A Cult Suicide

Zip Dobyns

Thanks to Lois Rodden, we have the birth certificate data for Marshall Herff Applewhite, a guru who led his flock of 38 true believers to a mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, CA on the weekend of March 22-24, 1997. Applewhite and his co-leader, Bonnie Nettles, used the names Bo and Peep for a while, and later changed to Do and Ti. I will refer to him as Do since it is shorter than writing his full name.

Do was born on May 17, 1931 at 3:20 A.M. CST in Spur, TX, 33 N 28.6, 100 W 51.3. He was a talented and successful music professor at the University of Alabama with a beautiful wife and two children when he challenged the “Bible-belt” morality by openly conducting what was taken to be a homosexual relationship with a young, male student at the university. His consequences included being fired by the University, plus his wife left him and took the children. Instead of acknowledging a lack of commonsense and learning to be more discreet in his personal life, Do became paranoid about sex as an evil to be totally denied. His followers had to wear short hair and nondescript clothing to minimize any visible signs of their sex, and personal closeness was taboo. Near the end of their journey, several of the men, including Do, were castrated to try to control the sexual desires they considered anti-spiritual.

Do met Ti after a “near-death experience” in a Houston hospital where she was a nurse. She explained the NDE, and it formed the base of a shared belief system which they than set out to offer the world. Ti left her husband and children, and joined Do to wander around the U.S. gathering followers, though the latter tended to come and go. Ti became a channeler, connecting the group to the “spiritual world” which became increasingly centered on “aliens” in other worlds. Do and Ti believed that they and their followers had been brought to earth in a UFO from another, far more ideal, home in order to teach the people of earth. Ti died of liver cancer, reportedly in 1985, and Do continued to be psychically in touch with her. He repeatedly predicted that the group would be picked up by a UFO and taken back to their “homeland” before the earth was subjected to coming catastrophes, but the UFOs always failed to materialize on the scheduled dates. Despite this failure of his prophecies, many of the group maintained their faith in Do’s teaching and chose to accompany him in the mass suicide.

The final decision was connected to the coming of the comet Hale-Bopp. In early November, 1996, I was told by an attendant at the Whole Life Expo in Los Angeles that a huge spaceship was coming behind Hale-Bopp, carrying 3 million reptilian aliens who were going to take over the earth. An amateur astronomer in Texas announced on the Internet that he had photographed an unknown “object” following the comet. The “object” later turned out to be a star, but that information was not able to cancel the dissemination of the original report. Courtney Brown, director of a school for remote viewing, claimed that his psychics had identified the object as a space ship carrying aliens coming to take over the earth. Brown was widely heard on a radio show hosted by Art Bell who features a variety of call-in guests discussing fringe topics. Do decided this was the signal he had been waiting for, and that his group should leave their physical bodies to join their space brothers. The group took Phenobarbital in pudding or applesauce and tied plastic bags over their heads so they suffocated while unconscious. Apparently, the suicides were carried out in three sets of group members. As earlier individuals died, the bags were removed and purple shrouds were placed on the bodies. The last two to take the action were two nurses who still had the bags over their heads.

I’m sure that all of our readers have read about the case, which was covered by all of the major media and which already has at least one book in print. Some of the media coverage listed other current cults. One of these, the Order of the Solar Temple, had previously carried out a mass suicide in Switzerland and Canada. The followers of David Koresh set the fires which led to their deaths in Waco, Texas. Videos taken from helicopters show the fires starting simultaneously in several spots inside the building. David had refused to release the children sired by him with many of the women in his cult. He claimed all of the women in the group, including each of the young girls as soon as she reached puberty. The largest number of cult-inspired deaths in recent years occurred in Guyana where close to 800 followers of Jim Jones drank poisoned Kool-Aid. As the millennium approaches, we have probably not seen the last group of true believers blindly follow a misguided prophet.

We have discussed the charts of the leader of Solar Temple, Koresh, and Jones in previous issues of The Mutable Dilemma. Jones was born just 4 days before Do! A number of prominent individuals were born in the first five months of 1931, including Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Ram Dass (discussed in another article in this issue of The Mutable Dilemma) and Bobby Inman, who was born two days before Ram Dass but for whom I lack a birth time. Inman spent much of his life in various branches of the U.S. secret agencies and was mentioned as a potential Secretary of Defense but declined the position when he found his personal life would be investigated. Neil Michelsen, the founder of ACS, which provides specialized computer services to astrologers, publishes astrological books, and is offering an increasing variety of interpretation programs to the public, was born just one day before Jim Jones. But what a difference a day can make! Neil had his Moon in Pisces and was too compassionate for his own good. Jones had the Moon in Aries, added to the north lunar node, Uranus, Venus, and Juno, with Capricorn rising and his Taurus Sun in its own fifth house to add to his power drive.

