I Am Now Officially Ordained…

…at the Universal Life Church. Official date of ordination 09/11/11. Hallelujah…

I’ll make you a believer…

I just have to come up with $49.99 for my monastery credential package which includes:

  • 11 certificates (Wedding, Renewal of Marriage, Affirmation of Love, House Blessing, Baptism and Commitment) *contains multiple
  • 1 Minister Window decal
  • 1 Press Pass [That could come in handy]
  • 1 ULC Parking Hanger
  • 1 Hard copy of your official Ordination Credential
  • 1 Wallet ID card
  • Your choice of Clergy Badge, and sample services.

….a $75 dollar value. That’s a good deal hmmm.

I decided to add a religious title to the mix for a few bucks more. I will now be called Emissary…just like Cisko in StarTrek DS9.  I thought to go for “Princess” or “Revelator” but the first is perhaps a little frivolous and the second a little too heavy, unless I want to restrict myself to Depeche Mode songs for services. Which may not be too bad at all.

 

I’m not joking. I can marry y’all now. [At least in some jurisdictions. Others would require a registration with local authorities.]

Here’s a replica something like the certificate.

We are all children of the same universe…seems to be the motto. Can’t argue with that.

There are only two tenets of the ULC: to promote freedom of religion and to do that which is right and within the law.

I can generally abide by that-at least as much as any of my fellow ministers.

Speaking of which,  I am in good company in this particular church.

Some of my fellow ordinees include:

  • Glenn Beck
  • Richard Branson
  • Kathy Griffin
  • Mae West
  • Goldie Hawn
  • John Waters
  • Alanis Morisette
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Hunter S. Thompson
  • Hugh Hefner
  • Abbie Hoffman
  • John Lennon
  • Courtney Love

So can you imagine the kind of services that could be held with these folks. I also think that Joey, on Friends, got this Internet minister credential so he could marry Monica and Chandler. There you go. Totally official.

Got nothing to do on a Saturday night? You too can join this illustrious crew. Just click the link above and fill out the form. It’s free. Takes about 45 seconds. The only thing that costs is the paperwork, if you even want to get it. And it’s pretty cheap.

Now I just need to set up a non-profit religious foundation and I’m ready to go!

I am available for private parties if you can afford it. Gotta get building the flock.

 

Your own personal jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there

Feeling unknown
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
Ill make you a believer

Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess
I will deliver
You know I’m a forgiver

Reach out and touch faith
Reach out and touch faith

Your own personal jesus…

Feeling unknown
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
Ill make you a believer
I will deliver

You know I’m a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal jesus
Reach out and touch faith

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Wikileaks, Raelians, Reincarnation and The Possibility of an Island

Warning-Wikileaks stuff. Though you could probably tell by the title.


Sometimes the Wikileaks cables provide some insight into popular and fringe culture as well as the usual political subjects.

A while back I read an excellent novel that was based on a protagonist’s experiences with a semi-religious group that very much resembled the Raelians. These are people who believe in an extra-terrestrial origin of the human species, that the originators of this species are one day going to return to earth and that by cloning, people will be able to live forever, among other things.

In that novel the main character describes his life through several viewpoints of his various clones throughout time. He is looking back attempting to piece together a mystery regarding his first death.

The award winning novel is called The Possibility of an Island. That book, in summary from the link:

There are three main characters, Daniel, and two of his clones.

Daniel is a successful comedian who can’t seem to enjoy life despite his wealth. He gets bored with his hedonist lifestyle, but can’t escape from it either. In the meanwhile he is disgruntled with the state of current society, and philosophizes about the nature of sex and love.

His two clones live an uneventful life as hermits, in an apocalyptic background far away in the future. They live in a time where the human species is on its last legs (alternatively, on its first legs: hunter-gatherer tribes), destroyed by climate change and nuclear war. The two clones are confronted with the life of the first Daniel and have different views about their predecessor. Scattered around are the remnants of tourist resorts, cities and consumer items and some natural humans living in small tribes without any knowledge of the past or of civilization.

The book was the basis of Iggy Pop’s 2009 album Préliminaires or so states Wikipedia.

[As an aside, it is interesting how interconnected things in this world really are. We’re not even talking six degrees of separation much any more. In this post alone we have genetic science, Iggy Pop, Canadian government legislation, the Marquis de Sade, comics references, Mayans, 2012, US government restrictions on the freedom of information, French language novels in translation, aliens, the annual migration of the Quebecois to Florida for the winter, reincarnation and Wikileaks. Remix culture indeed. ]

Michel Houellebecq the author of the novel is described as:

…a controversial and award-winning French author, filmmaker and poet. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire; to detractors he is a peddler of sleaze and shock.

