Intelligent Design: Message from the Designers
|A series of articles on the|
Raël, then known as Claude Vorilhon, worked as sports-car journalist and test driver for his own car-racing magazine, Autopop. Following a purported extraterrestrial encounter in December 1973, he formed the Raëlian Movement and changed his name to Raël (meaning "messenger of the Elohim"). He later published several books, which detail the encounter with a being called Yahweh in 1973. He traveled the world to promote his books for over 30 years.
Vorilhon was born in Vichy, Allier, France. He was raised in Ambert in the home of his maternal grandmother, who was atheist. His father was Jewish and his mother was a "devout atheist". He attended a Catholic boarding school with Le Puy-en-Velay and caused a scandal by taking part in communion without being baptized. His parents withdrew him from the boarding school to put him in school in Ambert.
At the age of 15, Vorilhon ran away from boarding school and hitchhiked to Paris, where he spent three years playing music on the streets and in cafés and cabarets. He met with Lucien Morisse, the director of a national radio program, who was scouting for young talent. Vorilhon signed a record contract and became a rising teen pop star on the radio. He took on a new identity, assuming the name Claude Celler, and released six singles, including a minor hit song, "Le miel et la cannelle" (Honey and Cinnamon). Vorilhon had a passion for the songs of Belgian singer Jacques Brel, and tried to imitate his singing style. He was saving up his money to buy a racing car, a dream he had since he was a young boy, but his prospects as a singer came to an abrupt end when Morisse, his sponsor, committed suicide in September 1970.
Vorilhon decided to work as a sports journalist to gain access to the world of car racing. He met Marie-Paul Cristini, a nurse. They moved to Clermont-Ferrand, where Vorilhon started his own publishing house. He created a sports car magazine entitled Autopop, whose first issue was released in May 1971. One of the tasks for his new startup was the position of testing new automobiles, which enabled him to enter the motor racing world.
According to the book Le Livre qui dit la vérité ("The Book Which Tells the Truth"), Vorilhon had an alien visitation on 13 December 1973. In a secluded area within a French volcanic crater, an extraterrestrial being came out of a craft that had descended gently from the sky, and told him, in French, that he had come for the sole purpose of meeting with him. Raël said that he was given a message by this alien and told that it was his mission to pass this message on to the people of Earth.
The book states that advanced human scientists from another planet with 25,000 years of scientific advances created all life on Earth through DNA manipulation. These scientists, Raël said, were originally called Elohim or "those who came from the sky". He wrote that some forty prophets in Earth's history were sent by Elohim, but their messages were distorted by humans, largely because of the difference in the level of civilization between the advanced race and Earth's primitive one.
Raël said he was given the mission of informing the world of humanity's origins in anticipation of the return of these extraterrestrials by building a residential embassy in neutral territory. He stated that certain mysteries were explained to him based on new interpretations of sacred texts such as the Bible. He said that, on 7 October 1975, he was contacted by one of the Elohim, who took him to another planet to meet Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. He stated that his second book, Les extra-terrestres m'ont emmené sur leur planète ("Extraterrestrials Took Me To Their Planet"), relates the teaching he received from these people. In this book, Raël describes harmonious and peaceable beings, who were free of money, sickness, and war.
In 1974, Raël decided to give up his automobile magazine, Autopop. That September, the last issue, number 34, was published. Raël then devoted himself to the task he said was given by his "biological father", an extraterrestrial named Yahweh. Shortly after a first public conference, Raël founded MADECH – a group of people interested in helping him in his task, which later became the International Raëlian Movement.
Raël has been married three times.
His first wife was Marie-Paul Cristini. Sociologist Susan J. Palmer said that Cristini, a nurse, diagnosed Raël as clinically depressed after he appeared at her doorstep in 1987, burnt out from the tasks he carried out within the movement.
Raël focused on spreading his message in Japan in the 1980s, and by 1987, he met Lisa Sunagawa. Sunagawa soon began accompanying Raël during his travels to Lima, Miami, Brazil, and Martinique. In a television documentary, They're Coming! (1990) by Radio Canada, Raël was seen with four women, while Lisa, in slow-motion, wore a pink tutu and held hands with him.
Raël separated from Sunagawa sometime between 1990 and 1992. Around that time, Sophie de Niverville, whose mother and aunt were both Raëlians, was convinced of the authenticity of the messages. Sophie received a Raëlian baptism at age 15. When she turned 16, she married Raël at Montreal's city hall. During a December 2001 interview with sociologist Susan J. Palmer, Sophie spoke positively about Raël, despite their divorce the previous year; they continued to live together.
