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:

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This chapter highlights an incident that represents a major turning point in the life of the cult group Heaven's Gate. Nettles fell ill sometime in the early 1980s, a fact that was kept from most members, and died in 1985, most likely from liver cancer. After her death the changes did not appear to cause any major concerns within the core group or crises of faith among the general membership. The trauma of Nettles' death altered and threatened the group's existence but ultimately was overcome, as Applewhite proved his ability to assert his charismatic authority and reaffirm the transcendent belief system. The followers continued to remain under his control and influence. Therefore, the self-sealing system was preserved and bounded choice prevailed. Finally, in killing themselves, the group believed that they were making a logical and even ecstatic choice, given the history and context of the group to that point. This bounded choice was dictated by the same four principles seen at each stage of the cult's evolution.

Keywords: crises of faith; charismatic authority; self-sealing system; bounded choice; evolution

Chapter.  7064 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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