~from Wikipedia article Michel Houellebecq

He’s an exceptionally good writer and I enjoyed reading this book enormously.

But Houellebecq is not the only one with interest in the Realians and their beliefs. The US consulate in Montreal Canada took some interest in the topic in the early part of the new millennium.

In late 2002 the Realians announced to the world that they had cloned the first human. It was allegedly a female named Eve. Of course it was a gigantic media hoax but it spurred a lot of press and some concerns within the scientific community as well as everyone was barely over the Y2K scare and all the apocalyptic notions regarding the new millennium.  Superb timing for such a show, wasn’t it?

03MONTREAL1 from 2003-01-03 16:05 is a cable that deals with the Raelian sect of UFO worshippers that began in Europe and has spread, albeit thinly, around the world. Here are some excerpts with my commentary relevant to the above. 

SUBJECT: CLONING CLAIM PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON QUEBEC-BASED 
RAELIAN GROUP 
 
1. SUMMARY: THE FOLLOWING IS SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON 
THE MONTREAL-BASED RAELIAN GROUP, WHOSE MEMBER DR. BRIGITTE 
BOISSELIER ANNOUNCED AT A DECEMBER 27 PRESS CONFERENCE IN 
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA THE BIRTH OF THE FIRST CLONED HUMAN 
BEING, A 7 POUND BABY GIRL NICKNAMED EVE. AND ITS TWO MAIN 
FIGURES LEADER CLAUDE VORILHON, BETTER KNOWN AS RAEL, AND 
DR. BOISSELIER.  ONE LIKELY RESULT OF THE BOISSELIER 
ANNOUNCEMENT IS THAT CANADA'S PENDING LEGISLATION TO BAN 
HUMAN CLONING COULD CONTAIN STRICTER RESTRICTIONS. END 
SUMMARY. 

 

That’s the short version. The woman doctor named is actually a Ph.D. chemist not a geneticist so that gives you a clue right there about her area of expertise. The long version of the cable, with additional details follows.

2. THE RAELIAN MOVEMENT WAS FOUNDED BY FRENCHMAN CLAUDE 
VORILHON, A FORMER SPORTS JOURNALIST, FAILED SINGER, RADIO 
COMMENTATOR AND AVID STOCK CAR RACER. VORILHON CLAIMS TO 
HAVE BEEN CONCEIVED ON DECEMBER 25, 1945, BY A FRENCH MOTHER 
AND AN ALIEN FATHER. SPECIALISTS SAY HE WAS BORN IN VICHY, 
FRANCE IN 1946. VORILHON WHO USES THE NAME RAEL  (GOD'S 
LIGHT) (PRONOUNCED RA-EL IN FRENCH (RHYMES WITH KAL-EL AND 
JOR-EL)) SAYS HE CREATED THE MOVEMENT AFTER ALIENS VISITED 
HIM IN CENTRAL FRANCE IN 1973. AT THAT TIME, LITTLE GREEN 
ALIENS (APPROXIMATELY 4 FT TALL) TOLD HIM --IN FLUENT FRENCH- 
- EARTHLINGS HAD BEEN CREATED IN A LABORATORY 25,000 YEARS 
AGO. SINCE THESE ALIENS WHICH HE CALLS THE ELOHIM (THE 
HEBREW WORD FOR GOD) ARE 25,000 YEARS AHEAD OF US, RAEL SAYS 
CLONING IS VERY SIMPLE TASK FOR THEM. 

Jor-El and Kal-El are characters from the Superman comics. They are Superman’s father’s name and the original name of Superman on his home planet of Krypton. The author of this cable is certainly well versed in popular culture!

3. ALTHOUGH THE SECT IS BASED IN MONTREAL--AND NOT 
SWITZERLAND AS THE BRITISH TABLOID PRESS HAS REPORTED --RAEL 
MOVED HIS PERSONAL HEADQUARTERS TO FLORIDA IN THE EARLY 
NINETIES. WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED RAEL WAS MOVING TO FLORIDA, 
RADIO COMMENTATORS JOKED HE WAS SIMPLY IMITATING QUEBEC 
SNOWBIRDS OR THAT HE WANTED TO GET CLOSER TO NASCAR 
CIRCUITS. HOWEVER, SOME SAW U.S. EXPANSION AS A LOGICAL 
BUSINESS MOVE. ON THE ONE HAND, SINCE THE 1960S, QUEBEC HAS 
PROVEN TO BE TOUGH RECRUITING GROUNDS FOR ALL RELIGIOUS 
GROUPS, MAINSTREAM OR OTHERWISE. ON THE OTHER, THE U.S. 
OFFERS MUCH BIGGER POOLS OF MONEY AND TARGET AUDIENCES FOR 
RAELIAN COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES. BECAUSE THE GROUP IS 
RECOGNIZED AS AN ATHEIST RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION BY THE 
QUEBEC GOVERNMENT IT ENJOYS THE SAME FISCAL ADVANTAGES AS 
OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS. 

