1946 Claude Vorilhon was born in Ambert, France.
International Raelian Movement Timeline
1973 Vorilhon experienced a Close Encounter of the Third Kind (CEIII) during a walk in the Clermont-Ferrand Mountains of Central France.
1974 Vorilhon described his close encounter experience in Le livre qui dit la Vérité (“The Book That Tells the Truth”).
1974 Raël founded MADECH (Movement to Welcome the Creators of Humanity).
1975 Raël reported being taken on board a space ship and transported to the planet of the Elohim.
1976 In response to internal power struggles, Raël dissolved MADECH and founded the Raelian Movement.
1997 Raël founded Clonaid company (originally Valiant Venture Ltd Corporation) to make cloning services available to its investors when the technology was ready.
1998 Raël created the Order of Raël ’s Angels.
2001 Raël published Oui au clonage humain (Yes to Human Cloning)
2002 (27 December) Brigitte Boisselier held a press conference in Miami at which she announced that Clonaid has just produced a cloned human.
2003 Raël announced that he was an incarnation of the Buddha (the Maitreya).
Claude Vorilhon was born in 1946 and spent his childhood in Ambert, a small French town of only 7,500 that is located near Vichy.The area is well known for its ancient, inactive volcanoes. The Vorilhon family owned a fabric factory in Ambert and had lived in the community for several generations. Vorilhon experienced challenges growing up as he was born out of wedlock and his mother left him with his aunt after she was abandoned by his father. His father died a few years later when he was fifteen years old. Following his father’s death Vorilhon left school and traveled to Paris and pursued a career as a street and club entertainer under the name Claude Cellar, eventually producing a series of single recordings that won him a moderate level of popularity. Vorilhon met and married his wife in 1971, the first of his three marriages, and then moved to Clermont-Ferrand. The couple had two children together, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1985. Vorilhon was also a serious automotive enthusiast, and in 1971 he launched a sports car magazine, Autopop, which was published until 1974 and which allowed him to also become a test-car driver. Vorilhon went on to become a race car driver, with the financial support of wealthy European and Japanese Raelians, between 1994 and 2001.
It was in 1973 that Raël’s spiritual career began when he reported his first encountered the Elohim (“those who came from the
sky"). He described an emotional encounter with an Eloha named “Yahweh” at an inactive volcano in the area, Le Puy de Lassalas, who revealed himself to be Raël’s biological father and gave Vorilhon the name Raël . He was then invited on board the spacecraft for a series of Bible lessons in which the true meaning of the Creation myth in the Bible was revealed. Another meeting with the Elohim occurred in 1975 when Raël, was taken to the alien planet where he described a joyous meeting with his half-brothers, Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha. Raël was given the mission of spreading the Elohim message. Over the next three decades Raël built The Raelian Movement, which claims over 50,000 members in over 80 nations, and a variety of organizations that further the Raelian and Elohim missions.
Raël’s version of Creation asserts that the first humans were originally “implanted” on earth by a team of Elohim scientists, who set up a laboratory on a barren planet. They then proceeded to create flora and fauna life and the very first “ Adams and Eves,” who were created from Elohim DNA. Vorilhon was chosen by the Elohim as their messenger to spread the message of humanity’s true origins and was given the new name of “ Raël .” For centuries, he reported being told, Yahweh had been selecting earthly women to impregnate whenever the planet needed a new prophet to point humanity in the right direction. The mothers were chosen for the purity of their genetic code (“virgin DNA”). They were beamed up into a UFO, impregnated, and then released with their memories erased.” Raël’s mission was to be the prophet of the “Age of Apocalypse” (the era since the detonation of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima), the one who will reveal the true origins and nature of human beings. This revelation will lead humanity away from the destructive abuse of science and technology (which threatens nuclear annihilation and environmental catastrophe) to a more positive and loving social system. The new system will trigger the return of the Elohim to Earth, accompanied by thirty-nine immortal prophets (e.g., Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed) before 2035. At that time humanity’s “fathers from space” will share their science and technology, which is “25,000 years in advance” of our own. The Elohim will bring us their advanced technology that will enable us to fly in space, exist as virtually immortal, and create new life forms in our own image.
