A fair share of Netflix’s true-crime documentary films and shows are essentially about how the masses are often duped by false promises and far-fetched claims, giving birth to ridiculous cults on many occasions. The latest documentary series, Rael: The Alien Prophet, features a similar premise, with a focus on a movement known as Raelism. Taking lessons from all major religions in the world and the many instances in which faith has been used to fool the masses, the Raelists believe that aliens are their creators and, therefore, gods, and they have successfully created a cult based on this belief. The Netflix docuseries does a fair job of telling the story interestingly, and Rael: The Alien Prophet is a thoroughly entertaining watch.
Who is Rael, and what is Raelism?
At the center of the Netflix docuseries, and also a cult that claims itself as a proper religion, is a man from France named Claude Vorilhon. A fairly good singer, Vorilhon’s first professional career began in music before he went on to work as a journalist as well. As his job was mostly as a sports journalist, Vorilhon also got a chance to drive racing cars in track events, and he was a driver for a short time. But the man got recognition after a bizarre twist in his professional career, following the release of a book he had written, “The Book that Tells the Truth.” According to the book and a few TV programs that Vorilhon appeared in soon after, the man came across a strange experience while going for a winter stroll in the Clermont-Ferrand volcanic region near his house. Apparently, a UFO came down from the sky and landed in front of Vorilhon, with a green alien also climbing out and speaking crisp French with him. All doubts of the man regarding the alien’s knowledge of his language were gotten rid of when the being claimed that it knew all the languages on Earth.
If Vorilhon’s claims were already laughably outlandish, what he said and wrote next was even more dumbfounding. According to the man, the alien being had revealed to him that it was their civilization, a highly advanced and intelligent race living on some faraway planet, that had created human life. The basis of this creation was DNA manipulation and genetic engineering, and all humans were essentially clones of individuals of this alien race. Vorilhon also mentioned that the creators were named Elohim, and they now desperately wanted to establish communication with the lives they had given birth to. Thus, when the alien came down to Earth on that fateful December night in 1973, it came specifically for Vorilhon, intending to meet him and give him some very specific orders. Vorilhon was to take on the name Rael and spread awareness among earthlings about their true creators—the aliens known as Elohim.
When Rael wrote his book and then spoke about it on numerous TV programs in France, there were people who immediately related to his experience, for they believed that they had seen aliens and UFOs too, but their reports had only been ridiculed. Therefore, when someone on television spoke about similar experiences with such conviction and staunch belief, also adding a purpose to the matter, there were quite a few who immediately wanted to join Rael on his mission. Among these people was also a French scientist named Brigitte Boisselier, who now suddenly found a lot more sense in science and the creation of human life. According to the woman, who appears extensively in the documentary, this was a great chance to question the theory of evolution and the other theories about human life that had been considered true. Similarly, many who had started to question established faiths like Christianity because of their experiences in life, or simply because of their mindsets, related to what Rael was preaching. When Rael first took on the role of a preacher, he gained quite a few followers in his hometown, from various different backgrounds and social classes. Raelism, or a movement aimed at spreading the word of Rael, was also started at this very time, asking for new members to join the mission and acknowledge the Elohim as the only true creators of humanity.
From the very beginning, Rael questioned the norms and beliefs of established religions like Christianity, finding flaws in them and also the manner in which these religions were practiced. According to Raelians, it was impossible to explain the birth of humanity through the two most-believed schools of thought. On the one hand, the idea that some divine God had given birth to humans and every other life form was tremendously unscientific and, therefore, unbelievable. On the other hand, the theory that the creation of life was basically a coincidence, as stated by scientists and researchers, is also very difficult to believe. Therefore, Rael provided the third possibility—that the Elohim aliens had given birth to all life, making Earth a place hospitable for life—all as a part of a scientific experiment for them.
Why did the Raelian Church move to North America?
Even though the Raelian movement began as a staunch opposition to conventional religions, there were a few aspects about them that matched with their rivals, too, like the initiation process being very much like a baptism and also the use of terms like church. The symbol for the religion, which became popular from a heavy locket that Rael wore around his neck at all times, also had the strange combination of the Jewish star and the Nazi swastika. This bizarre and uncommon characteristic of the movement and its founder also translated over to the followers who found their calling as Raelians. The movement did garner quite an interest in France, and many of the followers joined up only because they were not treated differently by the Raelians because of their identities. At a time like the late 1970s, Rael allowed any human being to join his group, irrespective of their sexuality, race, ethnicity, or nationality. When the number of followers steadily increased, every member came up with funds to buy a piece of land, which was turned into a lavish safe space for all Raelians, and it was aptly named Eden.
