HSP3U Samrawit Brigaldino
Cult Assignment – Heaven’s Gate
Heaven’s Gate was founded in 1974 in San Diego, California, by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The core belief of the group was that Earth was about to be refurbished and that in order to survive people needed to leave it immediately. They believed that their bodies were merely vessels, and that “graduating” (dying), will transform them into a next-level, perfect being. The cult targeted those interested in extraterrestrial life who may have also been dissatisfied with their own lives. Applewhite and Nettles initially introduced themselves to churches and spiritual groups, and when that was poorly received, they decided to hold meetings to recruit followers, where they claimed to represent beings from another planet. This group was also one of its first to use the internet as a means of recruiting followers. The cult’s website still exists at heavensgate.com. A year after forming, in 1975, the group sold their possessions, said goodbye to their loved ones, and then toured the United States destitute, begging on the streets and gaining followers. The cult became extinct in March 1997, with the mass suicide of Applewhite and 38 of the cult’s members. The members had killed themselves in three waves over three days. The cult members did not perceive these actions as suicides however, but rather of a way to reach TELAH, or The Evolutionary Level Above Human. Heaven’s Gate’s website still remains, almost completely as it was over 20 years ago. Two surviving members of the group continue to run the site, additionally answering questions online.
I think that it’s not very uncommon for humans to get bored of their current lives, and wishing there was something more interesting to fill in that void. Marshall Applewhite was a fan of the science fiction genre, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that this influenced a lot of core beliefs of the cult he co-founded. The decades in which Heaven’s Gate were active were also times of great technological advancement in the United States and around the world. The first person to walk the moon in 1969 was an achievement of great significance, and personally, it wouldn’t surprise me if this led people to ponder, “What else can humans do?”. Basically, I think that the rapid advancement of technology created or partially created an “anything is possible” mentality among people during that time, which would’ve allowed the message Applewhite and Nettles were preaching to be way more easily received.
Zeller, B. E. (2014, November 15). Anatomy of a mass suicide: The dark, twisted story behind a UFO death cult. Retrieved from https://www.salon.com/2014/11/15/anatomy_of_a_mass_suicide_the_dark_twisted_story_behind_a_ufo_death_cult/
Heaven’s Gate (religious group). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s_Gate_(religious_group)#cite_note-33