Stella Maris Gnostic Church
The Stella Maris Gnostic Church, one of a number of South
American Gnostic sect groups, was founded in 1989 by Rodolfo
Perez and former members of the Universal Christian Gnostic
Movement. Modern Gnosticism had emerged in nineteenthcentury
Europe, from where it had been transferred to South
America early in the twentieth century by Arnoldo KrummHeller
and other occult leaders. The Stella Maris is headquartered
in Cartegena, Colombia.
The small group rose out of its obscurity in the larger occult
milieu in June of 1999. A month earlier, the mother of one of
the young adult members complained to the local authorities
about the group and asked them to assist her in removing her
daughter from the group. They did not respond. In June, the
group went on its annual retreat. The day after the small group
(fewer than 100 members) departed for the retreat, Colombian
papers carried stories that the group had departed for the Sierra
Nevada mountains to meet a spaceship that would take them
to another world. The Sierra Nevada has been the focus of
UFO reports and many flying saucer buffs believe it to be a
place where direct contact with extraterrestrials is possible. The
story was given added credence by expectations of crazy actions
by different groups as the millennium came to an end.
The story was picked up by international wire services, carried
worldwide, and tied to memories of the suicide of the 39
members of Heaven’s Gate. However, within 24 hours of the
story breaking, Perez and several members of the group went
on television, denied that they had any interest in flying saucers,
and said that they would return to Cartegena as usual
when their retreat was over. The retreat was taking place near
San Pedro, Colombia, as the media had been informed some
weeks previously. El Tiempo, the leading daily newspaper, had
run the initial story without checking the facts that they had at
hand. The follow-up story of the group was carried by the Colombian
press, but no follow-up appeared in the Englishlanguage
media for almost a year when Fortean Times finally
broke the story of the hoax in its May 2000 issue. Meanwhile,
the Stella Maris Gnostic Church returned to its routine life in
Murdie, Alan. ‘‘The Stella Maris Cult.’’ Fortean Times 133
(May 2000) 66.
———. ‘‘UFOs, Strange Lights, and Meteorites in Columbia.’’
Posted at
colombia.htm. May 10, 2000.

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