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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The accumulation congregated silently about the doors arch into the ballroom. All eyes looked adjoin the floor. We were 12 hours into the fast from food, talking, technology, sex and eye contact.

Once the doors opened, a agreeable flood of attentive music caked from the ballroom. The Raelians and I candy in, one by one, with six Raelian guides on either side. Dressed in continued white accouterment from arch to toe, ceremony adviser smiled, their faces lit by candles in their palms.

It was alone 8 a.m. – the aboriginal day at the Beatitude Academy.

Intelligent Design for Atheists

A few months afore boarding the nine-hour bus to the Raelians’ ceremony North American academy in Buffalo, I came beyond an online announcement that read, “Intelligent Design for Atheists: Extraterrestrials Created All Action On Earth” – a chargeless address in Jersey City, N.J.

After a few visits to Jersey City to accommodated with a bounded Raelian organizer called Houari, he began to acknowledge the aesthetics abaft this science-loving UFO religion. A beneath man in his backward 30’s with a chunky anatomy and slicked aback hair, Houari greeted me with enthusiasm.

His aggressive blooming tee boasted a ablaze chicken logo, the official adumbration of the Raelian Movement: the Brilliant of David, intertwined with the swastika.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “It has annihilation to do with Jews or Nazis.”

The brilliant credibility advance and downward, apery infinity, he said. And the swastika? It represents time, which is circadian – it never ends, it alone changes. This is the logo that Rael, the architect of the movement, saw on the aircraft in his aboriginal UFO appointment in France.

Houari laid out the basics. There is no “God,” he said — but alone the “Elohim.”

According to Raelian teaching, the accurate adaptation of Elohim is “those who came from the sky.” The Elohim are a accumulation of exoteric scientists who intelligently advised the animal race.

In 1973, afresh 27-year-old French sports car announcer Claude Vorhilon had an appointment with one of these exoteric beings that afflicted the aisle of his life. “Listen to me carefully,” said Yahweh, the alien, to Claude, who recalled this appointment in his book Intelligent Design.

“You will acquaint all animal beings about this meeting, but you will acquaint them the accuracy about what they are, and about what we are,” the exoteric said. Claude was accustomed the name “Rael” and started overextension the message.

In 1975, Rael claims to accept been taken to the planet of the Elohim, area it was appear to him that Yahweh is his biological ancestor and that Jesus is his half-brother. Years later, followers in Asia began to accredit to him as the Maitreya, which, in the Buddhist faith, is the name of the promised one who will be the almsman of the Buddha.

The Raelians accept a accurate mission on earth: actualize an “embassy” for the Elohim so that, aback these amplitude scientists return, they accept a abode to get to assignment in adjustment to action advice for the advance of humankind.

Decades later, at 73 years old, Rael is still the face of one of the best controversial, perplexing, and alluring UFO religions in the angel which claims over 90,000 associates in 90 countries — admitting skeptics doubtable the cardinal to be afterpiece to 20,000.

It was a alluring story. But a religion? To reel in a agglomeration of atheists, this Rael charge be appealing convincing.

“He was different. He was actual impressive,” Houari said. “You could acquaint article impacted him that acerb for him to say ‘this is how it is and how it should be.'”

Rael, the tan-skinned, white robe-wearing agent speaks boring and intentionally, never defective in allure or authority. He knows how to assignment a crowd.

“Rael fits the absolute modern-day belief of how you would act if addition would say, ‘I charge you to advertisement this bulletin to humanity, go advanced and do it,'” Houari said.

Susan J. Palmer, a adoration sociologist, paints a adverse account of Rael, however.

“He’s not a actual able-bodied accomplished actuality and he doesn’t address actual able-bodied either,” Palmer said of Rael. “But he absolutely has administration qualities. He’s actual acute and enthusiastic, and absolutely actual creative.”

Palmer is the columnist of 12 books on new religious movements, including Aliens Adored: Rael’s UFO Religion. Having spent 15 years celebratory and autograph about the Raelians, abounding accede her an able on the movement.

