MSR: REL 195B (01)
The International Raelian Religion
Keywords: Elohim, Claude Vorilhon, Cloning, Sensual Meditation, the Infinite, the Embassy
The practice of Raelianism is a contemporary spiritual phenomenon that first arose after Claude Vorilhon’s report of an encounter with extra-terrestrials in France in 1973. Denying the existence of an autonomous God, Raelianism recognizes the Elohim, man’s alien Creators, as the source of human life, its purpose, and its eternal well-being. Made in the Elohim’s image, man’s time on Earth is to be spent pursuing greater knowledge of infinite life, which Raelians believe lies in DNA. Through the mastery of cloning, Raelians are confident that they can achieve eternal life and thus reunite with their extra-terrestrial Creators for Infinity. This set of beliefs, which comprise the International Raelian Religion, emphasizes science and its vital role in each person’s eternal life. However, the science of cloning is itself a controversial practice subject to abundant ethical debate today. Nevertheless, Raelianism looks to this practice for spiritual fulfillment, fusing science and faith in a complexly constructed system of beliefs.
II.Scope and Purpose of the System
The International Raelian Religion identifies itself as an atheist movement centered on the belief that human life on Earth is the product of the Elohim, extra-terrestrials from outer space. Members of this system believe that the ancient Hebrew term “Elohim” was inaccurately translated as “God” when it in fact means “those who came from the sky” (Raelians 1). The Elohim are responsible for sending the all the great prophets, including Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and Buddha. The beliefs of this system come from the revelation of Claude Vorilhon, who in 1973 experienced a visit from an alien that assigned him the responsibility of sharing with the world the true source of human existence. Vorilhon is the last prophet that the Elohim have elected to spread their message, and upon assuming this role, he accepted the title they gave him – “Rael.” The account of his revelation and the details of Raelian beliefs are in the series of books that Rael has since written. The primary purposes of this system are to master the practice of cloning, and in turn, to achieve immortality. Raelians believe in the human soul, which they think lives on only as long as the human body exists. Thus eternal life relies on DNA technology and cloning, which when perfected will enable the recreation of the human body, supplying mankind with immortality (Raelians 10). Humans must build an Embassy on Earth where the Elohim can safely come to share with men their advanced understandings and practices of cloning. This return will be a milestone that facilitates human cloning and thus ensures man’s immortal existence with the Elohim.
As an international system, the Raelian Religion pertains to all people, and its current membership is worldwide. Raelians believe that the “values conveyed by traditional religions no longer correspond to present-day life, and yet humans have a fundamental need for spirituality” (www.rael.org). Rael alleges that whereas religions such as Christianity and Buddhism do not address pressing issues within contemporary society, Raelianism provides “values which are perfectly in tune with the 21st century; accepting divorce, contraception, abortion, assisted suicide for the terminally ill, acceptance of personal sexuality and relationship choices, and marriages for male and female priests” (www.rael.org). Thereby this system strives to make itself available and acceptable to all people.
a. Sources and Criteria of Valid Knowledge
The primary source of knowledge in Raelianism is the prophet Rael, whom the Elohim assigned in 1973 as the vehicle through which they could communicate their role and teachings to mankind. In his first book, which records his first encounter with an Eloha, he describes how the Elohim define his role as prophet:
You will tell human beings about this meeting but you will tell them the truth about what they are, and about what we are. . . . Wait until you know everything before you start speaking publicly. Then you will be able to defend yourself properly against those people who will not believe you and you will be able to bring them incontestable proof. You will write down everything I tell you and publish the writings as a book” (The Book Which Tells the Truth 17).
The Eloha’s commands here indicate Rael’s authoritative role in relaying knowledge of the Elohim to humans on Earth. Moreover, the Elohim chose him alone to record and teach their message: “I have chosen you for a very difficult mission, and I have many things to tell you” (16). Rael’s encounter with the Eloha depicts him as the single, living source of insight regarding the Elohim, their message, and their teachings. Although Raelianism is atheistic, defining its concept of God as “a concept without identity, and without consciousness of our own existence, or any other for that matter,” Rael’s encounters with the Eloha are quasi-divine experiences. While the Elohim do not claim specifically the titles of gods, they do claim to be the Creators of mankind, the source of all wisdom, and the key to immortality. Thus Rael’s texts are in a sense sacred scripture, the products of his mystical experience with a representative of his quasi-divine, otherworldly creators. Raelians must look to Rael’s recorded experiences and elaborated interpretations of those experiences as the authoritative source of valid knowledge within their system of beliefs.
