Heaven’s Gate (sect)

Heaven’s Gate (Gate of Heaven ‘in English ) it was a UFO religion led by Marshall Applewhite (1931-1997) and Bonnie Nettles (1928-1985). The end of this sect coincided with the passage of comet Hale-Bopp , which was considered an event in 1997 . Applewhite convinced 38 of his followers to commit suicide so that their souls would rise to a spaceship they believed was behind the comet. This type of belief has led some observers to label this group as a type of UFO religion.

Destructive cult

In 1975, Marshall Applewhite and his partner Bonnie Nettles decided to contact the aliens and sought out followers to think like them. They published notices of meetings, where they recruited disciples, whom they called “crewmen.” 1 At events, they intended to represent beings from another planet, the Next Level, who sought participants for an experiment and said that those who participated there would ascend to a higher evolutionary level. 2 He and Nettles referred to themselves as “Guinea” and “Pig” (in Spanish referring to “guinea pig”). 3 4Applewhite described himself as a “laboratory instructor” and was the keynote speaker in May while Nettles sometimes intervened to clarify comments or to make corrections. 6 They rarely spoke to the participants: all they did was ask their phone numbers to contact them. 7 At first, they named their organization Anonymous Sexaholics Celibate Church (in Spanish, “Church celibate for anonymous erotómanos”), but soon became known as Human Individual Metamorphosis (in Spanish, “Human Individual Metamorphosis”). Referring to Fig.

Applewhite believed in the theory of ancient astronauts , which suggests that aliens visited humanity in the past, deposited humans on Earth and returned to pick up a select few. 9 Some parts of this hypothesis are similar to the concept of the unconditional election of the Christian Reformed Churches ; This influence was probably due to Applewhite Presbyterian education. 10 11 He often talked about extraterrestrials using Star Trek phrases and declared that the aliens communicated with him through the program. 12

Applewhite and Nettles sent advertisements to various groups in California and were invited to speak to many devotees of the new era in April 1975. 13 14 15

At this meeting, they convinced nearly half of the fifty participants to follow. 16 They also focused on college campuses: in August, they gave a lecture at Cañada College. 17 At a meeting in Oregon in September 1975, they were able to recruit more people: about thirty people left their homes to follow the couple, which attracted the attention of the media. 18 The coverage was negative: journalists and some former members mocked the group and launched brain- washing accusations against Applewhite and Nettles. However, Balch and Taylor stated that Applewhite and Nettles avoided pressure tactics, as they sought only devout followers. 19

Benjamin E. Zeller, an academic who did studies on the new religions, noted that the teachings of Applewhite and Nettles centered on salvation through individual growth and found similarities with the currents of the new age movement. He also emphasized the importance of personal choice. 20 Applewhite and Nettles, however, denied any connection with the movement of the new era, since he was considered a creation of human beings. 21 Janja Lalich, a sociologist who studies sects, attributes her success to recruiting people for her eclectic mix of beliefs and the way they deviated from the typical teachings of the new age: for example, they described spacecraft while continuing to use everyday language . 22 Most of his disciples were young and were interested in the occult, or living apart from mainstream society. They came from a variety of religions, including Eastern religions and Scientology . 24 Most knew the teachings of the new age well and allowed Applewhite and Nettles to convert them easily. 25 Applewhite taught that his followers would reach a higher level of being, like a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly; 26 used this example in almost all the first books they wrote. 27 Applewhite maintained that they would undergo a biological change, since they would become a new species, where their teachings would be scientific truths aligned with the secular naturalism. 28 With his early followers, stressed he was not speaking metaphorically used to use the word “biology” and “chemistry” in their speeches. 29 In the mid- seventies , tried to avoid using the term “religion” because he saw it as an inferior science discipline. 16 Although he dismissed religion as being unscientific, it sometimes emphasized the need to have faith in the ability of aliens to transform them. 30

Nomad lifestyle

By 1975, Applewhite and Nettles had adopted the names “Bo” and “Peep”. 3 They had about seventy followers and saw themselves as shepherds busy with their flock. 31 13 Applewhite believed that complete separation from earthly desires was a prerequisite for ascending to the Next Level and emphasized the New Testament passages where Jesus spoke of abandoning affection for the mundane. 32 33 Members were instructed to abandon their friends, family, media, drugs, alcohol, jewelry, facial hair and their sexuality. 3 What is more, they were required to adopt biblical names. Applewhite and Nettles soon asked them to adopt two-syllable names ending in “ody” and having three letters on the first syllable, 34 such as Rkkody, Jmmody, and Lvvody; 35 Applewhite said that these names remarked on his followers were spiritual children. 34 Applewhite, Nettles and his followers lived what religion expert James R. Lewis describes as “a quasi-nomadic lifestyle.” 36 They would spend the night in remote campgrounds and did not speak about their beliefs. 37 Applewhite and Nettles stopped organizing public meetings in April 1975, 14 and by that time spent little time teaching the doctrine to their converts. 38 The leaders also had little contact with their dispersed followers, many of whom renounced their loyalty. 3