Nascar…definitely an interest of the non-terrestrially born.

4.  THE GROUP OPERATES A THEME PARK CALLED UFO LAND IN 
QUEBEC'S EASTERN TOWNSHIPS AREA. THE FACILITY, WHICH 
CONSISTS MAINLY OF A LARGE FLYING SAUCER, A LARGE-SCALE DNA 
MOLECULE AND SOME ROOMS FOR SUMMER SEMINARS AND MEDIA 
INTERVIEWS, WAS RECENTLY VANDALIZED BUT IS SCHEDULED TO 
REOPEN THIS SUMMER. 

UFO Land sounds like a perfect match for Florida though. It could fit along the mysterious tangent made up by Universal Orlando, Disneyworld and LegoLand. In addition to raising some higher vibrations there would certainly be more than a few lost tourists who might wander in and be convinced to lay down a few bills.

5. IN PHOTOS AND TELEVISION APPEARANCES, RAEL SURROUNDS 
HIMSELF WITH BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. RAELIAN MEDIA KITS INCLUDE 
MANY PICTURES OF SCANTILY DRESSED "MEMBERS." RAEL PREACHES 
"SENSUAL MEDITATION" WHICH ENABLES THE FAITHFUL TO REACH THE 
"COSMIC ORGASM." 

While the kiddies are off to ogle Harry Potter replicas with their nannies, Mom and Dad can get some entertainment of their own. Wasn’t this the Rajneesh shtick way back when in Oregon? BTW it still is in India in some of the more remote groups. But you have to be spiritually initiated first. I have yet to find out the cost of that but I gather it’s pretty steep.

6. DESPITE THE SECT'S TWO POWERFUL MARKETING TOOLS, SEX AND 
UFOS, THE RAELIANS HAVE VERY FEW MEMBERS.   THEIR WEB SITE 
WWW.RAEL.ORG CLAIMS -IN TWENTY LANGUAGES-- TO HAVE 55,000 
MEMBERS IN 84 COUNTRIES. HOWEVER MIKE KROPVELD, EXECUTIVE 
DIRECTOR OF THE MONTREAL-BASED INFO-SECTE (NO RELATION WITH 
THE PARIS ORGANIZATION OF THE SAME NAME) TOLD POST THAT THE 
RAELIANS INFLATE THEIR FIGURES WITH PAST AND OCCASIONAL 
MEMBERS. BECAUSE OF ALL THE MEDIA ATTENTION, THE GROUP 
CREATES A LOT OF CURIOSITY -A RAEL SPOKESMAN STATED IN THE 
LOCAL PRESS ON DECEMBER 30 THAT THE WEBSITE WAS GETTING ONE 
MILLION HITS PER HOUR ON DECEMBER 26 -- BUT MOST VISITORS 
ONLY ATTEND A FEW MEETINGS. THE ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP IS BETWEEN 
2,000 AND 3,000 WORLDWIDE AND ABOUT 700 IN MONTREAL, SAYS 
KROPVELD. 

Recruiting might be a problem in Florida as silver lame gives quite a heat rash in high humidity.

7. ACCORDING TO LOCAL NEWS ANALYSTS, THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF 
RAELIANS IS TO CREATE LIFE IN A LABORATORY WHICH WOULD MAKE 
HUMAN BEINGS IMMORTAL AND ENABLE THEM TO CREATE ANOTHER 
CIVILIZATION ON ANOTHER PLANET. IN THE MEANTIME, RAEL WANTS 
TO BUILD AN EMBASSY IN ISRAEL TO WELCOME THE ELOHIM WHEN 
THEY COME BACK IN 2035. THE GROUP HAS ALSO BEEN CRITICIZED 
FOR ADVOCATING THE USE OF GENETICS FOR EUGENIC ATTEMPTS AT 
IMPROVING THE HUMAN RACE. THE GROUP'S STRUCTURE WITH PRIESTS 
AND BISHOPS IS BASED ALONG THE LINES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. 

If you’ve ever encountered the Zeitgeist Movement and their Venus Project some of this may sound familiar. They are the same ones who have made the Zeitgeist movie which conflates conspiracy theory very nicely with religion, economics and utopianism. While the Zeitgeist folks don’t advocate eugenics they are similarly techno-utopian and far-future oriented.

