The cults are out there

The cults are out there

They are looked upon as crazy by some, but are their ideas any stranger than established religions? Andrew Masterson reports

Given the evident ideological agreement between Tony Abbott and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, it is safe to predict Canberra won’t be rolling out the red carpet anytime soon for a delegation from beyond the solar system.

Harper and his colleagues had to formally consider such a possibility in June. The Canadian government was presented with a request from a group called the International Raelian Movement for a modest plot of land to be set aside for a very special purpose.

The Raelians, founded in 1974 and with chapters in many countries including Australia, wanted the land to be the site of an embassy, a diplomatically immune structure at which a visiting delegation of aliens could safely dock and thence commence negotiations concerning the fate of all humanity.

Harper’s mob knocked them back, possibly following the lead of the Israelis, who nixed a similar proposal a while back.

Not surprisingly, the Australian branch of the Raelians isn’t holding its breath over the prospect of a chunk of Australian Capital Territory real estate.

“I’d say we’d definitely consider an embassy in Australia, but we’ ve only got a reasonably small team here,” said the group’s spokesman, Roy Tyrell.

“The Raelians take their name from their founder, a French gent named Rael who [is] convinced he was a prophet sired by an alien race called the
Elohim.”

“The movement is looking all over the planet for a suitable site, and has been in contact with a number of governments. But we have to go back to Israel and give them one more opportunity first. We see the embassy as the Biblical Third Temple.”

The Raelians take their name from their founder, a French gent named Rael who, before he became convinced that he was a prophet sired by an alien race called the Elohim, was a motoring journalist called Claude Vorilhon.

Tyrell estimates there are about 400 Raelians in Australia. They are one of several religious groups which - theological differences notwithstanding - hold that humanity’s salvation will be determined by extraterrestrial beings.

Some of these groups, notably the Scientologists, tend to get a bit cranky when this aspect of their beliefs is pointed out. At least one other ended in tragedy. In 1997, some 38 members of the United States-based Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide in order to reach the salvation-bringing aliens they held to be waiting for them in a spaceship hidden in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet.

Most, however, including those in Australia, conduct themselves with harmless eccentricity.

A few exist within the broad milieu of New Age belief systems, peddling influence and trinkets at hippy festivals. At least one reflects the more conservative values of mid-century British dottiness.

And then there are the Raelians, who are actively involved in fund-raising and facilitating much-needed medical aid in parts of Africa. For non-Raelians, this activity raises an awkward question. Is humanitarian effort in some way devalued when it is catalysed by a belief system that is, prima facie, absurd?

The oldest of the operating UFO-cults in Australia is the august-sounding Aetherius Society, which was founded in Britain in the opening years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign by a Shropshire gentleman, now deceased, called George King.

King claimed to be in regular receipt of telepathic messages from an entity called Aetherius, who lived on Venus. The alien told him that most of the world’s great religious leaders - Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and so on - were in fact from outer space, a realm to which they returned upon their earthly deaths.

To this group of well-known leaders, dubbed Cosmic Masters, King and his followers added another, a being known as Mars Sector 6. While notably absent from the world’s holy books, the alien is highly influential in contemporary world affairs. Mars Sector 6 pilots a craft known as Satellite Number 3, which orbits Earth and from time to time instigates a “magnetic period” that, according to the group’s web site, makes “all spiritual actions 3000 times more potent in terms of their benefit to the world as a whole”.

July, by the way, is one of the main magnetic periods on the Aetherian calendar. The Aetherius Society shrank considerably following the death of George King in 1997 and his notable failure to get back in touch thereafter. The group now boasts a single Australian branch, in Brisbane.

The idea of Jesus-as-alien is common to most UFO cults. In the one known as the Ashtar Command, however, he is portrayed less as, say, a benevolent redeemer, and more as a Rebel Alliance commander in Star Wars.

“The Ashtar Command,” explains the group’s website, “is the airborne division of the Great Brother/Sisterhood of Light, under the administrative direction of Commander Ashtar and the spiritual guidance of Lord Sananda, our Commander-in-Chief, known to Earth as Jesus the Christ. Composed of millions of starships and personnel from many civilisations, we are here to assist Earth and humanity through the current cycle of planetary cleansing and polar realignment.”

One might have thought that a massed star fleet that size would have been noticed by someone by now, but perhaps they have really nifty cloaking devices. The most senior Earth-bound member of Ashtar Command is a man called Soltec, who seems to live near Cardiff in New South Wales. As well as being a senior-ranking officer, he is also the captain of the Starship Phoenix. Jesus pilots the Starship Rainbow.

The Ashtar Command, like many UFO cults, derives ultimately from the spiritualist ideology of Theosophy, which isn’t in itself particularly concerned with space craft. Neither is it the only wellspring of the idea that humans owe their existence to aliens.

In Australia, we are fortunate not to have a branch of the German UFO-cult Tempelhofgesellschaft, which teaches that Nazis are holy aliens who will soon rise up in a cloud of flying saucers currently hidden in Antarctica. Sadly, however, we also don’t have a branch of the gloriously named Californian group, the Universal Industrial Church of The New World Comforter, which holds that aliens want us to be vegans and operates a chain of restaurants to facilitate that wish.

We do, however, have the Raelians, who, while back-burnering any plans for a space-port-cum-consulate in Australia, are very busy raising funds for surgical teams and staff to fill a hospital the organisation has just built in the African nation of Burkina Faso. The facility, known as the Pleasure Hospital, was built to offer free reconstructive surgery to women who have suffered genital mutilation through cultural or religious ritual.

The Raelians’ fund-raising arm for the project is called Clitoraid.

The hospital has received strong endorsement from several non-Raelian medical practitioners, especially in the United States. The Catholic Church in Burkina Faso tried to stop the hospital from opening, reportedly due to fears that patients might convert; but, according to Tyrell, the sect defeated the church’s injunction just last week. It is due to start providing operations later in July.

“Sexuality is a fundamental thing that makes us human,” Tyrell said. “And it is violently taken away from these women. Clitoraid was Rael’s idea. He is our spiritual leader and gives us guidance in these matters. He wants us to focus where there is need for something to be done, but where nothing is being done.”

The idea of assisting the charitable efforts of a group who believe that their leader is part-alien and is thus a half-sibling to Jesus (who was also spawned by space folk) is at first blush discomfiting. One might ask, however, whether Raelian theology is really any weirder than its Catholic equivalent, with its stories about God-fathered sons and the mysterious role of biscuits.

Tyrell, who lives on the Gold Coast and has been a card-carrying Raelian for 22 years, is happy in his faith and likes helping others. His mindset may be odd, but is that really so bad?

“Essentially Rael was chosen by one of the Elohim, who revealed himself as Yahweh, the biological father of Rael and Jesus,” he said.

“I’ve asked hundreds of questions about Raelism over the years and I’ve never found an answer that didn’t satisfy me”

? The Australian Raelian Movement: australia.rael.org/

? Ashtar Command: lightvoyager.com

? Aetherius Society: aetherius.org

? Clitoraid: clitoraid.org

From: http://www.smh.com.au/national/raelians-and-other-ufo-cults-stand-firm-o...