regarded as doomed, about to be “recycled” or “spaded under” to use the terms of Marshall Applewhite’s Heaven’s Gate internet manifestos, and if suicide is presented as an honorable and effective path to reach another planet.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


The Order of the Solar Temple. 7. Suicides and Murders Continue

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The Swiss tragedy of 1994 was repeated in 1995 in France and in 1997 in Quebec.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 7 of 9

A sacred book custody with emblems of the Solar Temple found by the Canadian police. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.
A sacred book custody with emblems of the Solar Temple found by the Canadian police. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.

As we saw in the previous articles of this series, the leadership and the core membership of the Order of the Solar Temple self-destroyed themselves through the homicides and suicides in Quebec and in the Swiss villages of Cheiry and Salvan of October 4 and 5, 1994.

The dichotomy between suicide and murder is only part of the story, if we believe four documents sent by the OTS to the press, to former members, and to scholars through Patrick Vuarnet (1968–1995), a member of the OTS and the son of French former skiing champion turned industrialist Jean Vuarnet (1933–2017). The documents were accompanied, in some cases, by videos and by a fifth document in which Di Mambro deplored “the barbarous, incompetent and aberrant conduct of Doctor Luc Jouret” who had transformed in a “veritable carnage” what should have been a glorious Transit.

The documents, collectively referred to as “the Testament,” mentioned that some “traitors” had been “executed.” However, they also suggested that together with the killed traitors (including the Dutoits in Quebec, Di Mambro’s son Elie, and possibly Falardeau) and the core members strong enough to understand the full implications of the Transit, there were also weaker Templars. The latter did not disagree with the idea of the Transit (although they may have figured it as something different from a suicide), but needed some “help” in order to accomplish it. The Testament’s description of the different types of deaths was consistent with the findings of the Swiss official investigation .

Interestingly, very few former OTS members re-interpreted the OTS within the frame of the anti-cult worldview. Those few included Thierry Huguénin, who barely escaped the Swiss killings. The majority of the former Templars continued to express sympathy for the OTS, and some explicitly told the Swiss judges that they regretted not having been “called” by Di Mambro to participate in the Transit.

In fact, it seemed that Di Mambro had planned the survival of some “witnesses” by establishing in Avignon on September 24, 1994, yet another organization, the ARC. ARC’s meaning was Association for Cultural Research for the external world, and Alliance Rosy-Cross for initiates. The idea of having both a “public” and a “secret” name for the same organization was consistent with Di Mambro’s style and his paranoid need for secrecy.

Footage of OTS ritual. Courtesy of the Sûreté du Québec.
Footage of OTS ritual. Courtesy of the Sûreté du Québec.

One of the speakers at the Avignon meeting founding ARC was Michel Tabachnik, the musical conductor we had met before as a friend of Di Mambro. Despite his personal dislike for Luc Jouret that, he later claimed, prevented him from formally joining the OTS, Tabachnik had been an occasional speaker for the movement in Quebec and had kept in touch with Di Mambro. The only public figure to survive the 1994 tragedy, Tabachnik subsequently was accused by the anti-cult movement and by some media of being the hidden leader of the OTS or at least the successor of Di Mambro. His musical career was temporarily compromised.

In 1996, a criminal action was started in Grenoble, France, against Tabachnik regarded as a possible ideological source of the tragedies through his speeches and writings. He insisted that he never approved the suicides and homicides, and regarded himself, rather, as a “scapegoat.” He was eventually acquitted of all charges.

Notwithstanding the continued police interest in what was left of the OTS, a second tragedy happened in 1995. On December 23, sixteen members of the OTS, including Patrick Vuarnet and his mother Edith Bonlieu (1934–1995), a former Olympic skier like her husband Jean Vuarnet, and three children of the members were found dead in the Vercors mountains near Grenoble. The first findings of the French investigation concluded that at least some of the dead (and certainly the children) were murdered. At any rate, all died by pistol shots.

The organizer of the tragedy, and the leader of what was left of the OTS in Europe after Di Mambro’s death, appeared to have been Swiss psychotherapist Christiane Bonet (1945–1995), seconded by two French policemen in active duty who were members of the OTS, Jean-Pierre Lardanchet (1959–1995) and Patrick Rostan (1966–1995). French investigators concluded that the victims were killed by Lardanchet and by a Swiss OTS member, André Friedli (1956–1995), who finally shot themselves.

