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; December/January 2021