Maybe it's because their leader is a former French race car driver who
claims he communicates with space aliens -- through his hair bun.
Or because their artist's re-creation of the all-knowing
extraterrestrial whom that leader -- Claude Vorilhon, now known as Rael --
met climbing volcanoes in 1973 looks just a little too much like a
bug-eyed alien in a Jesus get-up.
Or because they want to build a Jetsons-like "embassy" near Jerusalem
where, Rael claims, humanity's E.T. forefathers will return to Earth in
2035 in a spaceship carrying the prophets of the major religions.
For whatever reasons, in terms of credibility, the Raelians haven't
exactly lured the general public or the scientific world onboard since
December, when they claimed to have cloned the first human baby.
But how do people more tuned to the fringes of everyday reality view
"It's false. It's a hoax," says Silver Spring-based psychic Zorel.
"They are just trying to get publicity and make a lot of money."
He knows this how? The same way he says he foresaw John F. Kennedy's
assassination and George W. Bush's presidency -- by communicating with the
Zorel says he got his start in the '60s in the CIA's secretive
"Stargate" program, practicing "remote viewing" to spy on the Soviet
Union. In the years since, he has appeared on TV talk shows and had his
own radio program, and says he has predicted hundreds of world events. But
he has never seen a UFO and never met an extraterrestrial.
"Though I do know we are not the only intelligence in the universe,"
Zorel concedes. "And, interestingly, like the Raelians, when I meditate I
get the feeling we came from somewhere else besides Earth."
Okay, minor concession. But what about the future of cloning? Zorel
pauses. "Cloning has already happened," he says.
Instead of explaining, Zorel issues a warning: Cloning humans comes
with more bugaboos than science can foresee. "Sometimes when you do these
things, these individuals will be born without a soul. When you create
something that has no soul, it has no conscience."Leader of the
Last year, when Stephen Bassett ran for Congress in Maryland's 8th
District as the nation's first UFO-issue candidate, calling on the
government to lift its embargo on the truth about the presence of space
aliens, he received only 0.7 percent of the vote. He attributes that
anemic showing to the media, which ignored his campaign.
So now: "Hats off to Rael. He's a genius. He gets 10 to 15 million
dollars' worth of publicity just because of a clever maneuver," complains
Bassett, founder of the Paradigm Research Group in Bethesda, which studies
extraterrestrial issues. As executive director of the Extraterrestrial
Phenomena Political Action Committee (X-PPAC), he is the nation's only
registered lobbyist targeting the politics of UFO/ET phenomena.
In fact, Bassett doesn't have much regard for Raelians. He says their
quirky rise to notoriety is the federal government's fault for covering up
the truth about aliens and UFOs for more than 50 years.
"The government has created an intellectual ghetto on the subject that
makes anything associated with it a matter of ridicule," Bassett says.
"The problem when you work with the truth this way is that you create a
vacuum, and in that vacuum you can get all kinds of foofah."
The consequence is "a fun religion" started by a Frenchman making
bizarre and unsubstantiated claims that get "three pages in Time magazine"
and worldwide media coverage, says Bassett, while solid researchers,
witnesses -- admirals, generals, pilots, astronauts who attest to a UFO
presence -- and he himself can't get serious notice.
But that may not be the situation for long. Bassett says President Bush
is likely to announce to the world later this year that aliens are among
us -- if the crises in Iraq and North Korean are stabilized quickly. If
not then, in 2005 -- if Bush gets reelected. Hark! . . . No
David and Teresa Bernadette Silverthorn say that for almost four years
they've been channeling "the seraphim angel Gabriel," he of biblical fame.
According to Teresa, the archangel does not want to be quoted on his
opinion of the Raelians. He has already been misquoted in the Koran. But
she does say Gabriel doesn't have a high regard for cloning. Enough
Teresa also suggests that people not disregard Rael's talk of alien
contact. "I channel Gabriel's team of spirits, and some of them are aliens
who aid mankind," she says. "If the Raelians have made an agreement that
the bodies of these cloned individuals will be tended by alien souls, I
feel that our society has much to gain by this union."The Fringe That
"We consider them at the very least a nuisance," says Don Berliner,
chairman of the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR), an Alexandria-based
nonprofit that since 1979 has awarded grants for UFO investigations.
