Details about the author of these pages plus links to sites dealing with Cults, Sects and New Religions can be found in IRVING HEXHAM'S SOURCES ON RELIGION

Notes from NUREL-L


From: ai@YorkU.CA (Adrian Ivakhiv)


Subject: night news

A friend of mine was watching the news and came across some very interesting coverage of an event we're all likely to hear more about soon. Her account presents some interesting details about the early news coverage, so I'm posting it here.

Interesting to watch the reporting re. the mass suicide in San Diego area of a "quasi-religious group of computer programmers" (that's a quote from ABC news). (39 people dead, all men or mainly men, all white, or else mainly white, possibly some hispanics, all found prone, all dressed similarly in dark clothing)

The San Diego Sherriff's Dept. has not yet confirmed any ties to any cult or religious movement of any kind. I'm not sure how the Media came to the conclusion that a cult was involved, except perhaps that 39 men don't seem to commit suicide for any other reason (if it *was* suicide in all cases - of course this has not been confirmed by the Sherriff's Dept or the Coroner's office or anything yet). The Sherriff's office has just very recently (it's now 4:00 am) been granted a search warrant for the house.

From the info I'm hearing right now, there did seem to be some kind of ritualistic way in which the bodies were lying. They (the Media) have no real info, but they keep milking (milling) it, so they've looked up the group's Homepage (I don't know under what - I do know that they (these cult people) worked in computer graphics, I think, if I saw the Homepage right) , and a couple of real estate agents who looked through the house where the bodies were found (the house was for sale) (we *do* know it was a 7-bedroom house, on sale for $1.5 million).

>Apparently the house was hard to show because religious services of some kind went on there regularly (I don't think they know this for sure either - I have a feeling it's speculation). Oh, just now I heard that the NewsHounds tracked down the people who were going to buy the house, and these people reportedly said that the occupants, there were about 20 of them, called themselves "monks" and referred to each other as "brother" and "sister".

>Also, they (ABC news) called up a "cult expert" (ABC's own graphic - I don't think the actual person would feel particularly flattered being called this) who told them that the word "cult" is used pejoratively, and that "scholars" prefer to use the term "New Religious Movement, or NRM". So that the anchor had to force herself to use the word New Religious Movement during the couple of minutes that they talked to this person (a professor of sociology or something somewhere), and then it seems the Newspeople settled on "quasi-religious movement", which isn't a bad compromise.

>Anyway, it's interesting, and kind of funny, and also sad and pathetic the treatment that ABC News has been giving this story. (I don't know what other channels have been doing - I do know that Canadian news did report the deaths, but haven't been going over every trivial and remote connection in the hopes of getting a story out of it).


Sounds to me like some sort of "deviant" techno-pagans (who normally aren't millenarian or suicidal), but we'll have to wait and see what comes out of it.


Adrian Ivakhiv



From: ai@YorkU.CA (Adrian Ivakhiv)


Subject: Higher Source (was "night news")

My earlier comments about this being a "'deviant' techno-pagan" group seem off the mark now, as it's coming to light that they were more of a "New Age" millenarian ET channeling group who ran a computer programming firm ("Higher Source," on the Internet). The news coverage on CNN this morning has seemed even worse than ABC's last night. They interviewed a forensic psychiatrist at UCLA who knew nothing about the group, and who spoke of such "cults" as being driven (like an "engine") by their "cult leaders," though nothing is known about whether such a "leader" even existed in this group.

Oddly enough, the local university radio station in Toronto was playing a recording this morning (unrelated to the "mass suicide") of a speech by an Afro-American religious figure (I missed the beginning and didn't catch who it was) who spoke about the esoteric significance of "Hail Mary," the comet and/or UFO supposedly trailing behind Hale-Bopp, in which he wove a

conspiratorial web involving the Vatican and the "Jesuit Army," Revelation (of course) and the Hopi Prophecy (ditto), Chernobyl and "Wormwood", the Dogon of central Africa, the Fatima prophecies, and meetings a few months ago of scientists and government figures over the announcement of possible life on Mars (which were "really" secret discussions about how to nuke this second comet/UFO, because it's destined to hit the earth).

