Heaven’s Gate

Infamous, yet still evading the mainstream, the Heaven’s Gate is a group of enigmatic, alien-like optimism. Searching and finding an explanation for a journey paved towards the infinite, they embodied and articulated a plan for their impending sense of apocalypse, executed it, and left behind them a couple of individuals able to maintain their mission plan for the now-public consumption.

From their website’s introductory lines, “The joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the “Kingdom of Heaven”) has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp’s approach is the “marker” we’ve been waiting for — the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to “Their World” — in the literal Heavens.” This reception is one of gratitude. To be recipients of an opportunity, a membership into the Kingdom to experience this “Boundless Care and Nurturing.” I must ask as an editor, what sense of urgency does this present at a moment of a millennium ending? Is it one dissimilar to the zeitgeist’s impending thoughts? One shared with others with an imminent Jesus Returns 2000, an apocalypse with only one chance of escape delivered by The UFO Two? If so, why are we still here? Do we live in their hell, the hopeless spillage of an opportunity gone awry?

This optimism for leaving Earth begins with loud light. As our well-known and accustomed biblical God says, Let there be light. What is so revolutionary about the Hale-Bopp comet as opposed to any other space-related ephemera to the point of seeking salvation? First, it is mentionable that Hale-Bopp is maybe the brightest thing we have seen cross our planetary orbit in telescopic view, and the comet of most awareness and history amongst Western scientific evidence. Ascribing symbolic importance to scientific facts with spiritual deliverance is not unlike our history of mythology and storytelling. Oracles and priestesses share prophecies of the future in this manner. In a time of prevailing science, however, the question does not lie in empirical evidence, but whether one will believe this evidence against all odds. This means, one’s own will is stronger than one of science.

The last “great” comet that flew across our sky at such brightness was recorded in 1811, monikered The Great Comet. Long after, the Hale-Bopp comet was also named the Great Comet of 1997 due to its alluring, short illumination. At the turn of such a century of material transition, from T-models to Macintoshes’, as Prince said, I could have sworn it was judgment day.

Prophecy is ambivalent to the air of the unknown. We have the power of choice to impress decisions on our future and our own fate. This is where Nietzche’s infamous God is Dead meditation roots from: let us decide what comes after this eternal, illogical gap of faith. One we can construct for ourselves, fit to our own canon, and one we can even die for if it comes down to these terms. This is a kind of power I detect that Heaven’s Gate reveals, a remedy for apocalypse in an age of video and internet, of the power of representation symptomatic of a chaotic, digital spiral towards the largely unknowable future. A power that delivers prophecy towards something channeled by a means to an end, rather than activated by a strategy for the present to lend way for necessary scrutiny. Not an end in itself, but rather the question of mortality left to interpretation.

SNUFF talks to three of these individuals, preserving and continuing the conversation whether through keeping their website active and accessible or answering our calls. 

Where was Heaven's Gate located during your time with the group?
Swyody — There were a tremendous number of location changes. When I left we had a bunch of people that were in a warehouse near San Clemente. And I was in an apartment, like a duplex with about eight other students because we all had jobs. Working for this one company called Subscriber Computing Inc. That was in Laguna Hills, I think it was. And so that's where I was at the time when I left.

During the later years of Heaven’s Gate members operated a web programming and graphic design firm called Higher Source, right? When was that established?
Srfody — Higher Source lasted from April 1996 to February, 1997. About 9 months. It brought us funding in the final days.

Do you remember how many members of Heaven's Gate were efficient in computer programming?
Swyody — We started getting into computer jobs in the 1980s and at that time it was Mllody who had gone to school before joining the group so she was COBAL programmer. Nrrody wasn’t a programmer but a technical writing major. A lot of us were working at restaurants in the 80s when we started to have jobs but Ti and Do didn’t like that because our schedules were all so crazy that they could never really get together with all of us when they wanted to for a meeting. So they encouraged us to try to find more of an office job, like a nine to five kind of thing. At that point, they bought a computer, it was an Apple IIe, I think it was. And, and they said that anybody could examine it if they wanted to. I would scroll on the screen and thought, wow, this is really interesting, you know. And so I gravitated to it and Srrody also gravitated to it. He became an assembler, programmer, and a C programmer, and I got into a bunch of languages as well.

