On March 20, 1995, membersof the Aum Shinrikyo cult executed a Sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo Subways, which killed 12 people and injured more than 3,000(another 1,500 psychological injuries were documented on top of this number). In the following months, four more attacks were executed,though these with no casualties. The cult leader, Shoko Asahara,was implementing part of his ‘divine plan’, which seemingly entailedmurderous strikes in retaliation for illusory police aggressionagainst the cult. Seven years later it might be expected that sucha notorious organization had been safely reduced in capability to a point in which they are mostly ineffective. Unfortunately, thisis not the case. Aum remains motivated and effective. Aum Shinrikyo(now named ‘Aleph’) effect their apocalyptic visions through whatremains one of the best-funded and organized cult/criminal groupsin the history of the world, leaving them high on the list of theworld’s most dangerous organizations.
The Aum Shinrikyo was founded in 1987 by Shoko Asahara, a forty-year old, legally blind, former yoga teacher. Asahara was born into apoor family, receiving a sub-par education at a lower-class school for blind children. Stricken with infantile glaucoma, Asahara wasunable to integrate himself into society, ultimately ending up asa poor outcast with radical religious ideas. As history has demonstrated,this often can be a template for the most dangerous of individuals.
In 1977, Asahara beganthe study of yoga. In 1984 he formed a company called the Aum Shinsen-nokai (a yoga school and publishing house), an ideal platform fromwhich to launch his personal religion. In 1987 he changed the name of his yoga group into Aum Shinrikyo, a Sanskrit derivative translating loosely into ‘Supreme Truth’.
In August 1989, the governmentin Tokyo granted Aum official “Religious Corporation”status. This law provides various privileges including, but notlimited to, massive tax breaks and immunity from official oversightand prosecution. This remains the single most relevant politicalevent in the history of Aum, allowing the group to operate virtually unchecked. (It is ironic that the religious policies of the Tokyogovernment were a direct result of the US government’s insistence, immediately after WWII, that the Japanese allow greater political and religious freedom.)
After a failed and embarrassing foray into Japanese politics in 1990 (1), Asahara withdrew his group completely from the greater Japanese culture and began plotting his actions against society as a whole. The cult began manufacturing volatile chemicals and biological agents in Aum owned-and-operated laboratories, including Sarin, VX gas, and anthrax. This was managed using the more than $1 billion of accumulated capital that the group controlled. In March 1995, Asahara’s plans came to fruition, ina manner of speaking; we can count ourselves fortunate that the gas attack was seemingly bungled in conception and execution. Had the organization of the Sarin gas attack been fully realized, tens of thousands of Japanese could have been killed in one day. Had large quantities of VX gas been used in a coordinated aerosol attack,realistic single-day estimates of casualties could have easily reached anywhere between 200,000 – 500,000 lives. (Depending on scaleof release, this number could have been even higher. Strikes againstUS or Israeli targets can be forecasted similarly. There is an odd discrepancy in the capabilities of Aum and the results of their attack. Some information seems to indicate that the attack was planned to be purposefully botched (2). The question posed by this seems unanswerable with currently available intelligence information.)
The international pressure on the Japanese government led them to declare Aum officially bankrupt,seizing part of Aum’s assets and destroying its main chemical weaponsfacility near Fuji. Since then, Aum has changed its name to ‘Aleph’and has been working feverishly to clear up its image, persuading influential government figures to vouch for them. Opinions are split,with some government officials supporting them, and others pointing to them as a clear and malicious threat to world peace. This is to be expected due to the deep infiltration that Aum had into Japanese politics. The dissenting officials cite Aleph’s continued secrecyand political meddling as signs that there is something to coverup. Regardless of the political purge that resulted in the arrestof hundreds of Aum followers, the cult continues according to itsapocalyptic vision. To all intents and purposes, only Aum’s namehas changed, despite the pacifistic language used in their officialpublic releases (3).