Adrian Ivakhiv

Sender: "Jeffrey K. Hadden" <>

Subject: Re: RE: night news


By now the great mystery of who these people are may be

solved, but if you look on the abstract of the link to

Heaven's Gate on my class page, you see the following:


This site has been created by the once popular "Ti" of "Ti and Do"(formerly known as "Bo and Peep" ) and relays a detailed list of ways by which the human population can strive to enter the Next Kingdom Level Above Human. In addition to this, many of the fundamental concepts of all UFO Cults are presented (with some variations of course). The basic theme of this site is that of becoming one of the chosen few to enter the Next Kingdom Level Above Human when the world is "spaded under" or when the aliens decide that they no longer need our planet.


The site is shut down now, but this is the group formerly

known as the Bo and Peep Flying Saucer Cult.... studied by

Robert W. Balch and he has several articles b/w 1977 & 1985

in social science journals about the group....and the

message of impending apocalypse has been there from the





Jeffrey K. Hadden,

Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA 22093


fax: 804-924-7028


From: Joel Elliott <elliott@EMAIL.UNC.EDU>

Subject: WWW links on the San Diego Suicides



[apologies for duplication. joel]


hello all:

For those interested in the San Diego suicides, I've thrown together a list of bookmarks of that will help you locate some of the more useful and interesting information currently available on the event and the group. the group is being called "Heaven's Gate," "Higher Source," or "Total Overcomers." I'm not sure how they identified themselves. note that there are several links to on-line documents written by the group itself. i've been keeping up with the story all day, and the amount of information that's been exhanged over net today is incredible. you could hardly find anything about the group this morning at 8 a.m. but now (12am 3/27) there's an enormous amount of information available and it's growing by the hour!


here's the web address of links i've put together:




I don't know that i'll be able to keep the links current. if you're interested in all this, I'd suggested using this list to locate and bookmark your own list. If you just want one a couple of links, I'd >recommend:


*the group's "Heaven's Gate" web site (actually a

mirror site, i think) at:



The opening lines read: "RED ALERT - Hale-Bopp Brings Closure to: Heaven's Gateway. As was promised -- the keys to Heaven's Gate are here again in Ti and

Do (The UFO Two) as they were in Jesus and His Father 2000 yrs. ago."



2. YAHOO's special list of links on this event at:


this is a wonderful collection of net resources; it includes links to the UFO controversy surrounding the hale-bopp comet, on-line documents of the group, *tons* of news items, etc.







Joel Elliott

Gradual Student & Virtual Pedant

University of NC at Chapel Hill






Sender: "Chas S. Clifton" <>

Subject: Bo & Peep



Hearing the news about the "HigherSource" suicides, I thought immediately of Robert Balch's piece in SYZYGY, "Waiting for the Ships." And sure enough, there was Applewhite on a video clip on the ABC news tonight. So he never gave up .... but is he among the dead?


Chas S. Clifton

U. of Southern Colorado

Sender: "John M. Bozeman"

Subject: ufo suicide

It appears that the "Higher Source" group that just committed suicide had actually been studied. They were a UFO group that had formed during the early 1970's that was led by "The Two," a couple who went by the names "Bo" and "Peep." Peep died a few years back.

As I recall, even it its early years the group was quite nomadic and was UFO-oriented. They tended to cover the windows of their houses in order to simulate the lack of daylight that one would experience if travelling in a space ship, in order to get used the the experience for when they were picked up by their UFO-based friends. At least for a while they experimented with wearing fencing gear inside their houses (mask and gloves) , to minimize personal contact and as further preparation.

If anybody has any interest in the group, I can point them in the direction of a couple of articles.

Message 15/46 From Catherine Wessinger:

I spent last night reading the materials at the Heavens Gate web page. Their worldview is definitely gnostic with an elaborate myth of how individual spirits are trapped here on earth, how from time to time a "Representive" come from the Level Above Human comes to call these individuals back to their true home, the Kingdom of Heaven. To prepare oneself for entry into the Level Above Human one must give up all gender characteristics (there will be no male or female in the Kingdom of Heaven), and learn to relinquish desires for material earthly existence. Thus one must abandon families, loved ones, wealth, prestige, and learn to despise all physical experience. Necessarily one must be celibate.

