Heaven's Gate (religious group)

Heaven's Gate was an American UFO religious millenarian cult based near San Diego, California. It was led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. On March 26, 1997, members of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department discovered the bodies of 39 members of the group in a house in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe, they had participated in a mass suicide, a coordinated series of ritual suicides, in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp. Just before the mass suicide, the group's website was updated with the message: "Hale–Bopp brings closure to Heaven's Gate... Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is coming to conclusion—'graduation' from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are prepared to leave'this world' and go with Ti's crew." The son of a Presbyterian minister and a former soldier, Marshall Applewhite began his foray into biblical prophecy in the early 1970s. After being fired from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas over an alleged relationship with one of his male students, he met Bonnie Nettles, a 44-year-old married nurse with an interest in theosophy and biblical prophecy, in March 1972.

According to Applewhite's writings, the two met in a hospital where she worked while he was visiting a sick friend there. It has been rumored that it was a psychiatric hospital, but Nettles was substituting for another nurse working with premature babies in the nursery. Applewhite recalled that he felt like he had known Nettles for a long time and concluded that they had met in a past life, she told him their meeting had been foretold to her by extraterrestrials, persuading him that he had a divine assignment. Applewhite and Nettles pondered the life of St. Francis of Assisi and read works by authors including Helena Blavatsky, R. D. Laing, Richard Bach, they kept a King James Bible with them and studied several passages from the New Testament, focusing on teachings about Christology and eschatology. Applewhite read science fiction, including works by Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. By June 19, Applewhite and Nettles's beliefs had solidified into a basic outline, they concluded that they had been chosen to fulfill biblical prophecies, that they had been given higher-level minds than other people.

They wrote a pamphlet that described Jesus' reincarnation as a Texan, a thinly veiled reference to Applewhite. Furthermore, they concluded that they were the two witnesses described in the Book of Revelation and visited churches or other spiritual groups to speak of their identities referring to themselves as "The Two", or "The UFO Two", they believed they would be killed and restored to life and, in view of others, transported onto a spaceship. This event, which they referred to as "the Demonstration", was to prove their claims. To their dismay, these ideas were poorly received by existing religious communities. Applewhite and Nettles resolved to contact extraterrestrials, they sought like-minded followers, they published advertisements for meetings, where they recruited disciples, whom they called "the crew". At the events, they purported to represent beings from another planet, the Next Level, who sought participants for an experiment, they stated that those who agreed to take part in the experiment would be brought to a higher evolutionary level.

In 1975, during a group meeting with eighty people in Joan Culpepper's Studio City home, they shared their "simultaneous" revelation that they had been told they were the two witnesses written into the Bible's story of the end time. In 1975, the crew assembled at a hotel in Waldport, Oregon. After selling all "worldly" possessions and saying farewell to loved ones, the group vanished from the hotel and from the public eye; that night on the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite reported that the group had disappeared, in one of the first national reports on the developing religious group: "A score of persons... have disappeared. It's a mystery whether they've been taken on a so-called trip to eternity—or been taken." In reality and Nettles had arranged for the group to go underground. From that point, "Do and Ti", as the two now called themselves, led the nearly one-hundred-member crew across the country, sleeping in tents and sleeping bags and begging in the streets. Evading detection by the authorities and media enabled the group to focus on Do and Ti's doctrine of helping members of the crew achieve a "higher evolutionary level" above human, to which they claimed to have reached.

Applewhite and Nettles used a variety of aliases over the years, notably "Bo and Peep" and "Do and Ti". The group had a variety of names—prior to the adoption of the name Heaven's Gate, it was known as Human Individual Metamorphosis; the group renamed itself several times and had a variety of recruitment methods. Applewhite believed he was directly related to Jesus, meaning he was an "Evolutionary Kingdom Level Above Human". Indeed, Applewhite's writings, which combined aspects of Millennialism and science fiction, suggest he believed himself to be Jesus' successor and the "Present Representative" of Christ on Earth. Do and Ti taught during the religious movement's early beginnings that Do's bodily "vehicle" was inhabited by the same alien spirit which belonged to Jesus; the crew used numerous methods of recruitment as they toured the United States in destitution, proclaiming the gospel of higher level metamorphosis, the deceit of humans by false-god spirits, envelopment with sunlight for meditative healing, the divinity of the "UFO Two".

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Freedom of assembly

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