Raelians revere the power of Science. Raël claims to have founded the world’s “first atheistic, scientific religion,” that is, a religion that has been purged of blind belief, superstition, “obscurantism” and mysticism. To this end, Raël has reinterpreted select passages in the Bible as primitive allegorical depictions of the technological achievements of the Elohim. Raël denies the existence of a Creator God, insisting, instead, that the (plural) “Elohim” of Genesis refers to a humanoid, extraterrestrial race who terraformed earth and created all life by means of biotechnology, using their own DNA as a blueprint for humankind. Raël rejects Darwinian evolution on the grounds that chance mutation coupled with natural selection is insufficient to explain the development of complex organisms. Raelians believe that all life is artificial, the product of “intelligent design” by superior extraterrestrial scientists. Consistent with Raelians’ advocacy of a scientific worldview, the movement supports the development of nuclear power, genetically modified crops, and genetic engineering of humans.
Raelian advocacy of human cloning is consistent with members’ enthusiasm for all forms of reproductive technology, and informs their approach to sexuality. Since the Elohim designed humans to enjoy life, heterosexual sex is free from the obligation to procreate, and Raël advocates the use of contraceptives as well as abortion. As Raël declares in Let’s Welcome Our Fathers from Space, “each individual has the right to do with their body as she or he sees fit” (Vorilhon 1986:86). Those with antinomian sexual tastes may use biological robots designed as sex slaves. Moreover, CLONAID offers its services to homosexual couples wanting children.
The Raelians’ initiation ritual is the Transmission of the Cellular Plan (or “Baptism”). Raël himself, or one of his Bishop guides, will dip his hand in water and place it on the initiate's forehead in order to transmit his/her genetic code to the Elohim's machines. The genetic code is then stored for the future cloning process, if the aspirant is deemed worthy. Prior to initiation, the initiates must first sign an “Act of Apostasy” renouncing their baptism in their former church as well as draft a will bequeathing their assets to their local Raelian Movement (in Canada it is now known as the “Raelian Church.” Raelians must also sign a contract with a local mortician so that their “third eye” (a chunk of frontal bone considered an essential ingredient for the recreation process) can be cut out upon their death, packed in ice and stored in a bank vault in Switzerland. Through this process the new member’s genetic code is telepathically transmitted to the Elohim by a Guide, ensuring the possibility of the member’s recreation after death on the Planet of the Eternals. These “baptisms” are performed four times a year, during the festivals that mark important the dates of human-Elohim contact in the year. The four festival dates are as follows: August 6 marks the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945; December 13 marks Raël’s first CEIII; October 7 marks Raels voyage to the Elohim’s planet; the first Sunday in April marks the day of the Elohim’s creation of Adam and Eve.
Raël claims that during his visit to the planet of the Elohim he was instructed in “sensual meditation,” a sensory awareness technique that activates psychic abilities and stimulates the growth of new neural pathways. He shared this technique with his followers in his 1980 book, La Meditation sensuelle. Raelians are advised to meditate daily to the instruction tape in order to cultivate telepathic communication with the Elohim and to cultivate a state of harmony with the universe through the daily ritual of “sensual meditation.” This practice evoked some controversy in France because it includes a hedonistic exercise in sexual stimulation. However, the high value that Raelians place on sexual stimulation reflects their belief that new brain cells will be generated and improved neural pathways will result. Moreover, sexual activity and a more general cultivation of sensuality are understood to be a path to mystical awareness of/oneness with the universe and telepathic communication with the Elohim ( Raël 1980).
The aims of the International Raelian Movement are twofold: To spread the Message (concerning humankind’s extraterrestrial and “scientific” origins) and to build the Embassy in Jerusalem that will receive and welcome the Elohim and thirty-nine immortal prophets.
There are two levels of membership in the International Raelian Movement. First, there are the rank-and–file “Raelians” who make up the majority of the membership and consist of loosely-affiliated, baptised members with varying degrees of commitment and engagement. This group includes those who embraced the Message when they were initiated or “baptized,” paid their annual dues and received the newsletter, Apocalypse. The higher level membership group is the "Structure." This group consists of the six-tiered leadership ranks, descending from Raël who is the "Guide of Guides," through the Bishop Guides, the Priest Guides, the Animators, the Assistant Animators, and the Probationers at the bottom. The committed guides make up the “Structure” and assist Rael in his mission.