The major astrological feature in those first months of 1931 was the cardinal cross, so handling power was a major issue for these men. Yeltsin and Gorbachev and Inman achieved power positions in government work. Neil ran his own business. The other three listed above became gurus but lived very different lives. The cardinal cross calls for us to integrate independence, dependence/nurturing, equality, and executive power. All three of the gurus faced the one-ten conflict fairly early in their lives, dealing with personal will versus the limits of personal will. Jones, with a Saturn-Vesta conjunction in Capricorn in his first house, detested his father and took him as a negative role model. Initially, he taught brotherhood and attracted many blacks to his church, but power corrupted him and he ended on drugs, claiming to be God in person, and performing acts of personal cruelty. Ram Dass and Timothy Leary challenged the establishment with drug experiments and were kicked out of Harvard. Leary continued to encourage drugs and ended in jail at least once. Ram Dass went to India, found a teacher, and returned to preach a relatively benign gospel of “be here now” as a leader of the hippie 1960s. Do managed to avoid the trap of drugs and was a kinder person than Jones, but he still maintained his role as final authority in his group.

Everyone born that year had the south lunar node in Libra, pointing to a lesson involving equality. Jones, and, to a lesser extent, Do are examples of the abuse of power, the failure to allow equality to associates. The proper use of executive power in a government is a constant challenge, and the public rarely knows when and how much is abused with the end used to justify the means. Ram Dass seems to have successfully avoided the power trap. His chart is discussed in another article in this issue of The Mutable Dilemma. Neil Michelsen died of bone cancer when his business was in trouble as his main customers, professional astrologers, started buying their own computers and he was too soft-hearted to fire employees to save the business. Saturn (executive power but also the limits of our power in a material universe) correlates with the bones. The illness of cancer is psychologically largely connected to feeling helpless and hopeless, shown in astrology usually by conflict aspects between any of the three water sides of life with each other and usually also with letter ten. If we see employees as equals with the ability to handle their own lives, we can fire them if that is required to save a business. If we are too identified with the four-ten parent role, we feel protective and responsible and may feel unable to do that. ACS survived by reducing its staff after Neil died.

These cases illustrate a few of the variations that are possible when trying to integrate the cardinal dilemma. We can try to keep all the power for self-protection or self-aggrandizement: “My will is law.” Jim Jones and Do took that path. Like Neil, we can keep the power in an attempt to protect others. We can reject any type of personal power in order to preserve personal freedom, which seems to be the path chosen by Ram Dass. Or, like Bobby Inman, we can reject power only when taking it would pose a major threat to personal freedom. For Inman, this involved the freedom to maintain his privacy. He subsequently became the CEO of a sizable business. We can wield power with the goal of increasing freedom for others like Gorbachev and Yeltsin as they tried to move Russia from a totalitarian government toward more democracy. The major challenge in the cardinal sides of life is this integration of personal will and the limits of personal will. Letters four and seven are much easier to integrate with each other since both show the desire for relationships. Equality is achieved through inter-dependence when each individual in the relationship has something to give which others value and can receive. As our readers know, a current major issue in the developed world involves the struggle to integrate closeness with personal freedom, to integrate letter one with four and/or seven. Making room in the life for both career, (letter ten), and relationships is also a common challenge, but these issues are less likely to impact the world than the high drama we can get from the one-ten confrontations.

Compromise is essential to sustain life in the physical world. When carried to an extreme, any one of the twelve basic desires becomes a monster and life-destructive. Yet, the basic urge of life seems to be the desire to do more than we have done before, so we reach out until we hit the warning signal of pain that cautions us to pull back, letting us know that part of life is being overdone and/or other essential parts of life are being neglected.

Anything important in one’s character will be shown in a variety of ways in the horoscope. With a clear understanding of the twelve sides of life and the different astrological factors which symbolize them, we can see themes in a chart. Of course, a stellium, several factors in the same sign or house, offers an easily spotted theme. Do’s chart has an obvious emphasis on personal needs with its major emphasis on factors in both the signs and houses of Aries and Taurus. With a few exceptions, Do had a “natural zodiac” with most factors in the same sign and house; that is, Aries in the first house, Taurus in the second house, etc. Other things being equal, it is easier to integrate the different life desires when the sign and house reinforce the same desire, but the danger of excess may be increased. With his Aries-Taurus identification further supported by Mars in the sign and house of Leo, it is easy to see that Do would tend to feel initially that he had the right and the power to do what he wanted, what he enjoyed, but the squares between letters one and ten were a red flag warning against over-reaching and getting put down. In dealing with any form of letter ten, there is no problem if we voluntarily accept the limits of “natural law,” cultural regulations, and legitimate authority figures, .and we develop a “reasonable” conscience as our internal “law.”

Do’s chart includes a grand trine in earth signs and mostly earth houses though Mercury is in the Aries house, so he had the capacity to be realistic about dealing with the physical world. His strong Taurus, which is supported by Venus in the first house, fits his musical talent and highly sensual nature. His Mercury trine a Neptune-Pallas conjunction also supports a potential for verbal fluency and persuasive ability. But the potential for problems involving faith is indicated by Neptune’s quincunx to the Ascendant and its octile-trioctile aspects to the cardinal cross. Pluto’s conjunction with Jupiter shows an intense, emotional investment in his conscious faith, but the likelihood of problems with the conscious faith, beliefs, values, etc. is indicated by Jupiter’s participation in the cardinal grand cross as well as its octile to Neptune, a key to less conscious beliefs and values. When keys to faith, including Jupiter, Neptune, and Chiron or their signs or houses, have conflict aspects involving earth, individuals may need to be more realistic in their beliefs or they may lack faith in anything beyond the physical world. The most common form of such conflicts is simply wanting more than is possible and being frustrated by the limits of the physical world. We can handle such common dissatisfaction by trying to improve the world, to make it more ideal. Do’s choice was to run away from it.

