Sun Media reporter Brigitte McCann and photographer Chantal Poirier infiltrated the Raelians over a nine-month period and have put to paper the inside story of this bizarre sect.
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A group headed by manipulators thirsting for media attention. A guru who is on the verge of losing his grip. Followers who are ready to give up their lives. If you think the Raelians are inoffensive clowns, you’d better think again.
This is what Sun Media discovered when it infiltrated the Raelian religious sect for nine months. No reporters have gone this far to uncover what this organization is all about.
During the next five days, we will take you inside this so-called “atheist religion.”
The Raelian movement captured world attention last December with bold claims its scientists would soon deliver the first human clone — a girl, named Eve — within weeks. No proof was ever furnished.
Claude Vorilhon, a former race-car driver and founder of the Raelians, later boasted that media coverage garnered his organization about $500-million worth of publicity.
“This event saved me 20 years of work,” he said.
But the guru known as Rael tells his indoctrinated disciples that his own life is constantly threatened by so-called conspiracies fomented by the CIA and the French secret service.
Sun Media learned through confidential documents and interviewing one of Rael’s “angels” that several women have committed themselves to die if needed to protect their “beloved prophet.”
The results of our investigation alarmed Dianne Casoni, a psychologist/criminologist specializing in cult organizations.
“We mustn’t be naive and believe that the Raelians form a run-of-the-mill group,” says the University of Montreal professor.
The “paranoid attitude” recently adopted by the cult leader prompts Casoni to fear the worst.
Reporter Brigitte McCann and photographer Chantal Poirier got a taste of the Raelians’ siege mentality during a two-week “awakening” seminar last summer at the movement’s headquarters in Maricourt, Que. in the Eastern Townships.
They succeeded in mingling with women ready to offer their eggs to help Brigitte Boisselier, head of the Raelians’ Clonaid organization, launch so-called new experiments in the area of human cell culture.
Our reporters went as far as their sense of decency would allow to witness the Raelians’ strange custom of “sensual meditation.”
Always incognito, McCann and Poirier were submitted to a troubling secret interrogation aimed at testing their faith in “their prophet.”
According to Casoni, this was clearly an intimidation and control tactic targeting the disciples.
Essentially, the objective of these control measures is to get the most money possible out of their followers.
In less than 10 months, living as a Raelian cost our reporter more than $2,000.
Claude Vorilhon, head of the worldwide Raelian movement, warns he’s been targeted for death by the CIA and the French secret service for leading his dangerous “atheistic religion.”
Sun Media reporter Brigitte McCann and photographer Chantal Poirier infiltrated the bizarre sect over a nine-month period and were put to the test of their loyalty.
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Constantly surrounded by bodyguards, Claude Vorilhon is convinced that he’s the target of numerous assassination plots. The prophet known to his followers as Rael wants his disciples to share his paranoia that George Bush and Jacques Chirac themselves want his skin.
“There’s a strong chance I’ll be the next victim of an assassination attempt,” proclaims Vorilhon in the weekly Contact magazine published for Raelian members.
“And the fact that we’re talking about it here today is one of the means of trying to avoid it,” he continues.
Vorilhon is a former race-car driver and journalist who created the Raelian Movement, which he calls “an atheistic religion,” in 1973. He says he was visited by aliens in France who told him they were the “Elohim” mentioned in the Bible and had created the human race through cloning. Today his movement boasts 55,000 members in 84 countries.
Vorilhon claims the secret service of France and America’s CIA have been trying to eliminate him because he’s dangerous. The name of their secret extermination operation: The Abraham Project.
According to his theory, the mentally ill would be used as agents to assassinate him and carry out other crimes. Schizophrenics would obey voices emitted by audio systems secretly installed in their homes.
That would explain why a mentally ill person ransacked the Raelian church campground in November 2002, according to the guru. It was a test of their methods.
The former journalist goes as far as citing an alleged directive of U.S. President George Bush: “I want the skin of this Rael who preaches atheism at all costs.”
“If I’m assassinated next by a mentally ill person,” concludes Rael, “you must cry out loud and strong what’s behind all that and that you’ve made investigations that unmask those responsible who are extremely high-placed in France and the United States.”
The Raelians don’t bat an eye hearing about such presumed plots. There is even one who hopes that it will happen.
“That would be good if one day Rael was killed or died,” says Pierre Bolduc, a friend of Rael’s since his arrival in Quebec 25 years ago.
“Because if he died, there wouldn’t be any further chance that one day he would deny all that he’s taught the last 20 years — his meeting with the Elohims and all that. Jesus wasn’t crucified for nothing!” he says.
