Heaven's Gate, Suicide and Other Death Cults Part 1
Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
May 4, 1997

Last Updated :
June 12, 2011

Predictions And False Prophecies Leading Up To The Year 2000, Failed Year 2000 Second Coming And Harold Camping's Blunders, The New Hype: 2012 And Mayan Calendar, Rise Of The Internet And The World Wide Web, Prognosticators Of The Future, The Gullible Public, Proper Research, Inner Desires, Pressures Of Modern Living, Aliens To Each Other And To God, Escaping Our Pain, Our Personal Oasis, Modern Fringe Groups, Jim Jones And The Peoples Temple Mass Suicide, Congressman Leo Ryan And The Reporters Killed, Jim Jones Was An Atheist And A Bible Hater, David Koresh, Branch Davidians And The Waco Siege And Massacre, Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City Bombing And Ruby Ridge Incident, Order Of The Solar Temple Suicides And Murders, Vilifying The Cults And Sects, Deception Led To Death, Heaven's Gate Tragedy, Similarities In Cult Suicides, Comet Hale-Bopp And The "SLO", Zecharia Sitchin And Nibiru, Beware Of The Internet Rumor Mill

Over fourteen years ago, I noted in my 1997 four-part series entitled "Age Of Deception, Age Of Delusion", that as we drew closer to the year 2,000, we would more than likely see an increasing interest in the ideas, doctrines, philosophies and predictions that were being promoted by a variety of people, such as economic forecasters, political analysts, members of the scientific community, concerned environmentalists, New Age advocates, self-styled prophets and holy men, and the leaders of churches and other organizations across the religious spectrum.

This certainly proved to be the case. Sadly, as I explain in the five-part series "Sorry . . . Jesus Is Not Coming At Any Moment!", towards the end of the decade of the 1990's, many American Christians allowed themselves to become convinced by their misguided leaders that Jesus would return in the year 2,000. Some of those foolish leaders even went so far as to try to interpret certain political events in the Middle East, so that said events would support their predictions regarding Christ's Return that year. Tragically -- and to our shame -- it turned out that they were all just as deceived as the more recent followers of Harold Camping, who foolishly predicted that the day of judgment would fall on May 21, 2011. Mister Camping has since revised his prediction to October 21, 2011, being as nothing happening on May 21st.

While the year 2,000 obviously came and went without much of a fuss -- other than the inconveniences that resulted from the Y2K threat -- it seems that the new hoopla surrounds the year 2012, and the alleged end-of-the-world prophecies that are connected to the Mayan Calendar. I address this latest hype in the three-part series "2012: New Age Deception And Psychobabble". Either people have very short memories, or else they just never seem to learn from their past mistakes.

One of the problems is that with the advent of the so-called "Information Society", the Internet, and the now widespread availability of the World Wide Web, the dissemination of all kinds of information -- even information which has not been properly tested and verified -- is faster than ever. All one has to do is connect to his local ISP -- or Internet Service Provider -- in order to experience the mind-boggling number of websites, message forums, newsgroups, mailing lists, etc., which are now available to the casual Internet user. Add to this mix social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, etc., as well as the iTunes Store, YouTube, video conferencing, text chatting, etc., and one can easily become totally immersed in the online world.

Regardless of the subject, by simply using one of the many popular search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., a person can easily and quickly find the information which he or she seeks; whether it is the latest version of a popular software program, job availability information, national or local news, the latest scientific discoveries, developments in the world of politics, celeb gossip, or even information regarding your neighbor down the street. While we sometimes hear how computers can experience data overload, it seems to me that humans can very easily experience sensory overload when browsing the World Wide Web.

But concerning prognosticators of the future, depending upon the orientation and background of the particular supplier of the information, we'll either be given a positive, optimistic view of the world's future, or we could be told that we must accept a darker, more pessimistic picture of things to come. Of course, there will also be others who will say that, yes, things are going to become worse, but ultimately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if we just endure the storm until it passes. In the case of the negative scenarios, the purpose of the information is not only to educate and inform us, but also to hopefully motivate us to do something about it so that we can either avoid it, neutralize it, or perhaps better prepare ourselves for the events which await us; that is, assuming that the bearer of the information is correct in their assertions.

