Sick Religion and Sick Religiosity
Once it was said that the religious world was unalterable. Studying theology and religion was studying historical subjects on the basis of the already existing sources: biblical history, church history, and catechism!
It has become rather obvious that the world of religions is undergoing a severe change. Consequently, it is not possible to understand all the new issues, on the basis of the already existing insights. On the other hand, it is not possible to understand the new situation, unless it is understood in connection with the original situation which is still important in order to interpret the new one.
When we try to understand what happened in Switzerland and Canada on October 5, 1994 on the basis of the available sources and information, we need to disengage from the present insights and yet not disregard them. Only then will we have a realistic understanding of “The Chivalric Organisation Solar Tradition”, called so up till 1990/91; “The Solar Temple” after 1991.
Probably the 52 dead persons can be divided into three catagories: 1) some killed themselves, 2) some were helped because they were too weak – e.g. children – and did not dare, and 3) some were executed for treason because they wanted to “stop while the going was good”. They all died, however, though with different means, including the two top leaders. If it turns out that a few “refugees” escaped, it does not change the picture.
The journalists, representing their customers, have found it very difficult to believe that the tragedy was not a crime committed for either financial or sexual or both reasons. They have found it very hard to believe that the main reason was a religious reason. But that is what it was. Money and sex are features operating everywhere, including this tragedy, of course, but the main reason has been religious delusion and seduction.
As I write this I know that some scholars will have a twitch of the face and pain in the stomach, for in their universe this cannot be the case. Therefore, they automatically resort to the statement that the tragedy is neither due to religious, moral, nor financial anomalies of the religious society in question, but on the contrary it is due to the external pressure from the surrounding society expressed through intolerance and officiousness, the society not leaving the religious people alone.
Therefore, it needs to be emphasized once more that after Jonestown (18.11.78) and WACO (19.4.93) and now after the Swiss tragedy (5.10.94) they can no longer maintain that the reason for such tragedies are external. In spite of real external mismanagements caused by arrogance and lack of insight in the religious world represented both by the authorities and by journalists, the reason for these tragedies is found within the societies themselves. When some people are so very eager to deny the facts they must have motives which do not originate from the tragedies themselves.
It is very typical of the situation in Switzerland that the group of people in question was almost unknown to the surrounding society. Even their neighbours did not know anything about them. Apart from one single researcher, Dr. Jean-Francois Mayer, no one has been close to these people. He has simply registered their life and faith without interfering. So the statement that the accident could have been avoided if the surrounding society had accepted the religious relativism is sheer nonsense.
But don’t we understand what has happened? Of course we do, but naturally we need to know more about the case and the situation. The Dialog Centre knows about it, because of its international network, The Dialog Centre International. One DCI partner is the already-mentioned Jean-Francois Mayer, and on the basis of his research and the texts we have received from him, the tragedy can be explained and understood without major difficulties. New facts will turn up through police investigations which dr. Mayer is part of. On the basis of text studies, however, we may at this stage reach some defensible conclusions.
These conclusions give us the picture of a religious movement of people caught by the religious fantasies of their psychotic leader – and themselves. They are all borderline cases gradually losing their awareness of the crucial differences in real life.
A characteristic feature of the movement in question is its operation in three concentric circles. We know that model from similar movements.
1: The outer circle was created by Luc Jouret, who was the face of the movement to the world. He was a very charming and eloquent lecturer who would draw large crowds, not least women. His themes were ecology, therapy, and alternative healing, and as a whole he was another version of the common New Age agitation emphasizing the age of the Aquarius and the new man’s own divinization.
A particularly important issue of this outer circle was his emphasis on the ecological crises, e.g. the threatening perspectives for this world and the human race and the necessity of taking radical action and escaping “the coming anger”, as would be the expression in the classically sectarian manner. “The Apocalyptic Element” which Luc Jouret like so many others attached to the year 2000, was an essential point of his “Amenta”, later “Atlanta” organization.
2: From these meetings, which to a high degree had the ear of the press, Luc Jouret recruited members for the next circle of actual members who were gathered in smaller, specialized units seeking to implement the alternative possibilities of life through for example alternative agriculture, gardening, called “L’Association internationale des Club Archedia, Sciences and Traditions”.
3: This action-oriented circle of groups has been the basis of recruitment of members for a lodge-like circle of Templars where specific mental attitudes and expectations have been cultivated through special rituals, framed by “L’Ordre Temple Solaire” (OTS). They celebrated for instance a “mass” according to an “Essenian Rite”. Undoubtedly, these ideas have been decisive for the initiation of the catastrophy, and therefore they will be described in more details in the following.