The house of the third suicide in Saint Casimir. From Facebook.
The house of the third suicide in Saint Casimir. From Facebook.

In a third incident discovered on May 23, 1997, in Saint-Casimir, Quebec, five members of the OTS committed suicide. These were Bruno Klaus (1947–1997), the former husband of vocal apostate Rose-Marie, Pauline Rioux (1943–1997), Didier Quèze (1957–1997), his wife Chantal (née Goullot, 1955–1997) and his mother-in-law Suzanne Druau (1934–1997). Druau was suffocated by a plastic bag (a trademark of OTS deaths), while the others asphyxiated from the smoke before being reached by the fire set to the home.

According to the Quebec police, there was no evidence of violence or poisoning although the victims had consumed significant doses of tranquillizers. The three children of the Quèze couple were permitted to choose whether they would participate. They decided not to die, were drugged during the adults’ suicide, and survived.

The third incident basically destroyed the OTS. Former members who survived and remained loyal to Di Mambro’s idea are still alive today, but despite occasional media claims to the contrary no organized OTS activity has continued.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


Conferência em Caféde

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A Real Associação da Beira Interior, no dia 04 de Abril, organizou uma palestra com
apoio da União de Freguesias de Póvoa de Rio de Moinhos e Caféde, no edifício da
Junta de Freguesia de Caféde. O tema da palestra foi “A Ordem dos Templários –
Caféde Terra Templária”, os oradores convidados foram o professor, historiador André
Gonçalves e o professor e historiador Hermínio Esteves.

Na Mesa estiveram os oradores, a Presidente da União de Freguesias de Póvoa
de Rio de Moinhos e Caféde – Ana Sofia Ramos Pereira, e o Grande Secretário da Real
Associação da Bieira Interior – Rui Mateus.

Nos lugares de destaque esteve o Grão – Prior de Portugal da OSMTH – Paris –
Francisco Moção Leão, o Grão – Prior Ibérico da OSMTHU – Luís de Matos, o Grão –
Prior de Espanha da OSMTH – Magnus Magisterium – Francisco de Miguel Fernández
e o Grão – Prior de Portugal da OSMTH – Magnus Magisterium – João Magro.
Também estiveram presentes o Vice-Presidente / Secretário da União de
Freguesias de Póvoa de Rio de Moinhos e Caféde – Sérgio Silva e a Tesoureira da Unão
de Freguesias de Póvoa de Rio de Moinhos e Caféde – Paula Esteves Dias.

ANDRÉ GONÇALVES:
Iniciou a palestra referindo marcos importantes da história da Ordem do Templo.
Durante os séculos XI e XII, salientou 1095 com o apelo do papa Urbano II para a
reconquista de Jerusalém e 1096/109, período da concretização da 1ª cruzada. Foi na
sequência desta que em 1118 foi fundada, por 9 Cavaleiros, a Ordem dos Templários,
sendo o primeiro Grão – Mestre – Hugo de Payens -, a qual foi reconhecida pela Santa
Sé e o Papa Honório II, em 1128, no Concílio de Troyes. Neste mesmo ano já se regista
a sua presença no Condado Portucalense.

Conforme é citado por Manuel da Silva Castelo Branco, os Templários no século
XIII deram um grande contributo para o povoamento de Caféde e no néculo XVI, por
decisão do Rei Dom Manuel I, Caféde passa a fazer parte da Comenda dos Escalos de
Cima, sempre sob influência templária.

André Gonçalves, destacou outras grandes datas dos séculos XII e XIII a
respeito da Ordem dos Templários, nomeadamente 1139 (obediência exclusiva ao
Papa), 1146 (adopção da capa branca com a cruz vermelha), 1252 (ameaça por parte do
Rei Henrique III de Inglaterra de confiscar terras à Ordem dos Templários) e 1291
(queda de Jerusalém e o início do declínio dos Templários).

Em 1305, a eleição do Papa Clemente V e o “Cativeiro de Avinhão”, abriram
caminho ao processo contra os Templários, tendo o último Grão – Mestre dos
Templários – Jaques de Molay – sido queimado na fogueira em 1314.
Na sequência da extinção da Ordem dos Templários o Rei Dom Dinis I pediu ao
Papa a continuidade da Ordem em Portugal.

Desse pedido resultou um processo concluído em 1319 com a instituição da
Ordem de Cristo, a qual teve grande influência e importância em Portugal, patentes na
presença da sua cruz em vários monumentos e nas bandeiras dos navios que
protagonizaram a grande epopeia dos descobrimentos.

