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