Over time, I first got jobs, like, data entry and word processing and office management. But then, in all those jobs, I would always be trying to code on the side to teach myself coding. And so eventually, I ended up getting some contracts and Srrody and I formed two companies just him and I as a partnership. One was called Think Link and the other one was called Word Wise. He had a separate contract with somebody and then I got a contract through Alxody who was working in technical, networking and computer hardware support, but he knew somebody that needed a programmer and, and it was in one of the early languages, BASIC. I knew that language pretty well at that time so I got a contract. And I ended up employing two or three others to teach them programming. Chkody, Glnody and maybe Stmody. I don't remember exactly. But they were all among the 38 individuals. That was about early 1985, because it was before Ti left her vehicle (or body). When I left the main programmers were Srrody, myself, Mllody and I don't know who else  but, they learned very quickly because they were given the time to learn and when they try to do a job they put their all into it. They could do things very well because they don't have any distractions.

After you’d finish your nine to five and you return with the rest of the members what was your schedule like?
Swyody — It depended on Ti and Do. They decided when to have a meeting. Weekends a lot of times were when we had meetings.

Were the meetings routine?
Swyody — No, no, there's no routine to it, there was no schedule or anything. If Ti and Do weren't living in the same place with us, then they would just make a phone call and say that, they’ll be over in a few minutes and to get ready to have a meeting. We'd all stop what we're doing and do that.

Who was responsible for creating most of the imagery that would be used for the images on the Heaven's Gate website? It seems like some, maybe early on were hand drawn then they became more digital.
Swyody — All the artwork’s mostly drawn and then airbrushed. The pictures of the earth lab and the weather lab were all done by Ollody. The guy that wore that Dr. Seuss hat.

Which member created the Heaven’s Gate logo? Did it come before or after establishing Higher Source?
Mrcody — Ollody and Do created the Heaven’s Gate logo in March 1996, before Higher Source existed.

From the entirety of Heaven’s Gate’s existence how many members were there?
Swyody — Well, in the very beginning in ‘75, a lot of people followed the ideas for a couple months, weeks, and days. We didn't have any kind of Central organization and nobody's names were recorded anywhere so you didn't know. But then when it came around to when Ti decided that the harvest was closed for that season, which happened on May 21. 1976. She said to finish up the public meetings, and by the end of June we were told to gather in Wyoming. There were about 100 students then, but then the team separated 19 of those and told the remaining ones that we made the first cut. The numbers went down to the 70s pretty quickly from there. People would leave in the middle of the night, some ended up coming back years later, through different circumstances. When somebody left, they didn't know how to find us, because we didn't leave a trail. The FBI was looking for Ti and Do at one point. Different families hired investigators to find us to try to deprogram us even though everybody was an adult. Ti and Do would always be a step ahead of them. We know that as a fact.
We had investigators come to the town where we were living, and wait outside of our P.O. box, to see if they could find us coming to collect our mail but we left that area a week before that or so but not for any reason that you can explain in human terms. The numbers got down to 24 individuals by 1992 or early 1993 then a bunch of people that were living outside the group, some in a halfway situation, which really is a big point that I forget to mention, when I give the list of all the ways that Do became less controlling, if you want to use the word “controlling” because of course, that's the way the experts, who Do called has-been-drips, which was a joke, he told and I didn't get it for a long time. Like a person who is an ex-pert is a “purt”, the spurt out the pipes or faucet. And there has been drips. So that's funny to me now. But anyway, they all say that Do walked off the track that Ti set up for us. And that couldn't be further from the truth. I have a lot of evidence of that, one is that we had halfway houses. People had the option to not follow the guidelines and to leave and even some did, because they were in that halfway situation. They didn't want to come back into the group when they were offered that. In 1993 when the Beyond Human series was put up on the satellite dish people were able to write to us and rejoin. So our numbers increased from 24 back up to 36 at that point. And then we got another dozen or more through the 1994 public meetings that we did. And a few others came in, because they were related to somebody that had left the classroom.