Though a affable spirit, Rael is appealing adamant in blame out dissidents and demarking them, Palmer said.

“He’s affectionate of an absorbing paradox, it’s affectionate of adamantine to amount him out,” she said.

Houari anesthetized alternating the acquaintance of his guide, Kasyo Perrier, a akin four Raelian. The scale, based on ceremony member’s administration and authoritative involvement, goes up to six – with akin bristles Raelians confined as bishops. Rael, the agent of the Elohim, sits alone at akin six.

Rael, the Raelians’ leader, speaking at a Raelian Asia academy on the 45th ceremony of his revelations in 1975. Photo address of the All-embracing Raelian Movement.

The Beatitude Academy

The Raelians are all over the internet. There is abounding advice about their chargeless adulation philosophy, the sensationalized columnist advantage of their affairs and their animal cloning organization, Clonaid. In 2002, Raelians claimed they had cloned the aboriginal animal baby, “Eve,” causing an all-embracing media stir.

There was abundant to ask Kasyo, the Raelian adviser from France alive as a beating therapist in Boston.

“What would you say to addition who is, maybe, let’s say, anxious about some of the Raelian behavior or practices?” I abominably asked Kasyo.

“What, about the sex cult?” she asked.

I shrugged, abashed with a abashed laugh.

“We’re actuality to be happy. We try to save altruism if it can be saved, in a way that is bringing adulation and peace,” she said. “The sex band is one of the images, because we’re all about freedom. The journalists are focused on one thing: ‘oh freedom, so they accept orgies.'”

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“If you appear to Beatitude Academy you’ll see for yourself,” she said. “It’s not like that at all.”

Nine hours later, I was in Buffalo for the 2019 North American Beatitude Academy.

The Millennium Buffalo Auberge was balmy and affable on a backing Sunday night in upstate New York. There were bodies affective bound central the hotel.

“Is this the way to Beatitude Academy?”

“Oui, oui, come,” they said, arch into a allowance with added old bodies and added French-Canadian accents.

Kasyo was the aboriginal to accost me central with a big hug and guided me to the allotment table.

She presented me to those in the room: “We accept a spy amid us!” she said.

After an ad-lib ball affair to “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang, the Raelians acclimatized in for the aboriginal teaching from Rael. He would not be abutting the academy in person. His article would be played on a projector screen.

About 100 Raelians abounding the academy from all over — Florida, Utah, Minnesota, and a few adopted countries. Best were Canadian, however.

“What should I apprehend this week?” I asked.

“Love and happiness,” one Raelian replied.

After the aperture ceremonies, the Raelians ancient to their rooms, starting a 24-hour fast. I sneaked beyond the artery to the bounded Mighty Taco. I hadn’t eaten all day—it would accept to be a 23-hour fast for me.

Morning: Nude Dancing and Meditation

The access into the amphitheater with the Raelian guides was a burst of algid baptize in the face.

The accumulation sat airy in their seats in the low-lit ballroom, actuality eased into calm by the trance-like melody that clarification out of the speakers. And then, out of the bend of the allowance came Jasmin, the South Korean guide. She was nude — except for a skin-color undergarment and a translucent, netted bolt that she draped over her body.

She performed an analytic ball as the army watched in silence.

Later on, I asked Susan J. Palmer if this was aloof your boilerplate morning with the Raelians.

“Really?” she said, afterwards audition about the nude dancing scenario. “No, I’ve never apparent annihilation like that. But I accept it.”

Jasmin afterwards accepted that the accepted was an abnormal adventure for her.

“That is the aboriginal time I’ve done annihilation like that,” she said. “I was actual nervous.”

Though the accumulation seems to abridgement the abilities of a “sex cult,” dishabille is annihilation new in the Raelian movement. Rael alike accomplished the ceremony “Go Topless” protest, a artery affirmation that takes abode in several cities beyond the country on or about Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day. Kasyo Perrier, the adviser from Boston, is the organizer and baton of NYC’s Go Topless parade.

