Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.
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They claimed: “Religion of the light and Sound of God.”
There seems to be little doubt that advertisements for seminars and workshops for information of this contemporary religious group have appeal. For example “The ECK teachings are for the understanding of one’s true purpose in his daily life from the divine perspective – here and now.” (Daily News:Fri. September, 16, 1983)
“Heaven is Here Now – Why Wait Until Death?” (Sunday Independent: June 19, 1983)
”Surviving profound personal changes with an open heart is the fastest way to grow in this new age of universal awakening. Variations of individual experience with Spirit (ECK) can be discovered in this five week course…” (Daily News: Fri. September, 16, 1983)
”Through simple daily exercises you can understand develop your own link with this spiritual force, which comes from the heart of GOD, and can be seen as light and heard as sound…”(Stirling Times: October 25, 1988)
”Must we wrestle with dusty sign posts from other ages for practical knowledge of the Holy Spirit” (Courier Mail:14 January, 1989)
”Do you wish for total freedom and the ability to Soul Travel and Know for yourself? Do you want the knowledge that life is eternal and that there is no such thing as death?” (N.Z. Listener, 21/5/1987)
BEGINNINGS OF ECKANKAR
Eckankar literature claims that the goup’s teachings are ancient and were passed down by word of mouth over centuries by ECK masters, and that it was introduced as a modern-day religion in 1965 by Paul Twitchell of the U.S.A. One of their promotion leaflet tells us that he was able to gather the “golden teachings of light and sound” from the four corners of the world and made them readily available. It claims to be a non-profit religious organisation and church and its spiritual head since 1981 has been Harold Klemp, known as as the “living ECK Master”.
Paul Twitchell, the founder of this organisation, was not forthcoming about his personal details, and at times gave conflicting information. It seems that he was born on 22 October, sometime between 1908 and 1912, in Kentucky, USA. He died in 1971. Apparently Twitchell invented stories about his life in order to make an ordinary life story sound more mystical. In 1942 he enlisted in the US Navy, and in the same year he married Camille Ballowe. After V.J. Day, the left the navy, moved to New York City, and commenced a literary career. According to his first wife, during this period he was a “seeker of religion”, and in 1950 he and his wife joined Swami Premananda’s ”Self Revelation Church of Absolute Monism” in Washington, D.C. (SCP Journal – September 1978 p 8 [Spirtual Counterfeits Project])
None of this lasted, in 1955 he was asked to leave the church and Twitchell and his wife separated (and were divorced in 1960). In the same year Kirpal Singh toured the US, having formed his own movement which he called “Rahani Satsang” - the “Divine Science of the Soul”. He had come from another amalgamated Eastern tradition known as Radha Saomi Beas. According to the research carried out for SCP Jounral ”the teachings and practices of Eckanar are little more than rehased Surat Shabd yoga, systemised by Sawan Singh, borrowed by Kirpal Singh, and popularized in America by Julian Johnson.” (ibid, p 8) The SCP Journal states that Johnson’s book called The path of the Masters “provided Twitchell page after page of verbatim content for his teachings.” (ibid, p 9) Twitchell was also involved in Scientology for a while, and terminology from Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, is found in Twitchell’s writings.
Twitchell likes to call these years his “cliff hanger” years and claimed exciting journeys for himself, never acknowledging his association with these various religious groups. In 1963 Twitchell met a young part-time librarian, Gail Atkinson, and he became her spiritual master. They were married in 1964. Within two years he had brought together his philosophy of a “Cliff hanger” – Hanging on to the edge of a cliff, safe from the crowds” (ibid, p 10) and in his words “Shabda yoga”, a way-out of yoga, into a new religion, called Eckankar”, Twitchell himself called it a one man cult, with myself as the founder, president and disciple.” (Quoted on p 11 of SCP Journal, September 1979, from Twitchell, The Precepts of Eckankar no 2, p 1). Twitchell acknowledged that it was his wife, Gail, who encouraged him to found a religion (Quoted on P 12 of ibid from Twitchell’s Eckankar, the Secret Way no 5 p2).
Eckankar currently claims to have thousands of members in over 100 countries.
In the 1980’s, in answer to the charges that Twitchell did not acknowledge his association with Kirpal Singh and other spiritual masters, and his use of the writings of Julian Johnson, the present Master, Harold Klemp, acknowledged his borrowings from Johnson and the Sant Mat tradition. This caused several students to leave and found rival organisations. It does not, however alter the fact that evidence shows Eckankar was founded on falsehoods and deception.
Eckankar teaches that there are inner worlds divided into an order of ascending levels through which the student may travel into the realm of God’s presence. The student, or chela, is aided in the process by the work of the ECK master, who is believed to able to meet and assist the student as he or she traverses the planes, especially in the night-time while sleeping. Dream plays an important part in the spiritual exercises. There are now more than 100 different techniques taught at different levels, and the literature from the organisation explains what will be encountered at different levels of the inner reality. To travel the planes it is necessary to be able to see and hear “divine light and sounds”.
Reincarnation are a feature of the teachings – the soul enters the universe as a mineral, then works its way up through plant, fish, reptile, and mammal incarnations, eventually becoming human. If a soul abuses the spiritual light it has attained, it is sent back to start again as a mineral. The short-cut to God realisation is to meet and follow the living ECK Master, whose presence will turn away aeons of karmic debt. The primary means of spiritual unfoldment practised by Eckanar is, however, soul travel or out-of-body experiences – “almost” all forms and types of occult/mystical consciousness alteration come into play (ibid, p 33).
There is much talk about God in the writings of Eckankar. Fundamentally it is classical monism, (in a ”spiritual framework it [monism] always refers to the philosophy that “All is one” and more significantly, the idea that God is not separate from his creation” [SCP Journal September 1979 p 31]) as found in orthodox Vedantic Hinduism, except in Eckankar the ultimate state for individuals is the co-member with God, and so the soul is not extinguished.