The Raelian movement already shows signs of going off the rails which brings to mind the deaths of 10 members of the Order of the Sun Temple in Quebec in the 1990s.
That’s the opinion of Dianne Casoni, a renowned psychologist and criminologist who specializes in religious sects, after reviewing material gathered by Sun Media.
“Generally, it’s the mental health and the moral judgment of the leader that’s the greatest protection against loss of control,” says the University of Montreal professor.
Rael is already showing signs of paranoia anxiety — security guards are omnipresent and he has written about his fear of assassination.
“What worries me the most is when conspiracy theories develop,” Casoni explains. “The group says to itself, ‘We’re in danger, we have to protect ourselves,’ and sometimes it becomes, ‘We have to fight back’ and that’s when things can go on the skids.”
She recalls that religious cult leader Jim Jones constantly obliged his disciples to move before his paranoia resulted in the collective suicide of 912 members of his sect, the Temple of the People, in Guyana in 1978.
Another disturbing fact is Claude Vorilhon, Rael, is tightening his hold over his disciples more and more. The creation of the Order of the Angels, the women in his service, is an example.
“From year to year we see an increase in the assertion of Rael’s authority,” says Alain Bouchard, a sociologist observing the Raelian movement.
“He’s really starting to take himself more seriously,” he adds. “His ego’s growing.”
“It worries me to see that there’s a growth in the level of control and Continued from previous page
unreasonable demands,” says Mike Kropveld, director of Info-Sect.
Claude Vorilhon himself admitted the potential danger of a movement going in the wrong direction, following the first collective suicides of Sun Temple in 1994.
“No one is protected from a loss of control,” he told Le Journal de Montreal at the time. “Jesus said: ‘Love one another’ and Catholicism produced the Inquisition. We shouldn’t be shocked by anything then.”
Seventy-four members of the Order of the Sun Temple were killed or committed suicide in three countries from 1994 to 1997.
Ten died in Quebec.
For now, the effects on the members of the leader’s paranoia of the leader is limited to the sort of feelings you’d get from a horror film, according to Bouchard.
“The members are afraid; it’s created a thrill and a cohesion in the group so everyone is satisfied,” he says. “When they begin to construct bunkers, that’s when we should be worried.”
But things could become complicated the day the leader faces the crumbling of his movement, warns Casoni.
That could already be happening, for in spite the pretensions of Rael, “the membership of the movement has been stagnating for the past 20 years,” Bouchard points out.
The leader will then have two choices — to accept the dissolution of his group or to adopt the hard line, only keeping the core of his group.
“In the end with the Order of the Sun Temple, only the most committed members killed themselves,” recalls Casoni.
The elite Angels of Rael have the obligation of more than serving their prophet. They must die for him if necessary.
A statement entitled “Last Messages” is entrusted to all Raelians interested in joining the Angels of Rael. It eloquently indicates they must be ready to be of service to the Elohim (extraterrestrials) and the prophets (Rael) without any restrictions, including sexuality.
“The privilege of being near them” is reserved to those who want to give everything, “including their own lives if that is necessary to protect them,” says the statement.
The document even demands those senior among the Angels to fill in a new form of adherence to make their choice.
“For the Angels of Rael, the Elohim and their Messenger come above everything. These are the individuals who are ready to sacrifice everything for them … even their lives,” we can read in a second document given to the Angels.
An Angel for the past five years, Sandrine, 40, takes her commitment very seriously. When asked if she is ready to die if the security of her prophet is put in danger, she answers without hesitation.
“Absolutely!” replies the slim brunette when questioned at UFOland this past summer by an undercover Sun Media reporter.
“And I would do it for you, too, if there was an injustice,” she adds eagerly and convincingly.
In principal, only Rael can decide if such a sacrifice is necessary or not, since in the eyes of his disciples, he is the only one in contact with the Elohims.
Could he proclaim one day that the Elohims asked him telepathically for a sacrifice?
“Before getting to that point, it would be necessary to first have preliminary signs,” asserts Alain Bouchard, sociologist of religions at the University of Laval.
For now, everything supports the belief that it’s only about a symbolic commitment.
Some are concerned the lives of these women could, however, be put in danger in the future.
“If things start going downhill, that which was symbolic could be required,” warns Dianne Casoni.
“It’s disturbing to make this type of demand on people,” says Mike Kropveld.
Curiously enough, Kropveld tends to think that there’s nothing to be alarmed about. “It’s one of the most transparent movements that I know,” he says.
