[Over the years, many sincere spiritual seekers were briefly attracted to the cult now known as "Heaven's Gate," though very few stayed involved once they got an inside look. CNI News thanks Behzad Sarmast (CFinnish@aol.com) for permission to publish this personal account of contact with the group.]
by Behzad Sarmast
Rougly five years ago, while seriously looking for a community of like-minded people, I ran into an ad placed by this group.
The ad declared the usual broohaha about the spiritual poverty of the planet, the inevitable disasters looming, the need for community, and a method for reaching a "higher state." It was all very generic, didn't mention much about UFOs, and was carefully edited for "lowest-common-denominator" impact.
I called to see what they were about, and two days later, via Fedex, I received a video -- the same one showing all over TV right now. It was "Do."
Again, it was all generic introductory stuff, but being naive as I was, not to mention extremely curious, adventurous, isolated, and reckless, I decided to check them out. A week later I received a call, saying that there were two members swinging by San Francisco, and that they would pick me up and drive to New Mexico, where they were holding a meeting. I agreed.
The two men seemed intelligent, and driven. I sat in the back seat of their car, and off we went.
During the trip, I noticed the driver would repeatedly stop by a pay-phone and call someone. At each point he seemed to be getting instructions as to where he should go next. He wouldn't tell me what the calls were about.
Somewhere along the line, they dropped me off at a motel they paid for, and told me to wait there til the next morning, when some other members would pick me up on their way to New Mexico.
The next morning an older man and woman, who were not a couple, came into the motel room and asked me to tell them about myself. They seemed nice enough.
From there we drove in their stationwagon, again with me in the back seat. I began to tell them about my affinity for a book called "The Impersonal Life," and tried to show it to them. They told me that they were not allowed to read books from the outside world. I knew then that they were off-course, but I kept going.
Something peculiar: during the entire length of my stay with them (3 days), we ate at, and only at, Taco Bell! For the life of me, I couldn't figure this out. I was vegetarian and ate pretty healthy food, and it seemed bizarre to me that they HAD to eat at Taco Bell, at least while they were on the road.
After reaching Albuquerque, I met more of their members, totalling about 10 for that meeting. They posted many flyers about their meeting, and seemed very dedicated, but nervous at the same time. As I read more of their literature, I understood that these members believed that they were the present incarnations of the Apostles, and even referred to themselves by those names (Matthew, John, etc.). I'm pretty sure that Do claimed himself to be the present incarnation of Jesus. At least that's what his followers claimed.
[NOTE: Marshall Applewhite, aka "Do," did say that he was playing the same role for the present time as Jesus played 2,000 years ago. However, recent analysis of his teachings suggests he probably did not consider himself a literal reincarnation of Jesus. He also publicly disavowed the term "messiah." But inside the group, away from public view, he was undoubtedly regarded as supreme and infallible. -- ed]
The meeting day finally arrived, and we went to a hall they had reserved and waited for people to show up. We waited, and waited, and waited. I think a total of 7 or 8 people showed up. The "apostles" sat in a row, facing the audience, and spoke of their previous lives, their current mission, and the benefits of living in their community. None of these people were very impressive, but they weren't belligerent either.
From their confessions, it became apparent to me that the majority of these members simply couldn't function in the outside world, and even though some had deserted or doubted the cause, most of them eventually crawled back.
Their lives were orderly, efficient, almost mechanical. Each had a function, and the focus they paid to what they were doing at the moment seemed to be their principle discipline. For instance, they told me of one of their practices back at their home base (then somewhere atop a mountain, but often moved), which was to peel apples in a certain way. The angle of the knife, the attention paid to the procedure, and the efficiency of it, were supposedly to prepare one for the efficiency of the "higher level" beings, who could not pick you up unless you already knew these things. Basically, their entire day was built around becoming prepared for this UFO rescue.
During my entire stay, telephone communication with Do seemed a primary event. It seemed like he was a dispatcher, and directed even the details of each member's life. They talked with him constantly.
I remember the original two guys saying that this planet was ruled by the devil (or "Luci" -- Lucifer), and that this personal direction by Do was the only way they could be sure of being absolutely correct about everything, since he was divine. I specifically remember answering them: "But, isn't everywhere the Kingdom of God?" They became silent, and didn't answer, and I believe they thought me a simpleton.
They also seemed extremely nervous about going outdoors, since they were sure they were being followed by the government, the "Lucis," and the unfriendly UFOs. Like any good cult, they always traveled in groups. During my last day there, I got to listen to some of their phone conversations, and I asked them why they were so cryptic about giving info about their plans or whereabouts over the phone. They said that they did this to confuse the "Lucis," who were of course tapping the phone. Another man came up to me and said, "They (the UFOs) are monitoring us right now, Behz." That pretty much did it for me.
Tired of the whole routine, I told them I'd need to go back. They all looked at me like a poor lost soul who couldn't understand what he was giving up. Very little was said to me after that point. They drove me to a bus station, and insisted on paying me $50 (which Do had told them to do). We said goodbye.
They had been waiting for their UFO for a long time. It's a strange feeling, knowing that those bodies probably included some of the people I met.
Original file name: CNI - Heaven's Gate.Personal
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