The Japan Times online - Decoding the Past: Dangerous Cults: Devotion TV - Killer Cults TV - Aum internal video - Ori - Robert Lifton - Takeo Mori - Shoko Egawa - Nori -
On the morning of March 20, 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult carried out the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the postwar era, releasing a toxic nerve gas that killed 13 and injured thousands during the rush-hour in Tokyo.
Twenty years later, a number of victims continue to suffer physical or mental after-effects of the sarin attack, experiencing complications such as impaired speech, blurred vision and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the more unlucky ones are still confined to their beds.
To date, investigators have charged 192 Aum members over their alleged role in the attack, with 13 members, including leader Shoko Asahara, receiving the death sentence.
Katsuya Takahashi, who was arrested in June 2012 after being on the run for 17 years, is the last cultist still on trial. Takahashi is thought to have been the driver for one of the senior cultists who sprayed the gas, and faces charges that include murder, kidnapping and solitary confinement resulting in death, and violation of the Explosives Control Law. He pleaded not guilty to almost all charges against him at the beginning of his trial at the Tokyo District Court in January. A verdict is expected at the end of April.
Following Aum’s dismantlement, former members quickly reorganized into a group called Aleph in 2000. Others joined a splinter group headed by former Aum spokesman Fumihiro Joyu called Hikari no Wa (Circle of Rainbow Light). The spin-off groups will remain under the Public Security Intelligence Agency’s surveillance until the end of January 2018. The Japan Times article 14 March 2015, ‘Cult attraction: Aum Shinrikyo’s Powers of Persuasion’
Japanese cult Leader Shoko Asahara convinced his disciples he was Christ reincarnated and that they must surrender their will to his for ultimate salvation ... In blind obedience to their leader, cult members poured their resources into a deadly scheme. March 20th 1995, Monday morning rush hour: as millions of commuters board the Tokyo subways, members of Aum Shinrikyo release a deadly nerve agent on five different trains throughout the city. Decoding the Past s4e1: Cults: Devotion, History 2007
Instead of a demonstration you are advised to buy the instruction manual, the handbook, the video and T-shirt. Not expensive but it’s only the beginning. It soon becomes clear that in order to progress you have to pay. Killer Cults: Blinded By the Light
Shoko Asahara was a high-tech guru. He used all the latest resources available. ibid.
Punishment, oppression, even torture become routine. The master explains that they are necessary. ibid.
The Japanese Guru Shoko Asahara likewise presented himself to his followers as a true living God. Killer Cults: The Men Who Would Be Gods
The problem was that Asahara failed at everything ... Asahara’s first arrest was in 1982. At that time he was selling a snake-oil remedy door to door in Tokyo’s first-class hotels. ibid.
The association drifted along until 1987. That year Asahara pulled off a major coup. Persistent and cunning, he managed to obtain an audience with the Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. From that day on he claimed to be on a spiritual mission. A mission to save Buddhism in Japan. The Dalai Lama has consistently denied entrusting Asahara with any mission whatsoever. Asahara’s followers believed it though. And the Armed Supreme Truth was created. Asahara was now a Guru. Soon he was to become a god. ibid.
The perpetrators were not common criminals: they were doctors, lawyers, scientists. All were members of the Doomsday Cult Aum Shinriko, a cult preaching Armageddon ... By 1990 Asahara had recruited five thousand adherents. He ordered some of his scientist followers to develop a wired helmet for new students to wear: its purpose to align their brainwaves with Asahara’s in order to better understand his thoughts. It was called the PSI: Perfect Salvation Initiation. He also ordered cult members to wear masks of his likeness, and while wearing them to demonstrate devotion. But Asahara’s ultimate goal was the creation of a new world by bringing about Armageddon. His scientist followers were directed to develop weapons of mass destruction. Most Evil Cult Leaders, 2007
Every time the master receives money his dear face darkens because he has to dissolve the money’s bad karma. He relieves us of a terrible burden. I see it all the time. It must be very hard for the master. Aum internal video
In Aum the amount you offered corresponded to a scale of virtue. And the more you gave the faster you were promoted through the ranks, so even the lowest members gave as much as they could. Ori, former Aum member
It wasn’t the kind of terrorist group that wanted to hijack planes or do simple acts of what we think of as terrorism, what Aum kind of suggested was a wider goal, a more ambitious goal, of changing the world, remaking the world. Professor Robert Lifton, Harvard University
They were taught that by killing they would get to heaven. Professor Takeo Mori, Tokyo University
His greatest desire was to dominate people. To dominate Japan. To dominate the whole world. And that people think of him as a great man – yes, that was his dream. Shoko Egawa, journalist & Aum specialist
Asahara liked them as young and as beautiful as possible. Those were his instructions. When he was attracted to a woman Asahara raped her on the pretext that it was a religious ceremony. Shoko Egawa
Cult members came to my home in the middle of the night. They put poison gas through the slot in the door in an attempt to kill me. Shoko Egawa
My job was to get recruits into yoga classes without mentioning Aum’s involvement. First you had to increase their interest in yoga. Only then could you draw them into Aum. That’s how I went about it. Nori, teacher, former Aum member