"There are a lot of groups on the fringes of the UFO community who are
nothing but trouble and make all sorts of flashy claims."
An aviation enthusiast who has been "in the UFO game for 50 years,"
Berliner says he was a college student when he first got annoyed that
"there were things flying through my skies that nobody seemed to be able
to identify." Although he has never seen a UFO or crossed paths with an
alien, he knows of so many respected people who have that he no longer
harbors any doubts.
Berliner has also been aware of the Raelians for years. "It's people
like that who give the UFO field a bad name," he says, explaining that
FUFOR's approach is to apply conventional scientific techniques to an
unscientific subject. "But with nut cases like that running around loose,
it is more difficult." On the Face of It
Sterling resident Rose Rosetree calls herself "a skilled intuitive" who
has been doing aura and face readings since 1971. She is the author of
"Empowered by Empathy: 25 Ways to Fly in Spirit" and "The Power of Face
Rosetree explored the aura of Rael this week by using a photograph.
"This kind of aura reading is not some special woo-woo psychic ability,"
she says. "I'm using practical techniques anyone could learn."
Her take: "Rael is one of the most magnetic people whose auras I've
ever read. This man has a far more negative, compelling quality that can
cause people to forget their will and turn it over to him. If people are
fearful, insecure or confused, his hold over them will only grow stronger
the more they pay attention to him."
According to Rosetree, Rael also shows "a chronic, ugly way of
manipulating sexual energy" and "if people have a sexual screw loose, they
might find themselves compulsively drawn to him."
His heart is cold as well. "He's seriously imbalanced," she says. "I'd
urge him to run, not walk, to a psychiatrist and request
medication."Forteans: C'mon, Get Rael
"If Rael were to come to one of our conferences, he'd face a lot of
tough questions," says Phyllis Benjamin, president of the International
Fortean Organization, headquartered in College Park and dedicated to
researching unusual phenomena. "But I'm always reminding myself that
today's science fiction could be tomorrow's science."
She intends to invite Rael to the group's November gathering. The
Forteans are a nonprofit group that was formed in 1932 by such luminaries
as Clarence Darrow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Theodore Dreiser. Its
membership ranges from hard-core skeptics to top scholars to true
believers -- but its cornerstone is open-mindedness.
"The Fortean viewpoint is to keep an open mind but not so open that
your brains fall out," says Benjamin. Rael sort of pushes that limit.
Benjamin heard him say in a TV interview that he wants to be called "His
Holiness" and considers himself on par with the pope and the Dalai Lama.
Well, Benjamin says, she knows the Dalai Lama (sort of), and Rael is no
But Benjamin's larger concern with the Raelians is their cloning
business. She says cloning must be done responsibly since we are living in
an overcrowded world.Head 'Em Off at the Past
Stephen Russell Poplin has been a Washington area astrologer and
past-life regressionist for 22 years. He says Rael's story of
extraterrestrials starting humanity on Earth 25,000 years ago is
"I have taken hundreds of people into the distant past and that has
never come up," says Poplin.
In Reston, John Cali says he has been communicating since 1992 with
Chief Joseph, legendary leader of the Nez Perce tribe in what is now
Oregon, who lived from about 1840 to 1904.
What does Chief Joseph have to say about the Raelians?
Cali quotes Joseph: "All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief.
They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all
people should have equal rights upon it." What that means, Cali says, is
that we should not discount the Raelians' belief in the
"I certainly believe in extraterrestrial life, and I also believe all
life is connected, whether on the Earth or elsewhere," says Cali, who
publishes a newsletter of his conversations with Joseph. "If all life is
connected, then it follows that life can communicate among its various
forms. That's not at all unlike my connection with Joseph, who, after all,
is no longer in human form."
Cali says Chief Joseph hasn't spoken directly about the Raelians but
would undoubtedly prove more accepting of their unusual ideas than most
people. "So many folks are railing against the Raelians without even
giving them any benefits of any doubts," he says. "Why must we, the human
race, constantly rail against each other?"
Or as Zorel puts it: "We live in very interesting times. This is not
the end of the world. But we need to be very mindful."