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Heaven's Gate, Suicide
And Other Death Cults
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : May 4, 1997
Last Updated : June 12, 2011
Heaven's Gate Was A Small, Unnoticed Speck On The Internet, Heaven's Gate Members Fit A Psychological Mold, Disaster Just Waiting To Happen, Marshall Applewhite Was A Self-Proclaimed Prophet, False Messiah, Antichrist And A Death Cult Leader, Rejecting The Truth Of God's Word Results In Strong Delusion Being Sent By God, Twisting The Meaning Of The Scriptures To Their Own Destruction, Deceptive Endtime False Christs And False Prophets, Satan-Inspired False God Sitting In Temple, Lying Wonders Of The Endtime, Heaven's Gate Was Not A Gate To Heaven, Jesus Is The Door The Only Way To Heaven And The Only Mediator Between God And Man, Next Level?, Loss Of Free Will, The Borg Race's Hive Mind And Process Of Assimilation, Cult Manipulation And Indoctrination, Gaining Trust And Doubting Self Worth, Brainwashing, Instilling Loyalty, Submissiveness, Backsliding, Power Of Indoctrination, Challenges Experienced By Ex-Cult Members, Member Richard Ford, a.k.a. Rio D'Angelo, Older Brothers And Promotions, Cult Fanaticism, Sexual Favors, Dying For The Cause Or The Cult Leader, Dying For Mullahs, Religious Dedication And Devotion vs. Extremism And Fanaticism, Manipulation At Every Level Of Society, Low Self Esteem And Thoughts Of Suicide, Heaven's Gate Cultists Desired To Die, Biblical Truth Or New Age Lies?, Suicide Contrary To Bible, King Saul And Abimelech Commit Suicide, Price Of Christian Discipleship, Surrendering Our Wills And Lives To The Lord
Amidst this vast, online, electronic world of the Internet, the Heaven's Gate web site was just a small speck. Prior to the tragic story being disseminated by the mass media, very few people had even heard of the Heaven's Gate cult, outside of their New Age and UFO followers. Maybe if more attention had been drawn to the cult sooner, the mind-boggling events which occurred that day at Rancho Santa Fe, could have been avoided. What is alarming about the Heaven's Gate tragedy is that what motivated them to take their lives is symptomatic of our world society. The victims of the Heaven's Gate cult fit perfectly into the psychological mold that I described for you in the opening paragraphs of this series. They were a disaster just waiting to happen; and yet sadly, no one saw it coming, in spite of the clear signs which they purposely left on their web site.
In the case of Heaven's Gate, their pattern was pretty much the same as with the Peoples Temple, the Branch Davidians, and the Order of the Solar Temple. Their untimely deaths were a collective action which resulted from embracing an illusion. The misguided members of the Heaven's Gate cult thought that they had found "salvation", and solace, in a man by the name of Marshall Applewhite, who was a self-proclaimed "prophet", who for some twenty years had promised deliverance to those who would put utter faith in his words, and ultimately accept his foolish invitation to the stars. Like others before him, Applewhite preyed upon the weaknesses and private yearnings of those who followed him. When he told his followers that it was time to go, as far as we know, his flock blindly followed him to death without question or hesitation.
Today, Marshall Applewhite and thirty-eight of his followers -- as well as two more cult members who took their lives in less than a year's time -- are dead; poisoned and suffocated by their very own hands. Furthermore, I seriously doubt that any of them are now buzzing around on a spaceship, enjoying their new-found spiritual freedom in the Kingdom of God, as Marshall Applewhite claimed would occur.
Having personally read quite a bit of material that was found on the Heaven's Gate web site, I can say without hesitation that Marshall Applewhite was more than just a false prophet. He was a false messiah and an antichrist. Similar to a number of other modern-day false prophets, through his own writings and video tapes, Applewhite claimed that he was Jesus Christ returned in the flesh. In his delusion, he convinced his cult that he was a second incarnation of the Son of God.