As I mentioned a moment ago, one problem is that the world is full of naive, gullible people who sometimes innocently accept certain things, without taking the time to properly research the matter for themselves as they should. Failure to personally investigate a matter may be due to spiritual or mental laziness, to a lack of sufficient time to conduct the research, or simply to not having the proper resources or know-how to verify whatever the information may happen to be.

However, it has occurred to me that there may be a deeper, more personal reason why we sometimes lack the diligence to properly investigate a matter. If we are truly honest with ourselves, then we must be willing to admit that deep down inside, many of us yearn for something better; something more than what this physical, materialistic world offers us; and the older that we become, the stronger this desire seems to grow. I would even dare say that it is a natural part of our maturation process, and a product of our becoming wiser to the unsatisfying ways of the world. As a result, because of this inner yearning for something better, we sometimes blow caution to the wind, we unwisely let our guard down, and we choose to accept and embrace certain things without proper validation.

The truth of the matter is that in spite of the fact that a growing number of people live in relative affluence due to scientific and technological developments which enhance and prolong their lives, nevertheless, many of them still feel spiritually destitute and quite empty inside. This feeling of hopelessness and futility is magnified by the fact that people are stressed out due to the pressures and demands of modern-day living, where holding a job, and just trying to earn enough money to pay the bills, is an ever-increasing challenge. So as I said, as they grow older, and the beauty and strength of youth flees, many begin to question if this is all that there is to life. They are looking for anything to remove the hidden pain and loneliness which they often feel inside, and this makes them vulnerable.

Ironically, despite the fact that rapid transportation, and international communication systems have greatly reduced the physical barriers which have long existed between different countries around the world, we humans have still become an alienated society. We have become alienated from ourselves; -- that is, we've lost our sense of identity and purpose -- we have become alienated from our neighbors; and some people have likewise alienated themselves from God as well. Thus, many people are attempting to find their own small oasis in the vast spiritual deserts of this world. Tragically, when they are unable to find what they are searching for, in a moment of desperation, or utter hopelessness, some people contemplate or even opt for more drastic measures as a way to resolve their personal problems; or at least to relieve the pressure on their lives. We'll discuss various examples of this in a moment.

For some people, the answer, or at least what they believe to be the answer, is found in the consumption of alcohol. Others choose to indulge in a variety of drugs, legal or otherwise. And yet other people embrace one form of religion or another. Still others resort to anarchy and acts of rebellion against established norms and authority, as their way of expressing their dissatisfaction with life. Then there are those people who fall into unbridled lifestyles where sex and rock 'n roll is the outlet for their frustrations in life.

For at least the past five decades, another alternative, and a new kind of release has been offered in the form of groups and organizations of various sizes, which embrace everything from Eastern religions, to aliens, UFOs and the paranormal, to occult practices, to more ancient forms of Christianity, to a variety of socio-political ideologies. As a result, it is even more important to recognize that, regardless of our reasons for choosing them, failure on our part to adequately research the reliability and the veracity of the information that is provided by these groups before fully embracing them and their particular dogma as truth, can sometimes lead to very tragic results. Sadly, during the past several decades, this has particularly proven to be true with what have now been labeled as so-called "fringe groups" by the rest of the "sane" world.

Take, for example, the tragic 1978 case of the Reverend Jim Jones and the followers of the Peoples Temple. Most of us had never even heard of Jim Jones or the Peoples Temple until the day that their bloated, decaying bodies were discovered in a remote compound, known as Jonestown, in the steamy jungles of Guyana, South America. According to carefully meted out news reports that were published at the time, those foolish people were convinced by Jim Jones to take their lives by drinking a lethal mixture of cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid and a sedative. Following this tragedy, a forty-five-minutes-long tape recording was recovered by the American FBI. On it, Jim Jones can be heard telling everyone such things as "Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity . . . Don't be afraid to die . . . [ death is ] just stepping over into another plane . . . [ death is ] a friend . . . We didn't commit suicide; we committed an act of revolutionary suicide, protesting the conditions of an inhumane world."