Applewhite and Nettles feared that they would be killed, 36 and taught their followers that their deaths would be similar to those of the two witnesses to the Apocalypse. 39 40 Balch and Taylor believe that the Applewhite experience in prison and the initial public rejection contributed to this fear. 41 Later Applewhite and Nettles explained to their followers that the way the press treated them was a kind of murder and that their prophecy had been fulfilled. 42 Applewhite had a materialistic view of the Bible : he saw it as the record of alien contact with mankind. 43 It took many ideas from the book of Revelation, but avoided using and used a negative tone certain way to speak of Christianity traditional theological terminology. He read a few verses and never tried to develop a theological system. Four. Five

By early 1976, Applewhite and Nettles had already adopted the names “Do” and “Ti”; 3 Applewhite said that these names had no meaning. 15 In June 1976, they gathered their remaining followers in Medicine Bow National Forest, southeast of Wyoming, with the promise that they would be visited by UFOs. 46 Nettles later announced that the visit had been canceled. The couple, then, separated the followers in small groups, which they called “star clusters” (in Spanish, “groups of stars”). 3

Between 1976 and 1979, the group lived in cámpines, usually near the Rocky Mountains or in Texas. 13 Applewhite and Nettles began to demand more from their followers, who until then had had vaguely structured lives, which helped them to improve the retention of the members of the sect. 47 They used to communicate with their disciples in writing or through their assistants, and they emphasized more and more that they were the only source of truth: they rejected the idea that members could receive individual revelations to try to prevent divisions. 48 49 50 51 Applewhite also tried to keep his followers from developing close friendships, fearing that unions could lead to insubordination. 52 Applewhite and Nettles insisted that his followers practiced what he mentioned as “flexibility”: strict obedience to their changing orders, often contradictory. 53 Both leaders limited the group’s contacts with non-movement people, including those who might have been interested in joining, to ostensibly avoid infiltrating hostile parties. In practice, this made his followers completely dependent on them. 54 Applewhite instructed his disciples to be submissive children or pets: their only responsibility was to obey their leaders. 55 members were encouraged to constantly seek the approval of Applewhite and often asked themselves what they would do their leaders when taking a decision. 56 To his followers, not like a dictator: 57 many of them regarded him as quiet and paternal. 58 In his 2000 group study, Winston Davis noted that Applewhite dominated the “fine art of religious entertainment” and noted that many of his disciples seemed to enjoy his service. 57 Applewhite organized rituals in arbitrary appearance that they intended to install a sense of discipline in his followers; He referred to these tasks as ‘games’. 59 I also watched science fiction television shows with the rest of the group. 60 Instead of giving direct orders, trying to express their preferences and made account that he gave to his disciples options. 34 He remarked that the students were free to disobey if they wanted it, which, according to Lalich, gave the “illusion of being able to choose.” 61

Accommodation and control

In the late seventies , the group received a large sum of money, possibly a legacy of a member or donations gains followers. 46 Applewhite and Nettles used this capital to rent houses, first in Denver and then in the Dallas area . 62 They were about forty followers at the time and lived in two or three houses: the leaders, usually had their own home. 13 The group secretly kept their lifestyle and covered the windows of their residences. 62 Applewhite and Nettles handled the lives of his disciples as a training camp to prepare for the Next Level; They referred to his house as a “ship” and regulated everything that happened minute by minute. They encouraged students who did not adapt to this lifestyle to leave and offered financial aid. 56 Lifton has said that Applewhite preferred “quality before quantity” in his followers, although occasionally he talked about gaining more converts. 63

Applewhite and Nettles sometimes made sudden and drastic changes in the group. 45 On one occasion, in Texas, they told their followers that extraterrestrials would visit and asked them to wait outside all night; Then they were informed that it was only a test. 64 Lalich saw this as a way to increase the devotion of the students, so that their commitment to the sect was not only linked to the vision of concrete miracles. 65 Members were desperate for Applewhite’s approval and he used desperation to control them. 66

