Please visit our new site for up-to-date information and news.

Freedom of Mind Group Database Search
Search:
Alphabetical Group Listing
Group Information
Title Heaven's Gate - Son of Heaven's Gate
Description

Heaven's Gate - Son of Heavens Gate by Noah Robischon January 7, 1998 Ever since the Heavens Gate suicides, The Netly News has been tracking all sorts of freakish cults, most of which dont even have web sites, let alone anything especially interesting to say. Then along came Chen Tao, a Taiwanese group in Garland, Texas. Observers fear that members of the Chen Tao (True Way) will off themselves on March 31 at 10 am. Thats when, the followers believe, God will appear in the body of their leader, a fortysomething sociology professor named Hon-Ming Chen. Terry Walker, an American living in Taiwan, is using the Net to head off what he fears will be another mass suicide. The Net, says Walker in an e-mail, can be used to help prevent an accident before it happens on March 31, rather than wait and then gloat and laugh at it all. Although Walkers Taiwan UFO Cult Suicide Watch! web site makes another mass suicide seem like a foregone conclusion, the groups commitment to self-immolation remains unclear. While very similar to the Heavens Gate group trading black Nikes for all-white uniforms members of Chen Tao said in a press conference that they had no intention of pulling the plug. Chi-Chia Chen, a spokesman for the Taipei economic and cultural office in Houston who visited the group last week, said he didnt see any sign that they intend to committ mass suicide and that after March 31 if they dont see a flying disc appear they will just go back to Taiwan and continue normal life. Then again, Heavens Gate members showed few outward signs of their intended departure, in part because they didnt believe they were dying so much as moving to a level above human. And despite the claims made by the churchs leader, Taiwanese officials have been reporting that the 150-odd members are being encouraged to kill themselves in anticipation of a visit from a flying saucer that will transport them to the heavens. Sounds a bit silly, but dont be so fast to just call these people stupid or weak or kooks, says Steve Hassan, author of Combating Cult Mind Control. Anytime a cult leader sets deadlines its to be taken very seriously: Some very powerful social psychological mechanisms are being put to the fore here. A leading theory explaining the magnetism of cults is known as cognitive dissonance. Originally developed by Leon Festinger in a renowned study of the inner workings of a 1950s UFO cult, the theory posits that people naturally seek consistency within their thoughts, feelings and actions. When an inconsistency or dissonance occurs, especially between thought and action, the tendency is for people to change their thoughts to accommodate their new behavior. In the case of Chen Tao, also known as the Gods Salvation Church, group members traveled to Alaska, Colorado and Las Vegas performing rituals meant to change the spiritual environment, according to Chi-Chia. Repeat rituals enough and participants will begin to believe they are working. It certainly seems to be having that effect on Chens followers, who apparently believe his claims that he fathered Christ and that two of the 40 children in group are reincarnations of the Buddha and Jesus. During the press conference on December 23, Chen attempted to prove his claims by exhibiting photographs of airplane vapor trails, one of which formed a cross and another the numbers 007. Chen has also told reporters that failing Gods arrival via flying saucer he will offer himself up in penance and submit to death by stoning or crucifixion. Although Chens claims seem batty, he is not a tyrannical leader. Cult members are apparently allowed to come and go at will and are in communication with their families. Chens teachings are a mix of Buddhism, Christianity and millennarianism, and include the predictions that God will make a televised appearance on channel 18 six days prior to being incarnated and that the world faces nuclear cataclysm in 1999. Apocalyptic cultism proliferates around the millennium, and weve been seeing this gravitational pull of the millennial date since the end of the 80s, notes Dr. Richard Landes of the Center for Millennial studies. The millennial idea is that human beings are, if not perfectable, capable of a whole lot better than we are now doing. At some point in the near future a radical change of lifestyle is in the making. For the 150 members of Chen Tao, a radical lifestyle change has already occurred. Most of the group is in the U.S. with work-exempt visas and is surviving on money left over from selling their homes in Taiwan, says Chi-Chia. But theyre certainly not saving for the trip back, and followers are are rumored to have paid handsomely for their cult memberships. Add to that the expenses incurred in moving around the country after originally settling in San Dimas, Calif., the group relocated to Garland, Texas, because it sounded like God Land to their leader. Rather than establishing headquarters there, the group has simply taken up residence in 21 homes in the same neighborhood. Although Taiwanese and American authorities are investigating Chen Tao, so far there has been no proof that members are being monetarily defrauded by Chen, and thus no legal basis for busting up the cult. Los Angeles police did, however, return a 16-year-old follower to her mother last month shortly before the move to Texas, but the girl was evidently not coerced into joining the cult. This incident more than anything else put Chen Tao in the public spotlight, and some speculate that increased media pressure could spur the group to act irrationally. Then again, only a few of the groups members have any fluency in English. Perhaps they could take lessons from 38-year-old Walker, who is teaching English in Taiwan. His Internet crusade began after reading an editorial ridiculing the cult in the China Post. Maybe its a bit of the Drudge [Matt ,that is] in me, says Walker. That editorial pissed me off so much that I decided to publicize the callousness of it and then realized that maybe I could do my little bit to help stave off a potential tragedy. So far, Time and Newsweek have not touched the story. Why? They are yellow orientals, so who cares? I hope not. COPYRIGHT © 2011 FREEDOM OF MIND RESOURCE CENTER INC.