According to certain news reports, the Peoples Temple members who refused to go along with what is now alleged to have been a planned mass suicide, were shot in the head. Jones himself was later found dead in a deck chair with a gunshot wound to his head. According to the Guyanese coroner, Cyrill Mootoo, it was a self-inflicted wound; but one of Jim Jones' sons by the name of Stephan has stated that he believes that someone else shot Jones by Jones' order. What makes this incident all the more bizarre, is the fact that some online sources state that simulated drills of the planned mass suicide, which they called "White Nights", were conducted on a regular basis by Jim Jones, in preparation for what Jones apparently viewed as the inevitable outcome of their clashes with the System.

In all, 909 people took their lives that day at the Jonestown compound, 276 of which were children. In addition to the 909, nine other people were killed by Peoples Temple members at a nearby airstrip as they tried to escape in two planes. This included U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, and four members of the American mass media.

Concerning what motivated those people to take such drastic measures, we may never know in full. One thing that is clear, is that Jim Jones and his followers believed that they were being harassed by the U.S. Government. Jim Jones didn't like being scrutinized by the mass media or by the US Government; which is one reason why he moved part of the Peoples Temple from California to their so-called "Agricultural Project" in Guyana. In fact, it was allegations of human rights abuses, which had been made by former members of the Peoples Temple, that motivated Congressman Ryan and the mass media to travel to Jonestown in the first place. They wanted to determine for themselves whether or not the allegations were true.

It is reasonable to assume that once Congressman Ryan and the reporters had been killed, Jim Jones and his followers became convinced that it wouldn't be long before the U.S. Government would send down the troops to find out what was going on. So, rather than face that eventuality, they chose to take their own lives. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that on the tape recording, one can hear Jim Jones saying such things as "parachute in here on us", "shoot some of our innocent babies" and "they'll torture our children, they'll torture some of our people here, they'll torture our seniors."

One point I wish to make here is that, in my view, their name, "Peoples Temple", is somewhat of a deceptive misnomer. I say this because, while it is true that their organization in the United States did have trappings of Christianity, and while they apparently did help a lot of disadvantaged people through their social outreach programs, nevertheless, it is also true, that as the years progressed, Jim Jones revealed that he was really a dedicated communist, and an atheist who hated the Bible. For example, he mocked Christianity as just being a "fly away religion". He also said that the Bible was just a tool that was used by white people to justify keeping women in submission, and subjugating people of color. Jones also mocked the God of the Bible by referring to Him as just a "Sky God" who was no God at all. He also wrote a booklet entitled "The Letter Killeth" in which he criticized the Bible.

But there is other evidence which exposes Jim Jones' atheism. In an interview with the New York Times in 1977, even Jones' own wife, Marceline Jones, revealed that as early as the age of eighteen, when Jones watched his idol Mao Zedong overthrow the Chinese government, he realized that the best way for him to achieve socialist/Marxist change in the United States, was by using religion to mobilize people. During the interview, Marceline Jones stated that "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion". She also added that on one occasion, her husband had slammed the Bible down on the table and yelled "I've got to destroy this paper idol!" Marceline Jones obviously agreed with Jim Jones, because her dead body was found amongst all of the others in Jonestown.

According to online sources, Jones' ultimate goal in moving to Guyana, aside from wanting to escape from the scrutiny of the U.S. Government and the American mass media, was so that he could establish a so-called "socialist paradise", but one without God in the equation. In a tape recording which was made the day before the mass suicide occurred, Jim Jones can be heard saying "I believe we're the purest communists there are". So as you can clearly see, Jim Jones was definitely no Christian in any sense of the word, and he used Christianity to mask his real intentions, and his deceived followers fell for the ruse.