In 1980, Applewhite and Nettles had about eighty followers, 67 and many of them had jobs, mostly with computers or as auto mechanics. 68 In 1982, Applewhite and Nettles allowed their disciples to call their families. 69 In 1983, they relaxed their controls and allowed them to visit their relatives on Mother’s Day . 62 They were allowed to stay for a short time and instructed them to be told their families they were studying computer science in a monastery. The intention of this holiday was to reassure the families and show them that the disciples were still with the group of their own volition. 69

Death of Nettles

In 1983, Nettles underwent surgery for the removal of one eye, as a result of a cancer diagnosed several years earlier. He lived two more years and finally passed away in 1985. Applewhite told his followers that he had traveled to the Next Level because he had too much energy to remain on Earth and had left his body to make the journey. 68 69 His attempt to explain his companion’s death to the terms of the group doctrine was successful and prevented almost all members from leaving: only one left. Applewhite, however, fell into a deep depression. 69 He said Nettles still communicated with him, but suffered from a crisis of faith. His students supported him during this time and encouraged him greatly. He later organized a ceremony where he married symbolically with his followers; According to Lalich, it was an attempt to secure its unity. 71 Applewhite told his followers that Nettles had not left because I still had things to learn; She felt that she had a higher spiritual role than her own. 71 72 He began to identify her as “the Father” and since then he has often referred to her with masculine pronouns. 73

Applewhite began to apply a very strict hierarchy: it taught to its students that they needed that it guided them to arrive at the Next Level. Zeller noted that this ensured that there was no chance that the group would continue if he died. 74 The only way to be saved was to cultivate a relationship with Applewhite; 75 encouraged his followers to see him as Jesus Christ. 76 Zeller said the old approach of the group in individual elections was replaced with an emphasis on the figure of Applewhite as mediator. 74 Applewhite retained some aspects of its scientific teachings, but in the 1980s the group became more akin to a religion because of its focus on faith and submission to authority. 77

After Nettles’s death, Applewhite also altered his view of elevation: before, he taught that the group would ascend physically from Earth and that death would allow them to reincarnate, but the death of his companion forced him to accept that Ascension could be merely spiritual. 78 79 Later, he concluded that his spirit had traveled to a spaceship and had received a new body, and the same thing would happen to his followers. 78 According to this view, the biblical heaven was actually a planet to which the highly evolved beings were going, and the physical bodies were required to ascend there. 79 80 Applewhite believed that once they reached the Next Level, they would facilitate evolution on other planets. 81 He emphasized that Jesus Christ, who according to him was an alien, came to Earth, was killed and returned from death with another body before being transported to a spaceship. 82According to Applewhite doctrine, Christ could allow entry into heaven but he had discovered that mankind was not ready to ascend the first time it came to Earth. 83 He believed that humans had the opportunity to reach the next level every two millennia, and the first opportunity to be presented to reach the Kingdom of Heaven since the time of Jesus Christ would be in the early nineties . 84 Zeller noticed that his beliefs were based on the Bible Christian but interpreted through the lens of belief in alien contact with humanity. 85

Applewhite taught that he was a walk-in , that is, a person whose original soul had left his body and replaced it with a new soul; This concept had gained popularity during the movement of the new era, in the late seventies . The walk-in were considered superior beings who took control of adult bodies to impart their teachings to humanity. This concept complemented Applewhite’s point of view on resurrection: he believed that the souls of his group would be transported to a spacecraft, where new bodies would enter. 86 Applewhite left the metaphor of the butterfly to move on to describe the body as a mere container, 87 ie a vehicle by which souls could enter and exit. 88 This dualism may have been a product of the Christian teachings that Applewhite received when he was young; 89 Lewis wrote that the teachings of the group had “basically Christian elements were grafted in a matrix of the new era.” 90 In a Newsweek group profile , Kenneth Woodward compared his dualism to that of ancient Christian Gnosticism , although Peters noted that his theological ideas are distinguished from Gnosticism because they privilege the physical world. 91