In 1994, wealthy Japanese Raëlians rented a racecar and showed it to Raël. They believed that if Raël would race it, it would generate publicity for the movement. Raël accepted the offer on the condition that the funding not come from member tithes or embassy funding. Funding for Raël's races, which took place in the 1990s and early 2000s, came mostly from well-funded European and Japanese people. His best finishes included "a 3rd place finish in GT 1 in Lime Rock with the Mosler Raptor in 1997, and a 7th place finish at Watkins Glen with a Viper GTS R in the FIA GT 1999 race". Raël participated in the 1999 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series and the 2000 Speedvision GT Championship. According to Palmer, Raël made an announcement in November 2001 that he intended to retire from professional auto racing. She said that Raël still enjoyed automobile racing, albeit in the form of video games.
|Two||23 May 1999||Chevrolet||21st||19th||35 out of 40||Mosport International Raceway||Motorsport.com|
|One||1 April 2000||Lotus Esprit||29th||32nd||15 out of 29||Lowe's Motor Speedway||Motorsport.com|
|Two||21 May 2000||Lotus Esprit||31st||18th||27 out of 27||Mosport International Raceway||Motorsport.com|
|Three||27 May 2000||Lotus Esprit||38th||Lime Rock Park||Motorsport.com|
|Eight||15 October 2000||Porsche 911 GT3||32nd||25th||25 out of 26||Laguna Seca Raceway||Motorsport.com|
|Nine||29 October 2000||Porsche 911 GT3||25th||25th||29 out of 30||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||Motorsport.com|
Raël believes humanity is slowly transitioning into a society where humans will not need to work or have jobs. This is due to human technological advancement and because humans "are not made to work". He has stated that work is for machines, whereas humans are made to think, create and enrich themselves.
Much of Raël's advocacy concerning futuristic technology is described in his 2001 book, Yes to Human Cloning. He supported human genetic engineering in order to avoid genetically inherited diseases and to reduce the economic burden on society. He said that no distinctive emphasis needed to be allocated to a particular race or religion. Elsewhere in the book, he stated that nanotechnology will make it possible to have micro-distributive power generation (essentially a power plant in each house), fur-like furnishings that are self-cleaning with hair-like fibers that move on their own, and biological robots. Nanostructures control biology, so Raël expected that meat and salads will someday be grown in a machine via molecular construction.
Raël believed that genetically modified food is the only way to stop hunger everywhere in the world, and he saw a future where qualities of different foods can be combined through direct genetic modification. In Raël's book, Extraterrestrials took me to their planet (book number 2 in the volume Intelligent Design), he said that animation of plant life was possible through nanotechnology and that he was presented genetically modified flowers, that swayed and changed colors with music, while on another planet.
In recent years, many ex-Raelians have accused Claude Vorilhon of plagiarism. They have cited numerous quotes from Rael's books and compared them with those of author Jean Sendy. Raelian concepts such as chemical education, infinity, geniocracy and others may all be found in Sendy's books. Most of Rael's "Sensual Meditation" book is said to have been derived from the Silva 'Mind Control' Method which was allegedly taught to him by ex-level-5 guide of the Canadian Raelian Movement, Jean-Denis Saint-Cyr.
In her book "Raël: Voleur d'âmes", Maryse Péloquin provides the result of her 10 years of thorough research into Claude Vorilhon and his movement, with compelling evidence to support a similar view that Raël has taken concepts and often paraphrased full paragraphs from other UFO and ancient astronaut authors of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s such as Jean Sendy, Brinsley Le Poer Trench, and Robert Charroux. In her book, the dialogue of Rael's "encounter with an ET" is shown to closely resemble that of "contactee" George Adamski who had an encounter on 13 December 1952.
In 1992, Raël appeared on Ciel mon Mardi, a French talk show hosted by journalist Christophe Dechavanne. Toward the end of the show, Raël's liberal views on sex were critiqued by a priest, a social worker, and a psychologist. A former Raëlian named Jean Parraga believed that his wife and children were being held as prisoners and that Raël attempted to break up his family. He thought they were being treated like criminals in activities such as orgies and sacrifice involving children at the Sensual Meditation camp. Parraga also had a criminal record as a drug dealer and car thief, and in August 1992, he attempted to shoot Raël.
