Month: March 2022

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


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.

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

The Order of the Solar Temple. 3. Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret

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A French jeweler turned esoteric teacher and a Belgian homeopathic doctor were at the origin of the murderous organization.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 3 of 9

Luc Jouret.
Luc Jouret. From Facebook.

To understand the suicides and homicides in the 1990s of the Order of the Solar Temple (Ordre du Temple Solaire, OTS), we started with a survey of the neo-Templar tradition to which the OTS belonged, while emphasizing that other neo-Templar groups obviously carried no responsibility for the Solar Temple crimes.

In the previous article, we discussed the mystical revelation French esoteric author Jacques Breyer claimed to have received in 1952 in Arginy, when secret Masters ordered him to establish a new neo-Templar order, and the activities of the Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple (OSTS), established by Breyer, and the Renewed Order of the Temple (ORT), founded by two well-known characters in the French esoteric milieu, Raymond Bernard and Julien Origas, as part of the “Arginy Renaissance.”

On March 21, 1981, the leaders of OSTS and ORT converged in a ceremony in Geneva to swear allegiance to a “once and future” supreme secret Master of the Temple. They met on the premises of a third organization, also associated with the ceremony and recognized by Breyer as part of the Arginy movement: the Golden Way Foundation established by Joseph Di Mambro (1924–1994), the future leader of the Order of the Solar Temple. The ceremony of March 21, 1981 was, according to Di Mambro, at least as important as Breyer’s 1952 Arginy experience, and was later cited as the founding date of the Order of the Solar Temple.

The ceremony did not imply any merger between the OSTS, the ORT, and the Golden Way Foundation. Although the OSTS leaders Breyer and Marsan were in touch with Di Mambro and Origas, they kept their organizations strictly separate. This point is worth noting since Marsan’s friendship with both Prince Ranier III of Monaco and Di Mambro led in 1997 to the extraordinary claim by some media that Princess Grace (née Kelly, 1929–1982) was a member of the Order of the Solar Temple.

There is no evidence that Prince Ranier III and Princess Grace were members of OSTS either. Princess Grace died in 1982, whereas the Order of the Solar Temple as such was established in 1984. The name of Princess Grace was not mentioned in any of the surviving Solar Temple papers found in Switzerland.

Joseph Di Mambro. From Facebook.
Joseph Di Mambro. From Facebook.

Di Mambro was born in Pont-Saint-Esprit (Gard, France) in 1924. A jeweler by trade, in 1956 he joined the Rosicrucian organization AMORC. He had some responsibilities there and left it around 1970. Di Mambro displayed considerable skill as a spiritualist medium channeling discarnate Masters, and he was looking for experiences stronger than AMORC. He joined the Arginy movement and traveled to Egypt and Israel (where he allegedly conceived his son Elie [1969-1994] on Mount Carmel, a mountain associated with the biblical prophet Elias).

After a minor skirmish with French justice in 1971 for writing bad checks, Di Mambro moved to Annemasse near the Swiss border, and later to Switzerland. There, he started in 1973 a full-time career as a teacher of yoga and occult philosophy. From that time on, Di Mambro established an astonishing number of secret (and not so secret) societies, organizations, and associations, whose names may easily confuse both the initiates and the scholars. His main venture in the 1970s was La Pyramide (1976–1978), in which his closest students lived communally.

In 1977 Nicole Koymans (1928–1994), a yoga teacher in Geneva and a member of Di Mambro’s inner circle, brought to La Pyramide her student Christine Meylan (1944–1994) and the latter’s husband, Michel Tabachnik, already well known in musical circles as a promising young conductor. In 1978 Tabachnik joined Di Mambro’s new venture, the Golden Way Foundation. Tabachnik moved to an apartment within the Golden Way property in Saconnex-d’Arve near Geneva with his second wife, Sabine, a student of Di Mambro who had divorced Christian Pechot (1945–1994).

The latter later married Tabachnik’s ex-wife Christine Meylan, and both joined the OTS and died in the 1994 tragedy. In 1979, Tabachnik became the president of the Golden Way Foundation, whose real leader remained Di Mambro.

