Ottawa’s chief Raelian tells Bob Harvey how he came to believe in spaceships and cloned earthlings.
The Ottaway Citizen (Canada), Jan. 15, 2003
Pierre-Paul Bourque is a true believer: a Raelian believer. He believes in friendly alien spaceships and extraterrestrial scientists who were mistaken for gods when they cloned our forebears. And he believes in Rael, the former French sports writer who claims to be the extraterrestrials’ voice on Earth.
Mr. Bourque is a retired teacher and leader of the Ottawa-Gatineau region’s 100 Raelians. Like most of Canada’s 5,000 Raelians, he is a Québécois and grew up Catholic.
“There were a lot of things in the church I could not understand,” he says.
But 20 years ago, he picked up a book that made sense to him: Rael’s account of how he met the extraterrestrials who told him to change his name from Claude Vorhilon to Rael, and prepare the world for their return in 2035 by preaching peace, tolerance and sexual freedom.
Mr. Bourque says the only difference between Christian and Raelian philosophy is that people can understand the Raelian beliefs. He is confident that when he dies, extraterrestrials will someday resurrect him.
“I’ve got peace. Now I can sleep, because I know where I came from, and I know what will happen when I die.”
Twice a year, Mr. Bourque and other Raelians gather to telepathically transmit their genetic code to spaceships that he says come close to Earth to pick up and store the information.
The procedure is simple, he says. A Raelian leader wets his hands in water to make better contact, and then puts his hands on the front and back of the believer’s head, and the genetic code flies into space.
Mr. Bourque says that someday the extraterrestrials will resurrect him and all the other Raelians by pouring their memories and psyche into a newly cloned copy of their bodies.
When we sit down for an interview, Mr. Bourque starts off by warning me, “I don’t want to see the word ‘cult‘ in your article. It is a movement. And I don’t want to see the word ‘guru.’ His Holiness is a prophet.” He also insists that when he refers to Rael as “His Holiness,” I quote him accurately.
That “Holiness” title for Rael is new and just one of the movement’s growing and superficial similarities to Catholicism. Mr. Bourque has been ordained a Raelian “priest.” The national leader in Canada is now “Bishop” Daniel Chabot. And instead of crosses, Raelians wear another symbol around their necks: a swirling swastika inside a six-point Star of David.
Once we have finished debating his demands, Mr. Bourque proves to be an eloquent spokesman for the Raelians. He says Raelians are not the sexual libertines that many people think, because of the publicity around their belief in sexual freedom, and the formation of a group of beautiful young women, called the Order of Angels, who have volunteered to serve the arriving extraterrestrials and Rael himself, both sexually and otherwise.
“Sure, some people come to our meetings for the sexual thing,” he says. “But those people don’t stay.
“Our goal in life is to have fun and be happier. But we are not a sex store,” says Mr. Bourque.
He says Raelians believe simply that individuals and couples should be free to work out their own sexual preferences and what they can tolerate in their partners’ behavior. Some are celibate, some are gay, some are not, some are faithful to their partners, others have multiple partners.
Mr. Bourque regularly conducts sessions of sensual meditation that the Raelian Web site says are intended to help members “feel more pleasure in order to fully enjoy sounds, colours, smells, saveurs, caresses and more specifically one’s sexuality with all the senses.”
Many of these sessions have been held at Ottawa City Hall, and Mr. Bourque says “the doors were open and nobody took off their clothes.”
He says the extraterrestrials have promised to return to earth in 2035, or perhaps sooner now that humans have themselves learned how to clone human beings. According to the Raelian teachings, we humans have finally attained the political and social maturity necessary for their return.
There is just one thing holding the extraterrestrials back, says Mr. Bourque: the Raelians’ inability to persuade the Israeli government to sell them a piece of land for an embassy near Jerusalem, declare it extraterrestrial territory and grant the extraterrestrials free passage through the airspace above it.
How can Mr. Bourque believe all this?
Info-Cult, a Montreal centre on cults and new religions, has been tracking the Raelians almost as long as Ms. Palmer, and says Rael is a “media genius.”
Despite his French nationality, Rael has spent much of his time in Quebec since 1973 when he broke the news of his extraterrestrial encounters. Mr. Kropveld says that in Montreal alone, Rael has stirred up media storms many times since, with such things as his call for 15-year-olds to get the vote and the over-90s to lose their votes, as well as his more sex-oriented causes like distribution of condoms in city high schools, and ventures like Raelians’ visits to Catholic high schools last fall to urge students to burn crosses and renounce their faith.
But he says Rael’s biggest media success yet is the campaign he launched in 1997 to clone humans. By 2001, Rael was already boasting in his book, Yes to Human Cloning, that “an investment of $3,000 in U.S. funds (to set up his cloning organization, Clonaid.com) got us media coverage worth more than $15 million. I am still laughing.”
Since Dec. 27, when the movement claimed to be the first group ever to clone a human being, the Raelians have had even more massive media coverage. According to the movement, that publicity has produced another 10-per-cent growth in their membership, bringing it up to 60,000 people who have either subscribed to their Apocalypse magazine, or undergone a kind of baptism.
The Raelian leader addressed the cloning controversy on the TV show Dateline NBC last night.
“We estimate world media coverage to a value of $500 million,” Rael said.
“So this is wonderful. It’s a win-win situation for us. If what Dr. Boisellier said is true, we are winning. If it is not true, we are winning anyway.”
The world’s cloning experts are skeptical of the movement’s claim to have cloned two new humans.
Michael Guillen, a former ABC News science correspondent who was enlisted by Rael to line up DNA experts to corroborate the claims, has also bowed out of the venture.
He said last week that scientists were given no access to the alleged cloning family and “it is still entirely possible Clonaid’s announcement is part of an elaborate hoax intended to bring publicity to the Raelian movement.”