The New Templars is a mixed bag. When in the following I mention some elements which are included, I will in no way make other organisations with similar names responsible for this tragedy and catastrophy.
1: Today we have a number of honourable Chivalry orders, of which the most important are the Order of St John of Jerusalem and the Order of Malta. They are both charitable organisations which make a contribution for example through ambulance service. They are very ritualistic, but have nothing to do with the New Templars who died in Switzerland.
2: There are various Rosicrucian varieties. In Denmark and in Switzerland the best-known brotherhood is AMORC which means Antiquus Mysticusque Ordo Rosae Crucis. It originates from Rosicrucian brotherhoods, but today it is actually a sort of occultism characterized by neo-theosophical elements including the teaching of karma and reincarnation. According to Luc Jouret several of the victims in Switzerland were mixed up with Rosicrucian brotherhoods and were influenced by them, e.g. most probably the actual leader, the 70-year old Joseph de Mambro, who seems to have used young Luc Jouret as his front-man to the world.
First of all, however, the Solar Temple is a special order which originates from “The Renewed Order of the Temple”. Already in 1986 it was transferred to the French-speaking part of Canada. For a long period the Canadian energy group “Hydro-Quebec”, where a number of important leaders had been recruited, had experienced a strange kind of infiltration by this order.
There is said to have been both sexual and financial abuses in this order run by Luc Jouret. Still more important is the circumstance that members were mobilized to the utmost of their abilities by threats that the end of the world is near and of the horrors connected to it. Their only hope was to become part of the one hundred families who would survive the coming horrors. The world was depicted as a prison from which the chosen people were to break free.
For a short period the sect built a giant concrete nuclear air-raid shelter (corresponding to the situation of other similar sects in America), and they bought big quantities of weapons (also analogously to other survival sects in America). Consequently, some conflicts with the Canadian authorities arose, which seems to have delayed the catastrophy, not promoted it.
The sects in Switzerland did not face similar difficulties. To all appearances, the disaster of October 5 and 6 was internally planned and internally caused. It was a religious cult drama involving the participants’ transit from death to life. A number of the dead were also found dressed in ritual suits and were arranged according to a ritual plan.
After the disaster Dr. Jean-Francois Mayer received four documents from the deceased. One of these documents were published in the Danish paper “Kristeligt Dagblad” on October 8, after Dr. Jean-Francois Mayer had faxed it to the Dialog Centre in Århus, Denmark. One of the documents was called “The Rose + Cross”.
These letters are important and undoubtedly genuine. They operate with the traditional theosophic belief in a heavenly occult hierarchy which in this connection is called the 33 wise men or big brothers. These wise men maintain a equilibrium/balance/harmony between light and dark in the present transition between the age of Pisces and the age of Aquarius. These wise leaders are infallible, but their ways are not of this world and cannot be understood by the children of this world.
Mankind is depicted as the great secession and the unlimited destruction. Everything has been in vain, and people have no excuses. They must reap what they have sown.
Now the point is that “The Big Brothers and We” have had enough and decided to withdraw from this ruined world rejecting participation in the killing of “the earth that carries us”. The texts talk of “a conscious and voluntary transit” and of “partaking the Christic fire” being conscious of their future and following a predestined plan. “We leave this world to reach the “Absolute Dimension of Truth” ... to realise the seed of our future generations”.
They reject the idea of suicide, surrender, or depression. The “transit” they talk of is of a completely different order, a higher order which is a life of joy and perfection. Not taking the risk that their bodies will be defiled by maniacs and crazy people they burn themselves through the “Christic fire“. And it ends: “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah! It will soon be like that again”.
Another of the letters they sent gives the impression that this disaster had been planned for a long time. In 1981 the hidden hierarchy – the leaders of the Universal Solar Temple – manifested before a group of initiated in Geneva, whereby the Templar branch of Geneva was launched. This was the beginning of a development which would last for 13 years and lead to the rebirth of the human consciousness.
During this period four holy objects were revealed to the chosen: The Holy Grail, i.e. the “chalice“/cup of Jesus, the Excalibur Sword, the seven-branched lampstand, and the Ark of the Covenant. Following these revelations the earth was left by the hierarchy to reach a new cycle of creation. Consequently, those who had been initiated in the Solar Temple were ordered to plan their “transit” and to ruin their homes. The hierarchy had planned a more peaceful transit, but those who had left the sect forced them into making a more dramatic transit where weak members were helped on their way, as they died in an unconsciouss state.
