Following the spectacular deaths of 53 people in October 1994 and the subsequent “transit”2 to another world of two other, smaller groups of members in December 1995 and March 1997, the Order of the Solar Temple became instantly famous around the world and is now quoted as an eloquent example of a deviant “cult.” However, like most other groups which have made the headlines in recent years through violent actions or confrontations, the Solar Temple3 had been unknown even

to most experts in the fi eld.4 When I studied it in Switzerland in 1987,5 I certainly did not expect the movement to reach such fame a few years later! To be sure, Luc Jouret (1947-94), who occupied an important position in the group and contributed, as a gifted speaker, to its propagation in French-speaking countries, was not unknown in the circuit of esoteric and New Age lecturers. The fi rst time I listened to one of his lectures in Lausanne, in 1987, there were no less than 700 people attending in a crowded hall; that same year, he gave a series of fi ve one-hour interviews on one of the French-speaking channels of the Swiss National Radio. However, even if a few “cult-watchers” had already mentioned the group in a critical way and some people in the “cultic milieu” privately expressed their dislike of Jouret and other leaders of the Solar Temple, it was certainly not as controversial as a number of other, wellknown movements-and, nevertheless, it was this group which met a violent end.