It’s not every day that you’re given the chance to meet an extraterrestrial ambassador, but that’s what the colourful British Raelian Foundation posters were offering early last April. The Rael Foundation was founded in 1973 by French motor-racing journalist Claude Vorlihon (now Rael) and claims to be the largest UFO organisation in the world, with 35,000 members in 85 countries. So it was with a reasonably open mind and a hopeful heart that myself and two friends made our way to the tacky Bayswater hotel lounge where this remarkable opportunity was due to take place. Things got strange as soon as I entered the toilets, where the pop superstar Prince was applying foundation to his cheeks whilst chatting to a female assistant. I soon established that this couldn’t really be Prince because he’s famously always surrounded by bodyguards. So I assumed that there must be a party going on in another part of the hotel; it was, after all, a Saturday afternoon. And I was right, but I didn’t know that I too was going to be there.
The Raelians had picked a bad day for their first British meeting in about twenty years, it being less than a week since the Heaven’s Gate suicides had hit the headlines, giving UFO fanatics everywhere a bad name. But this didn’t stop the crowd packing its way into the small but glitzy function room. Small papier mache planets and flying saucers hung on wires from the low ceiling, bobbing around in the air conditioned breeze like Pleidian beamships surfing on gravity waves. There were no comets. In the end people had to be turned away, and even a contingent from The Nation of Islam had to stand stoically at the back of the room, looking, with their suits, shades and tiny red bow-ties, like a cross between CIA agents and Pee Wee Herman. The rest of the crowd was composed primarily of youthful continentals in bright anoraks and sweatshirts, the elderly and a few grubby, muttering UFO buffs, a couple of whom I recognised from a recent BUFORA meeting. The Raelians, however, stood out from the crowd, easy to spot as they all wore big gold or brass Rael medallions, and most of the men had chosen to look like Rael himself. Think Micheal Bolton crossed with Asterix the Gaul, and you’ll be pretty close. Long, shoulder length hair, big moustaches, exposed hairy chests, cowboy boots and rhinestones seem to be de rigeur for the well dressed Raelian man, presumably thinking that if it works for Rael himself, it’ll work for them.
Suddenly the lights dimmed and there was music, terrible insipid, tinny music. A woman bounced onto the stage, all teeth and dyed orange hair, and began to sing in a warbling French accent; “And IIIII will always lof youuuuu…”. Written by Dolly Parton, a number one hit for Whitney Houston about five years back. What in god’s name was going on? Then I realised – they were chipping away at our defences, forcing us to let down our guard and open our minds to the warm seed of Rael. When it was over, I was applauding with the others.
“That was Sylvie ladies and gentlemen, already very big in Europe and soon to be big over here.” Anthony Grey took to the stage, looking very much the respectable Englishman, dignified, even dashing in a John Pertwee sort of way. Instead of a Rael medallion, he wore spectacles around his neck. “Rael is all about having more fun,” he tells us, “and today we want to tell you the truth in simple terms.” Unfortunately Rael himself wouldn’t be there as he was lecturing in Australia; though the posters had given the impression that he would be. So instead it’s Grey who’s the ambassador for the extraterrestrials, and he explains the situation to us, as detailed in Claude Rael’s “The Message Given to me by Extraterrestrials”, for sale from the beguiling young woman in the foyer.
A UFO is seen every 15 seconds, says Grey; 90% of these can be explained away in conventional terms – so far so good. The other 10% (exemplified by Arnold’s sighting, Fatima and the Belgian Triangles) are flown by the Elohim, “they who came from the skies”, as described in the Old Testament and every other world scripture – all version’s of Rael’s truth. The Elohim are hyper-intelligent human scientists. They created all life on earth, from the whale to the amoeba, 25,000 years ago through the advanced manipulation of genetic code. They now want to land on earth and for an open meeting with world leaders and the media. But we are not ready for them; all they can see of humanity is greed, despair and hatred. However, they will land if they are given a neutral place in which to do so, as close to Jerusalem as possible, for this is where they originally appeared and lived on Earth. It is the Raelians’ mission to build them an embassy, an extraterrestrial leisure complex designed around a doughnut shaped crop circle glyph, complete with flying saucer style swimming pool. This has to be done by 2030, or mankind will destroy itself and we will be beyond the help of the Elohim.
Throughout all this Grey comes across as smart but slightly bumbling, perhaps so as not to intimidate the audience. I keep expecting him to crack a joke, to burst out laughing at what he has just said, but he doesn’t, and neither does the audience. This is the real thing. As the meeting progresses we hear from Dr Brigitte Boisselier (Phd), a French scientist who soon tells us that she doesn’t know what day it is or who the current Prime Minister of France is. What she does know about is cloning and Rael’s predictions for its future inhuman development. Ultimately, in the words of Brigitte; “What could stop us then to create new forms of life, or life with complete memory?”
