1971: Vorlihon married his first wife.
1973: Vorilhon experienced a close encounter during a walk in the Clermont-Ferrand Mountains of Central France.
1974: Vorilhon described his close encounter experience in Le livre qui dit la Vérité (“The Book That Tells the Truth”).
1974: Raël founded MADECH (Movement to Welcome the Creators of Humanity).
1975: Raël reported being taken on board a space ship and transported to the planet of the Elohim
1997: The Raelians opened UFOland in Valcourt, Quebec.
2001: UFOland was closed to the public and sold a year later.
2000s: The Raelians began development of the Raelian Peace Park on Big Island, Hawaii.
The Raelians have established two theme parks over their history. The Raelians are led by their charismatic founder, Raël, who was born Claude Vorlihon in 1946 in Ambert, France. [Image at right] Following a challenging childhood, he left home and went to Paris where he pursued a career as a street and club entertainer. Vorilhon met and married the first of his three wives in 1971. A serious automotive enthusiast, Vorilhon began a several-year career as a sports car magazine editor and test-car driver in that same year.
Just two years later, in 1973, Raël’s spiritual career began when he reported his first encounter with the Elohim (“those who came from the sky”). The unexpected encounter occurred at an inactive volcano in the area, Le Puy de Lassalas. [Image at right] A more significant second encounter occurred in 1975 when Raël visited the Elohim planet. Raël was given the mission of spreading the Elohim message.
According to his account, Raël met an Eloha named “Yahweh,” who revealed himself to be Raël’s biological father. It was Yahweh who gave Vorilhon the name Raël. Raël then received a series of Bible lessons aboard the space craft. These lessons provided him with the correct interpretation of the Bible’s Creation myth. During the second encounter in 1975 during which he visited the alien planet, he met with his half-brothers (Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha). Raël accepted the mission given to him by Yahweh of spreading the Elohim message around the world, and he began building what became the Raëlian movement.
According to Raël, it was Elohim scientists who planted humans on Earth and then created the physical environment in which they were able to live. Women on Earth were selected by the Elohim for impregnation when a new prophet on Earth was needed to lead humanity away from destructive behaviors. Once humanity had advanced to a certain level, the Elohim would return to earth and bequeath to humans scientific and technological knowledge that would allow humans to become virtually immortal and able to create life forms themselves.
At an individual level the most important ritual is the Raelians version of Baptism, the Transmission of the Cellular Plan (or “Baptism”). [Image at right] Raël personally, or one of his Bishop guides, dips his hand in water and places it on the initiate’s forehead. This act transmits the initiate’s genetic code to the Elohim’s machines. The genetic code is then stored for the future cloning process, if the aspirant is deemed worthy. The collective connection to the Elohim is created by establishing a meeting point on Earth where the Elohim and human leaders can meet to begin a transfer of the Elohim’s advanced knowledge.
Creating a space where the Elohim could arrive on earth and begin the process of transmitting their advance knowledge to humans was of obvious importance to the Raelians. The group initially sought land in Israel where an intergalactic embassy could be constructed to create an initial contact point for consultation between human world leaders and Elohim leaders. However, Israel was not receptive to this idea, in part because the Raelian symbol contained a variation on the Swastika [Image at right], and the Raelians explored alternative locations.
The initial development in this direction was the establishment of the establishment of UFOland in Valcourt, Quebec in 1997. This theme park was more fully developed than its successor, the Raelian Peace Park. The Raelians purchased 110 hectares for UFOland. The property was developed to include a large campsite with picnic tables and various recreational games, several lakes, an amphitheatre, a condominium, facilities for raising animals, and a replica of the UFO craft that Raël reported first encountering in France in the 1973 (Perit 2017). As Krauss (2003) described the site:
A visit to U.F.O. land is not like a visit to the Vatican, but there is a museum contained in a building with stained glass windows depicting a nude woman with a strand of DNA draped over her shoulder and the Egyptian sphinx. Inside the museum, there is a giant replica of the spaceship that Raël says he viewed in encounters with aliens in December 1973 and October 1975.