Entre os símbolos Templários/Ordem de Cristo salientam-se a bandeira, o selo e
o equipamento militar e os seus vestígios estão presentes no castelo de Tomar, no
Convento de Cristo, no Castelo de Castelo Branco e a sua cruz encontra-se em diversos
edifícios, nomeadamente, na zona de Castelo Branco.

HERMÍNIO ESTEVES
O Condado Portucale fundado por Vimara Peres em 868. O Condado Portucalense
oferecido ao Conde Dom Henrique de Borgonha em 1095.

Os Templários chegam a Portugal com Dona Teresa de Leão em 1125, 3 antes
da sua oficialização pela Santa Sé e o Papa Honório II. Em 1126 Dona Teresa doou aos
Templários a Vila da Ponte da Arcada além de outras 17 doações. Em 14-IV-1128 Dona
Teresa dou-a aos Templários o Castelo de Soure, local da sede dos Templários em
Portugal até 1147.

Em 1129 Dom Afonso Henriques aparece como Irmão da Ordem dos
Templários. Em 1139 0 Papa Inocêncio II, concede grandes privilégios à Ordem dos
Templários com a Bula Omne datum Optimus. 1147 com ajuda da Ordem dos
Templários e parcialmente com ajuda da Ordem de Cister Dom Afonso Henriques
conquista Santarém, nesse ano a Sede passa de Soure para Santarém.
Os Templários eram notáveis monges / guerreiros que nunca se rendiam.
Em 1209, Fernando Sanches dou aos Templários a Vila Franca da Cardosa, em
1214 o Rei Dom Afonso II dou-a aos Templários a Herdade da Cardosa.
Em 1199 doação aos Templários da Açafa.

Em meados do Século XIV, possuíam um vasto território com as terras de
Idanha à Gardunha, o planalto de Castelo Branco até ao Tejo, Cova da Beira, terras de
Ródão e Vila de Rei.

A Comenda de Castelo Branco: Mercóles, Belgaio, Palvarinho, Caféde, Escalos
de Cima, Mata, Alcains, Escalos de Fundo integrados na Granja da Tolosa.
A presença Templária em terras do actual Distrito de Castelo Branco.

HERMÍNIO ESTEVES
Começou por referir a fundação do Condado de Portucale de Vimara Peres e
núcleo original em Guimarães (868), para depois salientar a chegada de Henrique de
Borgonha que, ao casar com D. Teresa, filha bastarda de Afonso VI de Leão e Castela,
recebeu o governo do Condado Portucalense em 1095.

Os Templários chegam a Portugal com Dona Teresa de Leão, viúva do conde D.
Henrique, em 1125, três anos antes da sua oficialização pela Santa Sé e o Papa Honório
II. Em 1126 Dona Teresa doou aos Templários a Vila da Ponte da Arcada além de
outras 17 doações. Em 14-IV-1128, três meses depois do Concílio de Troyes, Dona
Teresa doou aos Templários o Castelo de Soure, que foi sede dos Templários em
Portugal até 1147, ano da conquista de Santarém, na qual os Templários participaram e
para onde passou a sede da Ordem. Os Templários participaram ainda nas batalhas de
Santarém, Lisboa, Sintra, Almada, Palmela, Alcácer do Sal, Évora e Beja. Em 1129
Dom Afonso Henriques aparece já como Irmão da Ordem dos Templários.
Destacou a importância de S. Bernardo de Claraval na organização da Ordem e
na definição dos princípios básicos que deviam nortear a sua actividade. Foi a S.
bernardo que D. Afonso Henriques solicitou a instalação em Portugal da Ordem de
Cister, cujo primeiro núcleo monástico se estabeleceu em Alcobaça.

Em 1139 o Papa Inocêncio II, concede grandes privilégios à Ordem dos
Templários com a Bula Omne datum Optimus.
Os Templários eram notáveis monges / guerreiros que nunca se rendiam. uma força
militar única, já que um templário nunca se rendia, aceitava a morte como um prémio,
lutava antes pelos bens sobrenaturais do que pelos bens terrenos, como também uma
força moral inigualável. (…) Rodeando o rei os seus mestres e freires-cavaleiros de
elite, instauravam um padrão ético e cavalheiresco incitante e fascinante, na
subordinação dos valores materiais aos espirituais”. (António Quadros, Portugal, Razão
e Mistério, vol. 1, Lisboa, 1999, p. 175).