During the duel over Nettles’ death, Applewhite became increasingly paranoid and feared there would be a conspiracy against his group. 92 A member who joined in the mid- 1980s recalled that Applewhite avoided new converts, as he worried that he had infiltrated. 93 He feared that a government attacked his house and spoke highly of the Jewish defenders of Masada in Israel old, who showed total resistance to the Roman Empire . 94 In addition, he began to talk about the end of the world, 95 and compared to Earth with a garden full of weeds that needed to be recycled or grinding and humanity with a failed experiment. 96 In accordance with the garden metaphor, he declared that the Earth would indeed be recycled. 97 Woodward noted that Applewhite’s teachings on recycling the Earth are similar to the perspective of time as a cycle of Buddhism. 98 Applewhite also used concepts of the new era, 90 but this movement differed from that predicted apocalyptic changes soon to occur, rather than utopians, on Earth. 25 He thought most humans had Lucifer’s brain washed , but that his followers might flee from his control. 99 He cited specifically sexual desires as a sample of the work of Lucifer. 100 He further stated that there were evil aliens, whom he referred to as “Luciferians” seeking to thwart his mission. 62 He argued that many prominent moral masters and engaged in political correctness were, in fact, Luciferians. 101 This theme appeared in 1988, probably in response to the scabrous stories of alien abductions that became popular at the time. 70

Members of the sect

At the end of the eighties , the group maintained a low profile; Few people knew that it still existed. 70 In 1988, they mailed a document detailing their beliefs to various organizations of the new age movement. 102 The mail contained information about its history and advised people to read several books, mainly focused on the history of Christianity and UFOs. 103 With the exception of the 1988 document, the group Applewhite went unnoticed until 1992, 104 when they recorded a video series of twelve parts that aired via satellite. 105 This series emphasized several of the teachings of the 1988 update, but it also had a “universal mind” of which its viewers could participate. 106

Throughout the existence of the group, several hundred people joined and left. 107 In the early nineties , their level of membership declined and reached as low as twenty numbers; 108 these problems Applewhite put on alert. 102In May 1993, the group adopted the name ‘Total Overcomers Anonymous’. They then invested US $ 30,000 in the publication of full-page advertising in the USA Today newspaper that warned of the catastrophic sentence that would fall to Earth. 68 109 14 This publication caused about twenty former members to return to the group. 68 This, along with a series of public conferences in 1994, caused the number of members to double in relation to the beginning of the decade. 108 By this time, Applewhite did not regulate the lives of his disciples as stringently as he had done before and spent less time with them. 110

In the early 1990s , Applewhite uploaded some of its teachings to the Internet, but was shocked by the criticism it received. 111 That year, he first spoke of the possibility of suicide as a way to get to the next level. 112 explained that all “human” had to be abandoned, including the body before they can ascend. 113 then renamed the organization as “Heaven’s Gate” (in Spanish, “Gate of Heaven”). 114 Davis suggested that this cyber rejection could have encouraged to try to leave Earth. 111

From June to October 1995, the group lived in a rural part of New Mexico. They bought 40 acres (0.16 km 2 ) of land and built a housing complex, called the “Land Ship”, with tires and wood; 116 Applewhite hoped to establish a monastery. 108 It was a complicated undertaking, since Applewhite was old enough: 114 was not in good health and, at one point, he feared suffering from cancer. 117 Lifton noted that Applewhite’s active leadership of the group probably caused severe fatigue in his later years. 118 The winter was very cold and decided to abandon the plan. 108 Since then, they lived in several houses in the area of San Diego . 14

The group further increased its focus on suppression of sexual desire; Applewhite and seven other members opted for surgical castration. 68 At first cost them find a surgeon willing to do, but finally found one in Mexico. 119According to their view, sexuality was one of the most powerful forces that linked humans with their bodies and, therefore, made evolution difficult to the Next Level; Taught that beings in the Next Level did not have reproductive organs, whereas Luciferians did have genres. 120 also cited a New Testament verse that said there would be no marriage in heaven. 121 122 In addition, it required members to adopt similar attire and haircuts, possibly to reaffirm that they were a nonsexual family. 123


In October 1996, the group rented a mansion at Rancho Santa Fe (in the state of California). 124 That year, they recorded two video messages in which offered its viewers a “last chance to leave Earth.” 125 About the same time, they discovered that the planet was approaching the Hale-Bopp comet . 68 Applewhite believed that Nettles was aboard a spaceship trailing the comet, and planned to meet them. 126 He told his followers that the wake would transport to a destination empyrean, and there was a government conspiracy to prevent the ship speak. 79 127 further stated that his followers died also travel in the wake, a belief that resembled the Christian doctrine of the rapture . 128 It is not known how he discovered that the comet would pass from Earth or why he believed that it was accompanied by aliens. 62 129 130

At the end of March 1997, the group isolated itself and recorded farewell statements. 131 Many members praised Applewhite in their final messages; 132 Davis described his comments as “Do regurgitations of the gospel.” 133 Applewhite recorded a video shortly before his death, which described the suicides as “final output” of the group and said that “hated this world in all honesty.” 134Lewis surmised that Applewhite decided suicide at that time because he said that the group would amount during his lifetime and, therefore, so would not be feasible to elect a successor. 78

Collective suicide

The members of this sect assumed that they were extraterrestrials. They handed over their belongings; The men of the sect were castrated . On the eve of his suicide, they drank lemon juice in order to purify his body.