Important to note here is that historically prominent prophets such as Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha were all servants of the Elohim. Providing communication between humans and their creators, these “prophets were instructed by the Elohim to educate humanity with messages particularly adapted to the time and culture of a certain society” (Raelians 9). In fact, the Eloha that Rael encountered in 1973 instructed him to bring his Bible to their later meetings, stating that the Bible features traces of the Elohim’s original creation of mankind. However, because of the mistranslation of “Elohim” as “God,” the Bible’s record of creation in Genesis is inaccurate as a whole. Yet when “Elohim” is read as “those who came from the sky,” portions of the Genesis story illustrate the actual events of the Elohim’s creation of man. Such traces as those in the Bible exist in other religious texts as well:
Traces of this epic masterpiece of creation can be found in all religious
writings. . . . testimonies can be found in practically every religion. . . . almost all religious books allude to us with varying degrees of clarity. . . . It would take many pages to name all the religions and sects that testify in a more or less obscure way to our work (The Final Message 80).
While these texts serve as supplementary reference points, they do not, however, hold authority as collective texts. This authority lies in the works of Rael alone, for his are the only texts that record the complete and accurate account of the Elohim’s authorial role in human creation.
b. Methods of Inquiry
In order for the reunion of the Elohim and mankind to occur, people on Earth must “show proof of wisdom and succeed in avoiding self-destruction,” enabling the message of Raelianism to continue to spread (Let’s Welcome 42). Rael teaches that this “path of wisdom” lies only in the Elohim’s religion – “the Infinite” (42). In order for men to reach this path, they must live in harmony with the Infinite. This method of living was related to Rael by the Elohim and is now taught to believers by Raelian Guides.
The primary technique that Raelians use is Sensual Meditation, a practice that redirects followers’ focus:
people start questioning all their values and consequent actions,. . . so as to be able to decondition oneself, uninhibit oneself and appreciate the present in a much deeper way, enjoying every sensation with a maximum of pleasure and love without the paralysis of society’s guilt (www.rael.org).
While many accuse Sensual Meditation of being glorified sexual practices, Rael asserts that through these meditative practices one is able to “raise his level of consciousness, to refine his perception of the electrochemical reactions and interchanges produced in his brain” (42). Such experiences provide the individual with pleasure of the senses, which Rael states are man’s link to the Infinite. Meditation thus allows one to experience awakenings into the Infinite, freeing the individual from society’s subconsciously implanted attitudes and demeanors. Thus Raelians rely on Rael’s texts and instructors as means of acquiring greater knowledge of their religion. Scientific experiment is also an important method of acquiring knowledge for Raelians. Through experimentation with DNA and cloning, Raelians believe that they can reunite with the Elohim and attain immortality.
Raelians’ ability to prove that practices such as meditation and research render heightened knowledge is rather difficult because their beliefs rely fundamentally on faith. Just as Christians place their faith in Jesus and the Muslims in Muhammad, Raelians place their faith in the validity of Rael’s encounter with the Eloha. The Raelians cannot definitively prove the existence of extra-terrestrials, the exchange between Rael and the Eloha, or the rewards of Sensual Meditation. Rather, they partially measure the validity of their religion by their belief in its creators’ exchanges with Earth in recent times: “The mere fact that people, twenty-five thousand years ahead of us scientifically, are still faithful to this religion, is the proof that this is the absolute religion” (Let’s Welcome 43). While the Elohim are not divine in the same sense that God is divine, “the belief in transmission of DNA is based on faith in the technologically advanced society of Elohim. The Elohim are therefore taking on the role of the supernatural even though their abilities may be grounded in science” (Raelians 8). Raelianism is thus the “perfect meeting of science and religion,” allowing Raelians to claim scientific advances as proof of their beliefs. The portion of this paper entitled “Representative Examples of Argumentation” will go into these claims with further detail.
c. Institutions and Professional Structure
The Raelian Religion is divided into two main structures to assist its continued spread. These two structures are the National Raelian Movements, which exist in separate countries and somewhat serve as outreach programs, and the International Raelian Movement. One can join a National Raelian Movement without sharing the beliefs of Raelianism and without paying any membership fees. National Raelian membership provides one with opportunities to learn of the Elohim teachings, which emphasize the development of one’s true potential in addition to the understanding of cloning’s importance. Furthermore, such membership offers both believers and non-believers with meeting places for instruction, meditation, and fellowship. On the other hand, the International Raelian Movement is for professed believers who want to take an active part in the spreading of Raelianism worldwide. Both of these Movements are non-profit and together form the world’s largest UFO-related organization, claiming a membership of 55,000 people in 84 countries (www.rael.org).
Rael is the institution’s central authority, overseeing the 130 Raelian Guides, who are trained in the teachings of the Elohim and are regarded as professional teachers of Sensual Meditation techniques. They are to seek the path of wisdom through meditation just as other believers. Thus in a sense, these Guides collectively comprise Raelianism’s clergy, and their service is entirely voluntary. All money that believers offer to Raelianism goes to the movement’s efforts to translate its Messages of the Elohim into every language and to build an Embassy where the Elohim can safely land on Earth. When these goals are achieved, additional money will go towards building a scientific research facility next to the Embassy, which will be built in Israel (Let’s Welcome 22).