So no matter how we choose to look at this tragic incident, the untimely death of over nine hundred people, that included two hundred and seventy-six innocent children, is something which should never have happened for any reason whatsoever. Had those people taken the time to more carefully scrutinize the teachings of their deranged, drug-taking leader, before they decided to sell their possessions and fly off to South America with him, perhaps they would still be alive today. As I pointed out earlier, these poor people were apparently not satisfied with their lives, or with their country. They were looking for something better; and it seems that the Reverend Jim Jones, with his charismatic personality and fast-talking style, offered them what they sought for, or at least they thought he did. Now, either through an act of desperation, or due to other reasons, they are all dead.

The shock of the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide lingered with us for a while; but being the humans that we are, we all tend to prioritize things in our lives; and with the passage of time, issues which are not important to our immediate survival are eventually pushed into the back of our minds, where they are either ignored or forgotten; that is, until something else happens to dredge them up again.

Our reality was again shaken fifteen years later, in 1993, by the live, televised confrontation which occurred between David Koresh and his followers -- the Branch Davidians, who were a quasi-Christian cult, and an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist church -- and the BATF; that is, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, not far from the central Texas city of Waco. The questionable siege against David Koresh and the Branch Davidians by the BATF -- which was later handed over to the FBI, and which was given the code name of "Operation Trojan Horse" -- began on the 28th of February when BATF agents attempted to execute search and arrest warrants at the Branch Davidian's compound, which was known as Mount Carmel Center. This confrontation resulted in the death of six Branch Davidians, and four BATF agents; but it was only the tip of the ice berg. More dire consequences would occur in the days and weeks ahead.

Here again, the picture of what really happened during this incident was intentionally muddled for us, so that we were only allowed to see what the mass media was permitted to show us. For almost two months the tense standoff continued between the FBI and the Branch Davidians, while David Koresh -- whose real name was Vernon Wayne Howell, and who was the Branch Davidian's fourth "prophet" -- locked up in the Mount Carmel Center compound with his faithful followers, worked on his personal interpretation regarding the meaning of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation. Then, just as Easter approached, the tragedy occurred as a mysterious fire broke out in the compound on the final day of the conflict.

By the time that the drawn-out siege came to an end fifty-one days later, on April 19th, about eighty-two Branch Davidians were dead, including Vernon Wayne Howell, twenty-one children and two pregnant women, as well as the four BATF agents. This tragic incident would eventually become known by the name of the Waco Massacre, or the Waco Siege, or simply Waco, and it has continued to fuel controversy to this very day. In fact, as I point out in the article "Bloody But Unbowed: Timothy McVeigh And The Death Penalty", it was two years later to the very day that Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated a massive truck bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which resulted in the death of one hundred and sixty-eight people. McVeigh claimed that his actions were his personal revenge for the attacks at the Branch Davidian compound, as well as the government-led attack against Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge, ID.

As with the Jonestown incident, I suspect that we'll probably never be told the whole truth regarding exactly what occurred at the Branch Davidian compound on that fateful day. Did the BATF jump the gun, and unwisely initiate an armed conflict against the Branch Davidians, instead of relying upon a more diplomatic approach? Did their aggression against the Branch Davidians only serve to convince the cultists that they were under serious attack and thus motivate them to retaliate with force; or did the Branch Davidians fire first, as the U.S. Government claims?

Is there any truth to the American Government's claim that David Koresh and his followers were storing up and selling firearms, as was reported by the news media at the time? The BATF stated that their agents had discovered that the Branch Davidians were in possession of over one hundred and fifty weapons of various types, as well as eight thousand rounds of ammunition. According to online sources, it was allegedly the sound of noise coming from some of these weapons, which eventually led to the BATF obtaining search and arrest warrants for certain members of the Branch Davidians cult.