No início do séc. XIII, no ano de 1209, Fernando Sanches faz «doação aos
Templários de uma herdade que ele chama Villa Franca da Cardosa». Fernando Sanches
seria filho de D. Garcia Mendes, sobrinho de D. Gonçalo Mendes e de D. Rodrigo
Mendes, vultos da nossa nobreza dos primeiros tempos da nacionalidade, descendentes
por bastardia do Conde D. Henrique.

Os Templários foram a primeira Ordem Militar a estabelecer-se e a receber terras na
região (1165). Durante os séculos seguintes, e especialmente durante o séc. XIII, graças
à Reconquista, em que tiveram papel preponderante, foram aumentando as suas terras e
as suas rendas.

Além de várias vilas e aldeias, possuíam diversas propriedades – casais, herdades,
vinhas e chãos – destacando-se as herdades de Vide, Aldeia Nova, Silvares, Cabeço da
Atalaia, Castelo Branco; um chão na vila da Covilhã, onde a Ordem em 1230 possuía já
uma Comenda, um casal em Alcongosta, e duas vinhas, uma em Castelo Novo e outra
em Monsanto.

Em meados do Século XIV, os domínios da Ordem na região englobavam um
vasto território que incluía as terras de Idanha à Gardunha, o planalto de Castelo Branco
até ao Tejo, Cova da Beira, terras de Ródão e Vila de Rei.

Com a extinção da Ordem dos Templários, foi instituída a Ordem de Cristo pelo
Rei D. Dinis em 1318 e confirmada pela Bula Ad ea ex quibus dada pelo Papa João
XXII em Avinhão, em Março de 1319. A Bula foi emitida a pedido do Rei D. Dinis
para que a Ordem sucedesse à Ordem do Templo, extinta em 1311 pelo Papa Clemente
V.

A Comenda de Castelo Branco: Mercóles, Belgaio, Palvarinho, Caféde, Escalos
de Cima, Mata, Alcains, Escalos de Fundo integrados na Granja da Tolosa.
A presença Templária em terras do actual Distrito de Castelo Branco ficou
representada nos seus castelos, que se destacam os de Castelo Branco, Castelo Novo,
Idanha-a-Velha, Idanha-a-Nova, Penamacor, Proença-a-Velha e Ródão.

The Order of the Solar Temple. 6. Tragedy in Switzerland

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On October 5, 1994, the police found 48 dead bodies in the villages of Cheiry and Salvan.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 6 of 9

Hastily covered dead bodies in Cheiry. From Facebook.
Hastily covered dead bodies in Cheiry. From Facebook.

In the previous article, we saw how internal dissent started manifesting itself in the Order of the Solar Temple (OTS) in 1993, the same year the Canadian police arrested some members of the group for having acquired illegal weapons. Probably in the same year, OTS leader Joseph Di Mambro started preparing for a “transit” that should have taken the core members of the movement to another planet—through mass suicide.

At that time, Di Mambro was experiencing problems with his personal dignity and his leadership, who was based upon revelations he claimed to receive from the secret Masters of the Temple. He had serious health problems and was compelled to wear diapers. A number of French and Swiss members had left the OTS in 1993, wondering whether their money had not been spent to support the leader’s luxurious lifestyle.

Worst, dating back to 1990, rumors were circulating that the most secret and sacred experience of the OTS—visible manifestations of the Masters of the Temple—were, in fact, holographic and electronic tricks stage-managed on behalf of Di Mambro by Tony Dutoit (1958–1994). It looked like a modernized version of the claim that Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891), the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, had fraudulently organized the apparition of written messages from her mysterious Masters, in India and elsewhere.

The rumors led Di Mambro’s son, Elie, to quit the OTS. Dutoit and his wife eventually confirmed that the accusations were true, distanced themselves from Di Mambro, and in 1994 named their newborn baby Christopher Emmanuel (1994–1994). The naming was particularly intolerable to Di Mambro, who regarded the name Emmanuel as a reference to the Cosmic Christ and had reserved it for his own daughter Emmanuelle (1982–1994).

