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Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Supreme Truth; Aum Shinri Kyo; Aleph

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» Making Armageddon Happen
» What Is Aum Shinrikyo?
» A History of Violence
» How Aum Justified Violence
» Life Inside The Cult
» Ideological Totalism
» Violations and Violence
» Cult Apologists Defend Aum
» Aum Loses Legal Status
» Aum Now Aleph
» Changes And Promises
» Aum Under Surveillance
» Society Rejects Aum
» Aum-Related Crimes
» Aum Continues
» Aum: Terrorist Organization
» Rethinking The Lessons Of Tokyo

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About This Entry

This entry provides a brief look at Aum Shinrikyo. For indepth information we refer you to our collection of research resources.

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Violations and Violence

Robert Jay Lifton also documents Aum's history of violence, which preceeded the Tokyo subway gas attack:

Aum's societal and legal violations began early. More than other cults, it recruited very young people - sometimes even children in their early teens - who would disappear into Aum facilities as renunciants. Concerned parents and parental groups were rebuffed in every possible fashion. In its land acquisitions Aum did not hesitate to use fraudulent methods, falsifying documents and the identity of the buyer. All this could be seen by the outside world as no more than the behavior of an aggressively expanding religious group. Yet, from late 1988 on, people were being killed in Aum.

The first death is generally described as having been "accidental," but the word is misleading. A disciple was killed during one of Aum's violent training procedures: prolonged upside-down hanging followed by immersion into extremely cold water with resulting shock. Such procedures were prescribed by the guru for what he judged to be bad behavior - sexual urges, insufficient submissiveness, or - as in this case - desire to leave the cult. The process was considered therapeutic in the sense of forcibly removing bad karma.

There followed the clear-cut murder of Shuji Taguchi, a friend of the victim who was deeply upset by his death and by Aum's intention to over it up. He spoke of leaving the group and, under threatening interrogation, admitted that the idea of killing the guru had entered his mind. Upon learning this, Asahara made it clear that Taguchi should be "poa'd." The murder was committed in a small cell in February 1989 by Hideo Murai and four other male disciples, who .angled their victim with a rope. Part of the motive for the murder was Asahara's determination to prevent any information from getting out that might interfere with Aum's achieving official recognition as a religion - so crucial to its prestige and, through tax advantages, to its economic potential. That status was granted the same year.

There are estimates of as many as eighty individual murders committed by Aum members. A young lawyer named Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife, and their fourteen-month-old son were murdered in their home by an Aum team in early November 1989. Representing parents and lawyers' groups who were protesting Aum's methods, Sakamoto was in the process of exposing fraudulent claims about the genetic uniqueness of the guru's blood and DNA. Asahara's instructions were to kill only Sakamoto himself with an injection of potassium chloride to be administered by Dr. Nakagawa, but apparently those orders were extended to include the wife and child when the team bungled its mission by failing to confront Sakamoto alone. The lawyer and his wife were strangled and their young son was suffocated, the bodies then buried in out-of-the-way places so that the full story did not become known until six years later, though many suspected Aum at the time.

Dr. Nakagawa also participated in the January 1994 murder of Kotaro Ochida, a pharmacist who had defected from Aum and later tried to rescue from the cult a sick woman from whom the group had extorted a great deal of money. Ochida had enlisted the help of the woman's son, also an Aum member, in the rescue attempt. Asahara forced the son to carry out the killing, making it clear that he would meet the same fate if he failed to do so.

In late February 1995, Aum members finally committed a murder that had dire legal consequences for the cult. Kiyoshi Kariya, an elderly notary public, had refused to reveal to Aum the location of his sister, who had fled the cult; she had already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars but Aum wanted still more of her considerable wealth. The intent had apparently been only to have Dr. Hayashi and Dr. Nakagawa inject Kariya with the barbiturate thiopental, a "truth serum" that Aum commonly used, in order to obtain information about his sister. But something went wrong - probably the dosage was miscalculated - and Kariya died. Asahara ordered the body cremated in the basement of Satyam 2, where a microwave incinerator had been installed for precisely that purpose. By then there was much reason to suspect Aum, and the investigation of the murder became the justification for vast police raids on Aum's facilities on March 22 - by which time the police had finally come to suspect Aum's connection with sarin gas production and use as well.

Over time Asahara and his closest disciples came to think of Aum as a military organization. They sought to acquire weapons of every variety on behalf of the guru's visions of either a triumphant Armageddon or a this-worldly political and military coup d'etat that would enable him to take over Japan. In early 1990 Aum began working on its first weapons of mass destruction, which were biological. In April of that year, the cult attempted to release botulinus toxin from trucks first in central Tokyo, then near American naval installations at Yokohama and Yokosuka, and finally at Narita Airport, the largest in Japan. But biological weapons are easier to produce than to release; repeated technical problems interfered with the viability of the released toxin and nothing much happened. Three years later, Endo presided over another effort to release botulinus toxin, this one near the imperial palace at the time of the royal wedding of the crown prince and Masako Owada. Again nothing happened. Three weeks after, Aum released anthrax spores from the roof of its Tokyo headquarters; once more no one was killed or, as far as is known, injured. In March 1995 Aum made one more attempt to release botulinus toxin, this time in a large Tokyo subway station by means of briefcases containing dispensers. It turned out that no botulinus toxin had been put in the briefcases.

The story with sarin nerve gas was quite different. Although Aum may not have embarked seriously on its production until 1993, there were casualties from the beginning, first among Aum members at Kamikuishiki from leakage within that facility. Aum then made two test runs of releasing the gas. The initial one was directed at sheep on its large ranch in Australia. A subsequent sarin release in June 1994 from an Aum truck in the city of Matsumoto, about a hundred miles from Tokyo, was partly experimental but specifically directed at the apartment building of three judges who were presiding over a trial involving Aum's fraudulent behavior in connection with land purchases. All three became ill from the gas, one seriously, while seven other people were killed. The attack interrupted the trial and postponed indefinitely the negative decision anticipated by Aum. It was the first large-scale nonmilitary use of a nerve gas anywhere on earth. The police did not suspect the cult of the attack.

The Tokyo subway attack on March 20, 1995, was a response to information Aum had obtained about the upcoming large-scale police raids. It was meant to be diversionary, to confuse the police and convince them that someone else was responsible and that Aum itself was being victimized. The gas for the Tokyo attack, hurriedly prepared, was impure and its effectiveness relatively limited. The ultimate Aum sarin attack was suppoed to be a November 1995 attack, for which a large helicopter had been purchased in Russia and a leading Aum member trained in the United States to fly it. As that attack was to initiate Armageddon, the guru had issues the grandiose order to Murai to produce "seventy tons of sarin."
Source: Destroying the World to Save It, Robert Jay Lifton, Metropolitan Books, Hery Holt and Company, New York. 1999. Pages 37-40.

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About This Page:

• Subject: Aum Shinrikyo
• First posted: Sep. 1, 1996
• Last Updated: Mar. 12, 2005
• Editor: Anton and Janet Hein
• Copyright: Apologetics Index

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