Aum was directed and organized by Asahara, who also acted as the supremedeity of the cult. Active membership of the cult, at its peak in1995, was 65,000 individuals. Membership in Russia totaled around35,000 – 40,000 people(4) . It is abundantly clear that Aum’s infiltration into Russia was nothing short of complete(5) . Aum also acquired properties in the United States, Australia, Israel, Taiwan, Germany,and Yugoslavia. (The Banjawarn complex in Australia exists as a rather complicated puzzle. Evidence of substantial, secret, nuclear,and chemical research was found at this facility. It appears that whatever Aum was using the facility for, the Australian government successfully interdicted and prevented Aum from completing theirwork).
Under the supreme leader are seven ranks of ‘enlightenment’, from the lowest level up tothe final stage attainable by a ‘mortal’. It was not uncommon forthe supreme leader to order the murder of Aum’s opponents, and theJapanese police were befuddled in their attempts to investigate and prosecute such illegal activities. Public outcry was not widelypresent in Japan due to strong efforts by Aum’s public relationsministry. Occasional political opponents became seen as enemies by Asahara, and such enemies often disappeared.
The executive membership of the cult consisted of an inner circle, which included five chief-ministers. These ministers were responsible for various realms anywhere from technology development to legal administration to construction administration. The ministers were among the best and brightest minds in Japan,each being outstanding and respected scholars in their respectivefields. Many of these were arrested and convicted after the gas attacks, but new leaders have been appointed to fill their shoes and Aum/Aleph continues to exist today, ever pursuant of their goals. (Currently available information seems to suggest that the organizationhas actually increased in efficiency, and that the executive arm is now entirely sealed from the outside, minimizing the chancesof police/political action against them. It must also be noted that the current leader of Aleph was one of the arrested chief ministers,having been released in 2000.)
The facilities owned by Aum were some of the finest in the country,with the laboratories and research centers surpassing military-grade installations. In addition, Aum had its own military, with hundreds of recruits subverted directly from elite Japanese and Russian military units. Aum possessed the highest of military technology (based off of stolen technical data), and it is speculated that the technologydeveloped under their chief scientists surpasses that of the bestknown currently-deployed military hardware, anywhere (6). This technologywas nowhere to be found when the Japanese government cracked down on Aum; Aleph disavows any knowledge of this technology or related programs.
Aleph still has approximately 50 facilities operating in Japan andan unknown number in Russia (overseas facilities have been shutdown by the respective governments, for the most part). They range from enclosed compounds that lodge the cult members, to factories and labs that are used for computer technology production/assembly.These facilities do not openly participate in continuing research, and it is possible that research operations have either been moved underground or to Russia. The latter possibility is more likely due to the fact that Aleph’s current leader was the minister who directed the Russian contingent of followers. (Following the gas attacks in 1995, the Japanese government confiscated plans detailing a man-portable laser weapon which had been stolen and subsequently developed, based off of US military technology. References to plansfor particle and seismic weapons were also found, though the plans themselves remain undiscovered.)
The organization of the cult mirrored that of the Japanese government itself, with 24 ‘minister’offices designed to administrate the cult membership. It is speculated that, while known capital in 1995 exceeded $1 billion, actual Aleph holdings are not too far from that, due to secret or hidden capitaland gold reserves that had been hoarded, untouched by the government. In fact, the government only seized a portion of Aum’s original holdings, leaving much of the accumulated wealth intact.
Many Aleph members are middle to high-ranking employees of cutting-edge electronics and chemical firms. Keeping membership secret has become more important than ever and the continuation of such secret membership is without question. Infiltration by the cult extends into local and national civil service positions, as well as the military and police forces. The cult’s Intelligence Ministry actively spies on the Japanese government and Japanese corporations with extraordinary success.In addition, the Aum organization actively spied on United States military research centers with varying degrees of success. It is likely that Aleph continues to do so, though no evidence of such activity exists. Espionage operations against the Russian Federation continue, though their extent is unknown.