She was female but was addressed in the OTS as “Emmanuel” as if she was a male, and presented as conceived by Dominique Bellaton (1958–1994), Di Mambro’s mistress, through cosmic intercourse with a discarnate Master. Emmanuelle was also worshiped as the embodiment of the Cosmic Christ. As he had usurped the name “Emmanuel,” Di Mambro become persuaded that the infant Christopher Emmanuel Dutoit was the Antichrist.

Order of the Solar Temple: Di Mambro with Emmanuel/Emmanuelle, the Cosmic Christ. From Facebook.
Di Mambro with Emmanuel/Emmanuelle, the Cosmic Christ. From Facebook.

Apart from theories about the Cosmic Christ, that the apparitions of the Masters of the Temple were due to electronic tricks became public knowledge in the OTS. While some members explained this away as an unfortunate but necessary way to keep weaker souls within the fold, others left the OTS.

Di Mambro’s threatened loss of charisma within the OTS explains his paranoid reaction to the different police investigations. In 1994, his lawyer informed him that, due to a number of “political and legal” reasons connected to “a pending criminal investigation,” the passport of his wife might not be renewed.

Di Mambro reacted with a document concluding that “all the polices in the world are focused on us. Our file is secret, nobody could access it but the leaders.” He claimed that OTS was “the hottest file in the planet, the most important of the decade if not of the century.” Di Mambro concluded that “the game is afoot, and the concentration of hate against us will supply the energy needed for our departure.”

The “departure” took place in October 1994. It is unclear exactly when messages from the Masters and from a “Heavenly Lady” channeled by Di Mambro and by Camille Pilet (1926–1994), the most prominent and wealthy businessman in the OTS and the alleged reincarnation of Joseph of Arimathea, started preparing the Templars for a “transit” outside of this world (probably around 1990). It is also unclear when exactly (probably in late 1993) at least an inner core of members learned that the “transit” would not involve a spaceship or other extraterrestrial vehicles but a mystical suicide.

On October 4, 1994, fire destroyed Joseph Di Mambro’s villa in Morin Heights, Quebec. Among the ruins, the police found five charred bodies. Three of these people, the Dutoit couple and their “Antichrist” baby son, had been stabbed to death before the fire was started. Two Swiss members of the OTS, Gerry Genoud (1955–1994) and his wife Colette Rochat (1931–1994), ignited the villa and voluntarily died in the fire.

Having perpetrated or at least supervised the murders in Morin Heights, which probably took place on September 30, Joel Egger (1959–1994) and Dominique Bellaton (the mother of the “cosmic child” Emmanuelle Di Mambro) joined fifty-one members and children of members of the OTS in Switzerland.

Canadian police and firefighters in Morin Heights, October 4, 1994.
Canadian police and firefighters in Morin Heights, October 4, 1994. From Twitter.

In the early morning of October 5, the police found all of them dead in two OTS centers, one in Cheiry (canton of Fribourg) and one in Granges-sur-Salvan (canton Valais). 23 bodies were found at Cheiry and 25 at Granges-sur-Salvan along with the remains of devices set to start the fires that almost destroyed both centers. Among the victims at the Cheiry farm was its owner, Albert Giacobino (1932–1994). Regarded as a traitor, he was suffocated to death with a plastic bag. Renée Pfaehler (1914–1994) and Camille Pilet appear also to have died by suffocation in plastic bags. Both were faithful members of the OTS and their deaths were probably voluntary.

The other victims in Cheiry were killed by pistol shots. Those dead in Salvan were poisoned (or poisoned themselves) with a lethal mixture of drugs, with the possible exceptions of two teenagers, the cosmic child Emmanuelle Di Mambro and Aude Séverino (1979–1994) and three adults: Elie, the apostate son of Joseph Di Mambro, Madeleine Brot (1956–1994), and Pauline Lemonde (1938–1994), who may have died in the fire without first having been poisoned. The lengthy investigation by the Swiss police and judiciary confirmed that most of those dead at Cheiry were murdered, while at least a good half of those found at Granges-sur-Salvan committed suicide.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


The Order of the Solar Temple. 5. Under Attack

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In 1993, the Solar Templars had to confront both a persisting disgruntled ex-member and suspicious Canadian police officers.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 5 of 9

A Canadian police officer discussing the Order of the Solar Temple investigations. From Facebook.
A Canadian police officer discussing the OTS investigations. From Facebook.

In the previous article, we discussed the foundation in 1984 of what would later be called the Order of the Solar Temple (OTS) and its relationships with Jacques Breyer, whom the OTS leaders Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret recognized as the revelator of some of their neo-Templar doctrines after a mystical experience he had in 1952.

