Now and again we are caught by another horror-story. The last one came from Switzerland and Montreal and had to do with the sect/cult called – among other things – The Solar Temple. But it was just one more, and many more are to come. How can we say that with such certainty? Other “specialists” say the opposite and try to minimize the importance of such horror stories. We speak as we do on the basis of not only knowledge about the present religious chaos, but also from a “feel” of that same horror which is operative in these tragic movements which take their members to death.
Only when you feel somehow the reality of that horror, can you speak with authority on the movements which are caught up by the horror. It is another version of our fundamental thesis that you have to be religious in order to have deep understanding of religions. You have to have the fear of the horror which is an inevitable part of the human existence in order to understand the people who let that horror determine their lives.
Religions in general share in the experience of the basic horror, the existential fear and trembling which mankind experience when confronted with the unending void of the universe and the unending evil of mankind.
Between mankind and that cosmic horror are the religions as so many filters which make it possible for humans to touch reality without being destroyed thereby. As our senses reduce our contact with reality, so our religions transform our contact with reality into models of reality with which we can live and die.
Religions then are all different and give us different models for our contact with reality, but behind them all is that universal horror which kills all who enter it unprepared and unprotected.
The killing of the people from the Solar Temple is one cruel expression of this understanding. Their religious model, i.e. their religion, was not able to keep them alive. It rather took them directly into the fire of Moloch, which devoured them all, children and grown-ups.
Most of the leaders of the churches and most of the secular students of religion simply do not understand what happened and try to find substitutes for an understanding. That is simply too bad. We must stick to the facts, which are that not just a few exceptions – a few crazy people – are caught by this desperate fear, confronted with the universal horror. We have to do with realities which are relevant for us all, religious or secular. The advantage of being religious is that we can and should understand what is at stake. The non-religious people can just describe it from outside and often try to do so in order to describe it away!
In this issue of Update & Dialog we are making an attempt to analyse the Solar Temple and see what conclusions we are justified to draw from the experiences. That is a necessity, for we shall need such conclusions more and more the closer we get to the year 2000!
The rest of our articles, however, deal with problems related to this fundamental problem: the reality of the universal horror and the religions as models which make it possible to survive in that confrontation with reality.For there most certainly are different models, and we have to analyse them carefully and critically. That is and remains the purpose of Update & Dialog.