Aum members were (and Aleph members are) recruited from various walks of life, and are all attracted to the pseudo-Buddhist philosophy of the cult. In addition, membership in a group such as this is appealing in the sense that it is a ‘shadow-group’, a secret Illuminati style organization which appeals to the pursuit of adventure and secrecy that permeates the bored Japanese and Russian societies. Progression into leadership positions is only attainable by those individuals with proven professional and practical skills, and it is nearly impossible for members to rise from the lowest ranks into the highest echelons. The groupis very open to new members in the low ranks, and members at the lower levels come and go with general ease. Once one progresses into the political machinations of Aum/Aleph, however, it is nearly impossible to leave alive.
Most members are encouraged to not only adhere to the religious beliefs, but also to act productively towards the perpetuation of the financial strength of the cult as it seeks to grow towards its end goal. Cult members live mostly in their respective homes around Japan and Russia, though some members live in cult-run compounds. (Most of the ‘compound’ members are involved in the cult’s clandestine activities.)
Participation in religious rituals is mostly done through ‘learning’ from higher-ranked members in various centers around the country. The treatment of men and women mirrors that of Japanese culture, with men given clear preferential treatment over women. Women do not attain leadership positions.
Beliefs and Practices
Aleph is loosely basedoff of a combination of Buddhist teachings and the teachings of Nostradamus. Asahara teaches that there are various ‘levels’ thatone can attain, various stages of consciousness one can reach. These levels are attained through learning the teachings of ‘His Holiness’,Asahara himself. The teachings indicate that only Asahara can attain the highest level, the level of Nirvana, and that others can strive towards learning as much as they can from him while they are alive. Tibetan elements such as clairvoyance and extrasensory perception exist in a prominent place within the cult, with Asahara claiming to have the abilities to fly and see through solid objects. The only evidence of such abilities are pictures that show Asahara ‘levitating’. (This is done by using a quick-shutter lens catching him in mid-bouncefrom a trampoline device.)
Members are taught thatwholeness comes through self-realization, which is of course directed through Asahara’s teachings on how to live life. The life philosophyis generally about realization of self through participation inAleph’s political machinations.
Aleph is fixated withthe Hindu god, Shiva, the god of destruction. This explains the obsession Aum had with death and destruction, as well as Aum’s horrific goal of Armageddon. Salvation comes at the end of Armageddon, and only to those who have adopted the Aum faith. This Armageddon comes through a war between Japan and the United States, prophesied tobe in 1997. To that end, Aum had been preparing militarily in developmentof technology, training, and structuring of elite military formations which would have participated in Armageddon. (It is overwhelmingly likely that Aleph continues clandestine action in pursuit of this vision.)
After coming under intense international scrutiny following the 1995 attacks, Aleph has reduced much of its efforts in these areas, at least as much as can be seen on the surface. Secret preparations are still underway, despitethe fact that Armageddon did not occur in 1997. Fortunately, the scrutiny Aum came under has severely limited what the cult can do openly, both financially and politically. (Aleph continues its actions on a global scale through advocates and attorneys.)
Aum was maniacally anti-Semitic,with a severe hatred of the Jews. Aleph has toned this down publicly due to the high profile of such beliefs. Asahara adhered to many beliefs of Hitler, and saw the Jews as a ‘hidden enemy’ which intends to prevent Aum from seeking out its divine destiny. Asahara claims that the Jews are seeking to eliminate 3/4ths of the world’s population, rebuilding the world in their own image. Of course, this would stand in the way of Asahara’s personal goal, which is of course similar in nature and conception: the destruction of Japan, Israel and theUnited States, through Armageddon, and an eventual rebuilding of Japan (and the world) into a glorious kingdom, led and directed by Aum. Realizing this vision is the only path to salvation, according to Asahara’s teachings. (Many of the cult’s members choose to only cursorily subscribe to the religious beliefs of Asahara. Many are members because of the political activist nature of the group. Which is more worrisome is debatable.)
Recently, Aleph has tried to revive its image by paying 4 billion yen out to the families of the victims of the gas attacks. Yet, politically and technologically, the group continues to develop its power-base, ensuring that they have not made their last appearance on the international stage, a dangerous threat that looms hiddenin a political arena dominated by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Aum’s leadership has been replaced by individuals who have learned from the mistakes of their founders, individuals who have been tested and hardened, keeping Aum together despite tremendous international pressures. Aum was one of the most dangerous organizations in the world, and it is beyond doubt that Aleph continues this tradition. It is uncertain whether the anti-terror initiatives (7) (directedby the United States) will in any way derail the global Armageddon being sought by Aleph and its high-rank leaders.