8. UNTIL RECENTLY THE GROUP AVOIDED SERIOUS CONTROVERSY. 
THERE HAVE NOT BEEN ANY STORIES OF FORMER MEMBERS 
COMPLAINING ABOUT BEING CONNED OUT OF THEIR MONEY OR 
PHYSICALLY ABUSED OR SEDUCED, AND NO INVOLVEMENT WITH MINORS 
-- EXCEPT ONE CASE IN FRANCE. 

Well that’s something in their favor, except once.

9.  NONETHELESS, THE RAELIANS KNOW HOW TO PIGGYBACK ON 
STORIES TO GET PUBLICITY. WHEN IN 1993, AUTHORITIES IN 
QUEBEC DECIDED AGAINST INSTALLING CONDOM DISTRIBUTORS IN 
SCHOOLS, RAELIANS VISITED THE KIDS WITH FREE SAMPLES. IN THE 
WAKE OF THE RECENT PEDOPHILE CHARGES AGAINST VARIOUS 
RELIGIOUS ORDERS, THE GROUP WENT BACK TO THE SCHOOLS IN 
QUEBEC. THEIR PLAN THIS TIME WAS TO HAND OUT SMALL WOODEN 
CROSSES FOR THE STUDENTS TO BURN. BUT PUBLIC AND 
GOVERNMENTAL OPPOSITION STOPPED THE LATER PROJECT. IN BOTH 
CASES, ALMOST ALL THE PUBLICITY THEY GARNERED WAS BAD. 

Reproductive issues of all sorts seem to be pretty prominent with this group.

10. SENSING A SIMILAR WAVE OF CONDEMNATION, RAEL HAS 
PUBLICLY DISTANCED HIMSELF FROM DR. BOISSELIER, A RAELIAN 
BISHOP, AND HER CLONING WORK, SAYING HE HAD GOTTEN RID OF 
CLONAID TWO YEARS AGO. HOWEVER, KROPVELD BELIEVES THAT 
CLONING IS BY FAR THE GROUP'S MOST DANGEROUS WORK. KROPFELD 
EVEN DOUBTS RAEL REALLY BELIEVES IN CLONING HUMAN BEINGS 
BEYOND ITS MARKETING POSSIBILITIES FOR HIMSELF AS SECT 
LEADER. 

Always have an underling handy to blame the unsuccessful projects on ~ Cult Management 101.

[two paragraphs of Dr. Boisselier’s biography snipped]

13.  COMMENT. THE PUBLICITY GARNERED BY THE CLONING 
ANNOUNCEMENT MAY BE USED BY THE RAEL ORGANIZATION TO GAIN 
NEW ADHERENTS IN THE UNITED STATES. 

They’d have plenty of competition from the Sedona area.

14.  CANADA LIKE MANY OTHER COUNTRIES IS IN THE PROCESS OF 
ADOPTING LEGISLATION BILL C-113 WHICH WOULD BAN HUMAN 
CLONING. ONE LIKELY RESULT OF THE BOISSELIER ANNOUNCEMENT IS 
THAT SUCH LEGISLATION COULD CONTAIN STRICTER RESTRICTIONS. 
END COMMENT. 

The bill known as C-13 The Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction did pass despite opposition from pro-life groups which wanted a ban on stem cell research among other things included, although there have been further developments and court challenges most notably from the province of Quebec.

What is the fascination with cloning? Is it a tangible manifestation of hope towards immortality? Would a clone be a literal reincarnation? What would the relationship be between a source and a clone? Technically they would be temporally separated identical twins. Would their interaction be like talking to themselves? What does a clone do to the concept of identity?

If you get genetically replicated body parts made from stem cells, which is possible right now, how much of your body gets replaced before you are your own clone? Are you still the same person or someone else?

These are fascinating questions that humanity is going to have to answer in the not too distant future.

The principle of anatta is not confounded by these dilemmas fortunately with the illusory self being comprised of the ever changing content of the skandas. We are not even the same as we were when we began reading this blog post. Blood has circulated, cells have died, some have divided, air has come and gone from our lungs, chemical reactions have taken place, muscles have tensed and relaxed, sitting positions have shifted, the sun or moon has moved a fraction in the sky causing a change in the light to which our eyes have adapted, the earth has rotated several thousand kilometers changing our environmental conditions such as the barometric pressure or wind speed to which we also adapt, bacteria and viruses have grown and died within us, thoughts and feelings have come and gone.