Heaven's Gate cosmology is very similar to Hinduism (and also Buddhism). The ultimate goal is to escape reincarnation here on earth, and go to the Level Above Human. To escape the cycle of earthly reincarnation, one must become desireless. Do and his followers were contemporary sannyasins (Hindu renunciants). They did not live in one place. They were constantly on the move.They relinquished their earlier identities and ties with family members.

As in Hinduism, to reach the ultimate goal, one must become totally dependent on an Older Member (guru). One's way of living must please the Older Member, who has the enlightenment gnosis, who is of the Level Above Human.One becomes grafted to the Older Member who will guide the others into the new existence. One cannot enter the Level Above Human without dependence upon the Older Member. Do said Ti was his Older Member, and he was similarly dependent upon Ti.

The outcome with Heaven's Gate certainly calls into question traditional Hindu beliefs and practices. But I'd like to focus attention upon Gnosticism. Chidester shows that Jim Jones also had a Gnostic worldview that ultimately devalued earthly existence.If Jones and his community had succeeded in creating their promised land, they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured, they opted for the Gnostic view that devalued this world.

I'll be interested to hear people's reflections on the role of Gnosticism in the Heaven's Gate deaths. I'd especially like to hear from Chas Clifton.

All best, Cathy

Catherine Wessinger
Religious Studies, Loyola University
6363 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118

From Karla Poewe
Subject: Re: Higher Source

The Higher Source is an example par excellence of the explanation we offer for new religions in our book, New Religions as Global Cultures, Hexham and Poewe, co-authors, 1997, Westview Press. The structure of new religions we have argued for a long time consists of mythologies created eclectically from various great and small religious traditions, secular and/or spiritual experiences in need of explanations, and a global reach. If a new religion has a sense of mission or includes within its core myth outer space phenomena, its adherents will become very proficient in the use of high tech. Arguments about founders as loci of great charisma or psychological explanations about their inclinations do not help us explain a group like the Higher Source. A much more common phenomenon is the founder or founders "as mythmakers who have the creative talent to construct a labyrinthine box myth with the idea of sending their followers through it as if they were embarked on a sacred adventure" [Hexham and Poewe, 1997:69].

The Higher Source has been at the task of myth-creation for over twenty years. They alternated between going public to test their ideas, or test the responses, and recruit new memberbers--and retreating into relative quietness. As far as they were concerned, hi tech was never good enough to catch what they wanted to project. It is not surprising, therefore, that their web page was on the cutting edge

Their labyrinthine myth was developed and taught in somewhat of a Socratic method, through carefully guided questions [from students] and answers from, for example, Do. This rhetorical device is very useful to guide interested perons along a mazeway and to develop that mazeway further.

The core labyrinthine myth is evolutionary in nature. The goal was to exit this "civilization" for the Level above Human, a New Evolutionary Level. As I explain in reference to charismatic Christians in my edited volume, Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture, 1994, Univ of South Carolina Press, so too Higher Source believers are quite sophisticated in their choices of methaphors, metonyms, and in their periodic explicit use of literalness. They develop their myth as a parallel to the Christian religion of this civilization. Naturally, Christianity is despised and part of the "Luciferian" program of this materialistic world.

Needless to say, this world, this body [vehicle], this soul [container],as well as sexuality and gender are things from which the Higher Source wanted and did "disconnect." Many of the men were castrated, "neutered" in their terms, something that their philosophy advocated as a means to becoming genderless. As well, as we predicted most members, the coroner's report so far gave our thirty names, were in their fourties--babyboomers. Sixteen were over 40, 6 over fifty, 3 over 60, 1 over 70. Only 2 were in their 20s and 2 in their 30s.

Higher Source advocated careful mentoring, a necessary aspect of being taken through their core myth. They did not need a suicide note, although they left a video. Their whole philosophy pointed to the Exit from this earth.

