Heavens Gate Cult

In those now-familiar sun-washed video farewells, the members of Heaven's Gate said they had made up their own minds. Even the parents of one young man found among the purple-shrouded dead tried to reassure us about what happened in Rancho Santa Fe, issuing a statement saying "he was happy, healthy and acting under his own volition."

But despite claims that the 38 followers who committed suicide last week were not brainwashed or bullied by their wild-eyed leader, there is evidence to the contrary. Far from being freely thought-out final acts, the suicides are seen by some mental health experts and cult scholars as largely the result of a sustained, calculated and ruthless program of ...

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cult was structured to undermine individuals' identities, leaving them to ignore misgivings and do the group's bidding no matter how irrational.

However, the role of "thought reform" in cult behavior is hotly disputed in academic circles. Some scholars challenge the idea of psychological manipulation, arguing that followers are drawn to a cult by its philosophy, as are observers of mainstream religions.

"I'm very dubious of the psychological interpretation" of the Heaven's Gate suicides, said Richard Hecht, chairman of religious studies at UC Santa Barbara. A person is attracted to a cult because it espouses a "convincing narrative" in which the follower "finds meaning," he says. By implication, a follower is not passively brainwashed but actively "buys into" the message.

The question of free will in the Heaven's Gate deaths is more than academic: It shapes our emotional reaction to the event, perhaps the largest mass suicide ever in the United States. Beyond that, it ...

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especially noticed that one cultist, John Craig, who was known as "Brother Logan," held sway over the others. "He would never let them even be on the phone alone to talk to me. They couldn't breathe without him."

In contrast, Beverly Hills computer businessman Nick Matzorkis, who employed about a dozen cult members to design World Wide Web sites, had the impression that they were not being coerced. His employee Richard Ford, or "Rio," is the former cultist who discovered the bodies.

"The one thing that's been made very clear to me in conversations with Rio is that anyone was free to leave at any time," Matzorkis said. "They never had any restrictions if someone wanted to ...

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Added: 1/18/2018 09:25:22 AM
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