Aum Shinrikyo (usually translated as "Supreme Truth"), known as Aleph since 2000, is a Japanese religious cult. It has been formally designated a terrorist organization by several entities, including Canada, the European Union, and the USA.
The name "Aum Shinrikyo" derives from the Sanskrit syllable Aum, which represents the universe, followed by a Japanese compound meaning "religion of Truth". The new name, Aleph, was chosen in reference to the first letter of the Arabic, Hebrew and Phoenician alphabets.
Aum Shinrikyo gained international notoriety in 1995, when it carried out a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. At the time, the group claimed they had over 9,000 members in Japan, and as many as 40,000 worldwide. In 2011, Aleph reported having 1,030 members. The group continues to operate under the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, funded by a successful computer business and donations.
Over the week immediately following the subway attack in 1995, the cult's headquarters in Kamikuishiki was raided by police, who found explosives, chemical weapons and biological warfare agents, such as anthrax and Ebola cultures, and a Russian Mil Mi-17 military helicopter. The Ebola virus was delivered from Zaire in 1994. There were stockpiles of chemicals that could be used for producing enough sarin to kill four million people. Police also found laboratories to manufacture drugs such as LSD, methamphetamine, and a crude form of truth serum, a safe containing millions of dollars in cash and gold, and cells, many still containing prisoners.
The reasons for the subway attack are not entirely clear, but had a lot to do with the cult's prophecy that Armageddon would begin in 1997. A popular hypothesis states that the motive was to create an appropriate climate of horror and chaos, in which the cult would gain power. The prophecy included a World War III instigated by the United States, as well as numerous conspiracy theories.
The group was founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984, starting off as a yoga and meditation class. Asahara was sentenced to death in 2004, but as of March 2013, the sentence has not been carried out. Once a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, Asahara at one point plotted to take over the Japanese government, replacing its constitution with one enshrining himself as the sacred religious leader.
On 8 March 2007 Fumihiro Joyu, former Aum Shinrikyo spokesman and head of Aum's Moscow operation, formally announced a long-expected split. Joyu's group, called Hikari no Wa (The Circle of Light) claims to be committed to uniting science and religion, thus creating the new 'science of the human mind'.
|Material relevant to this article has been archived by the Fairfield Project at Aum Shinrikyo discussion and Evil Overlords discussion.|
Aum Shinrikyo clearly illustrates the realism of violent cults in highly developed, peaceful societies. Just add the Mythos.
- Wikipedia on Aum Shinrikyo