Eastern austerities such as vegetarianism and extended meditation have been chopped. It seems that its appeal is directed strongly to the Western world, and the wearing of Eastern garb is discouraged. Harold Klemp is generally photographed in a suit – he looks very much the clean-living American businessman. Their brochures appeal to its inclusiveness – “ECKISTS are home-makers, business people and retirees. They are professionals, educators, scientists and farmers … like most people, ECKists have families, careers and daily struggles. They live a life of joy-ful participation in the main-stream of society … They also know that giving love and peace to their family and community is one way to increase their understanding of God’s love.” (What is Eckankar? From ECK Materials Dept, Minneapolis)
The appeal is strong: easy chanting, short mediation, no talk of sin, and it can be learnt through monthly lessons for personal study or through ECK satsang class.
Whilst sin is not mentioned, and the idea of original sin is ridiculed - ”This Adam and Eve episode in Genesis is a ridiculous fabrication that is without a smear of intellectual reasoning”, (quoted on p 27 of SPC Journal, from Helen Varner Frye - The Power of Sex, ECK World News, Dec. 1974, p 3) as souls live their lives and make both conscious and unconscious choices, they accrue karma and karma debt. Karmic debt piles up quickly when one engages in any one of the “five passions” – lust, anger, greed, undue attachment to material things and vanity.”
As Eckankar teaching is based on monism, “God” is indentified totally with the things in creation, whether visible or invisible. God is not a person, so one cannot possibly know God, or have a relationship with him. Consequently, this “God” is unconcerned with humanity and the plight of the individual. Quoting from Twitchell on p 34 of the SCP Journal - “God of itself is not interested in the individual and his cause but only the continuation of life.” (Twitchell, Eckankar, The Secret Way no 7 p 5. In contrast, the God of the Bible is One who “created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27), and we can have a personal relationship with Him made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In his own words Twitchell seemed very confused about the nature of God:
The one thing I am certain of is that God is love and love is God… yet on the other hand God is hideous, forbidding, frightening, shocking, pretentious, garish, unprepossessing, ugly, plain, course, distorted, unbeautiful, and about any of the adjectives one wants to use in describing that part of him as power.” (Twitchell, Tiger’ Fang, p 91) Clearly Twitchell had a low view of God!
SUBJECTIVE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
Paul Twitchell constantly emphasised the importance of experience as the spiritual foundation of ECKankar. In the Tiger’s Fang, he states “we do not, and cannot, know God. We must experience him through the soul, and this body is so close to the mind that one can hardly distinguish one from the other, except in the final experience.” (Tiger’s Fang p. vii) And ”Eck does not depend on books, nor waste its time on discussion of what truth is, or God itself. What Eck demands of its chela is to enter into the Centre of the Supreme Reality and to learn for himself.” (Twitchell, Secret Way no 2 p 11 in SPC Journal p 37)
Whilst fantasy and imagination plays a large part of the spiritual experience for the average follower, the opinion of Mark Albrechtm in the SPC Journal, is that “actual contact with spiritual entities is probably the strongest factor in validating the teachings of Eckankar for the participant” (ibid, p 37). A pioneer Eckist told SPC that witchcraft and black magic are an integral part of the inner realities of Eckankar.” (ibid, p 40)
Christians should remember the warning from the Apostle John Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God. Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God…(1 John 4:1-4)
The Bible also warns that … even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).
Twitchell’s writings clearly show that Eckankar is a cult requiring total commitment. Again from the SPC Journal we can read Twitchell’s own words - “one must set aside all ideas, opinion, theories, and beliefs and look earnestly and intently at the one great principle of ECK, the “I AM”.” (Twitchell Sharmat)
“The fewer questions the chela asks the better off he will be.”
“Also the two years of required study in ECK, before reaching the stage when one can become an initiate of the Second Circle, is really two years of discipline and obedience. One must learn to keep quiet, ask no questions, and to submit to that quality called “faith”.”(Twitchell, Satsung Discourses no 12 p 5)
“Complete surrender to the ECK master is the only path to total freedom”. (Twitchell, Precepts no 8 p5)
“The Eckist is both powerful and yet helpless in the sense that his actions are all now directed by the Mahanta and his own will cannot enter into the acts which are performed.” (Satsung Discourses 2nd series No 11 p 94).
Finally, Eckists must never think of leaving Eckankar – “Once any Eckist becomes a member of the Second initiation and beyond he cannot ever resign from ECK… If such person… ever attempt to resign or want to leave ECK they will run into terrible problems.” (Twitchell, Satsung Discourses 3rd series, no 3 p 3-4)
Eckankar offers the lure of “a life full of miracles” and the “the real miracle of spiritual growth”, as well as the advantage of not needing to dramatically alter one’s life-style (Eckankar web-site, modified January 20, 2001).
The goal reached, however, is a far cry from the God of the Bible. It will introduce a student a student or follower to activities which the Bible warns against (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). The truth is contained in God’s word, If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he is in God. And so we know and rely on the love God had for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (John 4:15-16). It is by believing on Jesus that we know God. And Jesus gave His followers this promise I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness , but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
To the Christian it is blasphemous nonsense for ECKANKAR to claim that the guide to the heart of God is the Living ECK master, an American living in Minnesota.
1. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OCCULTISM & PARAPSYCHOLOGY 4th Edition Ed. J Gordon Melton. International Thomson Publishing.
2. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN RELIGIONS 3rd Edition Ed. J Gordon Melton. Gale Research Inc
3. SCP JOURNAL September 1979 Counterfeits Project
4. Various pamphlet, brochures, and books from Eckankar & their website
Published CCG Ministries