According to Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer, the OTS, between the late 1980s and the 1990s, distanced itself from Breyer by de-Christianizing its message and de-catholicizing its ritual. OTS rites included a mass, since Jouret had in 1984 been ordained as a priest by Jean Laborie (1919–1996), a bishop of a small fringe Catholic splinter group, the Latin Old Catholic Church. By comparing similar rituals of the OTS and of Breyer’s group, the Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple (OSTS), Mayer concluded that Jouret and Di Mambro had de-catholicized both the mass and other neo-Templar rites, and had included references to non-Christian occult traditions.

These references included UFO and extraterrestrial lore, a feature already present (but certainly less important) in Breyer’s OSTS. When the public discovered the OTS apocalyptic worldview behind the facade of Jouret’s motivational speeches, the group started to experience some opposition.

In the French-speaking world, the anti-cult movement is much more prominent than elsewhere. It had experienced, well before the first Solar Temple deaths in 1994, which added fuel to the fire, a degree of governmental support unknown in the English-speaking world. The OTS, however, barely caught the attention of the French anti-cult organizations in the 1980s although it was occasionally mentioned.

The situation changed in 1991. In that year, the Martinique branch of ADFI (Association pour la défense des familles et de l’individu, the largest French anti-cult organization), ADFI-Martinique, denounced the conversion of wealthy Martinicans to the OTS and their eventual move to Quebec. ADFI-Martinique was able to join forces with the Swiss Rose-Marie Klaus, a disgruntled OTS ex-member. Her husband Bruno (1948–1997) had left her within the frame of “cosmic” marriage rearrangements allegedly dictated by the secret Templar Masters.

Rose-Marie Klaus contacted the Canadian cult-watching association Info-Secte, and was eventually invited to speak in Martinique at the end of 1992. Gradually, Klaus’s determined opposition made inroads, and Jouret found it increasingly difficult to be invited as a motivational speaker by respectable companies.

In November 1992, members of the Canadian Parliament received death threats from a mysterious terrorist group, Q-37 (allegedly including 37 members from Quebec). Q-37 announced the intended murder of Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety, Claude Ryan (1925–2004), accused of adopting a political line too favorable to the claims of Native Americans. Although it was later admitted that Q-37 most probably never existed, the Quebec police suspected a possible involvement of the OTS. While Jouret occasionally expressed views hostile to the claims of Native Americans in Quebec, this was by no means an important concern for the OTS. There were many right-wing organizations more likely to be associated with Q-37.

Minister Claude Ryan.
Minister Claude Ryan. Credits.

It was, as a consequence, probable that the information leading to the opening of an investigation of the OTS on February 2, 1993, came from cult-watching organizations. Within the frame of this investigation, two OTS members, Jean-Pierre Vinet (1939–1994) and Hermann Delorme, were arrested on March 8, 1993, as they attempted to buy three semiautomatic guns with silencers, illegal weapons in Quebec. An arrest warrant was also issued against Luc Jouret, who was at that time in Europe. In fact, the arms deal had been arranged by a police informant engaged in a sting operation. The prosecution ended with a “suspended acquittal” and a minor fine for Jouret, Vinet, and Delorme. The latter left the OTS following the incident.

Jumping on the news about OTS, Rose-Marie Klaus managed to have lurid accounts of the “cult of the end of the world” published in some daily newspapers and tabloid magazines. Vinet was fired from his position at Hydro-Québec, and police investigations were launched in France and Australia, where Di Mambro had some financial interests, later grossly exaggerated by sensationalist accounts in the press.

It is not easy to determine whether the preparation for a “transit” of the core members of the OTS to another planet (which Di Mambro, but perhaps not many other members, knew would be a mass suicide) was started before or after the first Canadian police actions in 1993. According to Mayer, who has participated in the Swiss official police investigation and has studied the files left on OTS computers in Switzerland, dates of creation of documents show that the first versions of the texts about the “transit” were written almost at the same time when the Canadian investigation was started in February. By that time, Rose-Marie Klaus had already launched her public campaign.

Ritual jewelry used by the Solar Temple in Quebec. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.
Ritual jewelry used by the Solar Temple in Quebec. Source: Collection patrimoniale de la Sûreté du Québec.