Ti and Do had the members on a strict diet, would you consider that as controlling?
Swyody — There were lots of procedures. Our diet was under the teachings but we didn't have to be there. So that's why it's not controlling. You can leave and you can try to cheat if you want to, and we even had that happen a couple times. But there was no punishment for that person that cheated. Dstody put an apple under his bunk to have for later because we had specific times we ate. But in the beginning of the classroom, they gave us money to go to town to buy food, and they didn't monitor what we were buying, they just said, try to make it last for a week. And don't get things that are gonna spoil, but people did anyway, then Ti and Do ended up buying all our food for us. You could say that's controlling, we didn't have the ability to just hop in a car and go to Pizza Hut or something. They didn't want somebody to decide to leave the group and take one of our cars when we needed the cars so they would definitely keep the keys under, you know, lock and key, so to speak. But there were individual choices even in the diet that developed because of problems that people would report.

The first dietary routine started with Ti, they were called pink drinks. We wanted a liquid diet, there were protein drinks that we added, we called it the juice lab. People that were on duty in the juice lab would mix up the batch of the drinks using this protein powder and add lecithin, and other nutritional supplements. That was our whole diet. We would drink that maybe every two hours. That was the first diet we had that was different because before that our dietary routine was based on Ti and the Pritikin diet, which was very low amounts of meat. We would have meat twice a week. We might have bacon with eggs for one meal, and then might have barbecue chicken legs for another meal during that week. The rest of the time was spent with rice and beans and spaghetti. That was in the 70s and 80s. We're living outdoors. We started that in Wyoming and Northern Colorado, Colorado and in Texas. According to the seasons, we go back and forth. If we were on the diet, and somebody was having a problem with something, they would report that in a note to Do at that point, they would say I'm having this problem. Because of that, Do, would sometimes change the diet or even change the diet for that one person. One time during the pink drinks, which lasted for maybe six or eight months or so I don't remember exactly how long but it was changed because of me. I got a severe bout with vertigo. I was sick to my stomach, I was throwing up. I couldn't stand up, because my head was spinning so significantly, that the only way I could get any relief was if I was laying down on my side. Because of that they added yeast rolls. That's when we started the yeast lab. I guess my vehicle needed that carbohydrate. Anyway, that was an example of them making an adjustment to the diet because of the response of a student. The purpose of the Transfiguration diet was for longevity, so that our vehicles could last and be in the healthiest condition they can be in for as long as we needed to be here. That didn’t mean you wanted to be here. You didn’t want to be here even though a lot of the students didn’t have that frame of mind. I didn’t have any reason I wanted to leave even though I knew that was in the cards the whole time. I didn’t really identify with that as something that I wanted to happen except through my spiritual programming. Dying isn’t of any value to growth. That’s why the task right now is we need our vehicles to learn lessons through. Standing up for Ti and Do requires having a vehicle to share the truth when that's becoming more and more less popular.

Another change that he made was when we were fasting on the Burroughs cleanser, which is a fasting regimen that's an ounce of maple syrup, Grade B, generally with moral content, an ounce of lemon, and eight ounces of water to make a 10 ounce drink, and then a pinch of cayenne pepper. And so we lived on that several times. Some of the people were losing so much weight that Do didn't feel like it was healthy for them. So they doubled the maple syrup for them as an example of how we were on a very controlled diet but there were exceptions always. The transfiguration diet even, we did a lot of things after that included a lot of exceptions. We went back to a diet where we were eating meat again and eating these lavish desserts like tiramisu and italian wedding cakes as a dessert every night. We had more desserts that time then we had when Ti was in her vehicle. We also went to the movies more, Do would eat with us more and live in the same craft as us more. I could go through continuous things that show that there were less controls put on us.