As you can probably imagine, for a Christian such as myself, these kinds of delusional remarks amount to nothing less than blasphemy. Applewhite and his followers were obviously under some extremely strong delusion. As I explain in other articles, this is precisely what the Bible tells us happens when people reject the truth of God's Word and embrace false doctrines and false messiahs. The Apostle Paul wrote the following in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians:
". . . because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:"
2 Thessalonians 2:10b-11, KJV
Please notice that Paul says that it is God who purposely sends the delusion, because people have knowingly rejected His Word. In fact, in reading the Old Testament, we discover that the Lord even says that He will choose their delusions, as we see here:
"I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not."
Isaiah 66:4, KJV
From reading the Heaven's Gate material, it is quite evident that Marshall Applewhite took verses from the Bible, and gave them his own New Age meaning, in order to try to support his false doctrines. The Bible refers to this dangerous practice as wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction, and this is exactly what the members of the Heaven's Gate cult did. For those of you who are not familiar with the terminology of the Authorized King James Bible, the word "wrest" is an Old English word which means to twist, distort or change a word's meaning. Through their misinterpretation of the Scriptures, the sad members of the Heaven's Gate cult in fact destroyed their very own lives. In writing about how some people were perverting the meaning of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter wrote the following in his first Epistle:
"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
2 Peter 3:16, KJV
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus clearly warned us that in the Last Days, there would come many false prophets and false messiahs who would deceive many. He said that they would be so subtle in their doctrine, that if it were possible, they would even deceive God's very Elect. Consider what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not."
Matthew 24:23-26, KJV
So as you can see, Marshall Applewhite fulfilled the Lord's words very precisely, because Applewhite actually claimed to be Jesus Christ reincarnated, and not just merely a prophet, which he most certainly was not. The Lord's warning was very clear, and we would do well to remember it. As we've already seen, Marshall Applewhite is only one of many false prophets which have already come, and we haven't seen the end of them yet. In fact, according to the previous set of verses, as we draw closer to the end of this current age and man's corrupt rule upon the Earth, some of these false prophets may even manifest amazing abilities which even Marshall Applewhite was not able to perform.
For example, as I point out in other articles, such as in the series "Lying Wonders Of The Endtime", the Apostle Paul wrote the following regarding the demonic deceiver who would sit in the temple in Jerusalem, and claim to be "God":
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,"
2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, KJV
But one thing of which I am absolutely certain, is that the Heaven's Gate UFO cult was not what it claimed to be. That is to say, it was not really the gate to Heaven. The Bible clearly informs us that there is only one way to Heaven, and it most certainly was not through a deceiver, false prophet and antichrist like Marshall Applewhite. As all Christians realize, that way is through Jesus Christ alone, who is the only true Door of the sheep. Consider what Jesus had to say in the Gospels of Matthew and John:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Matthew 7:13-14, KJV
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
John 6:37, KJV
"Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture . . . And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
John 10:7-9, 28, KJV
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6, KJV
Other writers of the New Testament likewise confirm that it is only through Jesus Christ that we gain access to Heaven, and to the Father, because He alone is the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and man, because He alone shed His Blood for our sins. Consider the following verses:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12, KJV
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"
1 Timothy 2:5, KJV
"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."
Hebrews 8:6, KJV
"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."
Hebrews 9:15, KJV
"And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Hebrews 12:24, KJV
Clearly then, the Heaven's Gate cult was by no means a gate to Heaven as they claimed. If anything, it was a gate to Hell which was guarded by one of Satan's many deceivers and false prophets. While the Heaven's Gate cult preached and believed that they were going to a higher plane of existence, which they referred to as the "Next Level", I can only wonder where their so-called Next Level actually took them. Furthermore, they were thieves and robbers, just like Jesus said, because they robbed people of their very lives, and perhaps even of their chance of finding true Salvation through Jesus Christ; that is, the real Jesus Christ, and not some impostor.