Raëlians from around the world sent letters of protest to Dechevanne's TV station. Dechavanne felt that this was "incitement to violence" and sued Raël. The judge appointed to the case decided to question Raël. Raël agreed to ask his members to stop sending letters if the station apologized publicly. The two parties agreed to drop the feud.
In 2004, Raël appeared on the first airing of the Quebec version of the French talk show Tout le monde en parle, hosted by Guy A. Lepage. During this appearance, Raël upset panel members with his statements on democracy and cloning. The situation reached its peak when caricaturist Serge Chapleau called Raël a "farce" and a "nerd", ridiculed his clothes, and grabbed him by the back of his neck. Raël left the stage, followed by his disciples. A fellow guest on the show, Parti Québécois Member of Quebec Legislative Assembly Pauline Marois, who would later become Premier of Quebec, called Raël "insane". The Raëlian Movement asked Marois to apologize, which she refused.
A Swiss newspaper, who called Raëlians "rat heads", was sued for defamation. Another suit was brought against journalist Stephane Baillargeon for writing in the Montreal daily Le Devoir that the Raëlians defended pedophiles and that certain ex-Raëlians claimed the "gourou" liked very young girls. After some negotiation, Le Devoir published a letter from Raël condemning the charge as "ignominious defamation" and asserting that the Raëlian Movement had "always condemned pedophilia and promoted respect for laws that justly forbid the practices that are always the fault of unbalanced individuals".
In 1991, Raël sued French journalist Jean-Yves Cashga for defamation; Raël lost, however, and was ordered to pay court costs. The judgment remains uncollected. Amidst growing legal problems in France, Raël decided to emigrate to Canada.
On two separate court dates of 2 September 1994 at the High Courts of Paris and 1 October 1996 at the Appeal Court of Paris, journalists Jacques Cotta and Pascal Martin of Flammarion Publishing were found guilty of attributing racist statements and distorted quotations to Raël in their book Dans le secret des sectes. They were fined 10,000FF in damages and 13,000FF in proceedings costs. They were also ordered to insert stickers mentioning the sentence on copies not yet distributed and to suppress of the passage in the next editions, and were told that they would be fined 100FF for each non-conforming copy.
On 26 January 1994, in emergency proceedings by the Appeal Court of Reims, Myriam Assan was accused of defamation for claiming in her book that "Raël was often sentenced for corruption of minors". Assan was given a provisional sentence of 10,000FF in damages and ordered to withdraw the book. She was sentenced to pay a penalty of 300FF per infringement and 5,000FF in proceedings costs and to publish the judgment in Le Monde and Le Figaro.
On 13 December 1994, Gérard Chol, director of Le Maine Libre, was declared guilty by the High Court of Le Mans for public defamation for claiming that the Raël's movement was laundering money coming from drug trafficking, prostitution, arms dealing, and the sale of pornographic videotapes. Chol was ordered to pay 1FF in damages and 3,000FF in proceedings costs and to publish the penal judgment in Le Maine Libre.
In 2003, Vorilhon sued Ottawa columnist Denis Gratton and Le Droit newspaper for $85,000 in defamation damages over a 23 January 2003 column; Raël lost and was ordered to pay court costs by Quebec Superior Court on 21 June 2006.
In response to Raël's association with Clonaid, South Korean immigration authorities at the airport denied him entry into their country in 2003. A planned Raëlian seminar continued, with Raël making some brief "big screen" video-camera appearances via the internet for the several hundred who attended. Raëlians of South Korea were instructed by Raël to protest near the Ministry of Health and Welfare that ordered him to leave.
Raëlians say they encourage adult homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual relationships and that society should recognize them legally. Some governments, notably in Switzerland, fear that Raëlians are a threat to public morals for supporting liberalized sex education for children. The Swiss authorities argue that such liberalized sex education would encourage sexual abuse of underage children. The Raëlians disagree with those fears and state that sex education done properly would involve educating parents as well as children.
In February 2007, Raël, who wanted to start commercial activities with Swiss vintners, was denied residence in the Swiss Canton Valais, in part because he was feared to be endangering public values by promoting the concept of sexual liberty and the education of children on how to obtain sexual pleasure. Also cited was his association with the Clonaid human cloning claim; Switzerland forbade human cloning. In a brief statement, Raël said he considered appeal at the European level.
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