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What draws cults to California?


The weather, of course!

April 1, 1997
Web posted at: 10:04 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Anne McDermott

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- California has always had its share of kooks, with Jim Jones, Charles Manson and now Heaven's Gate leader Marshall Applewhite at the top of a long list.

Then there the organizations still practicing, such as the Unarius Academy, which tries to solve the problems of the Earth by looking to the future.

"We received information about the development of an interplanetary confederation comprising 33 planets that had developed to such an extent that they had overcome the basic problems to ours here," Unarius member Charles Spiegel said, trying to explain the group's philosophy.

Some people would say that such an organization could only flourish in a state where people build their homes on active earthquake faults.

Certainly, California has no monopoly on crazy ideas. Dangerous or suicidal cults recently have made the news in Quebec, Japan and Switzerland.

And Applewhite's Heaven's Gate cult moved from New Mexico to California before 39 members committed suicide last month in a hilltop mansion near San Diego.

So maybe California gets a bum rap when it is referred to as "Cultifornia." A psychiatrist and cult expert says cults that do come to California come for the same reason everyone else does.

"If you're going have a cult you might as well come where the weather's nice," Dr. John Hochman of UCLA said.

In any event, the people at the Unarius Academy, for instance, may look to the future. But they say they are a college, not a cult.

They have jobs, lives and they're happy to live them out. In California.


Extended coverage of mass suicides


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