The lights were dimmed in the Salles du Gesù in downtown Montreal, and the two hundred or so comfortable Cineplex-type seats were filled by the followers of Rael, all breathing in and out in unison, eyes closed. Some held hands, others turned theirs palms-up, as if praying. The heavy breathing masked the soft New Age music in the background. “Feel the love, feel the pleasure,” Markus the spiritual guide whispered into the microphone. “Let the weight of your body go, release it, starting with your left foot, yes … good. Now the left leg, feel its weight, then release it completely. Aaah, how relaxing!”
Raelians don’t own temples or attend mass. Instead, they meet once in a while for some sensual meditation. In Montreal, their unofficial headquarters, the gatherings take place once a month in the Gesù auditorium, located, ironically, in the basement of a Jesuit church (Rael has called the pope a liar and led a campaign to “debaptize” Catholics).
That Sunday in January, the entrance lobby seemed to pulse with anticipation: Brigitte Boisselier had been seen vamping around in her skin-tight gown and high-heeled boots. The sexy biochemist is a high-ranking Raelian and the president of Clonaid, the company she claims produced the first cloned baby, Eve, shortly after Christmas last year. Clone No. Two, a girl, was purportedly born to a Dutch lesbian couple January 3; another child, a clone of a two-year-old Japanese boy who died in an accident eighteen months earlier, arrived later in the month. Boisselier has been spreading her message of eternal and extraterrestrial life on CNN and any other major network that will have her since the news first broke. On that gelid morning, she seemed to be relishing her fifteen days of fame.
The great prophet himself showed up, unexpected and unannounced. Rael—as Frenchman Claude Vorilhon styles himself—was wearing his usual Star Trek–like white uniform, with huge shoulders and poufy sleeves, and a little bun on top of his semi-bald head to better capture signals from his friends the alien amigos. The foxy ladies and the studly men in the audience came to their feet, in awe of the ex-journalist (who was editor of an auto magazine and still has a passion for car racing). Raelians believe their prophet has met with Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon Church). They also believe that in 1973, while driving near a volcano crater, Rael was approached by a spaceship filled with the Elohim—olive green aliens who created humans twenty-five thousand years ago through genetic cloning—who chose him as the new messiah.
A pale jazz singer approached me enthusiastically. “Have you any idea how magical it is that we can see our prophet today?” He was wearing black eyeliner and black nail polish and a black coat over his jeans. I asked his name. “Chris, or Eloha, or whatever.” I asked him what the name meant. “The singular of Elohim, simply.” All the guys I met that Sunday morning had enigmatic, one-word spiritual code names. He casually took my hands in his, looking me straight in the eyes. “Just imagine if someone ran into Jesus on the street in his time and heard him speak. This is the same thing. We are very lucky to see and hear our prophet!” “Whatever” lives in Toronto and has a Brazilian girlfriend.
As I retreated to a corner of the entrance hall, the next to approach me was Azed, a short, muscular man with a receding hairline and a big smile. He was pleasantly surprised to run into a solitary young neophyte. “Welcome to the movement,” he said with a naughty half-smile. I was welcomed repeatedly throughout the morning. Stephan, a heavily made-up homosexual in a tight, navel-baring T-shirt, took my hands in his and asked both his girlfriends, “Isn’t she beautiful?” The girls, also wearing plenty of makeup, smiled. Naimá, a brunette, stroked my hair, then held my hand. Her warm and soft fingers glided over my skin as she asked me all about myself. Was I married with kids? The meditation was scheduled to start at 9:30. It was well past 10.
I was there that morning to try to enlist in the movement. The Raelians maintain a strict hierarchy and the initiation of new members is veiled in mystery. I asked a pudgy, post-adolescent punk named Isabelle how it had been for her. “Oh, it was easy and quick, but really good, they put one hand on your forehead and the other at the back of your neck”—she proceeded to demonstrate—“then … oh, I don’t know, it was so good I wish I could do it again!” She giggled and then gave me a piercing stare, as if I were a forbidden dessert.
Girls prettier and skinnier than Isabelle have a chance of entering the Order of Rael’s Angels, an elite women’s caucus within the movement. There were about twelve of them there that morning, all easy to spot thanks to their sexy looks and the white feathers around their necks. The Angels are in training with Rael to develop sensual qualities that will please the extraterrestrials (who revealed to Rael that they expect a cadre of beautiful women on hand when they touch down).
I jumped from group to group trying to avoid the touchy-feely Raelians, but no luck. The lobby was full of them, their sensuality flowing openly. Rael is in favour of free, guiltless sex, which explains why everyone greeted each other so warmly, with kisses and hugs and plenty of touching. Most of them were between twenty and fifty years old, and most of the women made an effort to look sexy, squeezing themselves into tight tops and showing plenty of cleavage. The men were in regular dress, except for a few who wore all-white sweat-suits. The only common sartorial flourish: the Raelian medallion (one part star of David, two parts snowflake) adorning the chest.
I had a dozen new friends by the time the crowd moved into the auditorium. I sat next to Natalie, a plump, friendly girl from Bordeaux with pretty eyes who helps the movement by giving out pamphlets and selling books. “I moved to Canada because France is full of racists. Here I can believe in what I want,” she explained. Coincidence? Her gurus Rael and Boisselier did the same. Tired of being persecuted by the press and others (Boisselier was fired from a chemical company when her involvement with Rael became known), they sought haven in Montreal, famous for its openness.
Finally, at 10:30, the lights went off and a video began. Two she-robots kissed and fondled, while robotic machines inserted their pointy extremities into the she-robots’ many cavities. Call it soft industriporn. Naimá, the brunette with the warm fingers, was sitting right in front of me and once in a while turned around, smiled at me and gently caressed my thigh.
We were then each handed envelopes and our money was collected. This was optional, however—and insignificant compared to the astounding 10% of net salary that full-fledged members reportedly donate to the movement. The money is needed to build an embassy to welcome the ETs (ETA: 2025 or 2035).
Perky Rael took to the stage during a roar of whistles and applause that lasted a few minutes. He seemed shorter in person than in photographs I had seen, this self-proclaimed half-brother of Jesus Christ. His antenna-bun and white shoes made him look like a nurse gone mad. He paced to and fro, hypnotizing the crowd with his revolutionary speech. My favourite parts: “The United Nations exists to stop wars—which it has failed to do—not to forbid baby cloning”; “If Brigitte has succeeded in producing a clone, great, and if she hasn’t, great all the same—she managed to get the message of the Elohim across to the world”; “We don’t make war, we just love”; “Those with the power retain it by causing fear, they want us to be afraid”; and “We will live infinitely, through clones of ourselves.”
Sexy scientist Brigitte also made her pitch when her four straight minutes of thunderous applause died down. “The world is on the brink of war, and they are after me because I created … a beautiful baby? Because I created life?!” The crowd kept begging for more, clapping rhythmically. The divine morning ended with clips of her many televised interviews and a video outlining how cloning is done. More thunderous applause.
After it was all over, I broke through the crowd and introduced myself to the great prophet. Ever so friendly, he wanted to know my name, where I came from and what I did for a living. “Public relations? Wonderful! Poor Sylvie is our press attaché and sure is needing some help!” He told me of his upcoming tour of my native Brazil, and, looking me straight in the eye, he said, “I really hope to see you again at our next gatherings. Norberto can fill you in more about the Brazilian tour.” Norberto said hi and introduced me to a sassy Korean girl who was hanging on his back and caressing his abs. She felt my hair, smiled and told me she loved Brazil. “Want to join us for lunch?” Norberto asked. No thanks, Norberto. Maybe next time.