Michel Tabachnik.
Michel Tabachnik. Credits.

At this stage Di Mambro’s ideas were still largely derived from the Rosicrucian order AMORC, with little emphasis on Knights Templar or neo-Templarism (although he knew Origas since their AMORC years). The core membership of Di Mambro’s group was composed of the “brotherhood” living communally in Saconnex-d’Arve.

In 1982 the Golden Way was joined by Luc Jouret (1947–1994), a Belgian homeopathic doctor who had established a practice in Annemasse. Jouret was born in Kikwit, Belgian Congo (present-day Zaire), to Belgian parents in 1947. After graduation as a medical doctor in Brussels in 1974 and military service as a paratrooper, his interests had focused on alternative and New Age medicine, particularly homeopathy. He also had contacts with a number of Belgian New Age, Masonic, and occult groups, and had visited the Far East.

Jouret lecturing on homeopathy in 1983.
Jouret lecturing on homeopathy in 1983. From Facebook.

In 1977 Jouret and his wife-to-be Christine Pertué (1952–1994) became affiliated with the World Teacher Trust (WTT), an organization established in 1971 in India by Ekkirala  Krishnamacharya (1926–1984) called “Master E.K.” The WTT combines ideas about the Masters derived from the Theosophical Society and esoteric author Alice Bailey (1880–1949) with a strong emphasis on homeopathic medicine.

Jouret and Pertué visited Master E.K. in India, and were instrumental in promoting the WTT throughout French-speaking Europe. After his meeting with Di Mambro in 1982 and Master E.K.’s death in 1984, Jouret lost contact with the WTT. He also divorced Pertué after five years of marriage in 1985. However, she remained in the OTS and died in the Swiss tragedy in 1994.


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. 2. Secret Templar Revelations

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The Solar Templars came from a neo-Templar tradition where mysterious Masters reportedly appeared and delivered esoteric messages.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 2 of 9

Custodian of secret Templar revelations: Jacques Breyer.
Custodian of secret Templar revelations: Jacques Breyer. Credits.

In the previous article of the series, we started examining the neo-Templar tradition, within which the Order of the Solar Temple, notorious for its mass suicides in the 1990s, was eventually created. Not without repeating that other neo-Templar organizations had nothing to do with the crimes of the Solar Temple, we continue here the story of neo-Templarism after the death in 1838 of the man who invented it, Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat. Admiral Sir William Sidney-Smith (1764–1840), head of the English branch, was elected as Grand Master.

However, the neo-Templar knights continued to quarrel over the relationships with the Catholic Church, and soon a “Catholic” and a “Palapratian” (non-Catholic) factions separated again. Both, however, declined. The “Palapratians” ceased their activities in 1871, and the “Catholics” in 1890. Some surviving knights appointed a “Regent” of the order in the person of the French poet Joséphin Péladan (1858–1918), who was involved in most of the organizations promoting the occultist revival of the late 19th  century, but cared more for his own creation, the Ordre de la Rose+Croix du Temple et du Graal, than for Fabré-Palaprat’s creation.

Joséphin Péladan, portrait by Marcellin Desboutin (1823–1902). Credits.
Joséphin Péladan, portrait by Marcellin Desboutin (1823–1902). Credits.

Although semi-extinguished in France, Fabré-Palaprat’s Order of the Temple survived in Belgium. In 1894, the Belgian branch promoted the establishment in Brussels of an International Secretariat of the Templars. Although going through different changes of names and reorganizations, the Belgian group continued its activities in the 20th century. In 1933, the Belgians also restored the position of Grand Master of the Order, and appointed Théodore Covias as “Regent” for the position. In the same year 1933, Covias transmitted his powers to Émile Clément Vandenberg (1895–1945), whose authority was not recognized by all knights.

After Vanderberg’s death in 1945, however, most knights recognized the Portuguese Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1887–1960) as the new Grand Master, succeeded after his death in 1960 by his son, Fernando Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes (1929–2018). After World War II, neo-Templarism became internationally fashionable and successful. It also went through interminable schisms, and by 2020 more than one hundred competing organizations existed throughout the world.

Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes. From Facebook.
Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes. From Facebook.

Some even claimed an alleged succession from other branches of the medieval Order of the Temple reportedly preserved outside of France independently from the lineage leading to Fabré-Palaprat. They also referred to mystical experiences in which their founders (in a vein originally popularized by the early Theosophical Society) were directly initiated (occasionally from the spirit world) by secret “Masters of the Temple.”

Jacques Breyer (1922–1996), a prolific French esoteric author, claimed to have had precisely that initiatory experience with two companions on June 12, 1952, in the ruins of Arginy Castle in France. He was contacted by the Masters of the Temple and asked to establish a “Templar Renaissance.” In 1953, he claimed to have obtained the succession in an allegedly uninterrupted chain from the medieval Knights Templar by associating to his enterprise Maxime de Roquemaure (1888–1974).

The latter, a French nobleman, claimed to have inherited the mantle of a Catalonian branch of the Order of the Temple preserved underground for centuries in faraway Ethiopia. These events led to the establishment of the Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple (OSTS). The OSTS was formally established on June 24, 1966. Breyer selected as Grand Master a Monaco socialite, Jean-Louis Marsan (1923–1982), a friend of Prince Ranier III (1923–2005). Marsan incorporated the OSTS under Monaco law in 1967.

In the 1960s, both Raymond Bernard (1923–2006) and Julien Origas (1920-1983) came into contact with the Arginy movement. Origas had been an interpreter and a minor agent for the Nazi police during the German occupation of France. He had served three years in jail for these activities. In sensationalist accounts of the Order of the Solar Temple, these rather minor activities of Origas as a Nazi collaborator were later elevated to the mythical status of leader of the whole Gestapo in Brest.

Bernard was the second highest ranking officer in the international hierarchy of the Rosicrucian order AMORC, and the leader of AMORC’s extremely successful French-speaking branch. After meeting Breyer, Bernard decided that it would be wise to establish a Templar order controlled by himself in order to keep within the fold members of the French chapter of AMORC seeking a parallel neo-Templar initiation.

In 1969, Bernard circulated a photocopied text relating his meeting in Rome with “Jean,” a French gentleman “connected with a royal family.” “Jean” led Bernard to the “crypt” of the Catholic abbey of St. Nilus in nearby Grottaferrata. Here Bernard was created a Knight Templar by a mysterious “White Cardinal,” associated with the true Order of the Temple. Later, Bernard added references to a council of twelve secret Masters ruling the world whose leader was called Maha.

In writings of the 1990s, Bernard will admit that the Grottaferrata episode, “Jean,” the White Cardinal, the Council of the Twelve, and Maha were all “purely fictional” figments of his own imagination. They were, however, he claimed, based upon deeply moving personal mystical experiences including one during a visit to St. Nilus—where, by the way, there is no crypt.

Raymond Bernard. From Facebook.
Raymond Bernard. From Facebook.

What is factually true is that claiming authority from the secret Masters, Bernard initiated in 1968 two trusted AMORC associates, Robert Devaux and Julien Origas, as Knights Templar in the Cathedral of Chartres.  In 1970, Bernard incorporated a new neo-Templar organization under French law, the Renewed Order of the Temple (ORT) and became its first president. In 1971 he asked Origas to replace him as president of the ORT.

Origas accepted with a letter in which he told Bernard that “I will only be your straw man.” During the years 1971–72, the ORT flourished with hundreds of members under a double structure. Origas was formally the president, but he reported to a “Secret Grand Master” who was the real leader of the ORT, i.e., Bernard .

The double structure was needed in order to keep the ORT clearly separated from, yet ultimately controlled by, the French branch of AMORC. The arrangement was initially accepted by Ralph M. Lewis (1904–1987), the American Imperator (world leader) of AMORC. In October 1972, however, with Lewis increasingly concerned about the possible detrimental effect on the international AMORC of ORT’s increasing success, Bernard decided to leave the ORT.

