Evolution of the Charismatic Community

Janja A. Lalich

in Bounded Choice

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780520231948
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937512 | DOI:
Evolution of the Charismatic Community

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The complex systems of influence in the cult group Heaven's Gate were intrusive, and very quickly became all-inclusive, serving to envelop any aspect of a member's life that was not already covered by the charismatic relationship, the precepts of the transcendent belief system, and the overt systems of control. This chapter shows how the evolution of Heaven's Gate continued on its way to a choice that ultimately led to self-destruction. Much of the group's evolution into a cult occurred while the group was underground and remained generally separate from the larger society. Examples from different periods highlight general processes that existed in the group for most of its duration. The analysis of the systems of attitudinal influences revealed the strengthening of other structural dimensions of the organizational system, creating an enmeshment for participants that brought them rather willingly to a state of psychological restriction and bounded choice. Beyond the direct charismatic authority, the transcendent belief system, and the systems of control during this period, the cult continued its powerful march toward bounded choice through internal pressures, group norms, peer influence and modeling, and overall commitment.

Keywords: charismatic; systems of control; psychological restriction; systems of influence; transcendent belief system

Chapter.  11797 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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