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The Man Who Has the Fringe Tied Up in Knots

Washington Post, January 17, 2003

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: Article on the reactions of the UFO and paranormal community to the Raelian UFO-related group.

By Don Oldenburg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 17, 2003; Page C01

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 Rael-ity?

"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 supernatural.

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 X-PPAC

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 Comment.

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 said.

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 Ruffles

"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 Reading."

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 Dalai Lama.

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 bogus.

"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 extraterrestrial-human connection.

"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."

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