Many of you reading this have probably asked yourselves, "How could this have happened? What could possibly cause people to so blindly follow a man and his doctrine, whether it is Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret, or any other cult leader, to the point where they are willing to give up their very lives at his behest?" For most people, the idea of dying or killing themselves because someone tells them to is totally inconceivable. The natural reaction is to view such a request as complete lunacy; and if a person does follow through on such a request, we assume that they must have found themselves in a desperate situation. We assume that such a person must have lost all sense of reason, reality and free will. That, my friends, is partially what is at the heart of the matter, and is a central point of this series.
It is an established fact that in order for an individual to become a happy, successful and productive member of any type of regimented society, group or organization, such as the aforementioned cults, he must first be willing, or perhaps be induced, to surrender his free will for the supposed good of the whole. In other words, he must be transformed into an obedient member of the collective whole. If you happen to be a fan of the Star Trek franchise, then you will no doubt be familiar with the half-human half-cyborg race known as the Borg. When the Borg subdued another race, they were guided by only one directive; and that was either to destroy them, or else to assimilate them. To assimilate them meant to make them just another part of the hive mind where all thoughts were shared, and everyone robotically obeyed as one. So it is with dangerous cults.
One of the initial stages in this process of assimilation is to convince the new recruit that his former value system and or frame of reference is wrong. To accomplish this, the new recruit is first made to doubt the validity of his old way of thinking by showing him its inherent flaws and weaknesses. To prove this particular point, the recruiter may point to the current dismal state of society, and attribute it to following the old way of thinking. Much of what the recruiter says will indeed be true, and the new member will find himself readily agreeing with much of the recruiter's words. At this point in the process of assimilation, a bridge of trust has begun to form.
At the same time, the new member is made to question his own self worth. He will be constantly reminded of his own human imperfections in order to further weaken his resistance. The recruiter will paint himself as a friend whose only interest is to save the new member from the error of his old ways of thinking and doing things. Through doing this, he or she will invoke a sense of appreciation from the new member. In short, a power struggle is underway in which the recruiter is slowly seeking to dominate the will of the new member.
While all of this is occurring, the new recruit is likewise being slowly bombarded with the new doctrine, so that the old frame of reference is forgotten, and replaced by the new. It is similar to a form of mental rewiring, or brainwashing, if you prefer. Any manifestation of doubt, or resistance, by the new recruit is looked upon as potential disobedience and even disloyalty, and is immediately brought to the attention of the new recruit, usually in a very subtle, intimidating manner.
Being as the new recruit wants to please and impress his new spiritual masters, and show his worthiness, he will usually amend his ways, thus further diminishing his ability to think on his own. Of course, so that the new member doesn't become overly discouraged by the constant reprimands that he may face during these initial stages of the assimilation process, he is also constantly reminded that he is chosen and special, and a part of a small elite group that's been called either by God, his country, or the superiors of his organization. In short, the recruit's desire to belong to something, and to be accepted, is fulfilled, and he acquires a true sense of loyalty.
Eventually, after days, weeks or possibly months, depending upon the strength of the recruit's personality and character, the process of assimilation is complete. The member loses his free will, and becomes totally dependent on the recruiter for both his spiritual and material needs. He becomes a part of the hive mind, and begins to think and act just like the rest of the members of the cult. He has acknowledged his own lowly state, and is thankful to even be a member of the movement, society or organization. He is also aware that his continued participation and membership in the cult is conditional upon his willingness to remain submissive.
At the same time, a double-psychology is brought into play, whereby the new member is made to feel that in spite of the physical privations or psychological hardships which he may have to endure -- even though the leaders may actually live quite well off in some cases -- to leave the group would be equivalent to total failure on his part.
In the case of religious cults and organizations, quite often the new member is made to feel that to fail the organization, or the group leader, is equivalent to failing God; and living with the conscience of having failed God, or at least with the belief of having failed God, is difficult for anyone to bear. Religious organizations and churches refer to this "betrayal" of the faith as backsliding. A person who has been a victim of heavy indoctrination by a religious cult, and then chooses to leave, or manages to escape, can sometimes take many years to completely overcome the influence of the group; and sometimes they never do. Cult indoctrination is just that powerful; and unless you have actually been a part of a cult yourself, you may never be able to fully understand what an cult member goes through once they leave the cult.