Raël’s charismatic persona has escalated in the course of his writings. In his 1974 book (Le livre qui dit la verité) he presented himself as a contactee entrusted with a message. In his 1976 book (Extraterrestrials took me to their Planet), he reported how he was taken aboard the Elohim’s starship and flown to their planet, outside out solar system but within the same galaxy. In 1979, Raël revealed his messianic role in his book, Accueiller les extra-terrestres [Welcome Our Ancestors]. In this book he described with emotion how he encountered his true father, an extraterrestrial named Yahweh, during his visit to the planet of the Elohim. His father, in turn, introduced Raël to his half brothers, Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad. As Yahweh explained, throughout history, when humanity are in danger, a mortal woman is chosen on the basis of her “virgin DNA,” and is beamed up to his spaceship, inseminated and released with her memory erased. In 2003, Raël published The Maitreya, in which he revealed his new charismatic persona as the Maitreya, or incarnation of the Buddha. In that same year he appointed Brigitte Boisselier as his successor in recognition of the effective means she had found in spreading the Raelian message.
All members of the Raelian Movement are expected to donate a tenth of their income to the fund for the construction of the Embassy, as well one percent to support their Beloved Prophet, but this rule is not actually enforced. In order to maintain a pure genetic code, Raelians are not permitted to drink alcohol, caffeine, to smoke cigarettes, or to use recreational drugs. Members are encouraged to pursue sexual pleasure with many partners of either sex, since pleasure is believed to increase the individual’s intelligence. Since freedom of choice is highly valued, rape and pedophilia are strongly condemned and are punished by excommunication. Homoerotic love is valued also, and birth control, abortions and sex change operations are condoned. The marriage contract is not respected, and Raelian culture is not particularly sentimental concerning motherhood, nor child-friendly. Members of the Structure must choose between breeding or gaining personal immortality through the cloning process. Raelians who exit the movement and become prominent, career apostates have been punished by “demarking,” or cancellation of their transmission of the cellular code by Raël (at the bequest of the Elohim). Demarking at once excommunicates defectors and revokes their potential for immortality through cloning. Usually, however, the “excommunication” expires after seven years, which is he time Raelians believe it takes to regenerate the body’s cells. The penitent Realian is then offered a chance to rejoin the movement. Three bishops sit on the "Council of the Wise" that monitors heresy and sanctions rule breakers.
The Raelians’ policy is to rent space rather than to purchase property, and so there are no Raelian centers, although the movement has owned country estates, the first in Alby France, and the second in Valcourt, Quebec, where the summer seminars are held. These “Stages of Awakening” seminars are held at camps in rural settings in various countries. They feature daily lectures by Raël , sensual meditation, fasting and feasting, testimonials and avant-garde therapies. The campers discard clothing, in emulation of the Elohim, who are nudists on their planet, but wear name tags and white togas.
The Raelian Movement has created a number of other organizations through its history. In obedience the Elohim’s instructions, Raël created the Order of Raël ’s Angels in 1998. The women who volunteer are personally trained by Raël to please the Elohim and the 49 prophets on their return. Only Rael’s Angels will be allowed into the Embassy when the extraterrestrials land on earth, to act as ambassadors, negotiating between the Elohim and the world’s politicians and journalists. Consistent with Rael’s commitment to women’s sexual rights, he also formed Rael’s Girls, a group of women who work in the sex industry and lobby against restrictions on women’s sexual activity.
Raelians assert that he reason for this policy is that “the most feminine woman on earth is only 10% as feminine as the Elohim” (Palmer, 2004:140). In 1997, the Raelians opened UFOland in Valcourt, Quebec. UFOland functioned as a museum of ufological lore to raise funds for the eventual building of the Embassy and as a shrine to Raelian beliefs. The museum featured a fiber-glass model of the UFO that Raël reported had taken him to the planet of the Elohim, a large replica of a DNA structure, and a small donut-shaped maquette of the Embassy the Raelians aspire to construct in Jerusalem. UFOland was closed to the public in 2001. Raël supports the Elohim’s political system -- an elitist oligarchy not unlike Plato’s Guardians – the Geniocratie or “rule of geniuses” ( Raël 1977). In keeping with this philosophy, Raël founded a political party in France modeled on the Elohim system of government, called “la Géniocratie”. After he and his Guides, who were suspected in France of forming a neo-Nazi, “fascists” cell, became the target of police raids investigations, Raël decided to abandon the project.