In Quebec, Jouret had proved not as effective as a manager of the different Templar activities than as a public speaker. Dissension erupted, and Robert Falardeau (1947–1994), an officer with the Quebec Ministry of Finances, replaced him as Grand Master. Jouret founded a new organization called ARCHS (Academy for the Research and Knowledge of Higher Science).

Jacques Larochelle, the lawyer of the defendants in the Canadian case, first called the separation a “schism” in a 1993 press conference. While Larochelle was understandably attempting to protect his clients, things were more complicated. According to Delorme, although the new organization had a distinctive style, several persons remained members of both ARCHS and OTS. Both groups acknowledged the ultimate authority of Di Mambro.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


The Order of the Solar Temple. 4. Waiting for the End of the World

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By the late 1980s, the Solar Templars’ message was becoming increasingly apocalyptic.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 4 of 9

Order of the Solar Temple: publicity for a conference by Luc Jouret. From Twitter.
Publicity for a conference by Luc Jouret. From Twitter.

In the previous installment of this series, we discussed the emergence of the French former jeweler and esoteric teacher Joseph Di Mambro within the milieu of neo-Templar organizations, and his encounter with the Belgian homeopathic doctor Luc Jouret. They will become key characters in the foundation of the Order of the Solar Temple.

In the 1980s, Jouret’s reputation as a homeopathic doctor became international, but he also established himself as a respected lecturer on naturopathy and ecological topics in the wider New Age circuit. In 1981, he established the Amenta Club to manage his speaking engagements. After 1982, the Amenta Club (later renamed Atlanta) became a vehicle to disseminate Di Mambro’s ideas about secret Masters.

With Jouret, Di Mambro not only gained a trusted associate, but also a charismatic and popular speaker, much younger and energetic than the sixty-year-old former jeweler. Di Mambro introduced Jouret to Julien Origas, the leader of the Renewed Order of the Temple (ORT), an organization discussed in our previous article, and the Belgian doctor quickly ascended to a leadership position there.

Documentary evidence exists indicating that before his death in 1983 Origas designated Jouret as his heir and future Grand Master of the ORT. Jouret’s claims originally were not disputed by ORT’s members. However, it soon became clear that Jouret was introducing into the ORT new teachings inspired by Di Mambro, which were quite foreign to Origas’s ideas. This generated a reaction by the Origas family and the Grand Prior of the ORT, who was by then the Italian Gregorio Baccolini (1913–1997), an ex-Catholic priest who had joined several different non-canonical Orthodox jurisdictions, one after the other. Later media accounts of the Order of the Solar Temple would make him the confessor of Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), a totally fantastic claim.

Jouret’s nemesis: Gregorio Baccolini. From Facebook.
Jouret’s nemesis: Gregorio Baccolini. From Facebook.

Jouret had never been consecrated as Grand Master in a formal ceremony, a matter of considerable importance in esoteric circles, nor was he an officer of the legal ORT structure incorporated under French law. Jouret, thus, was excluded from the ORT in September 1984. The ORT went on under the leadership of Origas’s widow, Germaine (1924–2020), and Gregorio Baccolini, and survived for years with several hundred members who were in no way involved in the subsequent events of the Solar Temple.

Jouret, who had no legal right to the name ORT, had to create with Di Mambro a new splinter organization called in 1984 ORT–Solar Tradition and later International Order of Chivalry–Solar Tradition, or Order of the Solar Temple (Ordre du Temple Solaire, OTS). Asked to mediate, the man whose mystical experiences in Arginy were recognized as a source of neo-Templar doctrine by both Origas and Di Mambro, Jacques Breyer, suggested that ORT and OTS separate amicably, seeing no harm in multiplying the movements within the Arginy Renaissance. Breyer, however, could not prevent the development of bitter feelings between the two orders.

At this stage, Breyer strongly suggested that Jouret’s and Di Mambro’s branch relocate in Canada. Both OSTS and ORT had some members there, and Di Mambro’s friend, musical conductor Michel Tabachnik, had moved to Toronto for professional reasons. Breyer hoped that his brand of neo-Templarism would thus eventually spread to the United States and the whole of the Americas.

Di Mambro and his wife Jocelyne (1949–1994) settled in Toronto in 1984. In 1987, a book was published in English, The Templar Tradition in the Age of Aquarius (Putney, VT: Threshold Books), under the pseudonym “Gaetan Delaforge,” with the aim of disseminating Di Mambro’s ideas into the United States. By this time, Di Mambro’s movement was like a system of Chinese boxes.

