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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Post-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.
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.