Friday, March 20, 2015

Don't eat that apple!: The Heaven's Gate Cybercult

The Lord only knows what gets me on to these bizarre topics. Maybe it's too much late-night YouTube cruising, or staring into the amber depths of Bentley's hypnotic feline eyes. But something led me back to Marshall Applewhite and one of the most bizarre cults in human history, with the innocuous name Heaven's Gate.

What interests me now - hell, EVERYTHING about this interests me now - is that I'm finding material still on the net which has been unaltered since 1997, when the whole mess unravelled in a blur of purple shrouds, poisoned applesauce and identical Nikes which had never touched the ground.  Nothing has been updated or upgraded or changed in any way, not even the Heaven's Gate official web site which still looks like an artifact frozen in the '90s.

Back in 1999 there was a mass auction of the grave goods from Heaven's Gate, with people eagerly buying up the bunk beds, plastic lawn chairs and  identical black polyester track pants (which, alone, would make any sane person want to commit suicide). They've become the new collectables and are no doubt selling briskly on Craigslist. But what exactly does this tell us? All the horror has gone out of it, somehow. 39 suicides doesn't even stack up against Jonestown, does it? They were just a bunch of whack jobs, should've known better. Even if they had parents who loved them and were horribly traumatized, a lot of them would be dead by now, or would've moved on.  

When the whole thing was fresh, and I remember the scalp-prickling feeling when I first read about it, nobody was interested in buying up macabre artifacts. The entire world was groping for answers as to how such a thing could be. Since the cult was involved with designing the kind of crude web sites that were a complete mystery to me back then, cyberculture began to develop a creepy, culty dimension. The article below, following quickly on the heels of the tragedy, expresses the kind of uneasiness, even paranoia about The Internet which did not dissipate until the last couple of years, when our brains turned to styrofoam peanuts and we all learned to love Big Brother. Lurking in the net were places for potential cultists to cluster in virtual seclusion. It was as if no one had even thought of this before, and the possibilities were horrific.

So even though grotesque offshoots of technological progress (universal surveillance, addiction to savage video games, rape culture driven by pop culture, general dehumanization, and supermorbid obesity)  are exponentially worse than they were in the innocent mid-'90s, we've lost that paranoia now, because, well, hell, ain't it a lot more fun to just sit around watching Netflix and eating ourselves up to 400 pounds? We only heard about the lunatic Applewhite and his Nazilike insistence on absolute uniformity (including sacrificing your testicles because, hell, who needs balls anyway?) because they all decided one day (or maybe he did) that this would be a good day to die. How many other Heaven's Gates are there out there, how many UFO cults, polygamous houses of horror, and catastrophes balanced and teetering on the verge?

It's a curious thing that videos and articles from the '90s seem to have been produced hundreds of years ago. The mindset is so different. Everyone tiptoes around technology, waiting for it to blow. It has blown, as far as I am concerned - or it just blows, more likely - and our concern about its more lethal effects is being dulled and muted and muffled because WE ARE ALL being consumed by it, and either don't know, or don't want to. We're frogs in hot water, too placid to notice we are just about ready to pop.  

The Internet as a god and propaganda tool for cults

From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Internet writer Erik Davis says the Internet by its nature seems infinite and ethereal, almost a deity in itself.

"In many ways we're sort of creating a 'deus ex machina,' a great machine that is penetrating and connecting in with more and more of our lives. In that sense there's something like a terrestrial god about it," he said.

But he and other experts fear that this infinite and ethereal place has become the new location of choice for cult recruiters. Its god-like appearance is deceptive, and can be dangerous, especially in the hands of often-naive Web users.

That's exactly why psychology professor Margaret Singer says surfers should be on guard against cult recruiters on the Web. "They've been tricked and deceived and they're too trusting," she said.
Writer Davis also warns of the dangers facing so called "Techno-Pagans," those who ascribe too much power to what they find on the Internet. "It's -- in a certain sense -- the ultimate technology," he said. "At the same time it resurrects sort of an older feeling about liberation from the body, about moving into a kind of virtual fantasy land."

Bright users, cheap medium

Experts tell CNN Interactive the Internet is economical for cults. Internet e-mail is cheap, and it keeps cult members hooked, wherever they are, with messages of support and propaganda. And computer cults may not have to rent land or buildings.

The Internet becomes their virtual commune.

People who spend a lot of time on computers may be more at risk, suggests Davis, who writes articles on techno-cults for Wired Magazine.

"Working around computers more and more, and identifying more and more of your life with what's happening on the other side of the screen, has a very a very disassociative effect. One can lose touch with maybe the immediate physical reality, or the social, larger culture outside of you," he said.
"You can imagine very well people who already have a cult-like bond, using the Internet and their relationship to computers to even further pull themselves away from what the rest of us consider the real world."

