FALSE PROPHET: THE AUM CULT OF TERROR
Aum Supreme Truth expanded rapidly as more people gravitated towards Shoko Asahara and his teachings. As each month passed, he felt that his influence was reaching messianic proportions, while his grasp of reality was clearly diminishing.
Bizarre rituals became the norm. One such was the ritual of blood initiation.
Asaharas followers were offered the "ultimate experience" of drinking a small portion of the master's blood. Twenty to thirty loyal disciples were seated in the main chamber at one time, where they were given small glasses that contained the blood of the master. "It has been scientifically proven," they were told, that "the blood of Shoko Asahara has magical properties." In return for this great honor, they were required to pay $7,000 for each treatment.
Many such treatments were administered to the faithful at regular intervals. Portions of Asaharas bath water were bottled and sold as "Miracle Pond" for $800 a quart. Beard clippings, which were to be soaked in boiling water and ingested as tea, were available at only $375 a half-inch. A simple blessing from Asahara converted tap water into "Nectar Water," a drink that, among other amazing properties, was said to glow in the dark.
By the end of 1987, the membership had grown to over 1,500 in Japan alone, with branches in most capital cities. Several months later the first international office opened in New York under the name of Aum USA. As Aums influence expanded, so did its voracious appetite for funds. Followers were urged to "donate to Aum and cleanse yourself." Asahara created the "Shambala Plan" which was a recruitment drive throughout the world to attract more and more like-minded people -- and their money -- to Aum. Recruits were promised true enlightenment and the chance to live in a spiritual climate that would transcend their earthly needs and prepare them for the impending Armageddon that the master had prophesized.
Those people who responded and joined Aum found an atmosphere not unlike the Japanese public school system, with a period of initiation followed by grading to "higher levels of enlightenment." Those that didnt have the time to undertake the two-year, $2,000 full-time training course were offered the training by correspondence.
As well as the course costs, applicants were required to pay a joining fee of $700. In addition, donations were sought from each applicant with a special offer available to anyone donating $2,000 or more - two gallons of Asaharas bath water.
Members told their friends and families incredible stories of how they had achieved amazing transformations in their lives after partaking in the various rituals. They spoke of how the divine inspiration of Shoko Asahara and Aum had changed their lives within minutes of hearing their master speak.
As Asaharas fame grew, so did Aum, and in 1988 they had amassed sufficient funds to enable them to purchase land and suitable premises for what was to be the temple and live-in world headquarters of Aum Supreme Truth.