Karla Poewe

Message 1/21 From Joel Elliott
Subject: Re: Gnosticism (Heaven's Gate)

[here's a thread exchanged between mark diller and me yesterday (3/28) on ANDERE-L exploring the similarities between HG's teachings and ancient gnosticism. FYI, joel]

Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 09:52:15 -0800
From: Mark Diller

Thanks for the collection of links. I tried to get onto their home page all yesterday, but couldn't get through.

All this stuff seems to be extremely gnostic, as if the group's leader took the Hymn of the Pearl and slightly rewrote it. Do you get the same sense? I was recently reading a page that argued that Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard's movement) was also inspired by a brand of gnosticism. It would be interesting to take a global look at new religious movements and see if there is, in fact, a widespread re-envisionment/re-appropriation of gnostic themes. If, hypothetically, this is the case, do you have any idea what conclusions might be drawn? Is the 20th century in the West similar in some way to the Hellenistic/Imperial Roman period, or are current developments directly inspired by the earlier documents? A little of both? I've always been inclined to think that the earlier brand of gnosticism was a response to the sense that great civilizations were in decline; theoretically this could be related either to the impending millennium or to the alleged decline of the West, or both.

Just a few morning ruminations. Feel free to forward to andere-l if you think any of my questions are interesting.

Mark Diller


Date: Fri, 28 Mar 1997 11:08:18 -0500 (EST)
From: Joel Elliott
Subject: Re: Heaven's Gate

mark: quick note -- i'll think about this and may respond more at length later. yes, gnosticism is *exactly* what came to mind when i read some of this stuff. "Do" / "Bro John" / Applewhite is represented as an enlighted mentor from "the Kingdom Level Above Human" who teaches his disciples the special gnosis, i.e., "the TRUTH about the Evolutionary Level Above Human" [=TELAH] required to ascend to the next level of existence. one of the group's documents explains that "...periodically a Member of the Kingdom Level Above Human receives instruction to incarnate among humans to seek out the souls that have been 'tagged' or given a 'deposit' (an 'implant') of knowledge concerning the [T.E.L.A.H.]..." source:


the gnosticism angle is getting picked up by a few reporters, e.g., see john alderman's "troubling side of tech, faith convergence," in the *wired* newsletter at:


he quotes one eric davis, "who is writing a book on computer culture and religion, [entitled] *techgnosis*..." [first i've heard of this book.] alderman also refers to douglass rushkoff's ideas on "the virtual life" [in cyberspace] and gnoticism. [no source mentioned] [...] FWIW,


Joel Elliott
Gradual Student / Virtual Pedant
University of North Carolina / Chapel Hill, NC

Sender: ai@YorkU.CA (Adrian Ivakhiv)
Subject: Re: Heaven's Gate/"Protecting children..."/"Why Cyber-Christians?"

>Bruce Robinson mentioned hearing the Higher Source group
>described thus: "The group was referred to as "Techno-Pagans"
. >Techno-Christians I could understand. But not Techno-Pagans. I suspect
>that they wanted to use a "snarl" word and "Pagan" came to mind."

I'm guilty of having guessed (on this list) that the group might be some "'deviant' techno-pagans" ('deviant' because apocalyptic & suicidal). This was after the very first bits of news started coming out, but before I found out anything concrete about the group. It's clear now that they're not any sort of techno-pagans; in fact, not even techno-Christians, but rather the same (known) "Bo and Peep UFO cult" that had been researched by Robert Balch and David Taylor in the 1970s. (See Balch's very informative "Waiting for the Ships" in Jim Lewis, ed., THE GODS HAVE LANDED, SUNY Press, 1995.) I'm surprised I haven't seen any interviews with Balch, since he would seem to be the natural expert to ask about the group (as opposed to the so-called "cult experts" the media loves to pull out on such occasions).

Undoubtedly CNN's interview with Erik Davis would have contributed to the "techno-pagan" perception. (Davis wrote an aticle on "technopaganism" for *Wired* some time ago, and is now working on a book.) When the media present any new news event, they try to frame it within familiar and topical discourses. In this case it's been the "dangerous suicide cult" (Jonestown, Waco, et al.) and the "Internet threat" discourses. Heaven's Gate doesn't fit either of these particularly well. CNN's nearly-hour-long profile of the group last night finally cut down on the "crazed & dangerous cult" rhetoric - in fact, some of the imagery and music (on the soundtrack) was elegiac in a way that Waco and Jonestown could not have been; and Do/Bo/Applewhite seems to be increasingly portrayed as rather benevolent (though deluded).