The Raelian Movement has been involved in a series of controversies through its history. The symbol of the Raelian Movement, which Raël reports he first observed on the hull of the Elohim’s spaceship, is a swastika inside the Star of David. This symbol connotes the unity of infinity and eternity and is worn on a medallion by members, but caused opposition due to the presence of the swastika. In 1992, Raël announced that “out of respect for the victims of the Nazi holocaust” the symbol of the Raelian Movement was replaced by a daisy-shaped swirling galaxy symbol, representing the cycle of infinity in time.
The Raelians are well-known for their political and social activism. Among their causes are women’s rights, gay rights, anti-racism, the promotion of genetically modified foods, and the ban on nuclear testing. Raël also founded the Raelian Association of Sexual Minorities (ARAMIS), an association of men and women who are homosexuals, transsexuals or transgendered. Since 2009 the Raelians have been raising funds for the “Adopt a Clitoris” project, which focuses on the issue of female circumcision. They claim to be constructing a hospital in Africa where a French surgeon will restore women’s mutilated clitori. The Raelians’ stance on sexual expression and experimentation led to a series of stigmatizing news reports that Raël “preaches pedophilia” and the Raelians are practicing pedophiles. The Raelians then decided to make their position clearby founding NOPEDO, an association dedicated to warning the public about the dangers of pedophiles, and offering counseling for victims.
Shortly after the assassination of Raël ’s friend and follow ufologist, Jean Miguères, in 1992, wrote a book (Le Racisme religieux financé en France par le gouvernement Socialiste) condemning France’s government-sponsored anticult group, UNADFI, which Raël claims organizes “witch hunts” against philosophical minorities. In October 1992, he founded a human rights organization in Paris called FIREPHIM (la Fédération Internationale des Religions et Philosophies Minoritaires). FIREPHIM’s declared aim is to work to protect the rights of individuals who were members of France’s religious or philosophical minorities, to refer them to lawyers working to protect human rights, and to pursue newspapers and TV stations for defamation. In addition, FIREPHIM organized public demonstrations to protest “le racisme religieux.”
The Raelian Movement has officially disbanded in France and gone underground due to pressure from le fisc français (the French tax department). Between 1977 and 1981, the Mouvement Raelien Français had enjoyed the tax-exempt status of an association. However, the government passed a law in 1981 requiring that all associations pay tax on their commercial sales, and the French Raelian Movement was suddenly presented with an enormous bill on the sale of Raël ’s books. Raël refused to pay, claiming his movement was a real religion, unable to gain recognition as such in France. Raël ’s refusal notwithstanding, the TVA (taxe à la valuer ajoutée), or indirect tax, began to accrue. The French bishops feared it would double every year and cripple the movement. They therefore resorted to the drastic solution of disbanding and going underground.
