Catherine Wessinger is associated with Loyola University in New Orleans in the area of religious studies. She seems to have ties to Lonnie Kliever and Gordon Melton--both of these men have often been recommended by the Church of Scientology as "experts". The following are remarks made by Ms. Wessinger largely in connection with the cult "Heavens Gate" and were posted publicly at a Web site known as the "Nurel Home Page".
How does Ms. Wessinger define the cult group known as "Heavens Gate"?
"Their worldview is definitely Gnostic with an elaborate myth of how individual spirits are trapped here on earth. Heaven's Gate cosmology is very similar to Hinduism (and also Buddhism). The ultimate goal is to escape reincarnation here on earth, and go to the Level Above Human. To escape the cycle of earthly reincarnation, one must become desireless. Do and his followers were contemporary Sannyasins (Hindu renunciants)".
How does Ms. Wessinger view the control of Marshall Applewhite had over his followers?
"A 'Representive' [Applewhite] from the Level Above Human [sic] comes to call these individuals back to their true home, the Kingdom of Heaven. As in Hinduism, to reach the ultimate goal, one must become totally dependent on an Older Member (guru). One's way of living must please the Older Member, who has the enlightenment gnosis, who is of the Level Above Human.
Why does Ms. Wessinger believe Applewhite's followers committed suicide?
"One becomes grafted to the Older Member who will guide the others into the new existence. One cannot enter the Level Above Human without dependence upon the Older Member".
Why does Ms. Wessinger believe members of "Heavens Gate" became celibate, sexless, castrated (as had their leader Applewhite)-- and why did they isolate themselves?
"To prepare oneself for entry into the Level Above Human one must give up all gender characteristics (there will be no male or female in the Kingdom of Heaven), and learn to relinquish desires for material earthly existence. Thus one must abandon families, loved ones, wealth, prestige, and learn to despise all physical experience. Necessarily one must be celibate. They relinquished their earlier identities and ties with family members".
What does Ms. Wessinger conclude from the tragic deaths connected to "Heavens Gate"?
"The outcome with Heaven's Gate certainly calls into question traditional Hindu beliefs and practices".
Ms. Wessinger's conclusions about Jim Jones and the tragedy at "Jonestown".
"Jim Jones also had a Gnostic worldview that ultimately devalued earthly existence. If Jones and his community had succeeded in creating their Promised Land, they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured, they opted for the Gnostic view that devalued this world".
Based upon Ms. Wessinger views regarding well-documented cults and related tragedies--it can easily be concluded that she is not an objective researcher or religious observer. Instead, Ms. Wessinger has a very strong bias and specific opinion, which aligns with others--such as Gordon Melton and Lonnie Kleiver. Ms. Wessinger seems to be apologizing for cult groups by attempting to rationalize their control and destructive behavior within what appears to be a rather contrived religious framework. In so doing she seems to ignore more obvious explanations and fact-based analysis.