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September 17, 2014 8:15 AM   Subscribe

The Online Legacy of a Suicide Cult and the Webmasters Who Stayed Behind. A short history of the Heaven's Gate Millenarian Cult and the (ex?) members who still keep the page running seventeen years after their last contact with the leader and members.
posted by 1f2frfbf (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Most likely because Ti and Do were more than happy to let unbelievers leave, and because once you made that deep of a commitment, it was nearly impossible to claw your way out.

"claw your way out" is a weird turn of phrase to use when, as the author acknowledges, folks who left Heaven's Gate were completely free to go.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


People get themselves into all sorts of mental states that are difficult to claw their way out of, even if there is no outside force or compulsion. I think the author is referring to that.

Also, the "Ti" tag has three posts, which are about as unrelated to each other as possible.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:33 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


"claw your way out" is a weird turn of phrase to use when, as the author acknowledges, folks who left Heaven's Gate were completely free to go.

There's a difference between being permitted to go and being "free to go"; part of the point and danger of cults is that people are often NOT actually free to go, or don't feel that they are, in a social or psychological sense. It's not as simple as saying that people can leave any time they want and, in fact, that can be a way to make people MORE trapped and malleable because if you're being locked up then yeah, you can escape, but if the door's open you must be staying for a reason, right? Because you want to be there? So things must not be so bad, and you must be happy, and this must all be reasonable, because the door's open but no one's leaving, because this is all okay...

"Completely free to go" in the context of cults is not a simple thing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:34 AM on September 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


"Completely free to go" in the context of cults is not a simple thing.

I agree. I've said before that trying to escape a tight-knit, society-shunning group is a bit like being pushed out of a building, into burning daylight and discovering you're in a country where you don't completely understand the language, and have no currency or passport. You're technically free, but completely alone.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


This 2007 LA Weekly article is also relevant. It's a profile of Rio DiAngelo, the surviving member who continues to run the web site.

I guess the use of the phrase "last contact with the leader and members" in the post was intended to be funny, but just to be clear... They are dead. Their cult leader convinced them to commit suicide. Cults like this are dangerous, it's unwise to mock or coddle their delusional beliefs.
posted by Nelson at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess the use of the phrase "last contact with the leader and members" in the post was intended to be funny,

No. Let me be very clear: I did not and do not intend to poke fun at them, on purpose or indirectly. I was once a somewhat serious student of outsider and tribal religions and thinking, and I would not poke fun at the dead, regardless of the manner of their passing. It was merely a polite turn of phrase.

Also: my use of the "kooks" tag is not to belittle them, but a reference to Donna Kossy's excellent 'zine about outisder thought, which is where I first heard of them.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


There's a difference between being permitted to go and being "free to go"... "Completely free to go" in the context of cults is not a simple thing.

That's certainly true. I suppose I'm coming to this from a slightly biased perspective. I read Catherine Wessinger's How The Millenium Comes Violentlyearlier this year, which covered a lot of cults, including Heaven's Gate. Wessinger is very much in the "Just what is a cult?" camp and comes out pretty strongly against that label for most things. In the case of Heaven's Gate, she emphasizes the notion that folks could depart, that many did because they didn't feel like they could take the rigorous asceticism of Heaven's Gate (contrast with Aum Shinrikyo, where rigorous asceticism led to deaths and cover-ups), and that the participants believed in the group's ideology - in some folks' cases enough so that they are still maintaining a website years after the other members moved on to TELAH.

Mostly, I suppose I just feel that the author wouldn't have used the phrase "claw your way out" if she were describing, say, the Amish, but because Heaven's Gate is bizarre and modern and has had this dramatic end it's suddenly acceptable. It is/was a niche religion, but a religion nonetheless.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


So, basically, Mark and Sarah King are the Bishops of Heaven's Gate, the website is the inspired word of a prophet, and 3.5" floppies which contained all of the website's information are the holy relics?

*Shrug.* It isn't any weirder than much of the internet. For that matter, it isn't much weirder than much of the tech industry.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2014


Except for the castration anyway.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:28 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


in the wake of heaven's gate, someone (iirc, ted turner) said that the ~20 or so people who checked out were getting disproportionate media attention compared to the hundreds of millions who remained here.

nelson, we mock their delusional beliefs because sex and death have always been the greatest wellsprings of humor; some of us are a little twisted; i was casting about for a "facebook status update" joke but it didn't come to me. i have jonestown jokes too but you don't want to hear them, the punch lines are too long.
posted by bruce at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why would they use floppies to move the site if their current ISP closes? And could they even do that?
posted by snofoam at 11:14 AM on September 17, 2014


sex and death have always been the greatest wellsprings of humor

But at least after death you aren't nauseous.

Someone should kickstart a biopic of Ti and Do, call it Heaven Won't Wait, and put "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" on the soundtrack.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


sex and death have always been the greatest wellsprings of humor

This is why necrophilia is so hilarious!
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:19 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The one thing I realized that I never noticed from the member videos is that every single member of Heaven's Gate rocked serious "90s lesbian" style.
posted by SassHat at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2014


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