Singer, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley says cult joiners often have little or no "street smarts." "College-age and young working types spend hours in front of their computers and the only friendships they have are other people on the computer. And they're open to being too trusting and thinking what they read is true."

Web encourages 'niche cultures'

Steve Silberman, who monitors hundreds of religious and cult web sites at Hotwired in San Francisco, says the Web encourages the development of "niche cultures."
"You can use search engines to find other people who are interested in the same thing that you are. You can find phrases on Web pages that are associated with your interests and then use the mailing addresses on those pages to get in touch with the people behind them."
Davis says the power of the Net is seductive. "They can very easily create a fantasy world, or fantasy story about who they are, what their purpose is on Earth, and what the purpose is, of computers."

New techniques, same results

Silberman says many cults look for computer savvy devotees, because they can build a cottage industry around the cult and allow it to become self-sufficient. For example, the Rancho Santa Fe group earned income by designing Web pages for other companies.
"They can make a lot of money, they can give a lot of it to whatever group they are in and they don't have to live by the rules of standard society," he said.

Singer agreed. "What the cults want to recruit are average, normal, bright people and especially, in recent years, people with technical skills, like computer skills. And often, they haven't become street smart. And they're too gullible."

The techniques may be new but the results are often the same. Cult members lose their freedom, often their money.

And sometimes, their lives.

Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.

  Related stories:

POST-BLOG PANIC REPORT: Below is a cut-and-pasted version of the original Heaven's Gate web site, unchanged since 1997. All the links on it work. They take you to the kind of solid margin-to-margin blocks of text that were popular in the mid-'90s. It is, of course, gibberish. But what made the Twilight Zone theme begin to pulsate in my head happened when I clicked on their email address, AND IT CAME UP. You can email the Heaven's Gate cult. No, really! And maybe you'll even get an answer, from somewhere on the other side of Hale-Bopp.

(Admission. I'm frightened. I really am, I'm too scared to try.)

Red Alert --
HALE-BOPP Brings Closure to: Welcome

Whether Hale-Bopp has a "companion" or not is irrelevant from our perspective. However, its arrival is joyously very significant to us at "Heaven's Gate." The joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the "Kingdom of Heaven") has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp's approach is the "marker" we've been waiting for -- the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to "Their World" -- in the literal Heavens. 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 Ti's crew. If you study the material on this website you will hopefully understand our joy and what our purpose here on Earth has been. You may even find your "boarding pass" to leave with us during this brief "window." We are so very thankful that we have been recipients of this opportunity to prepare for membership in Their Kingdom, and to experience Their boundless Caring and Nurturing.

Keys or Bookmarks to Vital Information
on Our Website

Do's Intro: Purpose - BeliefDo's Intro: Our Purpose -- The Simple Bottom Line (an excerpt from our book HEAVEN'S GATE -- see below)
Statement by an E.T.Statement by an E.T. Presently Incarnate (excerpt from our book)
Overview of Present MissionOverview of Present Mission (excerpt from our book, a student paper)
Last Chance To Advance Beyond Human Last Chance To Advance Beyond Human (excerpt from our book)
To Access Our Book: To Access Our Book Online in its Entirety:
How and When HEAVEN'S GATE May Be Entered
Transcripts of 2 videosTranscripts of Two Recent Videos
Our Position Against SuicideOur Position Against Suicide
How a Member of the K.O.H. Might AppearHow a Member of the Kingdom of Heaven Might Appear
Exit StatementsEarth Exit Statements by Students
Exit Press ReleaseExit Press Release:
"Away Team" Returns to Level Above Human

To Order a Hard Copy of Our Book
The following materials are available through TELAH Services:
One of our correspondents from Germany offered to translate the following two transcripts into German.

Saturn RingsIf you would like to send for videotapes, there is no charge. If you would like to copy them and return the originals to us, we will make them available to someone else. If you choose to assist with deferring our expenses, those funds would be reinvested towards getting this information out.
The transcripts of videotapes 1 and 2 can be viewed online, downloaded or requested through TELAH Services.
Hard copy editions of the book may be ordered through TELAH Services for $45 US. This includes shipping and handling, via priority mail.

Requests For Materials Can Be Emailed To:
Or Sent Via Postal Service To:
TELAH Services
4757 E. Greenway Rd. Ste. 103-178
Phoenix, AZ 85032

| To Access Our Online Book How and When HEAVEN'S GATE May Be Entered |
| Do's Intro: Purpose - Belief | Statement by an E.T. Presently Incarnate |
| Last Chance To Evacuate Earth | Planet About To Be Recycled |
| Overview of Present Mission | Last Chance To Advance Beyond Human |
| Our Position Against Suicide | How a Member of the Kingdom of Heaven Might Appear |
| Connecting Links | Privacy Concerns |
| Back to Bookmarks | Top of this Homepage |

"You had me at hello"

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