Heaven’s Gate

I must admit I was a bit startled to see the web address for Heaven’s Gate listed. It costs money to maintain a website, and with everybody dead, I wonder who has taken the job. Nothing seems to have been added or edited since March 26, 1997. I’m told the site crashed the day after the mass suicides were discovered because thousands of people were suddenly very curious and visited the site. It’s ironic that the desired outcome of the website wasn’t entirely fulfilled until after the group had “evacuated their bodies.”

The website itself is very typical of the era, with oddly clashing colors and highly pixelated graphics. The words “Red Alert” flash in red along the top of the site. Heaven’s Gate’s logo is HEAVEN written left to right, with GATE written top to bottom, the A from each word being shared between the two. A distracting background of stars follows you to every page. Below some preliminary information about the comet Hale-Bopp and the closing “window” there are several links to visit.

I was immediately drawn to the link titled “Our Position Against Suicide.” According to the website, the proper definition of suicide is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered. They believed that those who are not a part of Heaven’s Gate were committing suicide because they are rejecting the Next Level. They also believed that their bodies were merely vehicles used in the learning process. Therefore, what the group did on the days of March 24 through 26 was not actually mass suicide, but rather the evacuation of their bodies. They did not believe that they were dying, per se, but meeting up with the spaceship that was flying in the tail of Hale-Bopp.

“Do’s Intro” is very informative and offers a mythology for connecting the Jesus narrative of conventional Christianity to the intergalactic narrative of Heaven’s Gate. Do claims that Jesus was an alien, and that anybody who recognized him for who he was would be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, two thousand years later, that alien came back in the incarnation of Do. He then goes on to explain how we have all been programmed to not accept the truth. I did find it amusing that Do concluded his intro with this observation: “It is clear to all of us, that to the Anti-Christ . . . we are, and will be seen as, their Anti-Christ.”

Brasher says, “As the boundaries between religion and other cultural creeds thin, the ability to adjudicate interpretation of their myths and symbols is diminished” (170). We see the syncretism of ideas very potently on the Heaven’s Gate website, as they mixed Christian lore with UFO lore to create a millennialist religion that pinned its hopes (literally) on the stars. In the time of Christ, information dissemination was very slow, as letters were written by hand, sent, delivered, and often copied painstakingly. In the time of Do, all he had to do was log onto his hosting site, type a message, and within moments, the message was available for the world.