“As continued as men can go topless,” Rael said, “Women should accept the aforementioned built-in appropriate or men should additionally be affected to abrasion article that hides their chests.”

The abutting action was a alternation of complete meditations led by Thomas Kaenzig, a Raelian abbey from Switzerland with a ponytail and pointy sideburns, akin a appearance from “Star Trek.” He’s the Civic Adviser for the U.S. Raelian Movement. The meditations are absolutely peaceful – sit with posture, relax, and feel the complete accordance active through the body.

“Through these sounds we can basically masturbate the brain,” Thomas explained, “and it releases many, abounding chemicals and we feel absolutely wonderful.”

The Raelians abiding accept a appropriate way of answer things.

By bubbler lots of water, Raelian abbey Nicole Bertrand explained, we would be able to “pee out our hatred,” abrogation allowance for alone “love and peace.”

Thomas afresh beckoned all Beatitude Academy first-timers to acquaint themselves in advanced of the absolute seminar, during which I explained that I was a announcer autograph for Adoration Unplugged and that I was “very blessed to be here.”

There was one added non-Raelian at the Beatitude Academy: Esteban Gonzales, a above and alert alone who conflicting himself as a 24-year-old actinic architect from New Jersey.

Esteban didn’t assume that into it — he wasn’t accommodating in the walking meditations, which had the Raelians boring acceptable ancillary to ancillary while whispering, “I am love, I am peace.”

“So what do you anticipate about all this?” I aside to Esteban, abutting him as he sat appear the aback row of the audience.

“It’s appealing different,” he said.

It would be absorbing to apprehend how he concluded up here, but it was time to apprehend the letters afresh from a basic Rael. I signaled to Esteban that we would babble later.

Rael’s article were from this accomplished year’s Asia Beatitude Academy in Okinawa, Japan. If the accurate article could be summed up in a distinct word, it would be, “Illusion!”

The “Maitreya” explained how aggregate is an illusion: religion, nationality, color, gender — all an illusion. Alike capitalism is an illusion, because it “changes nothing.”

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“Education is additionally an illusion,” Rael said.

He spouted some ambiguous statistics. According to Rael, 80 percent of billionaires never went to university, and 80 percent of alone bodies authority a university degree. But acclaimed studies did not assume to band up with Rael’s findings: 84 percent of billionaires captivated a university degree, according to Forbes’ 2017 study.

Evening: Breaking the Fast

After a continued afternoon of alone blackout and contemplation, the Raelians aggregate aback at the aforementioned aperture arch into the ballroom. This time, anybody was dolled up and accessible to party. But the fast wasn’t absolutely complete.

When the doors to the amphitheater opened, Kasyo took me by the duke to a table area I sat amid eight Raelians. Ceremony bowl had an apple, and Thomas led the academy in one final brainwork afore the meal.

“This is a actual advantaged moment,” he said, in his affable Swiss cadence, “especially with the connected stimulation, to be able to be cut off for 24 hours.”

We were set to breach our fast together, but not so fast – “one faculty at a time,” he said.

“Take the angel on your plate,” Thomas said, “Don’t eat it appropriate now, but aloof attending at it first. Abutting your eyes and accompany the angel abutting to your nose. Don’t bite, aloof smell. As if it will be the aboriginal time you’ve smelled an apple.”

The angel did balm absolutely adorable – an intense, green-apple Jolly Rancher aroma. You know, like an apple.

“We’ll affix the abutting faculty of taste. Actual slowly, accompany the angel to your mouth,” he said. “But you don’t chaw the apple, you aloof use your tongue, and you lick the angel actual softly. Feel the arrangement of this apple. And as you lick this apple, you can feel the saliva coming. Booty your time, like aback you accomplish adulation – accomplish it slowly. Adore every moment.”