1)Asahara formed hisown political party, “The Shinrito”, and ran 25 cult members (including Asahara himself) against his opponents for seats in the Japanese parliament. Asahara and his followers were soundly defeated, taking so few votes that it was clear that not even his own followers were voting for him. The only true platform that this new party pushed was opposition to a proposed sales tax. It was clear, however,that they also believed in a very imperialistic future for Japan,and their policies would lean towards this.
2)It seems strange thatAum would make the ridiculously careless errors that led to the unsuccessful conclusion of the attacks. The cult’s chemical weapons experts were some of the finest in the world, and the training and expertise of the attackers was unquestionable. While it is perfectlypossible that the attacks failed simply due to chance or error,this seems unlikely. When trained experts execute no less than four chemical attacks that all similarly fail one must question if itis truly failure at all; it is possible that the outcome of the attacks was irrelevant, and that simply by attacking, Aum’s goal was accomplished. It is difficult to draw conjecture-free conclusions based off of this, though the political and military maneuveringof Aum leaves a great deal of possibilities open to exploration.
3)While it is cursorily possible that the entire organization has been purged of violent goals, this remains as unrealistic as an expectation that Nazi ideals would die with Hitler. Gathering valid evidence that points to either possibility has been difficult, indicating that secrecy is still fundamental in Aleph’s policy. Oddly enough, the name ‘Aleph’ appears in two suspicious global contexts. Firstly, it is the name of the first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. Secondly, it is an acronym or ‘Apparatus for Low Energy Particle Physics’, which Aum researcherswere involved with. Both roots raise interesting questions, admittedly quite circumstantial in nature.
4)Currently, Aleph acknowledges 2,000 members, most of which work towards perpetuating the financial security of the cult without pay. It is interesting to note that they have reestablished contact with Aum followers in Russia, not included in the admitted 2,000 members. Aleph acknowledges thatthey are currently working together with the Russian followers,though it is not clear what their goal is at this time.
5)After being investigatedby Russian, Japanese, and American authorities, it was discoveredthat Russia’s intelligence services assisted Aum with infiltration into Russian government and society. The implications of this are devastating. The chief of the Russian Security Council was bribed by Aum with up to $100million. Aum had placed employees in positions at Russian nuclear research facilities, as well as establishing’working relationships’ with Russian politicians and intelligence agents. Efforts to acquire nuclear technologies are documented,though the results of these efforts are thoroughly buried.
6)Aum was deeply involved in attempting to acquire various advanced technologies from around the world. Documented attempts to acquire technology are as follows:technology used in the measuring and refining of uranium ore, technology used in molecular engineering, technology used to infiltrate sensitive data networks around the world, laser technologies, seismic technologies,chemical technologies, biological technologies, and nuclear technologies. Aum was additionally very interested in particle physics, focusingon the work of Nikola Tesla and his seismic/particle weapons experiments. Evidence exists to suggest that Aum made its own advances in particlephysics, specifically in weapons applications such as particle accelerators(commonly known in literature and publications as rail-guns).
7)Current efforts to counter Aleph’s plots are conducted mostlyby the Japanese government and civilian watch-groups. Infiltration into Aleph’s structure is generally non-existent, as Aleph testsits members in ways that weed out intruders. Aleph has not escaped the attention of governments such as the United States, Russia,and China. The Russian government, especially, is reversing the aid that it gave to Aum and now has an open Aleph case file. The US government, though dedicated to pursuing organizations such asAl’Qaeda, has not forgotten Aleph. Current efforts by the Chinese government are mostly unknown, though it is likely that Aleph is closely watched along similar lines as the other governments. Whether these surveillance and counter-proliferation efforts will lead to curtailing Aleph’s global plans has yet to be seen.