As previously stated, Raelianism originates in Claude Vorilhon’s encounter with an extra-terrestial, or Eloha, in France in 1973. He was on his way to his office, where he worked as a journalist for a race-car magazine, when he decided to take a detour instead and visit a volcano in Auvergne, France. After enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the volcano, called Puy-de-Lassolas, he saw a saucer with a diameter of 7 meters and a height of 2.5 meters descending towards him. An Eloha came out of the saucer, addressed Vorilhon, and convinced him to enter the saucer, where the Eloha related to him the existence of the Elohim, their role as mankind’s creators, and the importance of the message being spread worldwide. Vorilhon, renamed Rael by the Elohim, became their prophet and shared a series of meetings with the Eloha, during which he recorded all that the Elohim wanted mankind to know about its origin, its future, and its role in securing this future. Rael’s experience with the Eloha and the recordings he took away from it comprise the first of Rael’s works, The Message Given to Me by Extra-Terrestrials (1978). Since this first book, Rael has written a series of others, including Let’s Welcome Our Fathers from Outer Space (1986), which supplies additional explanations of Raelian theology and detailed accounts of Raelians’ conversion experiences, and Yes to Cloning, which provides a detailed defense of why Raelians advocate the practice of cloning.
The context of Raelianism’s origin, namely the UFO Movement, is important to note as well. According to religious scholar Robert Ellwood, the UFO Movement, which began in the mid-twentieth century, was not accidentally accompanied by the development of new spiritual movements: “Both [UFOism and spiritualism] presuppose an order of spiritually significant beings between the human and ultimate reality, with which one can have conversational and disciplic relationships. . . They open up a sense of expanded consciousness and cosmic wonder” (Raelians 2). UFO sightings began in the latter 1940s. Raelianism is tied to the UFO Movement because Rael claims his selection as Elohim’s prophet was partly due to the fact that he was born the year after Hiroshima : “Although the Raelian Religion was not begun until 1973, it embraces visions of world peace and an end to atomic war material, ideas which are rooted in the post WWII era” (Raelians 5). Akin to UFO watchers, the Raelian Religion faithfully awaits interaction with extra-terrestrials from space. The difference between these watchers and Raelists is that Raelists do not wish to be abducted but rather anticipate the Elohim’s arrival on Earth to reclaim their creation.
Since 1973, Raelianism has spread worldwide with a large portion of its 40,000+ members living France, Canada, and Japan (Raelians 3). By 1997, the Movement’s members had donated 7 million dollars towards the Embassy’s construction, which Israel still refuses to allow on its own soil. The Movement is still seeking access to a neutral plot of land in Israel, but if no progress is made, Rael is considering Palestine as a second option. Also in 1997, Raelians formed the Valiant Venture, Ltd., which offers the enterprise Clonaid, a service through which homosexual and infertile couples have the opportunity to clone a child from one partner’s DNA (Raelians 3). In late 2002, the Raelian Movement announced that it had succeeded in cloning the first human baby. However, evidence of this claim has yet to be disclosed to the public.
As “the perfect meeting of science and religion,” Raelianism seeks the use of scientific progress in proving its claims of the Elohim as man’s creators and DNA as the solution to mortality. For example, biblical prophesies about the Apocalyptic age claim that such miracles as the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, and the crippled regaining use of their limbs will occur. Let’s Welcome Our Fathers from Outer Space cites arguments that demonstrate how advances in science and medicine have enabled these events to occur through the means of laser technology and electronic prosthesis. Such technological developments prove that mankind is currently in the Age of Apocalypse and that Raelian science is the source of immortality with which man can reach the Golden Age of infinite life.
In order to obtain eternal life, Raelians believe that the practice of cloning must be mastered. Because there is no God with consciousness of man’s existence, Raelians look to their creators, the Elohim, for access to the infinite. As Rael notes, because human life comes from extra-terrestrials and not from a deity, man’s soul is not invisible and ethereal but material and controllable. This soul is genetic code, or DNA, which Rael describes as giving human life a planned future: “[T]here is no autonomous soul flying from the body after death, but there is the genetic code which allows access to eternal life” (41). Rael selectively cites passages from the Bible to support this belief. Citing Genesis 9:4-5, he argues that even the Bible states that both man and beast possess the same type of soul: “But flesh with its soul, that is, its blood, you shall not eat. Surely I will require an account of your life’s blood; from every beast I will require it, and from man; from every man I will require the life soul of his fellow.” Another example of his selective utilization of biblical texts for Raelian doctrine is Leviticus 17:11, which states, “Since the soul of a living body is in its blood.” (However, in contrast to the version of the Bible that Rael cites, the NIV translation of Leviticus 17:11 states: “For the life of a creation is in the blood.” While the two readings are similar, there can be vast differences between the terms “soul” and “life.” Many in opposition to Raelianism’s biblical interpretations maintain that the Bible’s use of the term “life” pertains to man’s earthly existence.) Nevertheless, Rael uses these two Old Testament passages to defend his claim that man’s soul is not an ethereal, everlasting entity but rather a tangible, inherently mortal substance – blood. This understanding of the soul as genetic offers Raelians ample reason for pursuing the practice of cloning and defending it as a valid, necessary science.