Thomas beckoned us to accumulate our eyes closed, and conceivably for acceptable acumen — watching bodies accomplish out with an angel is not article you forget.

“Now, actual slowly, you can booty that aboriginal chaw into this apple,” he said.

The crisis of apples bankrupt the blackout of the room.

“You’re not activity to swallow,” he said. “Don’t absorb it now, let it float around. Adore it as if it was your aboriginal time bistro an apple. Afresh you bite it actual boring and the abstract comes out. And you adore it.”

Once the fast was broken, the Raelians began to reconnect with ceremony other. We captivated easily with ceremony other, abrading our fingers alternating the easily of those abutting to us, reinvigorating our faculty of touch. Finally, it was time to eat.

Vegan action fry, hummus, and a tray of veggies were on the card tonight at Le Restaurant de Rael. Kasyo, who was sitting abutting to me, was not eating.

“I’m continuing the fast,” she said.

“How continued will you go?”

“I am activity to try for, maybe three canicule or so. I charge it,” she said.

I was impressed.

Reasons for Becoming Raelian

The Raelians were actual aboveboard in their conversations over dinner. Several of the Raelians explained how they begin the movement, abounding of them absolute that they were already Roman Catholic. Jasmin, the South Korean guide, said that she had alone Catholicism due to the Church’s article on sexuality.

In “Aliens Adored,” Susan J. Palmer apparent that abounding guides she interviewed said that they were initially “attracted to Rael’s aesthetics because it bridged the gap amid the Catholic adorable acceptance they knew as accouchement and the pragmatic, accurate worldview they consort as adults.”

In 1998, Rael, at the appeal of the Elohim, created the Adjustment of Rael’s Angels – an adjustment alone for women that able them to “receive the extraterrestrials aback they landed, to act as hostesses, companions, and lovers to the adverse visitors.”

Palmer empiric that this adjustment seemed to allure abounding adolescent ex-Catholic women. The Adjustment of Rael’s Angels “struck a accustomed chord, evoking adolescence memories of nuns and the affair and abstruseness of the cloister,” Palmer wrote.

One of Palmer’s capacity explained: “When I was young, I was aloft as a Catholic and would accept accustomed my action for Jesus. Aback I heard about the Elohim, I fabricated the accommodation to chase them and accord my action for them, if necessary.”

So, what then, admiring Esteban, the 24-year-old actinic architect who never had abundant of a religious background?

“This actuality aloof seems, you apperceive – it aloof hit home,” Esteban said, afterwards spending the blow of the anniversary at the Beatitude Academy. “The added I apprehend into it, to me it’s appropriate up my alley, actuality in the acreage of science and all.”

“I don’t apperceive how you acquainted as a journalist, maybe not afterwards that acknowledgment to the field. What they say aloof makes sense.” he said.

I apparent that both Esteban and I were conflicting to the movement through our Raelian friend, Houari, in Jersey City.

“I don’t apperceive why this one accident stood out to me,” Esteban said. “I capital to accommodated up with altered bodies who had altered ideas. I had these thoughts in my head, but I never begin a accumulation of bodies that, you know, had the aforementioned thoughts – until now.”

Though he isn’t absolutely abiding about clearly abutting the movement, he was afflicted with Rael.

“He’s a 18-carat actuality speaking from his own experience,” Esteban said. “What he says best of the time is actual relatable, and I anticipate a lot of bodies abominably get bent up in this absoluteness that we are built-in into… bodies don’t absolutely catechism abundant else.”

Parting Ways with the Raelians

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People began abandoning for the night, admitting a few Raelians were still anguish on bongos in the ballroom. Thomas and I stepped into the alley for an interview. He’s been a Raelian for 25 years now, but was aloft in a Swiss home to an agnostic ancestor and Protestant mother. While still in Switzerland, he encountered the messages.

“I apprehend the aboriginal two books in one night,” Thomas said. “There was no convincing. It aloof fabricated sense. You see, we ascertain we’re Raelians, we don’t become – we’ve consistently been.”

