The Heavenís Gate Suicide has a lot of people questioning how it could have happened in America. What appeared on the surface to be a harmless ideology or religion, turned out to be a very bizarre cult. The people involved seemed normal and even held mainstream occupations, ie: computer programming.
From a superficial view the Heavenís Gate cult had some things right. They believed that there is a soul, a conscious self, that can exist apart from the present material body. In the Bhagavad-gita, the main spiritual treatise of India, the soul is explained thus by Lord Krishna:
"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." (BG 2.20)
They also believed that this world is not our real home. We come from a higher spiritual level of existence and are meant to return there. In the Bhagavad-gita that abode is explained thus by Lord Sri Krishna:
"That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world." (BG 15.6)
Of course the whole Heavenís Gate philosophy breaks down on one major point, the means of attaining that state beyond the body. By the flaw of thinking that by suicide one can attain a spiritual platform their whole philosophy becomes null and void. Suicide will not bring anyone to a higher level. According to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement, suicide only brings one down on the evolutionary scale, not up. In Srila Prabhupadaís commentary to Srimad-Bhagavatam he comments on the real destination after suicide:
"A confused, frustrated man cannot get relief by committing suicide because suicide will simply lead him to take birth in the lower species of life or to remain a ghost, unable to attain a gross material body. Therefore the perfect course is to retire altogether from sinful activities and take up Krishna consciousness. In this way one can become completely perfect and go back home, back to Godhead." (SB 4.26.11)
The actual way to get to the higher level is transformation of consciousness by practice of yoga. In this day and age the recommended process is bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion to Krishna, especially the chanting of Hare Krishna. So the conclusion is not to follow "roll your own religions". Whatever God orders constitutes religion. It is not constituted by the peverted charisma of a mundane character.
There are bona fide paths to higher levels chalked out by qualified teachers such as Srila Prabhupada. For information on how to go to higher levels see Srila Prabhupadaís book "Easy Journey to Other Planets".