The 39 bodies were found on 26 of March of 1997 in a village in the municipality Rancho Santa Fe , north of San Diego , in the state of California . His death caused an overdose of the known barbiturate called phenobarbital mixed with apple juice and vodka .

Religious expert Catherine Wessinger said the suicides began on 22 March. 135 Most members consumed barbiturates and alcohol and then put bags on their heads. They wore Nike shoes and wore black uniforms with patches that said “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” 136 Along with most of the bodies, bags with a few dollars and a form of identification were found. 137 The deaths took place over three days and Applewhite was one of the last four who died; Three assistants helped him commit suicide and then they also committed suicide. 138 The police department received an anonymous call to record the mansion; 139 on March 26, thirty-nine bodies found at the site. 140 It was the biggest collective suicide in American history. 141 Detectives found the body of Applewhite sitting on the bed in the master bedroom of the mansion. 142 The coroners determined that their fear of cancer was unfounded, but suffering from coronary atherosclerosis . 118

The deaths were a great echo in the media: 143 face Applewhite appeared on the covers of the magazines Time and Newsweek April 7. 144 His final message was broadcast on a large scale; Hugh Urban of Ohio State University has described his appearance in the video as “wild and very alarming.” 145 The producers of the American animated television series Family Guy satirized Applewhite in one episode, where he showed it by attracting teenagers to a cult and poisoning them. 146

After his death, the media published a video, in which appeared all the corpses accommodated in bunk beds, covered with purple blankets and shoes in new shoes brand Nike . They all also carried luggage and money as “rental rights” for their body, which they viewed as “container” for their UFO- like souls .


Although many journalists and commentators known, including psychologist Margaret Singer , 147 suggested that Applewhite brainwashed his followers, most scholars rejected this idea. 148 Lalich suggested they were willing to commit suicide because Applewhite had become totally dependent on him beings and therefore could not live in their absence. 149 Davis Applewhite attributes the success to convince his followers to commit suicide to two factors: he isolated from society and cultivated an attitude of complete religious obedience in them. 150 students Applewhite had made a long term commitment with him, and Balch and Taylor inferred that this is the reason why their interpretations of events they seemed consistent. 151 Most of the dead had been members for almost twenty years, 139 although a few were recent converts. 107

Lewis argued that Applewhite effectively controlled its followers with the ruse of expressing their ideas in everyday terms. 152 Richard Hecht of the University of California, Santa Barbara agreed with this idea and added that followers killed themselves because they believed he had built the narrative, rather than the psychological control he exercised over them. 147 In their study of apocalyptic movements 2000, John R. Hall said were motivated to commit suicide because they saw it as a way to show they had conquered his fear of death and that he truly believed to Applewhite. 153

Urban wrote that the life of Applewhite showed “the intense ambivalence and alienation shared by many individuals lost in the capitalist society of the twentieth century.” 154 He noted that criticism of contemporary culture Applewhite to sometimes were similar to those of Jean Baudrillard , particularly for its nihilistic view points. 155 Urban wrote that Applewhite found no other way out than suicide to escape the society around him and declared that death offered a way out of his “endless circle of seduction and consumption.” 156

In their coverage of suicides, various media focused on Applewhite’s sexuality; 157 the New York Post called him “the gay guru”. 158 Troy Perry, a gay rights activist, commented that Applewhite’s repression and society’s rejection of same-sex relationships led him to commit suicide. Most scholars rejected this idea. 157 Zeller said Applewhite’s sexuality was not the main reason that led him to asceticism, but believes that this was due to several factors, but agreed that sexuality had some weight. 159

Lalich claimed that Applewhite “fulfilled the traditional requirements of a charismatic leader,” 160 and Evan Thomas called him a “master manipulator.” 161 Lifton likened Applewhite to Shoko Asahara , the founder of Aum Shinrikyo , and described it as “equally controlling; His paranoia and megalomania were soft but always present. ” 162 Christopher Partridge of the University of Lancaster stated that Applewhite and Nettles were similar to religious leaders John Reeve and Lodowicke Muggleton, who founded the Muggletonianism , a millenarian movement 163 of medieval England. 164