The very practice of Raelism had an extremely liberal and open-minded approach, which made sense as Rael was trying to go against traditional conservative values. Followers were encouraged to get rid of all clothes and inhibitions about their bodies, and people would just lie around naked in the camps that had been made. Rael asked his followers to embrace sexuality with a free mind, encouraging them to have physical relations irrespective of who they were in a relationship with. It was through this side of things that Raelism first came under the scrutiny of the law, when it was reported that minors, and even young children, were made to have sexual relations with grown adults. When confronted about the matter on a TV show, Rael did not refuse the claims either, stating that he allowed free speech and expression in his camps, which was possibly being misused by some. Soon, the French authorities started to investigate the matter, and the cult started to face opposition from the Catholic Church. In response, the Raelists cleverly turned the perspective by starting their own campaign against pedophilia in Catholic churches.
By this time, Rael had claimed to have had a second encounter with the Elohim aliens, claiming that he had been accepted into the spaceship and flown to their home planet this time. On this planet, Rael met with other religious leaders like Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus, who were all like brothers to him. He kept giving ludicrous descriptions of the planet, where everything was just perfect for life, and stated that Earth, too, was destined to be perfect. The man also preached that the Elohim aliens would be visiting Earth sometime around 2035, so he wanted to build a vast embassy building in order to welcome these creators of all life. Rael and his core team of followers came up with the plan for the embassy building, too, intending to get it built before the year 2035. For the massive, decades-long project, all followers started to contribute significant amounts of money, and there was a soft pressure on every individual to pay up as much as they could. However, the attention of the French authorities started to create a problem, as many followers were ousted from their jobs and families when the charges of pedophilia and other misbehavior in the cult were reported. At the time, France was already very strict against cults, and so Raelism was immediately termed illegal. It was for this reason that Rael and his followers then moved to Canada, setting up in a small village where their cult was given official recognition as a religion as well.
How did the Raelians give birth to the first cloned human baby?
Out of the many beliefs of Rael that were considered controversial, the most outrageous one was his support for human cloning. Rael always claimed that the aliens had told him that cloning was the next big scientific development to be made. Therefore, when Dolly the sheep was born in 1996, Rael and his followers stated that this was the time to take the next step and make human clones, which would be the only way to achieve immortality. Since humans were clones of the Elohim, making further clones of humans would also be a natural progression and a mark of respect to the creators. In 1997, Rael funded the creation of a human cloning research organization named Clonaid and set Brigitte Boisselier at the center of it. Within the next few years, the pair even appeared in the US Senate, advocating the legalization of human cloning, which was naturally denied by the authorities. As American law banned human cloning, the research facility of Clonaid in Florida was also shut down.
Brigitte Boisselier moved around with the project, going over to Canada at first and then finally to Israel, where she apparently oversaw the birth of the first human clone, named Eve. Although Boisselier announced to the media in 2002 that she had successfully cloned the first human being, the matter was considered a hoax by many at the time and is still the most likely possibility. The biggest reason for the skepticism is the fact that there is simply no proof of Eve, and Boisselier claims that she does not want to reveal her identity in order to keep the child and her parents safe from the authorities. Over the next couple of years, Clonaid claimed to have made some more human clones. However, another scientist and researcher working for the company, Damien Marsic, claims that he was the one looking into the project, while Boisselier only posed around for the media. Marsic states that the cloning was indeed a hoax and that the company never had the level of expertise or means to give birth to any human clone. Funnily enough, when Rael is asked about the matter at the end of the Netflix docuseries, he puts all the blame on Boisselier, saying that the cloning was all her idea and he had only paid for it.
Where is Rael now?
While the Clonaid scandal was being looked into, a Canadian newspaper also managed to infiltrate the Raelist cult by having a journalist and a photographer become undercover members. Brigitte McCann, the journalist, was initially planted into the cult to find out some concrete evidence about the presence, or absence, of the human clone Eve. Although she did not find anything with regards to the cloning, Brigitte did uncover the problematic nature of the Raelist camps and of the leader, Rael himself. It was quite evident, and still is through the short snippets of Rael’s interview at present, that the man has no respect for women in his group. According to the journalist’s words, Rael is too attached to the idea of women being submissive to him and him bearing utmost control over them.
He had even created a group within his cult known as the Order of Angels, which comprised select women from the cult who were given the responsibility of sleeping with the aliens when they finally came. Along with the aliens, they were also supposed to entertain Rael’s orders since he is the messenger between the two sides. When all this information finally came out through McCann’s report, the Raelist cult faced backlash in Canada as well, and they were rightfully hated out of the country. However, Rael has not been caught or tried for the massive fraud that he has been committing since the late 1970s, as the man is still free and preaching his beliefs. Since 2007, he has found shelter in Japan, where the authorities cannot investigate crimes committed outside the country. Thus, Rael still lives and spreads the word about the alien creators, with Raelism still having a significant number of members.
At the end of Rael: The Alien Prophet the titular preacher makes it clear that his religion will exist till long after his death, along with the plan to build the embassy to welcome the Elohim. The documentary ends with a brief mention of a man named Yves Boni, who preaches Raelism in Ivory Coast and believes that the fortunes of the African continent will surely turn with the help of aliens. Along with the many senior followers who are poised to take over as the leader of Raelism, including Brigitte Boisselier, Yves Boni is also hopeful that he might be selected as the next chosen one.