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Publisher's Summary

"Hale-Bopp brings closure to Heaven's Gate.... 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."

To most people, it is almost impossible to understand the mere existence, let alone the baffling yet indubitable appeal of doomsday cults, but they have been morbidly fascinating phenomena throughout history. 

The bizarre and often objectively comical beliefs of these offbeat denominations are so far removed from most people in society that even the horrific fates that befell the devoted disciples of the latter cults have repeatedly been reduced to cheap throwaway punchlines. The phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”, for one, has become an overused expression regularly tossed around in playful banter, despite the fact it is a derogatory reference to the cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid ingested by 908 members (many of them children) of the Peoples Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, at the behest of their leader, Reverend Jim Jones, in 1978. 

David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians, had deep convictions based on the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, and his sect believed the world was in the power of Satan and that the nations were merging to form a new Babylon. David hoped to establish the kingdom in Jerusalem, where, according to him, he would suffer martyrdom. The headquarters of the sect was a complex called Mount Carmel Center located in Waco, Texas. In the last manuscript produced by Koresh, which was preserved by a woman named Ruth Riddle who escaped the fire, the cult leader spoke extensively about his identity and the mystery of the Seven Seals. Koresh claimed to be the mysterious Lamb of Revelation who opens the sealed scroll, as well as the figure who rides the White Horse when the first seal is opened. 

While Waco remains notorious more for the federal agents’ siege of Koresh’s compound and the deaths of the Branch Davidians, it was followed a few years later by a mass suicide carried out by one of the most notorious doomsday cults in American history. On paper, the extraordinarily unorthodox ideology spouted by Heaven's Gate ranks near the top of the list of most outlandish end-of-the-world prophecies, and it was built on a blend of Christian, Gnostic, supernatural, New Age, and extraterrestrial lore. Although the cult did not speak in Christian terms, it was clearly apocalyptic, and its belief system was a strange mix between science fiction and the basic message of Revelation. The cult’s leader, Marshall Applewhite, and his female companion, Bonnie Nettles, concluded that they were the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3-4: “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the Earth.” 

Applewhite believed the Earth would be transformed and renewed, and that evil entities (not beasts, but in this case, aliens) called Luciferans conspired against humanity. In his view, the elect members of Heaven's Gate would be taken up to a spaceship when the hour came. The opportunity to join the Rapture arrived with the passing of comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Applewhite told his congregation that a spaceship was following the comet, and that the event would mark the closure of the gates of Heaven, making the spaceship the last opportunity to leave Earth. Over the course of three days, 39 members committed ritual mass suicide, all dressed identically, to be taken up by the UFO. 

Heaven’s Gate: The History and Legacy of Marshall Applewhite’s Notorious Doomsday Cult chronicles the notorious cult and the mass suicide.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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