The letter also gives the impression of a planned hate campaign against the authorities in Canada who had interfered with the purchase and sales of weapons of the sect and prevented it from compiling the necessary stock of advanced weapons. It is obvious, however, that this is only seen by the sect as an occasion to give the grounds for the necessity of the violent “transit”. The sect saw the authorities as a hindrance to their plan, not as its reason!
Those who know the new religious market will not find it difficult to draw conclusions from the terrible, existing facts.
What happened in Switzerland shows us a new kind of religion which may fall into many forms, but has a number of common features. Some of the most important are as follows:
1: Optimistic evolution has become the substitute for the Christian faith in God as creator. Evolution in all fields – biologically, socially, politically, individually – was seen as the meaning and end. In the last decades, however, belief in evolution changed its nature. It is no longer optimistic and confident. It has now become an evolutionary pessimism, marked by despair and cynicism.
2: Reincarnation has become the substitute for the Christian faith in Jesus Christ the saviour. Transmigration of souls became the road to liberation from the material and bodily world of suffering.
From the first decades of Theosophy (around the beginning of this century) reincarnation-ideology was combined with the optimistic evolutionary progress-ideology. In fact reincarnation seemed to solve the dilemma of biological evolution. Evolutionists had to recognize the hard fact that qualities are not hereditary. Whatever a human person achieves in his or her life has no genetic consequences. Thereby the optimistic faith in evolution went. In order to save evolution out of this dilemma, reincarnation was seen, for example by Annie Besant, as the solution. The progress achievements which could not be handed on to later generations genetically could be continued via the reincarnational progress in the form of karma.
Reincarnation thus became the guarantee for progress. One seemed to find no problem in the fact that traditionally reincarnation was not seen only as the road upwards, but certainly and not least as the possible road downwards. This fact was disregarded systematically.
In any case, during the first decades of theosophy evolution and reincarnation were two parallels, both pointing towards the golden future of progressive man heading for his divinity.
When ecological pessimism and the Judgment Day prophecies based on the ecological desperation, knocked down the evolutionary optimism, reincarnation thinking became the only carrier of the development. As such reincarnation came into opposition with progress, and the spiritual development of man came to function as an exposure of the unreasonableness of the human evolutionary optimism.
Thus religious desperados had and still have the possibility to jeopardize their own and other people’s life, so that life as bodily life is thrown away as unacceptable and unreasonable.
Therefore, we may conclude that where we find the theosophic combination of evolution and reincarnation we have the raw material for a disaster. It takes more, however, to initiate such a disaster:
It takes a guru/master/leader – seducer – who is able to lead people into the disaster and state the necessity of the disaster to the people while agitating the inevitability of the disaster.
In order to achieve the necessary authority this seducer has to speak on behalf of some divinities which nobody but him has access to: The big white brotherhood, the older brothers, the heavenly hierarchy or what the executors may call this heavenly group of trustees.
These seducers need not practice any financial or sexual abuse, but they often do so. The crucial point, however, is not these abuses, but the very religious/pseudo-religious seduction and the ingredients it needs in order to initiate the disaster.
The psychological element of the seduction is the talent and charm of the psychopath and his moral and ethical cynicism. When this precondition is present together with the circumstances described above, then all Hell is let loose.
There is no doubt that the tragedy is a result of a religious development which we must characterize as a sick development, even as religious madness. The concept of religious sickness, however, is controversial among students of religion. But sickness is a general phenomenon: Elms become sick, fishes become sick, people become sick. In the Solar Temple we face a tragedy which was created through spiritual sickness, resulting in a religious madness ending with death.
To keep maintaining that there is no such thing as religious sickness, is sick. Not only may some people become sick from religion, but when they do, it is due to sickness in religion. Religion may be the worst man knows of, and religion may be his best opportunity.
Johannes Aagaardwas born in 1928. He studied theology at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, where he also earned his doctorate in 1967. He is a respected scholar in the fields of missiology and ecumenical theology. He began his research into the new religious movements in the 70’s. A result of this is the Dialog Center International, an institution for the spread of information on and critical analysis of current religious trends. Dr. Aagaard’s work has not remained unnoticed - Scientology has labeled him the “current main who” in Denmark, and in the Christian Churches of Europe he is a recognised authority on new religions.