What are the lessons to be derived from Aum Supreme Truth?


Research Paper (postgraduate), 2010

12 Pages, Grade: A+


Excerpt

This research paper examines the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo and its attacks against Japanese citizens using chemical and biological weapons of mass destructions (WMD). The cults attack demonstrated that hostile groups are willing to strike their host country and cause harm to their fellow citizens. A study of the environment in which the cult operated, an analysis of the origins and history of the cult, an examination of the WMD attacks Aum Shinrikyo perpetuated as well as several important lessons that was derived from the work of Aum Supreme Truth will be examined.

The Aum Shinrikyo currently known as the ‘Aleph’[1] is a destructive fanatical doomsday cult centred in Japan. Their name is a combination of Aum which is a sacred Hindu syllable, and Shinrikyo which means ‘supreme truth’.[2] In English ‘Aum Shinrikyo’ is usually translated as ‘Aum Supreme Truth.’ It appears to be a syncretistic religion founded in the mid 1980’s by Shoko Asahara and combining elements of Buddhism with Christianity and is obsessed with the apocalypse. The story of the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo is both instructional and perplexing. It is instructional because we learn how a domestic group can acquire and use WMD without detection. Yet, it is perplexing because, given the cults open method of operation, Japanese authorities should have stopped the cult long before it was able to develop and use WMD against Japanese citizens.[3]

Aum Shinrikyo not only harmed its own members but affected all of Japanese society. The cult aggressive mentality can be traced to the founder- Shoko Asahara. Asahara who owned a massage and acupuncture clinic in Tokyo developed a spiritual massage based on attainment of total spiritual consciousness. His spiritual authority was based on having achieved that enlightenment- ‘holy vibration… while meditating in the Himalayas’.[4] This total enlightenment enabled him to have a series of visions. Most of these revelations were benign and involved ways that he could help others also attain total enlightenment. However, some of the visions had other meanings.[5] Asahara’s other visions were a series of apocalyptic revelations that convinced him he would lead God’s army to victory against the United States in an end-of-the-world battle.[6]

Based on his authority of total enlightenment, his apocalyptic visions and a lifelong desire for power, Asahara began an effort to increase cult membership. Aum Shinrikyo grew into a cult of tens of thousands who believed Asahara would show them the key to happiness. He recruited members from Japanese society by emphasizing the positive aspects of his spiritual message.

Many who joined Aum Shinrikyo were young and looking for answers they felt they could not find elsewhere.[7] However, there was much more to Aum Shinrikyo than they knew. Asahara alone had the status of Sonshi ‘the highest level of enlightenment’, he had complete spiritual authority.[8] One of his decisions was to divide his followers into two categories: lay-members and true-believers. Lay-members formed the largest category of Asahara’s followers. Upon joining the cult, in order to achieve higher levels of spiritual enlightenment, lay-members had to follow the Asahara’s instructions unquestionably. Generally, most members followed Asahara’s mediation and diet rules and went about their normal lives and jobs in regular society. The lay-members were mostly young and innocent and presented no threat to Japanese society as they tried to meet Asahara’s rules for spiritual growth. More importantly, they did not interact with outsiders and provided unquestioning physical labour that supported the cult’s extensive WMD construction and production programs.[9] Laymembers were supervised by the second category of cult members, the true-believers.

True-believers were those that Asahara deemed to be more enlightened than laymembers. They were better educated and considered more trustworthy. Most of them had come from the ranks of intellectuals who, feeling a spiritual hunger that Japan’s materialistic society could not satisfy joined Aum Shinrikyo looking for happiness. A large number of the true-believers were from high-tech industries and technical universities.[10] From the ranks of the technical and scientific true-believers, Asahara chose a select few to help him implement an important decision he had kept secret from other cult members. In the late 1980’s, he had decided to somehow hasten the apocalyptic battle he had foreseen in his visions. Asahara chose three scientists to supervise the effort to help speed the arrival of his apocalypse.[11] The three were Hideo Murai, an astrophysicist who headed Aum Shinrikyo’s so-called Science and Technology Ministry, Seiichi Endo, who held a Ph.D. in molecular biology and Masami Tsuchiya, the cult’s top chemist.[12] This trio enthusiastically agreed with Asahara’s goal of hastening the end of the world. Together, they possessed the technical knowledge suited for the production and use of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

At Asahara’s direction, the cult would use WMD against Japanese society thereby provoking a catastrophic social breakdown. Asahara was convinced that, amid the resulting death and confusion, Japan would blame the United States. Asahara would then step into the confusion and lead his followers to victory.[13]

