Former cultist: talk of leaving Earth became more frequent

CNN/March 28, 1997

As more information is uncovered about the Heaven's Gate cult, videotapes have surfaced that the group used to recruit members.

Over the past 20 years, cult members periodically traveled across the United States -- in 1994, they visited Las Vegas and the University of New Hampshire's Durham campus.

In fact, much of their time was spent on college campuses and, at New Hampshire, they told students they were about to "leave their tasks."

They told the audience they realized their statements could sound "more and more hard to believe, more and more like science fiction ... but the truth is, we're about to leave."

No talk of suicide in early years

The cult apparently was founded in the early- to mid-1970s. Former member Dick Joslyn of Tampa, Florida, left the group in 1990.

"They always believed the body was nothing more than a vehicle, like a car, to drive around," he said.

In fact, at one recruiting meeting in Montana, a female cult member told an audience that some of the cult members were on Earth "for the express purpose of ... learning how to operate a human vehicle in order to be ready to operate a more sophisticated vehicle."

Joslyn said suicide was not discussed in the cult's early years, although members isolated themselves from the rest of society, and did not fear death.

Things changed, he said, around 1988 when, "There was discussion we might have to leave spiritually -- in our own spirit.

"So, I made my own decision that if it even came to that, I was out of the group. It never came to that while I was with the group. So, I'm glad I left when I did."

Talk of leaving Earth for new 'level'

In 1994, members began to talk more openly about leaving Earth for what they called "The Kingdom Level Above Human," which they said was a "real, physical" place.

And in recruitment meetings, they told prospective members that they expected to leave in a spacecraft soon -- in "months, or a couple of years."

"We feel like the usefulness of this planet has reached its peak. We feel this is the end of this planet, but don't know if we'll depart before this end or after," a male cult member told a Montana audience.

Joslyn was a cult member for 15 years. In a way, he said, "We all committed suicide when we destroyed our old lives."

"We all made the major step even back then," he said. "And it wasn't that big a step in their minds."

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