While maintaining a good personal relationship with Origas, Bernard started discouraging AMORC members from joining the neo-Templar order (although he will eventually leave AMORC in 1998 and revive another neo-Templar organization, the Sovereign Order of the Initiatic Temple, OSTI, which he and Origas had originally established in 1971). 

Origas was thus left on his own, and finally became the real Grand Master of the ORT. He continued to rely upon secret Masters. He also reconstructed the ORT’s doctrine based on the teachings of the I AM Religious Activity of the United States, an organization established in 1932 by Guy W. Ballard (1878–1939) after an encounter he claimed to have had in 1930 with Ascended Master Saint Germain on Mount Shasta in  California.

Origas first received these teachings from a splinter group of I AM led in Southern France by Angela von Bast. After his break with von Bast in 1977, Origas came into contact with the parent I AM organization, whose European headquarters were in Switzerland.

Origas was a difficult man, and personality conflicts led to half a dozen schisms. On the other hand, although distinct from OSTS, Origas’ ORT kept excellent relations with Breyer, and recognized the importance of his founding experience at Arginy.


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. 1. The Neo-Templar Background

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In 1990s, the suicides and homicides of the Solar Templars energized the European anti-cult movement. But where did this group come from?

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 1 of 9

At the origins of the Order of the Solar Temple: two Knights Templar seated on a horse, from a 13th century manuscript.
Two Knights Templar seated on a horse, from a 13th century manuscript. Credits.

The three incidents of suicides and homicides involving the Order of the Solar Temple (in French, Ordre du Temple Solaire, OTS), an esoteric new religious movement based in Switzerland and Quebec, had a crucial role in energizing the anti-cult movements in Europe, and persuaded governments and Parliaments in several countries that “cults” should be investigated through special commissions.

In this way, the OTS crimes, which were very much real, had however a negative effect on the general situation of religious liberty in Europe, creating witch hunts where hundreds of peaceful new religious movements were accused of being “potentially violent” or even “preparing mass suicides.” Reconstructing what the OTS and the tradition it was part of were really all about has thus an interest that goes beyond the tragedy of the Solar Temple. It will also show that the OTS had peculiar features of its own, eluding easy comparisons with other groups labeled as “cults.”

This series is based on my early studies of the OTS and in the landmark study of the movement by Swiss historian Jean-François Mayer, who not only is the best specialist of the subject but also assisted the Swiss judges in the investigation of the first suicides and homicides.

The OTS was not born in a vacuum. It is a deviant part of a much larger tradition, neo-Templarism, or the belief that the order of the Knights Templar, disbanded by the Catholic Church in 1307, secretly continued its existence to our very days. Unnecessary to say, other neo-Templar organizations are not responsible for the wrongdoings of the Solar Temple. Yet, while keeping this statement firmly in mind, they should be necessarily mentioned to understand where the Solar Temple came from.

The Order of the Temple, a Catholic monastic-chivalric order whose history is intertwined with that of the Crusades, was dissolved in 1307 by Pope Clement V (1260–1314) under pressure by the King of France, Philip the Fair (1268–1314), who resented the power and the independence of the Knights Templar and was also interested in confiscating their substantial assets.

Knights Templar burned at the stake during Philip the Fair’s persecution. From the anonymous Chronik Von der Schöpfung der Welt bis 1384, 14th century.
Knights Templar burned at the stake during Philip the Fair’s persecution. From the anonymous Chronik Von der Schöpfung der Welt bis 1384, 14th century. Credits.

After the suppression, the Order survived for a few decades outside France, but by the early 15th century at the latest, the Templars had completely disappeared. The thesis of their secret continuation has been denounced by specialists of medieval history as a mere legend.

The idea that the Templars, officially suppressed, had continued their activities clandestinely until the 18th century, spread first of all within the French and German Freemasonry. Freemasonry was born in the United Kingdom, and presented itself as the heir of the trade guilds of the stonemasons. For some, this was too “humble” an origin, which the nobility of continental Europe accepted with difficulty. Thus, the legend was spread of persecuted knights who had “hidden” in the English and Scottish guilds of stonemasons in order to continue their activities.

