Heaven’s Gate visit a warning sign to all

Staff Editorial

“We know whatever happens to us after we leave our bodies is a step forward” — videotaped message by Marshall Applewhite, leader of Heaven’s Gate.
Driven by the belief that the comet Hale-Bopp was actually “the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take (them) home to (the extraterrestrials’) world,” last Wednesday, 39 members of the group Heaven’s Gate committed suicide in a Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., mansion.
During a three-day period, fueled by the belief that Applewhite was dying of cancer, the members put on uniforms of black pants, shirts and new Nikes — ironically emblazoned with the white comet-like “swoosh” trademark — and ate a concoction of applesauce and pudding mixed with phenobarbital, washed down with vodka. Placing plastic bags over their heads, the members settled down on comforters with $5 bills tucked in their pockets and waited for death.
The Daily Nebraskan reported on Monday about Heaven’s Gate’s 1976 visit to the University of Nebraska. At the time of their visit, Heaven’s Gate was a small group of people with outlandish ideas and beliefs. The word “cult” did not even appear in the newspaper’s articles. Rather, “a sect of Unidentified Flying Object evangelists” spoke to about 100 people about a “higher level” of existence.
And tragically, 20-odd years later, members of Heaven’s Gate thought that by committing suicide, they would move to this higher level of existence.
As members of this university community, we should use the Heaven’s Gate group as an example. Similar groups can still be found today on college campuses all across the country, seeking young, enthusiastic minds to join their causes. It’s easy to discount those groups, not taking them seriously.
But if ever there was an example of what one small group springing up through grassroots recruiting can become, one need only look at Heaven’s Gate 1976 and Heaven’s Gate 1997.