As I noted earlier, while most people have the impression that thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate UFO cult died as a result of their death pact, the truth is that forty-one members actually died. Two of them chose to take their lives later -- in less than a year's time -- apparently believing that they had failed their leader, and missed the boat on March 26, 1997; which is the day that the thirty-nine bodies were discovered in the San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe. Even though the cult leader was gone, and most of the cult members were gone, those two obviously still felt a very strong attachment to them, and to their belief system. In fact, as I explain in the article entitled "Heaven's Gate: Subliminal Message Concealed In Their Logo?", even though it has been over thirteen years now since those events occurred, one surviving member -- Richard Ford, a.k.a. Rio D'Angelo -- continues to defend the cult, and to propagate their message.
So as I was saying, the new member becomes just another part of the collective whole, and would never doubt that his older brothers, elders, superiors or whatever they call themselves, have his best interests at heart. From this moment forward, and once the indoctrination and brainwashing process has been completed, the new recruit's entire objective will be to do as he is told, and to simply be an obedient submissive member who will do his best to please his new masters, and carry on the work of the organization. After all, he doesn't want to acquire the reputation of being a troublemaker, and face the danger of excommunication. If he proves himself, with time, he may even find himself moving up in the ranks and becoming responsible for other members below him. He may acquire the status of being an "older brother", or possibly a leader.
Given enough time, the desire to please and impress the cult leader can become excessive and reach dangerous levels. Cult fanaticism reveals itself in different ways. For example, it may involve performing special deeds, such as engaging in a sexual relationship with the cult leader -- as occurred with David Koresh -- or engaging in heroic acts, such as being willing to die for the belief system of the group. In extreme cases, it may even involve dying in the line of duty in order to protect the cult leader himself.
This willingness to die for a cause, or for a person, as a means of demonstrating one's worthiness, or perhaps even to convince oneself of one's own worthiness, is known as the "martyr syndrome". In some cases, as we have seen, it stems from self-doubt, and an inferiority complex which has been slowly instilled in the new recruit over the years by those who are seeking to dominate him.
On a related note, allow me to ask you a question. While the mass media is fond of bombarding us with stories concerning Muslim suicide bombers who blindly follow their mullahs, and who are willing to die for their faith, are the modern death cults that I have described for you in this series really that much different? Quite frankly, my view is that religious fanaticism is still religious fanaticism, no matter which faith is involved. While we may admire religious dedication and devotion, religious fanaticism and extremism should most certainly be condemned. Separating the two isn't always an easy task.
While I have described the previous indoctrination process to you from the perspective of one who joins a dangerous cult, it is important that you recognize that this very same method of recruitment, indoctrination and mind control, is likewise employed by main-line churches, by political organizations, by school systems, by companies and other organizations, etc. Whether you are shouting "Hallelujah!" in your local church, or cheering your favorite politician at a rally, or being spoon-fed by a school teacher and spitting back the results like a parrot, or mouthing popular company's slogans, it is all the same thing. It is all about demonstrating loyalty in one form or another.
Let's be honest with ourselves. We're all manipulated puppets who exist in a controlled environment where only limited freedom, contrary views, and dissent is allowed. Every time we turn on the TV set, or the radio, or surf the Internet, or read a newspaper or magazine, we are being manipulated, and being told what to think and believe, what to wear, what to eat, who to vote for, etc. So we are all manipulated in one way or another in our daily lives, whether we realize it or not.
This even applies to entire nations. The freedoms of speech and expression are allowed only to a certain point. Attempt to go beyond that point, and see what happens. Democracy has its limits. Even in the USA, which claims to be the bastion of these liberties, and the defender of freedom, democracy and human rights, we saw a clear example of the hypocrisy that exists when the administration of former US president George W. Bush attempted to promote the false belief that anyone who disagreed with the war in Iraq was unpatriotic. While some level of dissent is allowed, modern protests are so controlled now, that for the most part, they remain quite ineffective.