Do’s chart also has fixed squares from Mars to Chiron, the Moon, and, more widely, the Sun, and the chart angles which are in early degrees of the cardinal signs form octiles and trioctiles to the fixed squares. The aspect networks involving fixed and cardinal factors point to a power struggle life, whether we struggle inwardly with appetite control or outwardly with other people, the society, or natural law. Many individuals manage a satisfying life by competing in healthy ways through sports, games, or business. When idealism is included, defending idealistic causes can provide a good outlet for the competitive urges. All of the listed individuals born in 1931 have done this at least some of the time, and some have had a major impact on our world.

Do seems to have lost some of his ability to stay grounded after Ti died, yet he still managed to attract intelligent followers who were supporting the group with their computer skills. A high level of technical skill in dealing with the physical world obviously does not guarantee discrimination in dealing with belief systems. Part of Do’s desire to leave earth was his belief that in the next level of life, he would be reunited with Ti, but it is tragic that his personal emotional misery was not understood by his followers who maintained their faith in him to the end.

As always, there were many relevant asteroids in Do’s chart. The December 1996 issue of The Mutable Dilemma mentioned two new asteroids; one named for Kurtz, the materialist philosopher who is fighting everything spiritual, and one for his organization. The Latin word “Skepticus” was chosen for the latter asteroid, and Do had it conjunct his south lunar node, showing as another side of his nodal lesson the need to be more skeptical. At his death, P Skepticus was conjunct P Themis (divine justice) and P Spacewatch (for his obsession with UFOs). The trio was in 20-21 Libra square Vesta and P Pluto, with Spacewatch opposite N Libitina, a death goddess, to complete a cardinal cross. P MC was octile/trioctile the cross. P Libitina squared N Aletheia, the goddess of truth, which was in 11 Aquarius, as Bo’s erroneous beliefs led him to choose death. P Aletheia, which was retrograding just under 8 Aquarius, was trioctile P Mars and P Orpheus, which were conjunct in Virgo. The death of Orpheus stemmed from his attempt to reunite with his dead wife.. P Psyche, which can be manifested as either a healer or a victim, was on P Sun and square P Moon, plus the latter’s conjunction with P Eros again described Do’s longing for and hope to rejoin Ti.. P Fanatica was retrograding in 17 Aquarius, quincunx Jupiter, opposite Mars, and octile the MC and Antivertex, while P San Diego, named for the nearest large city, was in 16 Aquarius conjunct N Fanatica and opposite the local P Part of Death.

There were also plenty of conflict aspects involving the traditional planets and angles. P Saturn had maintained an opposition to Pluto, a square to P Uranus, and a trioctile to P Neptune for years. More briefly, P Mercury was quincunx P Saturn and opposite the local P MC in California. Do’s P Ascendant squared a Virgo cluster including P Mars, P Pallas, (a Libra asteroid), N Eros, and N Part of Death, to repeat the connection between his fatal action and partnership. Do’s P Ascendant was also quincunx N Karma in 24 Scorpio. His P local Ascendant in 10 Gemini was octile N Venus to repeat the message and it also squared Do’s N local Ascendant in 10 Pisces. The local angles for a current residence or event are calculated as if the person was born there, keeping the Greenwich time constant so only the houses change. When aspected, the local angles are just as important and meaningful as the angles for the place of birth. Do’s N MC in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, was in 17 Sagittarius, forming an exact grand trine in fire signs to his N Uranus and Mars. Fire symbolizes our feeling that we should be able to do what we please, and the involvement of Mars and Uranus was an emphatic reinforcement of that feeling. Fire says “I’ve done that. I want to do something different.” Leaving the scene is a strong possibility.

The three goddesses of death which I have been watching in recent years were all aspected, as expected. I have mentioned P Libitina’s square to Aletheia and the oppositions to N Libitina. P Hela was on the N 8th house cusp, a key to endings along with the IC and water in general. P local MC had been square to N Hela for two years and was still in the accepted one-degree orb. P Hel was on P Mercury opposite P L MC and square N Phaethon in 21 Taurus, an overreach asteroid. P Antivertex was conjunct N Icarus, another overreach asteroid, and square Do’s local P Part of Death in 15 Leo. The latter was also opposite N California. P local Ascendant had just started an octile to N Hel.

There is always more, but Do’s character, as mirrored in his chart, certainly matches his self-inflicted destiny. I trust that he has been reunited with Ti and hope that they will learn some discrimination before they venture back into the physical world.

Copyright © 1997 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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