The museum is constructed from bales of hay and fiberglass and is organized into six rooms (Palmer 2004:65). The rooms display a model of the UFO Raël reports having encountered, a model of the embassy the Raelians envision constructing, a model of DNA structure, a decontamination area, a hotel and dining area for extraterrestrial visitors, and displays of UFO sightings and crop circles.
However the UFOland project lasted only four years as the venue was closed in 2001 and sold just a year later. The park did not attract the numbers of visitors and produce the level of revenue the Raelians had hoped. At the time that UFOland was closed, Raël simply stated that
No flash, no real or fake cloned baby, no blonde goddesses … the closure of the UFO “interpretation center” does not seem to be at the heart of the movement’s communication strategy. At most, a visit to the UFOland website reveals that the trip to a galaxy near our home is well and truly over: “The UFOland Center is closing. Thank you to the few thousand visitors who took part in this great adventure in this fantastic world of UFOs and aliens “, we can read now as an introduction, without further explanation (Deglise 2003).
UFOland was succeeded by the Raëlian UFO Peace Park, which is located near a Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. The cast concrete sculptures were created by a Raelian adherent. The sculptures include
a large nude woman with the Raelian symbol on her chest, and a concrete arch that advertises the group’s web site address. One concrete sculpture looks like a crop circle, but it’s actually a model of a proposed galactic embassy that the group wants to build on the Big Island (Johnson 2012).
In addition there is an array of peacocks, chameleons, native birds, as well as a sea turtle. The sculptures are adorned with Raëlian symbols (Hrick n.d.; Boyes n.d.). There has not been any recent development of the Peace Park (Blackiston 2017).
The quest for a viable theme park and, more importantly, an embassy continues for the Raelians. The rebuff by the government of Israel was a distinct setback for the group as an Israel location fit most closely with their doctrines. The Raelians also began rethinking the desirability of a location in Israel as a result of Israeli-Palestiniian tensions (Morgans 2018). The movement received a mixed response in its Canadian initiative, but the substantial expense of developing and maintaining UFOland was not offset by visitation and revenues. The latest Peace Palace initiative in Hawaii offers an immediate but still undeveloped potential.
Image #1: Photograph of Raël, who was born Claude Vorlihon.
Image #2: Photograph of Raël standing next to a replica of the space craft with which he reported an encounter.
Image #3: Photograph of a Raelian being initiated through the transmission of the cellular plan.
Image #4: Image of the Raelian logo.
Blackiston, Hannah. 2017. “In Hawaii you can visit the UFO Peace Park previously owned by a cult.” Nine.com.au, June 7. Accessed from https://travel.nine.com.au/2017/06/07/13/38/hawaii-visit-ufo-peace-park-owned-by-cult on 15 January 2017.
Boyes, Christina. n.d. “Hawaii – Raelian UFO Peace Park (Volcano, Big Island, HI).”
Accessed from http://www.travelthruhistory.tv/kitsch-roadside-attractions-in-every-state/ on 15 January 2018.
Deglise, Fabian. 2003. “UFOland finally closes its doors: Elohims lose runway in Quebec.” Le Devoir, September 18. Accessed from http://www.ledevoir.com/non-classe/36363/ufoland-ferme-definitivement-ses-portes on 15 December 2018.
Hrnick. n.d. “Raëlian UFO Peace Park.” Accessed from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/raelian-ufo-peace-park on 15 January 2018.
Krauss, Clifford. 2003. “Valcourt Journal; Earthlings, the Prophet of Clone Is Alive in Quebec.” New York Times, February 24. Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/24/world/valcourt-journal-earthlings-the-prophet-of-clone-is-alive-in-quebec.html on 15 January 2018.
Morgains, Julian. 2018. “How a Brisbane Artist Became a Priest for a UFO Pleasure Cult. Vice, January 18. Accessed from https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/wjpyzw/how-a-brisbane-artist-became-a-priest-for-a-ufo-pleasure-cult on 30 January 2018.
Palmer, Susan J. 2004. Aliens Adored : Raël’ s UFO Religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Perit, Ingrid. 2017. “For sale: prime place for a prophet to play.” The Globe and Mail, March 27. Accessed from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/for-sale-prime-place-for-a-prophet-to-play/article1070787/ on 15 January 2018.
19 January 2018