While the debate over cloning is just one facet of Raelianism, the more basic argument over the existence of aliens is another predominant topic of discussion today. In addition to Rael’s personal encounter with the Eloha in 1973, he cites passages from the Bible that allude to the presence of aliens throughout history (www.rael.org). For example, he asserts that the cluster of clouds guiding the Hebrews by day and the pillar of fire guiding them by night during the Exodus out of Egypt was in fact the presence of the aliens (Exodus 13-21). Furthermore, Raelians believe that the star that guided the three wise men to the place of Jesus’ birth was also the workings of their alien fathers (Matthew 2:2). Rael insists that the sacred texts of the world’s religions have merely been mistranslated and misinterpreted, leading to mankind’s unawareness of their Elohim Creators, which in fact make themselves known within these very texts.
VI. Suggested Position in Comparative Scales
A. Tradition (1) --- experience (10): 5
In comparison to other systems, the Raelian system of belief is a blend of tradition and experience. Its members place emphasis on the traditional practices of Sensual Meditation and scientific research as well as the pleasure and cloning technology that they receive from these practices, respectively.
B. Centralized authority (1) --- decentralized authority (10): 3
Rael is the central authority of this religion, and his encounters with the Elohim are recognized as the sole interactions thus far between man and extra-terrestrials in contemporary Raelianism. However, he has given some authority to the meditation guides and scientists, whose efforts are vital to members’ efforts at achieving immortality.
C. Emphasis on the invisible realm (1) --- visible realities (10): 2/3
The Elohim are not invisible, for like man, they are tangible and living creatures not of the divine realm. However, because only Rael has yet to have actually interacted with them, members of Raelianism must in some sense regard them as being of an unseen reality. Scientific advancements that fulfill prophecies of the Age of Apocalypse, however, place emphasis on visible realities, such as healing the blind and the crippled and cloning earthly creatures. Thus their commitments to this system of belief are based on both faith and sight.
D. Spiritual/moral goal (1) --- pragmatic objectives (10): 6
Raelianism has moral goals in that its members are instructed to seek out wisdom and love through meditation. This system also emphasizes pursuits of world peace and unity so that the Elohim will return to Earth. Yet its ultimate objective of immortality is sought through overridingly pragmatic methods, namely scientific research of cloning. The concept of immortality in Raelianism is more of a pragmatic goal than a spiritual one in that it is not primarily reliant on a deity or a deity’s intervention.
E. Primarily divine power (1) --- individual power (10): 5
While the Elohim are not divine, their role as man’s Creators and their expertise in the field of cloning make them a power that Raelians seek out in their religious pursuits. However, the efforts of science and the pleasure and wisdom reaped through meditation allot men with individual power as well.
Rael. Let’s Welcome Our Fathers From Space. Tokyo: AOM Corporation, 1986.
This source provides insight into a wide variety of issues that pertain to Raelianism, and Rael answers commonly debated issues of the system’s beliefs, including the roles of the Bible and cloning to Raelianism. The book helped me in my discussions of such topics.
Rael. The Final Message. London: The Tagman Press, 1998.
This text records Rael’s encounters with the Elohim and the teachers he received through them. It was useful in providing a clear and detailed account of Rael’s revelation of the nature of human kind as Elohim’s creation.
Rael. The Book Which Tells The Truth. 12 March 2003 <http://www.rael.org>
I used the first several pages from this text, which were provided online and describe Rael’s first encounter with the Elohim in France. These pages offer the dialogue exchanged between Rael and the Eloha, which aids my discussion of Rael’s role as Raelianim’s single living and authoritative prophet.
The Raelian Revolution. 2002. 12 March 2003 <http://www.rael.org>
This website, which serves as an official homepage of the Raelian religion, provides information on the system of belief’s organization, philosophy, history, authoritative texts, and worldwide missions. It provided me with a greater understanding of Raelianism’s objectives and outreach.
Whittemore, Faye. Raelians. 4 Nov 2001. University of Virginia. 12 March 2003 <http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/rael.html>
This website was very resourceful, providing an overview of Raelianism’s origins, practices, rituals, and controversial stances in the contemporary world. I used this site frequently throughout my paper, citing it in my discussions of Raelianism’s authoritative knowledge, history, and proof arguments.