Walking among us: Meeting Canada's Raelians
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rael (Claud Vorilhon), founder and church leader, holding a copy of his second book The Message Given to Me by Extraterrestrials in 2012.
Nearly 1,200 unidentified flying objects were reported in Canada throughout 2013, a small drop from the record breaking 2,000 that was reported the previous year, but still a tremendous increase from reports of the receding years.
Director of Research Chris Rutkowski explained the phenomenon as “more people are simply searching for divine answers and catching a glimpse of something else,” and the report cites several other possible theories, including an increase in classified military exercises, the accessibility to social media making it easier for individuals to report a sighting, or there are simply more inexplicable objects visible in Canadian airspace.
For one group however, an increase in objects in the sky has a deeper, more divine meaning.
To members of the Raelian movement, the increase in UFO activity is seen as the proof in their beliefs that our creators, extraterrestrial scientists known as the Elohim are out there and are making themselves known to humanity.
According to leader of the Canadian chapter Daniel Turcotte, it indicates the beginning of apocalyptic events. “This word means ‘revelation,' and is written in the Bible that this age would arrive when the blind will be able to see, the deaf will be able to hear and that there will be signs in the sky.”
There are several Biblical verses that this could refer to but the more curious question is, why is a movement based in the belief of extraterrestrial life quoting Christian readings?
“It all began with Rael's book,” explained Diane Brisebois, head Guide-Priestess of the Ontario Raelians. “In 1973 he had an encounter with an extraterrestrial who entrusted him with a message, and the message was that they came a long time ago and they seeded life on planet Earth.”
Rael, born Claude Vorilhon, is a French former musician and journalist who was operating an auto magazine at the time of his first encounter with the Elohim in the French mountains.
“They told him they had attempted to create life on other planets but the experiment was unsuccessful, but for one other planet, meaning somewhere out there we have brothers in space somewhere, we just don't know where,” said Brisebois. “We believe that at some point, they are going to try to contact us.”
Elohim, referring to the race of extraterrestrials that appeared before Rael that day, is a prime example of what the Raelians believe to be the misunderstood telling of the true creation story that was lost in translation over time, as a quick Google search turns up the entirely different translation biblical translation.
Brisebois is well aware of the more common terminology, “The word Elohim is found in the original Bible, which was written in Hebrew, and its meaning was lost when it was translated into ‘God.' The word literally means ‘those who came from the sky.' They were human beings that the primitive people and mistook them for gods, we lost the plural when then Bible was translated into different languages.”
Rael set out and began gathering followers, eventually growing the movement to the nearly 85,000 members that it boasts today, in order to spread the message that he had been given, but that only represents half of his duties. “The message was twofold, the first was to simply spread the word that they were coming,” Brisebois explained. “The second duty we have is to open an embassy, to which we can welcome the Elohim on Earth if we choose.”
Currently, one of the primary goals of the church is to raise the required funds that will be used to build this embassy, a project that is as ambitious in scope as it is complicated in execution. The church's, and the Elohim's, ideal site for this future is Israel. “That is where it all began, where the first laboratory was built, and if they could, they would like to return there,” she said.
Recognizing the difficult political climate in that part of the world, the Raelians have begun stretching their search to other parts of the world, as long as, according to Brisebois, they can meet certain environmental requirements.
“[We have been asked] to build the embassy in a warmer, more temperate climate, so it will be comfortable for them,” said Brisebois. An extraterrestrial embassy would not only turn the host nation into the unofficial hub of Raelian beliefs, but the church is hoping that the influx of international tourism, from believers and the curious alike will be enough to convince just one nation that the embassy is the right more for them.
Briseboise heard Rael speaking in Montreal in 1976, and having always believed in life elsewhere, was captured by the message. She is surprisingly rational regarding the skepticism that members of her church face from time to time, often simply due to the odd roots that the church is built on.
“We know that some of the UFO reports are not always unidentified, either right away or later on, but there is still that percentage that remains unexplained.”
She also acknowledged that the church doesn't have a great reputation in the media, with perceived similarities that Raelism shares with Scientology.
“We don't actually share anything with them at all, except we both belief there is life beyond Earth.”
According to Raelian beliefs, the Elohim will be making themselves known to humanity as a sign of the nearing end, but will only save us once peace has been achieved, choosing to surpass the planet if we as a people choose to ignore the messages of Elohim. However, if we choose to welcome them, Brisebois promises that humanity will be reaping the societal and technological benefits for years to come, as long as we don't take our eyes off the sky.
More information about the Ontario Raelians can be found at canada.raelians.org.