As fans of Sci-Fi are there any movies you remember watching with the group?
Swyody —
Before there were videos we’d go to the movie theater. We’d sit in all different places at random movie theaters so we didn’t look like a big group but it wasn’t long after that that videos came out so they would suggest a movie to rent and members would go out and rent the video and watch it. In terms of sitting in the craft and watching a movie I don’t know if Ti ever did but I know Do did. He watched Star Trek with us a lot of times. Sound of Music was always a favorite to watch because Ti and Do felt the Next Level gave it to them and us as an outline of their task. Teach the students to sing. When Ti was still in her vehicle we were living in Northern Colorado and they sent us all to the movies to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind, after that E.T. There were some strange movies, one of them was Man Facing Southeast. It’s in subtitles because it’s from some place in South America. Another one is Questor about a robot trying to find its maker. All these things have relevant themes. We saw Starman, Fire on the Mountain, Heaven Can Wait, Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds and Star Wars.

Now that Ti and Do are gone what is your mission?
Swyody — My entire life is to do what I’m doing with you now. I really study a lot of stuff that's happening. I find that I can easily relate to things that Ti and Do taught to a lot of the current events. Ti and Do weren’t void talking about current events. We didn’t spend a lot of time on it but politically they had us follow Ross Perot. I remember Ti saying that it might be really good to have a business person as the president of the country. It might do the country some good to run it like a business instead of like a political game.

What are your thoughts on Donald Trump then?
Swyody — I couldn't imagine voting for him. I couldn’t imagine voting for Hilary Clinton either though so I didn’t vote during that year or the coming election, I couldn't find anybody that I liked. I kind of liked Bernie Sanders a little bit. I even worked for Bernie Sanders for a little bit in the senate campaign. But he had gone through the global warming thing as if humans were creating global climate changes and they can fix it. Both of those things are delusional. The Next Level is in charge of the weather on this planet. I've no doubt about that.

Is there a plan set to maintain the Heaven’s Gate website once your current human vehicle dies?
Mrcody —
Yes, there is a plan.

Have you remained in contact with any other ex-members who didn’t leave their vehicles? From what I’ve seen it seems like a lot of ex-members don’t agree with each other now that Ti and Do are gone.
Swyody — All these individuals I consider my family. I love them all in terms of being comrades in having had the same experiences. That doesn’t mean I agree with what they say and do. I’m in touch when I want to be. Hvvody has never wanted to be public and doesn’t know what he believes about Ti and Do last time I talked with him several years ago. I don’t judge people, it’s not my job. If he asks me something or we have reason to communicate we do. Lee Anne I feel the same way about and she might be in the next documentary that’s about to come out done by ABC news. They told me she interviewed for it and she was in some previous documentaries early on saying they didn’t provide enough dental care. I find that interesting that that’s what some former members who didn’t necessarily believe in Ti and Do had to say against them. I got a lot of dental care. I got partials made. Most of my teeth were removed. Do told me I had bad teeth from the water on Long Island where my vehicle was brought up, not because of drug use or anything. I didn’t do any of that kind of stuff. I mean I did drug use but not the kind of stuff that would decay the teeth. I used marijuana, hashish, acid, mescaline and mushrooms and stuff like that in my youth. Now I just use marijuana. Sometimes it just gives me energy to do something. A year ago I would just get on the drumset for exercise and fun kind of thing, I don't even want to do that anymore but if I smoke a little weed then I want to do it.

Dental care? How does that work?
Swyody — Well, it was during the time that Ti was still in her vehicle. So it was in the mid 80s. I had tooth pain so they sent me to the dentist, and they would pull a tooth. They had a dentist manufacture some partials. I had lower and upper partials with teeth on it in different sections where I had lost a lot of teeth to fill in the gap, so I could choose. Yes, they wanted to make sure that I was able to choose. And they also wanted to make sure that people's smiles weren't affected.

Was there any reason?
Swyody — I don't know. I had quite a bit of stuff done. Also filling of cavities. I mean, all the members had dental care too.