But returning to our main topic concerning how certain cults intimidate their members, and make them feel inferior, sad to say, even some dominating parents, either knowingly or maybe unknowingly, do this very same thing with their children, and some children never manage to get over it, even after they've reached adulthood. These individuals live their entire lives feeling inferior and inadequate, as a result of being put down so often when they were children, and constantly being told that they never did anything right, and that they were a failure. Tragically, when a person acquires such a negative attitude regarding oneself, it can often lead to thoughts of suicide.
In the case of the Heaven's Gate cult members, their suicide pact wasn't a result of feeling inferior; rather, it was born of the belief that they would acquire something better, or at least so they were erroneously led to believe by their crazed leader, Marshall Applewhite. A number of videos which were shown on nationwide television clearly indicated that those people had passed the point of no return, and that they had taken their own lives joyfully, in the belief that they would be ascending to the "Next Level".
As bizarre as that may seem to some people, those thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult wanted to die. Furthermore, they anticipated death, and yearned for it, with each passing day. They were firmly convinced that it was God's will, and that this was the way in which He had chosen for them to exit the world for a better place; that is, aboard a nonexistent UFO which was supposedly hidden within the tail of the comet Hale-Bopp.
As a Christian who has earnestly studied the Bible for four decades, it's quite obvious to me that the misguided members of the Heaven's Gate cult seriously erred in their personal understanding of the Word and Will of God. For whatever their reasons, they abandoned the genuine teachings of the Bible, and foolishly embraced the warped beliefs of a man whom they allowed to totally dominate their lives. They surrendered their God-given free will, in order to become the servants of Satan through their charismatic leader, Marshall Applewhite, who, according to some news reports, even lied about his own health condition.
Had those people taken the time to study the Word of God on their own, instead of relying upon the New Age interpretation which was taught to them by Marshall Applewhite, they would have known that what he was teaching was totally contrary to the Bible. The very same thing can be said of the other cults which we have examined in this series. Those people made the same mistake when they trusted in the words of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret.
If there is one thing of which I am certain from my studies, it is that committing suicide is not condoned or encouraged anywhere in the entire Bible. If anything, suicide was viewed as an act of pride and cowardice. For example, consider how after being rejected by the Lord, rebellious King Saul was wounded in battle, and then asked his servant to kill him so that his enemies wouldn't have the pleasure of taking his life. To make matters worse, after Saul had killed himself, his armourbearer followed his example and killed himself as well, as we see here:
"And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers. Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together."
1 Samuel 31:3-6, KJV
We discover a similar cowardly act of suicide, or to say it more accurately, suicide by proxy, in the classic example of Abimelech, the man who wanted to be the first king of Israel. To his shame, proud Abimelech was defeated by a certain woman who dropped a piece of millstone upon his head. Abimelech was so concerned about his reputation, that like King Saul, he asked his armourbearer to kill him, lest word spread that he had been slain by a woman. In the Book of Judges we find the following account:
"And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died."
Judges 9:52-54, KJV
In the New Testament, we find some very interesting verses which could easily be misconstrued by those people who are not well-grounded in their knowledge of God's Word, and who may lack the understanding of God's Spirit. Please consider what Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke regarding the price of discipleship:
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23-24, KJV
Let me clarify that in the above verses, Jesus is not telling His Disciples that they must die for Him in a physical sense, or that they must purposely kill themselves -- commit suicide -- in order to reap the benefits of Eternal Life. The Lord is referring to surrendering their own wills and plans for their lives in order to do the Will of God. This is in fact the very same thing that God requires of Christians today. Notice that the Lord very clearly says that we must take up our cross on a daily basis in order to follow Him. Obviously, we can't do this if we are dead. In the case of His immediate Disciples, that meant leaving their earthly professions, and becoming fishers of men, preaching the Gospel, and winning souls to the Kingdom of God. This point is clearly verified for us by the following verses where we witness the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew his brother in the Gospel of Matthew:
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him."
Matthew 4:19-20, KJV
As you can see, the previous verses clarify for us exactly what the Lord meant by His words in the Gospel of Luke. This is what it means to take up our cross daily. It doesn't mean to kill ourselves physically by committing suicide.
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .