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.
MEETINGS … Awareness training is the Raelian term for get-to-know-you sessions. Sex in abundance, often in twos and threes, seems to attract and retain many in the movement. A handful of men use the sessions to dress up as women or to pick up other men far from the prying eyes of the outside world.
— Chantal Poirier, Sun Media
Our two reporters discover — at their expense — the limits of the Raelians’ famous “sensual meditation” sessions during a two-week “awakening seminar.”
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“Get undressed.” What? Chantal and I can’t believe our ears. But the 60 or so Raelians around us obey the seminar leader. Together, they will even go to the extent of having a look at their behinds with a mirror.
The “sensual meditation” session is mandatory for all new participants, a direct link to the “infinite,” according to our seminar leader, Jean Gary.
For us, it was to be one of the most difficult moments of the seminar.
Yet the activity had begun on a pleasant note. Our group is invited to lie on blankets in the sun, in a pretty clearing of the Raelian church’s campground in the Eastern Townships.
Without a word of explanation, the seminar leaders distribute small mirrors to every participant. Had I known …
Jean Gary picks up the microphone. Without warning, he asks us to undress completely.
All of us.
“We’re going to be the only ones with clothes on,” a worried Chantal whispers to me.
“Don’t care,” I hiss.
But Jean Gary cares.
“Those who find it difficult to overcome the barriers of their education — force yourselves!” he orders.
He says it’s not as hard as we think. That it will speed up our evolution.
That it’s for “our own good.”
Other shirkers give in and undress. Will we be sent away if we don’t obey?
Finally, five or six participants refuse to give in: Chantal, myself, two other women and Benoit, a transvestite who refuses to part with a bra, false breasts and his lace panties.
The seminar leader is obviously disappointed but stops insisting. The meditation begins. It will focus on the five senses.
Everyone lies on their back in silence and Rael’s taped voice rings out from the speakers.
He asks that we touch our arms and shoulders, and then our breasts.
“Caress your breasts well,” says Rael’s voice. “Feel the muscles under your skin, the tip of your nipples.”
What the hell is this? I’m very uncomfortable. Everyone obeys, and therefore I do too.
The voice asks us to sit down. “Massage your buttocks well. It’s your body.”
Then we have to touch our feet, knees, thighs, genitals and … anus!
At this point, Chantal and I become merely observers, hoping that we don’t get caught. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a group masturbation session. I half-open my eyes. Everyone is following his orders. I can’t believe it.
Even if it means being singled out by the seminar leaders, I don’t move a muscle. Neither does Chantal.
Away to one side, Jean Gary is talking quietly with other leaders.
Then the time comes for the snack.
We have to lick and suck our skin for two excruciatingly long minutes.
This is just too much for me. But I want to hold out.
Failing this mandatory exercise could jeopardize my chances of obtaining a “level” in the movement’s structure.
Now for the sense of smell.
We have to smell our underarms.
“Smell the very strong odour that emanates from your underarms. It is your own odour.”
We then have to rub our scalps and smell our fingers.
And then our genitals once again.
WORST YET TO COME
“Now, gently stroke your genitals, their glands also produce certain odours. Rub and rub again, and bring your fingers to your nose.”
I’m so uncomfortable, I’m nauseated, but I can’t protest: No one says a word.
And the worst has yet to come with another sense: Vision.
Rael tells us to take the mirror that was given to us at the beginning, and to take a close look at our behinds! I want to die.
“Look under your genitals so that you can see your anus,” the voice drones on.
“Your anus by which passes life. Through which passes the matter that was inside of you, that circulated through you, that left the best of itself inside you. To be totally in harmony, it is important to love all the parts of one’s body, including this one.”
The tension is at its peak.
The transvestite in front of me draws his panties to one side with one hand and holds his little mirror in the other.
Their faces solemn, my neighbours spread their legs, looking as though they were accomplishing something important, something that could mark them forever.
Seminar leaders take notes as they point to certain participants.
Why? Search me.
Ready for anything, incredibly tense, I stay completely still, ready to pounce at the slight misplaced gesture towards me or Chantal. I hope she’s holding up.
But the meditation is over. Jean Gary explains that we have just taken an important step in our personal development.
That from now on, we are among the “privileged” ones on this planet full of fools.
And they all believe him.
• • • • •
RAELIANS HOOKED ON SEX
Just like their prophet, the Raelians like sex. A lot. But that’s not the only thing that keeps them in the cult.
The movement attracts a large number of social misfits who aren’t normally able to fit into a group.
Rael acknowledged that during our two-week “awareness training” session at Maricourt, Que. in July.
“You have always been different than others since your childhood and you’ve been criticized for it,” he told a crowd. “Here, you’re like everyone else.”
Take Yvon, for example, a Raelian for two years.
The 36-year-old salesman admits candidly he doesn’t get along with his parents, doesn’t have a girlfriend, and has always had trouble making friends.
He came to the “awareness training” to escape solitude.
FAR FROM PRYING EYES
“I didn’t want to go on a car trip by myself on vacation in the United States,” says the Quebec City man. “Here, it’s easy to come by yourself.”
A handful of men use the movement to dress as women or pick up men, far from prying eyes outside. We encountered a few at Maricourt.
Louis, a journalist with a Quebec daily newspaper, took advantage of movement meetings to be “Maryline,” dressed in supertight jeans, a camisole with a plunging neckline and spaghetti straps, and a large bra.
Sex in abundance, in twos and threes, seems to attract and retain many in the movement.
A corner-store cashier in her early 20s, “Manon,” tried all sorts of movements before ending up in Raelian beds.
“For now, I’m only sleeping with Raelians,” said the young woman with multiple tattoos.
“They’re very gentle. Very attentive.”
The Raelian, who is bisexual, was thrilled when Rael asked to see all of her tattoos in April.
“If I could provide the prophet with pleasure, I’ll do it anytime,” she said.
Married men also participate wholeheartedly.
Bruno, 28, cheated happily on his non-Raelian partner during the entire session at Maricourt.
He wore the red bracelet designating lovers of multiple partners.
He says his wife knows about his philandering.
“She told me: ‘You can do it, but that’s 10 days without sex,’ ” he explains very seriously.