The extinction of the Heaven's Gate group at the urging of Marshall Applewhite was not the first time our society was shocked by a mass suicide [see article, page 22]. At least in America, minds immediately recalled the tragedy of the People's Temple in Guyana, impelled by the infamous Rev. Jim Jones. With uncanny accuracy, Vedic astrology could have foretold of the delusional behavior and dangerous magnetic appeal of these prophets of death.
In looking at the birth charts of Applewhite and Jones (born three days apart), we find chilling similarities in the planetary dispositions, signs and the influence of constellations. Jones' chart indicates a more powerful personality due to a strong rising sign, many planets in angle-houses and an exalted Venus in an angle-house. But they both shared a common mental orientation–a rich fantasy life and an orbit of creative imagination which tended to overwhelm their grasp of reality. This confusion of fantasy and reality was created by a predominance of planets in watery signs, planets in Mercurial constellations, and afflictions to Mercury and Moon.
This flood of watery influences also effected a certain amount of charisma, warmth and persuasiveness. Compounding this was a powerful Jupiter (more so in the case of Jim Jones) which resulted in their remarkable leadership qualities. Jupiter is considered the grandest teacher. And here we find individuals whose essential role in creating their cults was that of the ultimate convincing mentor who had the power to impose fantastic paranoid beliefs with utter conviction.
Another common trait relates to their 5th house, which governs the intellect, discrimination and purva punya, merits and demerits of the last life. Both Jones and Applewhite had their 5th house influenced by Mars. Mars itself was placed in a debilitated condition in a watery sign in the constellation of Mercury. The combination of Mercury, which is ephemeral and flighty, and Moon, which is watery and emotional, resulted in a passionate, volatile and unstable mind.
In Vedic astrology, the Moon is considered the most important indication of one's mind and emotions. Thus, we can gain important insight into the nature of these individuals by looking to their Moon. Here, the Moon's own watery nature and the added Mercurial influences created a temperament of passion and instability. Furthermore, the adverse relationship between the Moon and Mercury resulted in psychosis and paranoia, which was an obvious aspect of their dementia. Magnifying this, the mutual aspect of Mars and Saturn in inimical constellations in both charts created fear and insecurity in relation to the world. Mars and Saturn give malefic results when they have no benefic association or aspects, which they did not in these cases.
Looking to the charts, Applewhite has Pisces rising (a water sign) with malefic Rahu (node of the Moon) occupying the rising sign in the constellation of malefic Mercury, aspected by malefic Saturn. Mars was placed in the 5th house, Cancer (a water sign), in a debilitated condition. Mars also occupied the constellation of malefic Mercury, having a mutual aspect by a malefic Saturn. Moon and Mars here exchange signs (trade places) thereby supporting each other's qualities, and increasing the malefic impact of these planets.
The Moon, even though seen to be beneficial to Pisces rising, became malefic because it was only hours away from the New Moon, thus becoming so weak as to have lost all benefic influence. The Moon is also conjunct Mercury and Venus, both malefic and marakas (killers) for Pisces rising. The only positive planet placement is of Jupiter, ruler of his rising sign, placed in the powerful angle of the 4th house. This inspired him towards education and a desire to teach.
At the time of the Heaven's Gate suicide, the Saturn major dasha and Sun sub dasha were active, accentuating the inimical indications of Applewhite's Saturn and Sun. Furthermore, the suicide took place exactly when the Sun, Saturn and malefic Mercury were conjunct in Applewhite's rising sign, Pisces, with the Moon hours away from eclipse. Thus, all the malefic forces conjoined on the rising sign, which culminated in activating the best of the worst of his character.
Jones had a strong and fiery Sagittarius rising, ruled by Jupiter, which resulted in a certain amount of idealism and passion. His Pisces 4th house was occupied by Venus, Rahu and Moon, all in the constellation of malefic Mercury. The 5th house ruler was Mars, placed in the 8th house, house of violent death. So we see a powerfully persuasive personality with a convergence of malefic forces affecting the mind and associated with death. At the time of the People's Temple suicide, Jones was passing through a major cycle of the Moon, sub-cycle of Rahu.
Thus the inherent tendencies of both men could have been anticipated. Would it have made a difference had we known?