The fact that the Branch Davidians were able to fire back at and kill some of the BATF agents, certainly seems to confirm that they were in possession of some weapons. Precisely how many I obviously do not know. If the Branch Davidians truly were a group that was founded upon Christian principles, then I can only conclude that at some point they became terribly misguided by their leader; because nowhere in the pages of the New Testament does Jesus Christ, or His Apostles, teach us that we are to store or sell weapons, or to take up arms and fight against the American Government, or against any government or individual. For example, consider the following verses which were spoken by Jesus in the Gospels:

"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Matthew 26:52, KJV

"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
John 18:36, KJV

For a more in-depth look at my personal views regarding the topics of violence, killing and war, please consider reading such articles as "Killing And The Phinehas Priesthood" and "Killing, Murder, War And Military Duty".

There is also the unanswered question regarding how the three fires were started, which eventually resulted in the death of seventy-four of the cult members. Did the Branch Davidians actually start the fires themselves, or were the three fires the result of US Government forces using pyrotechnic devices and flamethrowers as some people have alleged?

But one thing remains certain in my mind: Whether it was due to the unnecessary use of deadly force by agents of the U.S. Government -- as some people claim also occurred during the Ruby Ridge incident -- or due to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians choosing to take their own lives after determining the futility of their situation, or because of a messianic delusion which they embraced -- as has been claimed by the American Government -- absolutely no one should have died that day at the Mount Carmel Center outside of Waco, Texas. That the U.S. Government would have allowed, or even caused those men, women and children to die in such a horrible way, is totally indefensible in my view, and a reproach to the authorities. In light of these events, it is no wonder that many people continue to mistrust the U.S. Government to this very day.

It seems to me that, as had occurred fifteen years earlier with the followers of Jim Jones at Jonestown, the members of the Branch Davidians made the mistake of putting their faith in the teachings of one man -- Vernon Wayne Howell, a.k.a., David Koresh -- instead of relying upon God's Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them directly through personal study of His Word, the Bible. They surrendered their will to a man, when they should have only surrendered it to God. According to some sources, at one point, while the negotiations were underway, David Koresh is claimed to have told the federal agents that he was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While I honestly don't know whether or not Koresh truly said this, it should be obvious to all Bible-believing Christians that if Koresh did make this claim, it demonstrates very serious delusion on his part. However, Koresh is most certainly not the first or the last person to make such a boastful claim.

In the previous two cases, as well as in other incidents that have occurred before, and since then, such as the well-known 1994 tragedy involving the suicide and/or murder of over one hundred members of the Order of the Solar Temple, also known as the Ordre du Temple Solaire in Canada and Switzerland, the words "cult" and "sect" have been freely used by governments and the mass media to conveniently vilify and cast a negative shadow upon anyone who adheres to some form of belief or way of life which falls outside the norm of what is deemed to be acceptable human behavior and practice. Were these people really cult members?

In the aforementioned incidents -- Jonestown and the Peoples Temple, Waco and the Branch Davidians, and Joseph Di Mambro, Luc Jouret and the Order of the Solar Temple -- all three parties believed that they were simply following a pure form of Christianity, led by their inspired "prophet" of God who received revelations from God. Whether or not they actually were cults really isn't the focus of this article; although I have pretty much stated my position concerning them. However, please feel free to conduct your own research, and then make your own determination. The main point that I would like to emphasize here, is that in each case, they blindly followed the spiritual teachings of one man without really conducting their own personal research; and that is what eventually led to their deaths. For whatever reasons, they became deceived.

After the Jonestown, Waco and Solar Temple incidents, nobody would have guessed that in March of 1997 we would witness the most bizarre mass suicide case ever recorded in the history of the continental United States. The neat, calculated death of thirty-nine members of a small group of web page designers known as "Heaven's Gate", situated in San Diego, California, left many people shocked and stunned. What is unbelievable, is the fact that prior to taking their lives, members of the Heaven's Gate cult used their website to make their plan of self-destruction publicly known.

