Utah pyramid only place in the world for modern mummification
SALT LAKE CITY (KSTU) -- Among the homes and businesses on the west side of Salt Lake City is a bronze pyramid. It marks the headquarters of Summum, a group started in the 1970s by a man named Corky Ra.
Ra believed it was the duty of Summum to reintroduce seven principles of creation: Psychokinesis, Correspondence, Vibration, Opposition, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, and Gender.
"They are very simple and easy to understand if you're open to hearing them," says Su Menu, who has been the President of Summum since Ra's passing in 2008.
Menu leads reading nights, which are open to the public, in the Pyramid on Wednesday nights, and also oversees other classes and meditation sessions on other days.
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Menu became involved with Summum in the late '70s after hearing Ra give a presentation at the University of Utah.
"There was just something about him and the message that hit home for me," Menu told Fox 13 News, adding "My family doesn't necessarily understand why I'm doing this and that's okay. But they've come to a reconciliation, I guess you could say, that this is what I want. Its OK. I'm still myself, and I'm an alright person."
Menu's family aren't the only ones who "don't necessarily understand". Like other belief systems, it takes time and patience to grasp Summum's beliefs and practices. And unlike other (at least in modern times) faiths, Summum incorporates something other do not: mummies.
"The purpose we do mummification is the same as why they did it thousands of years ago, and the Christians did it, You can see it in Genesis" said Ron Temu.
Temu has overseen the mummification of multiple animals and at least one human, Summum founder Corky Ra.
"We perform an operation, remove the internal organs, place them in a solution and allow their body to be perfectly preserved, and then after a period of time the body's taken out, the internal organs are placed back in," Temu said. "They're wrapped and with many different layers of resins, and fiberglass, and then eventually bronze. The body is completely and perfectly preserved."
The process is lengthy, involved and expensive. In 2002, Ra told Fox 13 News that mummification of cats and dogs started at a cost of roughly $6,000. Currently the group's website says the starting cost for human mummification in the U.S. is $67,000.
But Temu says mummification is a matter of faith more than finance.
"Allowing [the dead] an opportunity to make a very smooth transition from this position in the universe to whatever address they're going to," he said.
While Corky Ra's exact "address" is unknown, his mummy, sealed in an elaborately decorated golden sarcophagus, stands upright in a corner of the Pyramid he built.
True to its motivations for mummification, Summum members believe Ra's presence is often near.
"Because his mummiform is here and his physical body is still perfectly intact, he has the opportunity to touch back on that whenever he wishes to," Temu said.
At roughly 40 years old, it's hard to determine if Summum is growing or shrinking in Corky's absence. Unlike many traditional religions, Summum does not proselytize, or have strict roles or expectations for its members. Menu says many people come to Summum to learn the art of meditation and then move on, while others check in via the internet from time to time.
Summum briefly considered an expansion of sorts in 2011. They inquired about purchasing a plot of land the Canyon's School District had set aside for a seminary building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We would have probably erected a small pyramid as a classroom, and just present all kinds of philosophies," Menu said.
"Teach Judaism for a month, and then have a Catholic priest come in and teach Catholicism, and Buddhism, the same thing," Temu added.
When faced with the unexpected competition over the land located just south of what is now Corner Canyon High School in Draper, the district opted not to sell the land to either organization.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later bought a home on private land across the street from the school, demolished the home, and built a seminary building in its place.
Summum is now in the process of putting finishing touches on a new mausoleum on the site of their Salt Lake City headquarters.
Summum member Bernie Aua described the mostly underground structure, noting that it has 24 crypts within (12 on each side), and is eight-feet tall. An area above ground will serve as an outdoor gathering area for Summum functions.
When asked about his own final resting place, Aua, standing above the mausoleum, said, "I expect it to be another home for me when I pass on, so it has a real personal, deep meaning for me."
Aua, also runs Summum's website, which offers more information about the organization.
Citing privacy concerns, Summum would not disclose exactly how many people or pets have been mummified, but Temu did say there was one person whom he did not mummify: Michael Jackson.
"The family was going through enough trauma," Temu said, in reference to a rare Summum press release issued in 2009 that addressed rumors about Jackson being mummified after the organization was inundated by media calls following the superstar's death.