People initially attended Jouret’s speeches organized by the Amenta and Atlanta Clubs. Those most interested were invited to join the Archédia Club, an occult (but not truly secret) organization with a quasi-Masonic initiation ceremony. The most dedicated members of the Archédia Club were eventually invited to join the true secret Templar organization, the OTS. But, contrary to Breyer’s prophecy, very little recruiting success was obtained in the English-speaking world.

Fishing for new members: “Gaetan Delaforge”’s book.
Fishing for new members: “Gaetan Delaforge”’s book.

In 1989 (possibly the year of its maximum success), the OTS had, according to Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer, 442 members. Ninety were in Switzerland, 187 in France, 53 in Martinique (in the French-speaking Antilles), 10 in Spain, 86 in Canada (mostly in Quebec), and only 16 in the United States. Quebec became, on the other hand, a focus of OTS activities, and by 1984 a number of members were living communally in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade.

Jouret had considerable success in French-speaking Canada as a motivational speaker, especially at Hydro-Quebec, the public hydroelectric utility of the Province of Quebec. There, he recruited fifteen executives and managers for the OTS between 1987 and 1989. By this time, an apocalyptic element was a central part of OTS teaching.

The theme of the “end of the world” had been introduced into the neo-Templar tradition by Breyer. His 1959 book on esotericism, Arcanes Solaires, ou les Sécrets du Temple Solaire (Paris: La Colombe) ended with a study of the “secret of the Solar Temple,” presented as an “alchemical” chronology of humanity. The human race had passed through six ages, each dominated by a different religion, and Christianity was “the last religion.”

The end of the age of Christianity would be “the end of the world” for us. Humanity would move to “the New Earth, a celestial extension of humanity” (not another planet, as the OTS would later claim, but a transformed planet Earth). For the end of Christianity and thus the end of the world, Breyer proposed three speculative and alternative dates: 1999, 2147 (or 2156). and 2666. He noted, however, that although these three dates were the most probable, a number of other dates could be proposed. At any rate, dates were less important than an appropriate spiritual preparation.

Apocalyptic roots: Breyer’s Arcanes Solaires.
Apocalyptic roots: Breyer’s Arcanes Solaires.

Jouret combined Breyer’s doctrine with New Age fears about destruction of our planet by pollution and ecological resource mismanagement. The OTS was also influenced by a number of survivalist themes. In 1986 the OTS privately published two volumes of Survivre à l’an 2000 (How to Survive the Year 2000), which included both occult doctrine and practical advice in the style of American survivalist literature. While Breyer was originally responsible for indicating that catastrophic events were threatening Europe, and that Canada might eventually become an ark of salvation, he was not enthusiastic about OTS date-setting. In the 1990s, Breyer increasingly kept his distances from the OTS.


Massimo Introvigne

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.


Note: Reprint of bitterwinter.org; December/January 2021


Execution Site of Jacques de Molay

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ON MARCH 18, 1314, JACQUES de Molay was burnt at the stake near this site on Ile de Cite in the middle of the Seine in Paris. Up to the moment of his untimely demise, he was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, a powerful religious organization established during the Crusades.

The Knights Templar had amassed a great deal of wealth and influence and thus became targets of retribution, both by the ruling classes of France led by King Philip IV and the Catholic Church headed by Pope Clement V.

Trumped up charges of sodomy and blasphemy were brought against the religious order, and Molay and several other Knights were arrested and made to confess to these crimes. They were most likely tortured by Inquisitors hired by the pope. The French king himself had borrowed a great sum of money from the Knights Templar and saw this as an opportunity to confiscate the massive amount of wealth and land they possessed. Each man had a reason to find the incarcerated parties guilty, and thus the Knights were doomed to fail.

Continuing to protest his innocence even while on the smoldering pyre, Molay is said to have shouted out a curse on both the king and pope. He reputedly swore that neither men nor their descendants would live beyond one year and one day from this injustice. And, it is true that both Pope Clement V and King Philip IV died within a year of the execution, though it would take another 14 years to wipe out the lineage of the king.

Located behind the Statue of Henri IV riding a horse, on Pont Neuf Bridge. There are two sets of stairs, both will lead you down to Square du Vert Galant. There are several plaques, in French, telling you the story of Jacques de Molay. There are stories that he was burnt in front of Notre Dame, but he did indeed meet his demise on Ile de Cite.

in atlasobscura.com