What I also find disturbing is the similarities which exist between these tragedies. In the case of Jonestown, the Solar Temple and Heaven's Gate, drugs were used to either murder people, or else to numb them to the pain of death, or maybe both. With the Solar Temple and Heaven's Gate murders and suicides, plastic bags were placed on many of the victim's heads, and their bodies were neatly arranged. In the case of the Solar Temple incident, the dead bodies were arranged in a circle with their feet in the innermost part of the circle, perhaps symbolic of a radiating sun; while with the Heaven's Gate cult members, each individual was found laying dead in their bed, covered with a purple shroud, wearing their dark clothes and black and white Nike tennis shoes. Even stranger still, each member was in possession of a five dollar bill, and had three quarters in their pocket. Each member also wore an arm band which stated "Heaven's Gate Away Team".

Similar to the members of the Peoples Temple, the Branch Davidians and the Order of the Solar Temple, the members of the Heaven's Gate cult also claimed to follow a unique form of Christianity. However, in addition, they were also New Age and UFO adherents who were convinced that the arrival of the comet Hale-Bopp signified the time of their deliverance from this earthly life, into an ascended existence in the Kingdom of God. Their leader, Marshall Applewhite, had deceived them into believing that all that was required of them in order to achieve this ascension was to voluntarily leave their shells, -- that is, their physical bodies -- behind, by taking their lives; and that is precisely what they did. Their misguided belief was that upon experiencing physical death, they would be immediately transported to a huge spacecraft, which they had become convinced was concealed in the tail of the comet, Hale-Bopp.

While the Heaven's Gate cult suicide incident came as a shock to many people, those of us who have been following events in the New Age and UFOlogy circles for some time now, were less surprised. For quite a few years now, the Ascension Movement, of which the Heaven's Gate cult was merely one manifestation, has been advocating -- and anticipating -- the transformation of planet Earth, along with her inhabitants, into a higher plane of existence. New Age advocates refer to this process as the "Ascension". As I explain in some of my other articles which delve into this topic, discussions concerning UFOs and encounters with extraterrestrial beings, channeling alleged entities from Outer Space, the alleged arrival of the Photon Belt, the "Space Brothers" and the "Great White Brotherhood", etc., is the norm for the people who adhere to these beliefs. It is as common as talking about the weather. It elicits no unusual response amongst such people.

The arrival of comet Hale-Bopp during the early part of 1997, along with its perceived "odd" behavior, caused an immediate uproar within the New Age community; particularly after the purported discovery by amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek, of a large and self-illuminated object trailing the history-making comet. Within days of Mr. Shramek publishing an image of the purported object on the controversial Art Bell website, as was to be expected, the Internet was abuzz with all kinds of rumors and theories regarding the precise nature and purpose of the mysterious object, which later was dubbed the SLO, or "Saturn-Like Object". In fact, after an Internet-wide contest was carried out, the purported companion object was given the name "Hail Mary".

As I mentioned earlier, within UFO and New Age circles, the SLO was believed to be either a large UFO, -- that is, an alien spacecraft -- or possibly the fabled planet Nibiru. The planet Nibiru craze finds its origin in the writings of controversial author Zecharia Sitchin, who has studied the ancient Sumerian culture, including the many clay tablets which have been found in Iraq. I discuss Nibiru in detail in such articles as "Alien Intervention, Raelians, Pyramids And Nazca Geoglyphs", "Nature Of The Alien : ETs, Demons or a Government Plot?", "2012: New Age Deception And Psychobabble" and "The Nibiru, Planet X, Wormwood Controversy".

To conclude part one, allow me to reiterate a point which I made at the beginning of this series. If there is one very important lesson which all newcomers to the Internet need to learn, it is to take everything with a grain of salt, a huge grain of salt. While I have clearly encouraged you to conduct your own personal research, you also need to remember that while there is a lot of good, useful information to be found on the web if one goes to the right places, the Internet is also the largest electronic rumor mill in the world. Whether something is true or false has little bearing. Information travels so fast across the Internet, that half the world is already talking about it, before it has even been properly verified or refuted. So the point is, be judicious regarding what you choose to believe.

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .

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