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Heaven's Gate (Part 8)

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 Things to beware of in 1997:
 President's who never seem to be IN their countries, countries who tend
 to lend millions/billions when they are IN debt, the proliferation of
 military armaments worldwide, and countries with white pyramids who
 wouldst rule.
 Cult offered 'weird' Web messages
 RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. - Long before carrying out their mass suicide in
 Rancho Santa Fe, devotees of the Heaven's Gate cult amused, annoyed and
 intrigued fellow Internet users with opaque comments hinting at their
 paranormal view of life.
 A Heaven's Gate article distributed in August generated particular scorn.
 It presented itself as a communication from a reincarnated Jesus Christ
 promising to soon depart this world in a "next level mothership."
 A shorter, more cryptic message, posted in June to Usenet newsgroups on
 subjects ranging from guns to Star Trek, carried what appeared to be an
 advertisement for the then-obscure Heaven's Gate Web site.
 "UFOs and Space Aliens - Sorting Good From Bad," it offered. "Final Warning
 for Possible Survivors."
 Internet user Doug Natelson, contacted by e-mail Thursday, said he
 remembered "being struck by just how nutty it was, even on the Net-kook
 "Naturally, I'm horrified by what happened," he said of the mass suicide.
 "It's tragic, and I am genuinely concerned that we'll see more of this sort
 of thing leading up to the turn of the century."
 Elsewhere, anonymous cyberspace orators reacted to the dark news with a mix
 of passion, parody and pathos.
 "I just LOVE cult suicide," wrote a 38-year-old New Jersey woman, in a chat
 room devoted specifically to the event. "They are nuttier than a ton of
 fruitcakes. Though I gotta say, maybe they are right and everyone else is
 The unsigned Heaven's Gate article from the self-styled Messiah drew
 similar derision last summer.
 "The Jews and Christians promote lies - unknowingly," read its headline,
 all in capital letters. "The Jews say they love my father - the Christians
 say they love my father and me - but in fact, they deny us both."
 "I came to Earth some 2000 years ago from another physical, biological
 Evolutionary Level as the expected "Messiah,' or Jesus, and for this
 current mission, returned to this level, this planet and entered into a
 human body some 24 years ago, Earth-time," said the message.
 After preparing "disciples" for membership in the "NEXT WORLD, the
 Evolutionary Level Above Human," the writer said he would make his
 "departure via a "Next Level' mothership."
 Responding Internet users heaped ridicule upon the message.
 "Jesus Christ, it's you! How ya doing buddy? It's me, Cleopatra," wrote
 "This kind of stuff is embarrasing to those of us who have chosen a
 spiritual life," said a more serious writer in the same newsgroup. "Hey,
 person, please get some help ... medical, spiritual, whatever it takes."
 An Internet user named Steve said Thursday he tried to contact the group
 last year but never heard back.
 "What a sad end for so many young people," said Steve. "Throughout history
 we have cycles of doomsday suicides, we seem to be in the midst of another
 ... What a tragedy and waste." Online responses to the June message also
 were dismissive.
 "Ahh, Millennialism. I weep for the future," said a writer.
 But another reader who checked out the group's full "Heaven's Gate" site on
 the World Wide Web seemed less harsh.
 "Great site," he said to others in the alt.alien.visitors newsgroup. "It
 sure explains a lot! But requires people have an open mind, which is
 something I haven't seen much of in this newsgroup."
 Thursday, even chat rooms normally devoted to courtship set aside their
 prurient concerns to dwell on the deaths.
 On another Internet bulletin board, a San Diego student pleaded for
 "I feel these individuals did what they believed was right for them," said
 Paula McBride. "They followed their beliefs. We now have a responsibility
 not to make a circus of this and a mockery of them. ... Don't try to figure
 it out. It is OK. They harmed no one."
 (CNS reporter Frank Klimko contributed to this report.)

Next: Heaven's Gate (Part 9)