Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leaders from Cult in '75 Are Linked to San Diego Group Couple Called Selves `the Two'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leaders from Cult in '75 Are Linked to San Diego Group Couple Called Selves `the Two'

Article excerpt

The mass suicide in a wealthy Southern California enclave casts a brutal light on a millennialist sect that earned notoriety in California 22 years ago.

San Diego police linked the 39 people to a group called Heaven's Gate that maintained an elaborate Internet site under that name. Documents on that site indicate that it was the same as a UFO-obsessed group once known as Total Overcomers Anonymous, founded in 1975 by a couple from Houston, Marshall H. Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles.

In a group in which members shed their birth names, Applewhite was identified on the Internet site simply as "Do," as in the musical tone, while Nettles was "Ti." The group came together 22 years ago under the charismatic preaching of Applewhite and Nettles, a former nurse. It enjoyed a short-lived burst of notoriety, before the couple took it underground in 1976. After existing in deep seclusion in various Southwestern cities, the group surfaced again briefly three years ago, when members sought out new members with a series of public lectures. As they told an interviewer from The New York Times in 1976, Applewhite and Nettles came to believe they were beings from outer space, incarnate in human bodies, with a mission to teach others about the possibility of re aching a new stage of existence. In time, they began calling themselves "the Two," a reference to the "two witnesses" of Christ foretold in the Bible's Book of Revelation, whose dense allegory has long attracted all manner of religious believers seeking prophetic knowledge of the future. In 1975, Applewhite and Nettles, who then used the names "Bo" and "Peep," toured the West Coast, holding forth on college campuses and in private homes, declaring that a spacecraft would arrive to take away a select few. Who was ready, they asked, to "walk out the door" of their lives, to join the movement and reach The Evolutionary Level Beyond Human? In the Pacific Coast village of Waldport, Ore., 20 people who heard them lecture pulled up stakes and left town with them. One couple, said articles at the time, turned over their infant children to friends. They were both anti-establishment and puritanical, calling for total separation from established society, simple living with shared resources and adherence to a moral code that eschewed drink, drugs and sex. …

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