Joseph Di Mambro was born on August 19, 1924, in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France. Di Mambro and Luc Jouret formed the Order of the Solar Temple in 1984. In 1994, a couple with an infant was murdered at an OST chalet in Québec, Canada, reportedly on the orders of Di Mambro. On October 4, 1994, Di Mambro and Jouret allegedly set fires at OST buildings in two Swiss towns. Di Mambro was among those killed.
Co-founder of the Order of the Solar Temple Joseph Di Mambro was born on August 19, 1924, in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France. As the founders of what became known as the Order of the Solar Temple, Joseph Di Mambro, along with Belgian homeopathic doctor Luc Jouret, led scores of their followers to their deaths—and likely ordered the killings of others—in October 1994.
Like many cult leaders, much of Di Mambro's life remains a mystery. He had been involved with the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, from 1956 to the late 1960s. This international spiritual group was founded in 1910s by H. Spencer Lewis and it encourages people to find themselves, drawing from centuries of metaphysical and mystic knowledge. After leaving the organization, Di Mambro experienced some legal troubles in France because of some of his financial misdealings.
In 1978, Di Mambro established the Golden Way in Geneva, Switzerland. Basing his group in part on the mythology and beliefs of Templar knights, he attracted some affluent followers. They lived communally in a house in France. Di Mambro wanted to expand his group, but knew that he needed a more inspirational leader to do that. He met Luc Jouret, a reportedly charming doctor, who had led a group called the Arch. Together they formed the Order of the Solar Temple (OST) in 1984.
Jouret gave lectures and talks in Switzerland, France and Canada, to attract new members while Di Mambro ran the group and managed the organization's finances, although he claimed to be working under the direction of never seen "Masters." So strong was his authority over the group's members that, according to an article in The New York Times, Di Mambro even decided when female cult members could have children and what their children’s names would be.
In the mid-1980s, he moved to Quebec, Canada, and established a new headquarters for OST in a former monastery there. Along with its interest in the Knights Templar, the group incorporated astrology, medieval legend and Christianity into its beliefs. It was largely comprised of upper and middle class people, primarily from Canada and Switzerland. At its peak in the late 1980s, it was believed to have more than 400 members. With money from his followers, Di Mambro bought real estate countries around the world, including Australia, France, Switzerland and Canada.
While Jouret talked publicly about environmental issues and the end of the world, Di Mambro led their followers through elaborate ceremonies, which included guided meditations and prayer. He claimed that his son Elie had been created by theogamy, or marriage of the gods, and that his daughter Emmanuelle had been conceived without sex.
But membership began to decline and the group's activities were under investigation in Canada in 1991. Around this time, most of the group, including Di Mambro and Jouret, moved to Switzerland, but the change of location did nothing assuage the two leaders' concerns. Sometimes referred as "The Dictator," Di Mambro was under increased scrutiny from outside and inside the group. Even his own son, Elie, began to question the existence of Di Mambro's so-called masters as well as his spiritual abilities.
In October 1994, the OST came to a fiery end in Switzerland and Canada. Around September 30, the Dutoits, a couple with an infant son, were murdered at an OST chalet in Morin Heights, Quebec. There have been reports that they were killed by unknown assailants on the orders of Di Mambro because he believed the child was the Antichrist. They were lured to the site by another couple who later committed suicide a few days later by setting fire to the chalet.
Across the Atlantic, Di Mambro and Jouret are believed to have orchestrated a dramatic exit for themselves and their followers. Believing in the transformative powers of fire, they thought that they could be reborn on Sirius, another planet in another universe. On the night of October 4, fires were set off at OST buildings in two Swiss towns, Cheiry and Granges-sur-Salvan.
The next morning investigators were baffled by much of what they discovered at the sites—48 people dead. Some may have committed suicide while others were most likely killed. Some had been injected with tranquilizers or had plastic bags over their heads while others were shot. Di Mambro, his wife and children, and Jouret were among those killed. With Di Mambro's death on October 5, 1994, in Granges-sur-Salvan, Switzerland, went the answers to so many questions about the group and its disturbing end.
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