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Throughout this series, our three experts on cult organizations will provide their views on what our journalists have discovered. They will analyse the activities, attitude and philosophy of the Raelian movement, as revealed by our investigation.
Dianne Casoni, a specialist in cult groups, asserts the Raelians use various methods to control and intimidate their disciples. She’s a psychologist and professor at the Department of Criminology of the University of Montreal.
Alain Bouchard, an expert on the Raelian movement, says the organization needs scientific assertions, be they true or false, to establish its credibility in the eyes of the public and of its disciples. He teaches religious studies at Laval University in Quebec City.
Finally, Sun Media met with Mike Kropveld, director of Info-Cult, an organization focused on sensitizing the community to cult thinking.
According to Kropveld, Rael uses provocation to maintain the cohesion of his group.
On Monday, July 21, Sun Media reporters are suddenly put to a test to see if they are spies. They find themselves at the Raelian’s annual basic training camp in Maricourt, Quebec in the Eastern Townships. It’s a decisive moment.
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Confidence no longer reigns at the Maricourt camp. Without any notice, the movement puts us to the test. Walkie-talkies in hand, those responsible for security at the entrance to the auditorium examine each of the participants who’ve stayed for the second week of the annual “boot camp” in Maricourt.
The women posted at the door check the numbers on our identity cards. Certain members are turned back at the entrance.
Without explanation, we’re forbidden access to the auditorium from now on. Chantal and I share the same belief: They’ve finally unmasked us. But we don’t talk about it.
Richard, a security guard who’s known us about a week, is now ordering an organizer to watch us while he goes to look for a guide.
I don’t understand what’s happening. Why now? We’re enrolled in basic training and our admission fees have already been collected.
Richard finally comes back to see us after 15 minutes. Without explanation, I have to go upstairs. Right now!
I’m a little anxious. I don’t want to leave Chantal alone downstairs, because I don’t know what’s going on. But Richard’s hurrying me. I go.
I enter a small assembly room. Three guides are seated there side by side with an air of seriousness. Guides are senior members of the Raelian hierarchy with various responsibilities to the movement.
I know two of the guides before me. Yves Boni, an African guide, and Joseph, the Canadian rep. An empty chair faces them.
“Uh, should I sit there?”
It’s clear. They know who I am. But do they know about Chantal? Will they let us go without any problem?
I sit down without saying anything. I wait.
Joseph ends it by speaking.
“Brigitte, can you swear to us that what we say will remain a secret? It’s too confidential.”
“I give you my Raelian word,” I reply.
“Good. You were at the training last week. So you saw the guides.”
“Uh, yes.” But where was he going?
“Well, for a long time we’ve been doing research and working,” he says. “We did a lot of research.”
It’s game over for me. My car’s on the other side of the camp. Damn it.
“We met this morning because our research is finally finished. And we have the proof, that Rael is a liar.”
“We know that all he’s told us since the beginning, for years, is nothing but lies,” Richard continues. “All he wants is our money. And tonight is the big night. We’re going to announce his deceit. Everything. At six o’clock the journalists will be there. We’ll all be there.”
Now I get it. They’re testing my faith. They’re going to ask me if I also denounce Rael. But who do they take me for — an idiot?
“And you? Are you with us?”
Here it is — the big question. Now I have to be convincing. I put on my most horrified air. I recoil in my chair, gripping the armrests.
“Am I with you? No! Never!” I shout.
A big smile appears on Joseph’s face.
Bingo. You’ve passed the test, I tell myself.
“No! You’re not serious!?” I gasp, and, for effect, I release an enormous sigh. And I realize my hands are shaking.
“Oh my God! I was so afraid!” I exclaim.
The three guides hug and congratulate me, touched by my loyalty to Rael. I’m welcomed more warmly than ever downstairs. I’m really one of them now.
Chantal goes up for her turn. I can’t talk to her. They’re watching me.
Mark Proulx, the southern Quebec guide, waits for her below with me. In the tension I ask: “Are there any who have really infiltrated you uh, us?”
“And you’ve identified them?”
“There have been two,” Proulx says. “An officer from the SQ (Quebec’s provincial police) infiltrated us, but he said f— the police. And he stayed with us. There was also a woman sent by the French government. She also chose us.”
“Oh, great. And journalists?”
“Some are still trying to infiltrate us,” he says. “They get out here and try to take photos.”
After 15 long minutes, Chantal comes back downstairs. Shaken.
I hug my colleague and I pat her on the back.
The guides around us are touched. They think we were afraid for Rael. If they only knew!
Chantal succeeded, too. We continue.