17 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2017

Mass Suicide, the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ Sect

Is an individual suicide different from a mass suicide? On March 26, 1997, the police
discovered 39 dead bodies, all members of the Heaven’s Gate Sect. They claimed they
were extraterrestrial beings and believed that the earth would be recycled, so it was vital
for them to immediately abandon the planet.
That year, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate Sect anticipated the passage of the comet
Hale-Bopp near the earth and he predicted that a UFO would follow the comet’s tale.
The sect’s members believed that, by committing suicide, their souls would reach up the
flying saucer. The members followed the leader‘s delirium and the mass suicide took
place in a ritual way. As members of the crew of a spaceship, they wore the same uniform
with the label Haven’s Gate-Away Team, then swallowed the pills and lied down. In
a same way than Schreber, they had the idea of a world ‘s new order, hence bringing a
cause for their act as well as a life purpose.
J.-A. Miller states that “ the collective is made up of a multiplicity of individuals
taking the same object as ego Ideal. The same ego Ideal is put in the position of
common denominator of several individual egos“1.
In the same text, J.-A. Miller also speaks about mass transference, mentioning that
“it is perfectly conceivable : it is a multiplied transference, caused for a large number of
subjects by the same object supported by the same subject supposed to know, which is
manifested in negative feelings as well as positive, and which is constitutive of a group“2.
In this particular case of mass suicide, the leader is the one who knows through his
delusional conviction.
Every member has a transferential relationship with the leader who is the one who
bears the agalma, the object a as a precious object. “I love the person I assume to have
knowledge”3, says Lacan. So, every follower here has the position of “lover” regarding the
Mass suicide here comes as the end of a journey. Hence, it is an act inside a
continual frame where the identification with the leader and the common ideal
dominate. Consequently, for the members of the sect, there is no suicide. There is no
death, only life somewhere else. “Let’s go home!” they said cheerfully.
The common sign between an individual and a mass suicide is that the subject
becomes equivalent to the object a. But each time, their difference has to do with each
encounter: an “unfortunate encounter” could change the story of the subject.
The smile on their lips before this act, which according to the newspapers was
“difficult to understand”, attests the Jouissance One.

Translated from Greek by Vasiliki Vitsara

1 Miller, J.-A., “Torino’s theory of the subject of the School”,
2 Ibid.
3 Lacan, J., The Seminar, book XX, Encore, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge,
Norton 1999, p. 67 (Translated by B. Fink).

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