With this master plan in mind, Asahara decided to invest very large amounts of Aum Shinrikyo’s billion-plus financial empire into WMD research and development.[14] The scope of Aum Shinrikyo’s WMD research is wide and impressive. The cult researched and invested in other, more exotic weapons offering the potential to inflict mass casualties. Aum Shinrikyo was determined to acquire any type of functional, even if non-traditional, WMD. While pursuing such fringe projects, Aum Shinrikyo never neglected its main biological, chemical and nuclear efforts. The cult acquired a relatively remote section of land and constructed a complex that housed the majority of its WMD work and accompanying infrastructure. Within this compound, the cult constructed biological, chemical and nuclear research facilities complete with state-of-the-art equipment and fully staffed with technicians.[15]

Within this compound, Aum Shinrikyo established a biological toxin laboratory designed to produce, among other things, clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Sixteen million times more poisonous than strychnine and with 10,000 times the lethality of cobra venom, botulism had the potential to kill masses of people.[16] Additionally, cult scientists produced anthrax spores. Both the botulism and anthrax would later be used in attacks against Tokyo. However, the cult was more successful in its effort to create and deliver another weapon of mass destruction: chemical agents. The scientists learned that chemical agents were easier to produce and more predictable than biological agents. Plus, Asahara’s enthusiasm for chemical agents was increased by reports from the Gulf War. Asahara concluded that chemical weapons held great potential and, while fully supporting the biological program, he authorized a much more aggressive chemical weapons program.[17]

The list of chemicals produced by the program is impressive. The cult managed to manufacture quantities of Sarin and the nerve agents VX, tabun and soman.[18] However, in spite of the magnitude of their efforts, the only WMD agent the cult managed to test and use effectively was Sarin.[19] As the cult poured money into biological and chemical efforts, Asahara also wanted to develop nuclear weapons. The cult’s efforts to attain a nuclear weapon never came to the attention of any intelligence agency in any country. Neither did the acquisition and production of biological and chemical agents. Every domestic legal authority in Japan that should have detected the cult failed to do so. The cult operated with impunity while trying to acquire the means to kill millions.[20] The expenditure of money and manpower by the cult into WMD programs would produce viable weaponry. These weapons would be used to meet goals known only to a few members of the cult while the rest unknowingly supported these goals either with finances or with physical labour or both.

[...]


[1] Hein, Anton and Janet Hein; (2005) ‘Aum Shinrikyo, Aum Supreme Truth, Aleph’: Making Armageddon Happen, Apologetics Index.

[2] Robinson, B.A. (1997).Aum Shinrikyo; Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.

[3] Hein, Anton and Janet Hein; (2005) ‘Aum Shinrikyo, Aum Supreme Truth, Aleph’: Making Armageddon Happen, Apologetics Index.

[4] Kaplan, David E. and Andrew Marshall, (1996), The Cult at the End of the World (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc)

[5] Brackett, D.W. (1996) Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, New York: Weatherhill Inc.

[6] Ibid, Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, 85.

[7] Hubback, Andrew, (1996) the Prophets of Doom: The Security Threat of Religious Cults, Occasional Paper no. 67, London: Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies.

[8] Brackett, D.W. (1996) Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, New York: Weatherhill Inc.

[9] Kaplan, David E. and Andrew Marshall, (1996), The Cult at the End of the World (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc)

[10] Brackett, D.W. (1996) Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, New York: Weatherhill Inc.

[11] Ibid, Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, 102.

[12] Kaplan, David E. and Andrew Marshall, (1996), The Cult at the End of the World (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.85)

[13] Ibid, The Cult at the End of the World, 85.

[14] United States Congress. (1995)Senate. Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Case Study on the Aum Shinrikyo.

[15] Kaplan, David E. and Andrew Marshall, (1996), The Cult at the End of the World (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc)

[16] Ibid, The Cult at the End of the World, 52.

[17] Tucker, Jonathan B. and Amy Sands, (1999): 8."An Unlikely Threat," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 55, no. 4 (July/August)

[18] Brackett, D.W. (1996) Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, New York: Weatherhill Inc.

[19] Ibid, Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, 55.

[20] Hein, Anton and Janet Hein; (2005) ‘Aum Shinrikyo, Aum Supreme Truth, Aleph’: Making Armageddon Happen, Apologetics Index.

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Details

Title
What are the lessons to be derived from Aum Supreme Truth?
College
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine
Grade
A+
Author
Year
2010
Pages
12
Catalog Number
V175698
ISBN (eBook)
9783640967100
ISBN (Book)
9783640967131
File size
500 KB
Language
English
Tags
what, supreme, truth, AUM
Quote paper
BSc, MSc Stacy Ramdhan (Author), 2010, What are the lessons to be derived from Aum Supreme Truth?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/175698

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