We are in unstoppable flux at every moment. With no conclusive beginning or end. Regardless of momentary configurations it continues. Infinitely.

I don’t think aliens or clones or utopian future scenarios are necessary to realize that.

imagePost-Script in the Real (Not RAEL?) World

One might wonder why Buddhists would be interested in aliens. I really don’t know. But some apparently are. Recently I noticed that a locally well-known teacher of Buddhism, a former Theravada monk, and previous to that a Unitarian, has started a UFO contact group in Vancouver, Canada where I stay sometimes.

Brian Ruhe is the author of several books, gives meditation classes, lectures and retreats with the Theravada Buddhist Community of Vancouver.

He is quoted on the contact group site:

“I feel that this world has been engaged by aliens for a very, very long time and that there is hope, there is a future for mankind in space as part of our galactic community. There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

He has a whole book on the topic, although it is not too obvious by the title Freeing the Buddha:Diversity on a Sacred Path, which was first published in India. Here’s a Google books excerpt. He also writes about Bigfoot and throws in some Luke Skywalker for good measure as part of a retelling of some Buddhist stories. He doesn’t necessarily state that he’s a believer in all things woo but I’ve only skimmed. The purpose I guess is to try to make the Buddhist stories relevant for a local audience. I think it is not always advisable to go to that kind of length to appease an audience. There is enough confusion on the market already.

Hmmmm.

He is not the only one putting this line forward. Several forums such as NewBuddhist.com have threads on the topic as do websites like one called Wisdom Quarterly and the post on Angkor Wat in Cambodia. If you read through the other topics on these two, which are only examples, there are many more, this alien hype is getting more prominent the closer to 2012 we get.

If you think this is a new trend think again. New Agers have been plying this line for quite some time. But now it is taking on a distinctly Buddhist tone and being labeled as such using sutras and commentaries as alleged evidence, much like 30 or so years ago when the Nazca lines and images in Mayan ruins were being interpreted similarly in questionable works like Eric von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods.

We are going to be hearing a lot more on this topic in the next couple of years.

Take your protein pills and put your helmets on.

Brad’s Invitation was Lost in the Mail…or something like that.

Was reading the comments on Brad Warner’s blog post regarding the big meeting at the Garrison Institute which was the subject of my last blog post when I read this:

Dear Mr. Warner,
I am an event planner at the Garrison Institute and I want to let you know that we sent you an invitation Dec 11, 2010. I’m not sure what happened that you did not receive our invitation. And I regret this understanding. If you have any questions please email me at erin@garrisoninstitute.org.
Thank you,
Erin Koch

Hmmmm.

I’ll just post my comment from there here since I’m too busy right now to formulate something further:

Very interesting that the Garrison Institute event planner leaves a message in the comments here and on Suicide Girls rather than actually contacting Brad by email. Clearly doesn’t know much about the Internet to put an email address in any comments forum! Here.

WTF is up with that aside from a snarky move designed to provoke a sense of embarrassment?

That’s one way to get people to shut up and stop criticizing. One of the oldest socially coercive tactics around. The institutional representative (backed by the weight of that position) seeks to defer any criticism by pointing out something like this. Had the thing not been so secretive in the first place perhaps Brad and others could have queried their status vis-a-vis invitations.

And I think they meant misunderstanding rather than understanding.

Did this event planner also send the invitation via comments?

Not such great event planning when one doesn’t follow up on a non-response? Or wasn’t an RSVP expected?

The Alchemy of Theory

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. –Hunter S. Thompson

Theory is my hobby. I can’t think of any other way to classify it. These are collected, sorted, examined, remixed, dismantled, hacked, built, redistributed the same way someone deals with their gadget collection, their car collection or any other collectable collection.

Professional theorists, such as those employed by establishments like MIT or religious institutions (Are they not the same to some?) tend to specialize in one theoretical area, more often serving to preserve theory than to wrestle it, tear it apart, mutate it. Probably that’s the main reason I’ll not turn pro any time soon. Maintaining it as a hobby is the most fun one can have with it.

Theory is built of beliefs, some more verifiable than others. As such it is a mutable substance not unlike mercury or other alchemical elements. Many combinations are tried before one strikes gold. But it’s only a provisional sort of gold as the next moment can turn it into lead.

Doing something you enjoy as a profession ruins it. I used to really enjoy everything about computers and the emerging Internet at one time. Endless fascination. Then I got my dream job of sorts as a computer systems manager. It was a nightmare. After a year I quit and had minimal contact with anything technology related for about 3-4 years.

Just when you think the Philosopher’s Stone is in hand it becomes a rock again. That’s part of the fun of it though. One can always build a rock garden.