They did?
Swyody — Yeah, like Samody, she had dental care for a while and then Ti and Do suggested that she have all their teeth removed and get dentures. And so she did. She got dentures. She was part of the 38. And then Prkody dropped out in 1992 or three. And he had gum disease. And he went to the dentist a number of times for treatments on that. I know other people went to the dentist. I just don't know off the top of my head.

“I used marijuana, hashish, acid, mescaline and mushrooms and stuff like that in my youth.”

How old were you when you joined the group and where were you on the age spectrum in comparison to the other members?
Swyody — I was 24. I joined September 14th of 1975. In terms of everybody in the group, they were about the same age or younger. But there were a few who were much older.

Is there any reason why Heaven’s Gate might have appealed to people your age?
Swyody — Age has something to do with things being easier to overcome or already being overcome. Most vehicles around my age ended up dropping out for reasons like sensuality. They were in the prime of their vehicle's reproductive age.

Where did drugs play a role in this? You mentioned you used to use psychedelics. Were they ever a temptation for yourself or others?
Swyody — I don't know to what degree it was an issue for the people that stayed for a long time. But, in the very beginning of 1976 after we did nine months of public meetings we were gathered in Wyoming where Ti and Do found out that some people had still been smoking marijuana and having sex even though we were supposed to turn in anything like that. My friend Ron who I joined with in Newport, Oregon was one. I smoked weed with him many times, he was probably more of a pot user than I was so I guess he was more attached. Ti and Do had a meeting and told us “If you want to be a student in this classroom this is not part of the curriculum.”, they wanted everyone to have a clear mind at all times. We separated from some people right after that. A lot of them lost touch with Ti and Do but some ended making their way back. The next time that came up was when I was given a book I Can’t Believe That but You Must. In that book Ti wrote that she thought the recreational use of drugs referring to LSD, might have helped people be more open minded in the lack of awakening. That was crossed off a year later when she did editing on it.

Do you think your own use of LSD and other psychedelics opened your mind in preparation for Heaven’s Gate?
Swyody — I don’t think it did anything for me. There wasn’t one real logical reason why I joined. If I wanted to take a ride on a UFO then maybe having psychedelic experiences might aid that.

What are your thoughts on Heaven’s Gate continuously being referenced throughout pop-culture? From SNL in 1997 to more recently, Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake artwork. How up to date are you with these references and do you ever listen to any of it out of curiosity?
Swyody — I only listen to it when it comes to my attention. With the Lil Uzi Vert thing, my first response to that was, alright, no big deal, he's using the logo and he's putting new words on it. I even offered to play with him, but then Srfody and Mcrody came out with a threatening lawsuit. My first response to them wanting to do a lawsuit was I thought that was a waste of time, I thought that was off track that they shouldn't be trying to interfere with them. Then a year later, when I was faced with that story again, I recognized that I was wrong about that. If somebody’s going to be putting out misinformation, why not try to keep that away from the public? When he changed the artwork I thought, okay, that's good. I didn't have a problem with him using it, it was just the wording. Drab Majesty was one band, there’s a really dark metal band called Testament, and another pop band that used audio in their song which I liked a lot.

Is there any reason why you think people’s fascination with Heaven’s Gate has remained over all this time?
Swyody — Well, I mean the most obvious reason is because, you know, a bunch of people committed suicide that didn't seem to have any of the things in common with the other people that have. They weren't really particularly religious in anyway, they didn't have any trappings of that. I mean, there's a lot of things that are very odd about that story if you’re watching it. The suicide alone made it so that they were gonna lump us into the category of being a suicide cult, a UFO cult was another part of it. Since those subjects are still around they keep doing stories on them. Every year around the anniversary they have 10 worst leaders and Marshall Applewhite will be included in there. Yet, anybody who knows the whole story knows he stands apart from the rest of them in many ways. That’s why it has stayed around. I think the Next Level knew what was going to happen. Sensationalism, of course, sells and so I'm guaranteed that it will be around for a while.

Graphics: Zane Olson
Text: Jasmine Reiko

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