Thomas said that Rael “speaks like alone a astrologer can speak,” and his unfiltered, generally politically incorrect attributes is what the angel needs added of.

“Everyone is consistently abashed of behind somebody, but we should be able to beam at everything,” he said. “We charge bodies who are offensive.”

While abounding appearance Go Topless and Swastika Rehabilitation Day or alike agitation the civic canticle as offensive, Thomas believes these and added Raelian accomplishments are all-important to activate humanity.

I asked to allocution briefly about Babyish Eve. Thomas smiled, proceeding alternating with a nod as he calm his thoughts.

“In the beginning, afterwards Dolly the Sheep, it was a abstract project,” he said. “There were no cloning operations. But afresh came a lot of big columnist coverage. In 1999, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, a Raelian, came to Rael and said ‘I appetite to accomplish this added than a abstract idea.'”

Rael gave her the go-ahead, Thomas explained, but ensured that it’s not a Raelian company.

“The Raelian movement is admiring of the cloning technology, because it is the aboriginal footfall adjoin abiding action – not the mystical abiding life, but the accurate abiding life,” he said.

As far as cloning operations go, however, Rael was never a allotment of it.

“Don’t ask the Raelians,” he said.

So does Thomas accept that the aggregation absolutely cloned the aboriginal human?

“Yes,” he said. “I assurance Brigitte added than I assurance anybody in the media. Bodies say ‘why doesn’t she accord added affidavit and information?’ Well, attending at the acknowledged after-effects for her.”

Reproductive and therapuetic animal cloning is a “crime adjoin the animal species” in France, area Boisselier is from, is amiss by up to 30 years in prison, and applies to French citizens common behindhand of area the cloning is performed.

According to Thomas, it’s alone a amount of time afore we accommodated Eve.

“Once there’s no best a acknowledged blackmail for bodies complex with it, already we can accept a rational altercation about it, it’s aloof a amount of time,” he said.

It was time for me to arch aback to New York City.

“Leaving so soon?” asked Daniel Turcotte, a tall, dominatingly breakable French Canadian, as he gave a affable accept massage. Daniel is the North American Continental Adviser and Rael’s abettor for the Elohim Admiral Project.

“You’ll absence all the acceptable parts,” he said with a smile and a wink.

The Approaching of the Movement

The abutting move for the Raelians is not consistently bright cut.

“The affair is, I’ve begin from acquaintance that you can’t adumbrate what happens with new religions,” Palmer said. “Every time I predict, I’m about consistently wrong. You never what’s activity to happen.”

Rael himself has predicted that the Elohim will acknowledgment in the abreast future, as aboriginal as 2035.

“If they don’t come, there ability be a problem,” Susan J. Palmer said. “They’ll accept to alter their apocalyptic scenario.”

If Rael dies, she said, there may be a attempt over leadership.

“It will be an abnormal funeral,” she said. “But I did accept a allocution with Rael already area he said that he is immortal.”

To the Raelians, though, a animal afterlife does not necessarily beggarly that Rael is mortal, Palmer said.

“His anatomy could die actuality and he is abiding with his added anatomy on addition planet,” she said.

If accuracy is generally drifter than science fiction, afresh UFO religions like the Raelian Movement can generally be “even drifter than science fiction,” Palmer said in her book on the Raelians.

In the meantime, the Raelian Movement will abide their affairs to assemble an admiral for the Elohim, which will be a concrete architecture “on an exoteric artifice of acreage aloof like added countries accept embassies in host countries,” Thomas explained.

“We are in acquaintance with assorted countries in that regard,” he said. “The admiral is a sign, assuming that altruism is accessible to acceptable our creators, so the acknowledgment of the Elohim is in humanity’s hands.”

Matthew Hendley is a advertisement journalism above at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. He interned at CBS’s 60 Minutes in New York this accomplished fall. Chase him on Twitter @matthendley.

Matthew HendleyJanuary 13, 2020

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