Especially in Germany, these mysterious knights were identified with the Templars. This is the origin of the Templar degrees of Freemasonry, which were born in continental Europe but quickly spread to the United Kingdom thanks to the work of Thomas Dunckerley (1724–1795), the founder in 1791 of a Grand Conclave (later Grand Priory) of the Knights Templar within English Freemasonry. Today, Masonic Knights Templar are found in several Masonic orders.

Masonic Knights Templar parading in Toledo, Ohio, in 1906.
Masonic Knights Templar parading in Toledo, Ohio, in 1906. Credits.

In the 18th century, however, not all the holders of Knights Templar degrees accepted the idea that their lodges must remain subordinate to Freemasonry. One Parisian lodge, the Knights of the Cross, argued that this should not be the case. If the Templar legend was true, then the guilds of stonemasons had an esoteric interest only as far as within them since the 14th century were hidden the heirs of the Order of the Temple. They concluded that the Knights Templar should have precedence over Freemasonry, and that Masonic organizations should subordinate themselves to the (neo-)Templar ones rather than vice versa.

The origin of this controversy goes back to an adventurer active in the years of the French Revolution, the former Catholic seminarian turned podiatrist Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat (1773–1838). In 1804, he claimed to have discovered a list of Templar “Grand Masters” from the suppression of 1307 until 1792. In that year, he argued, the last “hidden” Grand Master, Duke Louis-Hercule-Timoléon de Cossé-Brissac (1734–1792), had died, massacred in Versailles by the Jacobins.

The Knights of the Cross declared that a document, allegedly found in the drawer of a furniture of the Duke, authorized whomever found it to proceed to the election of a new Grand Master. Thus, in 1805, the lodge appointed Fabré-Palaprat Grand Master (initially “provisional”) of a revamped Order of the Temple. The idea interested  Napoleon (1769–1821) himself, who authorized a solemn ceremony in 1808.

Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat, by Jacques François Llanta (1807–1864).
Bernard-Raymond Fabré-Palaprat, by Jacques François Llanta (1807–1864). Credits.

Fabré-Palaprat, however, did not have in mind only a chivalric order destined to re-enter more or less quickly into the orbit of the Catholic Church. His far more ambitious idea, which he began to manifest in 1812, was to use the neo-Templars to establish a new religion. In 1814, Fabré-Palaprat claimed to have fortuitously purchased from a bouquiniste a Greek manuscript entitled Evangelikon, a (largely unorthodox) version of the Gospel of John, preceded by a commentary called Lévitikon. According to modern scholars, these texts, although containing possibly older material, would rather appear to be late 17th– or 18th-century forgeries.

The John the Apostle of the Evangelikon presents himself as an anti-clerical rationalist, who strips Christianity of any supernatural character and reduces Jesus Christ to an initiate educated in Alexandria. Before dying, Jesus Christ would appoint as his successor John the Apostle, whose “Order of the East” would then continue in the Order of the Temple.

The importance of this succession is evident: as Grand Master of the reconstituted Order of the Temple, Fabré-Palaprat proclaimed himself the authentic successor of John the Apostle, and indeed of Jesus Christ himself, vested with all the powers of the priesthood. He could thus proceed to the foundation of a Templar Church, which he called the “Johannite Church” and declared the only true legitimate Christian church. He then approached  a defrocked Catholic priest, Ferdinand-François Châtel (1795–1857), who had founded an independent “French Catholic Church.”

Ferdinand-François Châtel.
Ferdinand-François Châtel. Credits.

In 1831, Châtel joined the Order of the Temple, and shortly thereafter Fabré-Palaprat consecrated him as bishop and primate of the Johannite Church, which gathered a few ex-priests.

The Johannite Church, however, lasted only a few years. Not all members of the Order of the Temple took it seriously. Some did not intend to break with the Catholic Church, and rather broke with Fabré-Palaprat. When the latter died in 1838, the link between the Order of the Temple and the Johannite Church was broken, and the opportunity arose for a reconciliation between his followers and those who had left the Order because of the Johannite Church controversy.


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