The most widely publicized controversy involving the Raelian Movement was the “Baby Eve” episode. In 1997, shortly after Dr. Ian Wilmut announced the successful cloning of a lamb called “Dolly,” Raël set up a cloning company called Valiant Venture that offered cloning services (“Clonaid”) for investors. For $200,000 grieving parents, infertile and gay couples could apply for cloning services from Clonaid. Special services storing the DNA of loved ones were also available, like Clonapet, or in the case of the untimely death of beloved children, Insuraclone. One of the top female Raelian bishops, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, became the co-founder, director and leading spokesperson for Clonaid. Formerly the director of research for a French chemical company, Air Liquide, she “came out” as a Raelian in the French media in support of human cloning. She was promptly fired and moved to Quebec. A furious international debate ensued among world religious leaders including the Pope, eminent scientists, and distinguished ethicists concerning the ethics and philosophical implications of human cloning, and his debate was followed in the international media. A Florida attorney, Bernard Siegel, subpoenaed Thomas Kaenzig, the vice president of Clonaid, and "Jane Doe" (the mother of baby Eve) to appear in civil court on January 22, 2003. Siegel argued that if the baby existed, she would need an appointed guardian and extensive medical services which Clonaid could not offer (CNN 2003). In January, 2003, Boisselier held a press conference in Toronto where she announced that the parents had gone underground, after deciding to protect their baby from media exposure and scientific testing. Boisselier then continued to announce periodically the advent of more cloned babies in Holland, Japan, Australia and South Korea. At that point, the international journalists decided they were unwitting participants in an embarrassing hoax, and began to boycott the Raelian press conferences and ignore the Raelians’ new human rights projects (Palmer 2004:187-94). The controversy surrounding Baby Eve notwithstanding, the Raelians garnered substantial publicity. On January 19, 2003. Raël spoke at the monthly meeting in Montreal, stating that “I’ve informed the entire planet of my message” and thus his mission was “50% complete” -- thanks to the international media blitz following the baby Eve announcement.
The significance of the Baby Eve announcement remains mysterious. Raelian opinions range from agreeing it was a hoax to claiming there are clandestine cloned babies who will step forth some day. Another theory is that the purpose of the Baby Eve announcement was to “raise the public’s awareness so they will be ready for human cloning when it happens in the future.” For Raelians, human cloning is apocalyptic, even Neitzschean, for it means that man has become “god,”and that humanity is undergoing “elohimization.”
The overall status of the Raelian Movement remains contested. In 1995, a parliamentary commission issued a report through the National Assembly of France that categorized the Raelian Movement as a "secte" (French term for “cult”). In 1997, a parliamentary inquiry commission issued a report through the Belgian Chamber of Representatives that categorized the Mouvement Raëlien Belge as a “secte.” Glenn McGee, the associate director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Virginia, states that part of the Raelian sect is a cult while the other part is a commercial website that collects large sums of money from those interested in human cloning. However, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the United States Department of State have classified the International Raëlian Movement as a religion.
CNN. 2003. "Clonaid Summoned to U.S. Court, January 12. Accessed from http://articles.cnn.com/2003-01-12/justice/cloning.court_1_clonaid-thomas-kaenzig-human-clone?_s=PM:LAW on February 22, 2012.
Palmer, Susan J. 2004. Aliens Adored : Raël’ s UFO Religion . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Raël. 1974. Le livre qui dit la Vérité. Clermont Ferrand: Les Editions du Message.
Raël. La Géniocratie. 1977. La Negrerie, 24310: Brantôme:Édition du message.
Raël. 1979. Accueiller les extra-terrestres. Japan: La Fondation Raëlienne.
Raël . 1980. La Meditation Sensuelle. Vaduz :Fondation Raelienne.
Raël. 1992. Le Racisme religieux financé par le gouvernement socialiste. Genève: La fondation Raëlienne.
Raël. 2001. Yes to Human Cloning. Florida: Raelian Foundation, 2001.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION SOURCES
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Habermas, Jürgen. 1970. Toward a Rational Society, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon.
Hutin, Serge. 1970. Hommes et civilisations fantastiques. Paris :Éditions J'ai lu.
Palmer, Susan J. 1995. "The Raelian Movement."In The Gods Have Landed, edited by James R. Lewis. New York: SUNY Press.
Palmer, Susan J. 2005. “The Raelians: Concocting Controversy.” Pp. 381-86 in Controversial New Religions edited by James R. Lewis, New York: Oxford University Press.
Palmer, Susan J. 2000. Il Raeliani. Torino, Italy: Editrice ELLEDICI.
Raël. 1975. Les extraterrestres m’ont emmené sur leur planète . Brantôme : Les Editions du Message.
Rothstein, Mikhail. 2008. “The Myth of the UFO in Global Perspective: A Cognitive Analysis.” Pp. 133-149 in New Religions and Globalization, edited by Armin Geertz and Margit Warburg. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.
Sendy, Jean. 1972. La Lune, clé de la Bible. Paris : Éditions R. Julliard.
Vallee, Jacques. 1965. Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Chicago: Henry Regnery.
Susan J. Palmer
20 February 2012