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Controversial New Religions$
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James R. Lewis and Jesper Aagaard Petersen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195156829

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/019515682X.001.0001

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The Solar Temple “Transits”: Beyond the Millennialist Hypothesis

The Solar Temple “Transits”: Beyond the Millennialist Hypothesis

(p.295) 13 The Solar Temple “Transits”: Beyond the Millennialist Hypothesis
Controversial New Religions

James R. Lewis

Oxford University Press

This essay examines the Order of the Solar Temple, focusing on founder Joseph Di Mambro. His idiosyncracies provide keys for understanding the Solar Temple’s dramatic final “transit.” The focus on Di Mambro then feeds into a broader analysis of the three primary suicide cults examined by contemporary scholars: the People’s Temple, the Solar Temple, and Heaven’s Gate. It is argued that millennialism and external provocation are not as central for understanding suicide groups as previous analysts have suggested. Instead, a leader with failing health along with other factors characteristic of intensive religious groups are more important in predicting which groups are predisposed to suicide.

Keywords:   Order of the Solar Temple, religious movements, Joseph Di Mambro, suicide groups, People’s Temple, Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, millennialism, provocation

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