Training centre for release of the Atma-energy

A controversial group linked to alleged mass suicide plans and extraterrestrial beliefs, shrouded in media and legal hysteria.

The Training centre for release of the Atma-energy, also known as the Atman Foundation, was a new religious movement primarily active in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and Germany. It gained notoriety due to a police and media scare in 1998 over an alleged attempt to commit ritual suicide in Teide National Park in Tenerife.


Founded by German psychologist Heide Fittkau-Garthe in 1994, the group became the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy in January 1998. Fittkau-Garthe, after selling all her assets, moved to Tenerife and established the center. The group came under the police radar, and Fittkau-Garthe was arrested based on allegations of planning a mass suicide with her followers, similar to the tragic events of the Order of the Solar Temple in Switzerland in 1994 and the Heaven’s Gate sect in San Diego, California, in 1997.

Spanish and German police suspected that the group planned to drink poison-laced fruit juice, which was confiscated during a raid. However, upon analysis, the juice was found to be non-toxic, and charges in Germany were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence. The Spanish accusations remained but were not pursued with a trial.

Beliefs and Allegations

It was initially reported that the 32 members of the sect believed they would be collected by a spacecraft and taken to an unspecified destination, potentially leading to a mass suicide if this did not occur. However, these reports have been contested, with claims that the group had no intention of committing suicide.

Allegations surfaced about the nature of the group’s practices, including claims of a “love ring” ritual involving orgies. These claims, made by a former member, were refuted by other members and independent observers. Fittkau-Garthe maintained that the group was not a sect and denied any intentions of mass suicide. She attributed the allegations to a personal vendetta stemming from a family dispute.

The group was originally a splinter faction from the Brahma Kumaris and was involved in practices that mixed Western and Eastern esoteric beliefs. Despite the sensational claims and media attention, the foundation’s practices and beliefs were typical of many New Age movements, and evidence of any planned mass suicide was never substantiated.

Legal and Media Response

The case against the Training Centre for the Release of the Atma-Energy was heavily influenced by the hysteria following other high-profile cult-related suicides. The media and legal reactions were indicative of a broader pattern where unconventional groups were quickly labeled as cults with dangerous intentions, often based on unverified allegations.

In 2004, the Court of Tenerife suspended proceedings against Fittkau-Garthe and her followers due to a complete lack of evidence supporting the allegations. This decision highlighted the challenges in differentiating between unconventional religious practices and genuinely harmful cult activities.