Strangely, considering that she is his scientific consultant, she doesn’t mention Rael’s recent plan to set up Clonaid, a human cloning facility, where, for as little as $200,000, you can produce cloned offspring of yourself. And for just $50,000, you can take out Insuraclone, a service whereby cells from the living child can be preserved, so, should anything go wrong, your little darling can be recreated from scratch. Presumably the proceeds from Rael books, videos, pendants, medallions, watches, T shirts and sweatshirts don’t provide enough funds already. Then there’s the imminent opening of UFO World in Canada, Rael’s current home, where an exact UFO replica is being built from bales of straw. The press release states “As with everything else, we need to be the first on the market. This is why now is the ideal time to be part of this successful enterprise.” Rael is clearly as much a businessman as he is a prophet.
Meanwhile, the presentation is sinking further and further into absurdity – we learn that Jesus walked on the water with the help of an Elohim reverse gravity beam and that the Elohim parted the Red sea through similar technology. There’s an awkward collision of cultures between the English, ministerial sincerity of Grey and the Eurovision tackiness of the Continental Raelians, who form the bulk of the group. We are subjected to more musical numbers; the Prince impersonator finally gets to strut and mime his stuff, and Claude from Switzerland sings “Don’t Forget your dreams” accompanied by Sylvie and a dance troupe of heavily made up pre-teen girls in “Elohim for Peace” sweat shirts. The more funky of the assembled Raelians can’t restrain themselves and begin to clap and dance in the shadows; some audience members tap their feet and nod in time. We’re promised a Spice Girls impersonation from the young girls later on, a birthday treat for gift a high ranking Raelian, but it is definitely time to leave. We were told that there would be Raelian representatives to talk to in the foyer, but I couldn’t see any and my friends were keen to leave. I was intrigued, but disappointed not to have learnt very much about the group, though further follow up sessions were promised for those who were interested and had read Rael’s book.
Anthony Grey’s incongruity amongst the rest of the group puzzled me. He told us that he was once a Reuters Middle East correspondent and had recently broadcast a BBC radio documentary, “UFOs: Fact, Fiction and Fantasy”(now available on cassette through the UK UFO Magazine). How did a man like Grey get involved with the bizarre Raelians? Did the BBC know of his affiliations when they hired him to make an impartial UFO programme?
Asking around over the next few days, I discovered that Grey had indeed been a well known and highly respected journalist. In July 1967 he was in Peking to cover the Cultural Revolution for Reuters and was captured by the Red Guard, who held him under house arrest until October 1969. On his release he wrote a best selling account of his experiences, Hostage in Peking, published in 1970, and has since written a number of political thrillers. (1) Things were beginning to piece together. Two weeks later I was able to speak to Mr. Grey at the Fortean Times convention. Perhaps, you might think, unadvisedly, the Raelians had set up a stand there, hoping to attract some interest; and, from what I overheard whilst lingering around the stall, they were not unsuccessful.
After some initial suspicion that I knew his name, which was quelled when I mentioned that I was at the Raelian meeting, Grey was friendly and open about his past, and about Rael. Whilst a hostage, he had passed the time writing fiction and philosophy. One of the things he came to realise was that our universe has to exist within something else, as part of another greater body – perhaps an expression of his own situation at the time, trapped inside a cell but fully aware of the larger world outside – then we jump to about five years ago. Grey was reading a lot of UFO material, including Rael’s book, in which he stumbled across similar beliefs to his own. He was immediately fascinated, and eventually got to meet the man himself whilst putting together the BBC documentary. Grey was deeply impressed by Rael’s sincerity and commitment to his beliefs, even in the face of the adversity and ridicule that he has encountered since he began his mission – The pressure was so great in his home land of France that Rael was forced to move to Canada – Grey believes strongly that Rael’s encounters with the Elohim were physically real, and not visionary in nature, and that he is truly a prophet.
I asked Grey how he felt about accusations that Rael’s teachings had a deeply fascistic undercurrent to them. This, he replied, was a result of the misinterpretation of his writings. ” Sure, Rael talks about abolishing democracy. But you must agree that democracy just isn’t working.” I nod cautiously, not wanting to disrupt his train of thought. “What we propose is a geniocracy – rule by intelligence.” He explains that all through their early lives, people would have their intelligence graded somehow. Then, at a certain age, provided they have acquired the designated level of intelligence, they will be given the right to vote. To actually stand for office would require an even higher intelligence level. Sounds like fascism to me, and that’s without mentioning the planned creation of a robot (android? clone? human?) slave workforce and the aspirations to a genetically perfect human race.
Grey continues, telling me about his hopes to reorganise the group and give it some measure of credibility, which he agrees it currently lacks. He expresses concern about the planned cloning venture, fearing that getting involved in such a sensitive issue might work against them. I can’t help wondering whether Grey has political inclinations, whether we might yet see a Raelian party standing at the elections in 2001. Whether he was attracted to the group by UFOs, the desire for power or simply the rumours of free love (“Sensual Meditation”) that have always surrounded the group, Grey is very serious about his new role and Rael’s teachings.
There are still so many questions that remain unanswered, not least amongst them the greater mystery of Rael himself. What happened to him that fateful day in 1973? For clues to this and other mysteries we shall have to wait until October, when Grey is planning to bring him over to promote the new translation of “The Message Given to me by Extraterrestrials”.
(1) Thanks to Martin Adamson for this information.