cult, best known for its claims that it has cloned human beings.
Who are the Raelians?
The Raelian movement is the founder of the Clonaid company which claims to have produced the first cloned baby
The movement claims to have about 40,000 members in several countries, although the number is difficult to verify.
The sect, which believes humans were created by extra-terrestrial beings who had mastered genetic engineering, was founded in France in 1973 by a former journalist who worked for a racing car magazine.
One December morning in 1973, journalist Claude Vorilhon was on his way to work in the French provincial town of Clermont-Ferrand.
But - according to a book written by Mr Vorilhon, who is now known as Rael - instead of going to the office, on an impulse, he drove to a nearby volcano.
There, he says, he was contacted by an extra-terrestrial being who emerged from a flying saucer and told him - in fluent French - that humans were created in laboratories by people from another planet.
The creators were known as the Elohim - a word which, in ancient Hebrew, meant "those who came from the sky".
It is used in Jewish prayers to refer to God.
Mr Vorilhon was told to spread the word of the Elohim on Earth in preparation for their return.
He describes them as being little over a metre in height, with pale green skin, almond-shaped eyes and long dark hair.
Since then the Raelians have grown into an international movement. Rael himself has reportedly relocated to the United States after complaining of harassment by the French authorities.
The Raelians' interest in cloning seems to stem from their belief that the human soul perishes when the body dies.
Therefore, they believe, the key to eternal life is not the soul but the recreation of individuals from their DNA.
In 1997, the group founded Clonaid, which now says it has cloned a human being.
In 1990, the Raelians changed their symbol, originally a Swastika inside a Star of David.
The idea was to improve relations with Israel and persuade the government there to let them build an embassy for the Elohim in Jerusalem.
According to claims
by the Raelian Religion, ''On the 13th of December 1973, French journalist Claude Vorilhon (now called Rael) was contacted by a visitor from an other planet, and asked to establish an embassy to welcome these people back to Earth. The extra-terrestrial was about four feet in height, had long black hair, almond shaped eyes, olive skin and exuded harmony and humor. He told Rael that 'we were the ones who made all life on earth, you mistook us for Gods, we were at the origin of your main religions. Now that you are mature enough to understand this, we would like to enter official contact through an embassy''' (...). In the days following, Vorilhon-Rael (Rael being the name given to him by the space visitor) allegedly ''received commentaries on the most significant parts of the Bible'' (Jacques Vallee, Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults
, p. 143). These teachings by the extra-terrestrial and notes taken by Rael were later published in his book, The Messages Given to Me by Extra-Terrestrials (...). It is also claimed that Rael was visited a second time two years after his first visitation, again in France. However, this time the space visitors took Rael aboard their space ship to the planet where they lived.
Faithful to his commission, Rael has established a movement to spread the message of the Elohim and to build an embassy to welcome the extra-terrestrials back to earth. The message in large part explains who the Elohim are and how life on Earth came to be. Also, it is important for the embassy to be built in order for the Elohim to return to earth and share their scientific expertise. It has been revealed that the Elohim ''will only come when we build their embassy, such is their love and respect for us'' (...)
Despite the bizarre message of Rael, the Raelian Religion, from its beginning in 1973, has found a large following since he first had the alleged extra-terrestrial encounters.
Rael is actually
Claude Vorilhon, a former French automobile journalist, who explains in his book, The True Face of God, that he was taken to the planet Elohim in a flying saucer in 1975 and introduced to such noted earthlings as Jesus, Buddha, Joseph Smith and Confucius. The Elohim, small human-shaped beings with pale green skin and almond eyes, were apparently the original inspiration for the Judeo-Christian god. They informed Vorilhon that he was the final prophet -- sent to relay a message of peace and sensual meditation to humankind under his new name of Rael -- before the Elohim would return to Jerusalem in the year 2025. They didn't however, oblige him to give up race-car driving, and Rael spent much of the '80s and '90s whipping around the world's racetracks in his beloved Mazda RX 7 Turbo. (Now in his early 50s, he's in semi-retirment from the stock-car tracks, although he's been known to enliven his speeches with videos of past racing exploits.) The theme of tonight's lecture, cloning, seems to be linked to Rael's conviction that the human race was created in the laboratory from the DNA of aliens, 25,000 years ago.
A friend of mine who spent a week in a Raelian Sensual Meditation camp in the Quebec countryside, came back with a mixed report of the experience, which sounded like a cross between a nudist camp and a New Age retreat. The rules were simple: Everybody was free to say not to a sexual invitation, nobody had the right to feel jealous or possessive if their lover desired another, and the wearing of condoms was mandatory. The place was filled with gay men, girls fresh off the plane from Japan, Swiss women walking around naked -- and far too many Quebecois studs for my friend's taste.
Like the Rajneeshi before them, the Raelian Movement is essentially a lifestyle cult. In increasingly irreligious Catholic societies, Rael's success seems to derive from offering a structured environment for decadent behaviour: He offers a no-guilt playground for hedonism and sexual experimentation.
Concerning the extraterrestrial being
of Elohim, who is supposed to save us, Rael wrote in an apocalyptic
style, "To die for Elohim, that is the most beautiful thing that this planet has to offer. It is the key to Allah's garden or to the planet of perpetuity."
The adherents of the UFO sect, which is active worldwide, believe that the cosmic super-being of Elohim will soon arrive with UFOs and liberate people who have the proper awareness from their earthly valley of sorrow. So it is no coincidence that the magazine in which Rael makes his revelations bears the name "Apocalypse" (Nr. 101). The title and the program are the same.
The Raelian movement is represented in 50 countries on all five continents and has been especially active in Zurich for several years. The UFO sect made headlines in Summer of 1997 because it announced that it would soon clone people. Whoever wants a duplicate of himself can order one for $200,000.
The Swiss adherents have introduced themselves at the Federal Assembly and have already demanded diplomatic status for Elohim. Besides that they want the government to erect a UFO landing field and an ambassador's residence. Otto Stich, who was then a member of the Federal Assembly, responded by asking if Elohim, as a counter-gesture, would be willing to establish a Swiss embassy on his planet. Since then a diplomatic news black-out has been in effect.
In his books, Rael claimed to have founded a company named Clonaid. This company, Rael says, was funded by Mark Hunt and based in the Bahamas. After the government closed down its labs, Brigitte Boisselier set up another company, also named Clonaid. Rael claims he does not have any knowledge of, or influence over, the current Clonaid.
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