Bruce Olson comments:


But a perusal of their own materials shows that the Bible (and the figure of Jesus) played a significant role in their theology. John Saliba, in his typology of "UFO cults and movements" (Lewis, 1995), calls this group a "Christian UFO group". As for "pagan," is there anything *at all* that you find "pagan" about them, Bruce? They are gnostic dualists who wanted to leave the earth, not worship it. (See some of the links at:
"", and
" o/".)

What I find very interesting - even heartening - about the Heaven's Gate group is that they *succeeded* at their spiritual task. They spent several years meticulously preparing for their "ascension into heaven," as they perceived it - and by their own criteria they would seem to have *completed* it , without undue obstructions by the demiurgic forces of the "fallen", corrupt world they were leaving behind. Their departure/escape was clean (not messy, as other such groups' have been) and well carried out. The reaction by media, government figures and other "guardians of the status quo" - shock, panic, fascination, etc. - would probably have amused them.

>Even "better," Carl Raschke of the U. of Denver was interviewed
>by ABC News and referred to the dead members as "Net nerds,"
>thus combining two things that are still somewhat scary and
>easily demonized by the average newsperson: "cults" and the

By this time, I would think, Raschke should know better, since he had once described nearly every alternative religious movement under the sun (of the last 150 years) as "gnostic" - and in this case, at least, he would be right. (See Raschke's THE INTERRUPTION OF ETERNITY: MODERN GNOSTICISM AND THE ORIGINS OF THE NEW RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS, Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1980.)

Adrian Ivakhiv

Subject: Re: Gnosticism (Heaven's Gate)

Unfortunately, in careless speech almost any belief which seems weird is labelled 'gnostic.' Perhaps we need to consider what is NOT gnostic, too.


From Dean Edwards

Subject: Re: gnosticism

There has been a lot about the doctrine of the Heaven's Gate cult and its similarities to classical gnostic doctrines.

I would say that The Heaven's Gate cult does exhibit some of the characteristics of gnostic doctrine on paper. But, this anaylsis is based on the assumption that gnosis is something which is professed, studied or simply a system of belief. In classical (Valentinian) exegesis such a system would be psychic rather than pneumatic. The more accurate term for gnostics is pneumatikoi (spiritual ones). Meeting some doctrinal outlines does not make one a gnostic, since gnosis is not a system of belief, but a deply personal experience. So, before the Heaven's Gate cult might be properly called a latter day gnostic cult, it would first have to be demonstrated that it was able to confer a deep relationship with Spirit to its initiates/members.

I am not convinced that it meets that test.


From Catherine Wessinger

The Washington Post has posted many Heaven's Gate documents at: Reading over these has confirmed that I was not off-base noting a connection to Hinduism and also to Theosophy in Heaven's Gate theology.

These materials report that once on their travels, Do and Ti (I have trouble remembering their real names) were taken in briefly at an Ananda Marga home. Once when they were arrested, Ti gave her name as Devi Shakti.

Do writes that Theosophy, Blavatsky, Mahatma Letters, and Ascended Masters (they appear well read in Elizabeth Clare Prophet) are the Antichrist, but he acknowledges that they studied these materials carefully.

So reincarnation, cycles of evolution on different worlds/planets, masters (in this case in physical bodies, but obviously bodies made of refined mattter) are familiar themes here in the Theosophical movement. Fallen angels, Luciferians, connect with ECP's theology, as well as the extreme dualism between good and evil.

The christology is very similar to the christology of Annie Besant: a highly evolved soul taking over an adult body.

Theosophy is in this case the link between Heaven's Gate's blend of Gnostic and Hindu/Buddhist elements which is then presented in unique UFO/extraterrestrial language.The goal of escaping the earthly world; escaping the cycle of rebirth is authentic to both Gnosticism and Hinduism.

All best, Cathy

Catherine Wessinger
Religious Studies, Loyola University
6363 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118