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The Heaven's Gate Cult

Copyright 1997 by Gretchen Passantino.
The Heaven's Gate cult is one of literally thousands of millennial cults, including hundreds of UFO-based cults around the world. They attract followers by promising escape from expected cataclysmic events that supposedly will signal the end of this millennium. The Heaven's Gate cult is the last stage in the almost three-decade transformation of a vagabond couple's UFO delusions into a sophisticated Internet suicide cult.

The Heaven's Gate cult was led by a man named Marshall Applewhite, who claimed that his spiritual name was "Do." He began his "Star Trek" in the early 1970s with a female partner, Bonnie Nettles, who used the spiritual name "Ti" (pronounced "Tee"). (She died of cancer in 1985.)

At that time, the two, who met in a hospital (Bonnie was a nurse, Marshall a mental patient), came to believe that they were humans inhabited by the souls of extra-terrestrials from "the Kingdom of Heaven." They believed they were to be "the two witnesses" of the biblical book of Revelation (Rev. 11:3ff). They came to be called, first, "The Two Witnesses of Revelation," and then simply, "The Two." They traveled around the country doing odd jobs and leaving "calling cards" at local churches announcing their mission. As they gathered "students" around them, they realized that they were like "Bo - Peep," looking for her lost sheep. They called themselves "Bo" and "Peep" for some time. They taught their followers that they could only enter the Kingdom of Heaven (leave earth on the space ship for a higher plane of existence) by renouncing all human possessions -- including family, fortune, and material assets. Bo and Peep took care of disposing of the assets of their followers for them.

Bo and Peep (Do and Ti) believed that they would fulfill Rev. 11 by being killed, lying dead in the street for three days, and then being "raised" from the dead into the space ship, along with their followers. As the day for their "sacrifice" approached, they preached that their death and "resurrection" would prove the truthfulness of their preaching.

It was during this time (late 1974 - 1975) that we encountered them as we investigated more than fourteen UFO-based cult groups in the greater Los Angeles area. As we questioned them and their followers about their backgrounds and their evidence for their beliefs, they all pointed to the coming "demonstration" as the final proof. One evening, outside one of their public information meetings in late fall of 1975, we encountered both "the Two" and a rival UFO group, the Academy of Atlantis, which we had also researched, debating each other over the relative merits of their inter-galactic theologies. We reminded the Academy of Atlantis representatives that several months earlier they had promised us that we would know they had the true UFO gospel because one of their UFO entities would hold a public press conference with the President of the United States on the lawn of the White House -- during the summer that had just ended. "What had happened," we asked, "to your adamant assertion that you would produce the proof? Are you false prophets?" They assured us that they were still true prophets, that the world "just wasn't ready" for the full disclosure yet. To this, the Bo - Peep followers derisively mocked, "We wouldn't pull that! You're false prophets! We have the truth! Do and Ti will be a demonstration no one can deny!" However, it didn't surprise us when shortly after, Bo and Peep got a new revelation -- they had been "massacred" in the press, so they didn't need to be killed physically after all!

The Two and their followers disappeared by early 1976, and over time most of the followers returned to normal life. The group resurfaced at various times with various names during the subsequent decades. They paid for full-page ads in many newspapers nationwide during 1988, and again in 1993. (Ominously, their ad in USA Today and other newspapers warned that anyone who truly desired to enter the Kingdom of Heaven would have to give up everything -- including their human existence. In 1995, the group entered its final phase:

The final act of metamorphosis or separation from the human kingdom is the "disconnect" or separation from the human physical container or body in order to be released from the human environment for the Next Level. . . . We will rendezvous in the "clouds" (a giant mothership) for our briefing and journey to the Kingdom of the Literal Heavens.

Tragically, Do evidently received no last-minute "new" revelation allowing the group to escape the final removal. Their last web site message reads, "Hale-Bopp Brings Closure . . . . Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion -- "graduation" from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave "this world" and go with Te's crew."

It would make us all feel more safe and comfortable if only fools or insane people succombed to such destructive theology. Sadly, the cults recruit members from all walks of life, all levels of intellectual prowess. People who want to believe that there is more to life than mere existence, that there are eternal values, and that Someone greater than they cares for them are seduced into cults like the Heaven's Gate cult because they are ill-equipped to make responsible, evidentially supported, rational religious commitments. A well-reasoned, cautious, and fact-based approach to questionable "gospels" is the best antidote to falsehood, and the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit will show the true Gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus Christ (Matt. 17:13; John 10:7-10).

Very few people have depth of commitment to be willing to die for the truthfulness of their spiritual claims. However, once that commitment is made, it doesn't take enormous power to execute. Only One had the power to prove the truth of his claims by rising from the dead. Don't follow any religious leader to death until he's proved his credentials, not only by dying, but by rising again victorious over death.

The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26

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