Started as Eckankar, The Ancient Science of Soul Travel, by Paul Twitchell, is still one of the more popular of the white collar religious cults. Their estimated earnings are around eighty million a year, and because of a recent television advertising blitz they are bringing in many more members every day.
Twitchell was always interested in the esoteric. in 1950, Paul and his wife Camille, joined the "Self Revelation Church of Absolute Monism". In 1955, Swami Premanda requested Twitchell to leave the Church. Later that year Paul and his wife were separated and in 1960, they were divorced. Twitchell then joined the "church" of Scientology, but could not refrain from practicing other technologies, while he was practicing Scientology. He was soon branded a Suppressive Person (Scientology speak for excommunication), and moved on. At this time, Kirpal Singh was taking tours of the United States. In 1963, Paul Twitchell asked his bride-to-be, Gail Atkinson, to attend one of the "satsangs". After attending several of these meetings, Paul Twitchell presented Miss Atkinson to the "Ruhani Satsang master" to receive her "initiation into the path of surat shabd yoga". Just after this initiation, Paul leaves, takes the name Singh out of his previous written works and his own movement comes into view. Derived from Ruhani Satsung, Scientology, and several other religious and occult groups, Eckankar was begun by Paul Twitchell in 1965, where he remained in charge until his death in 1971.
Later that year, his widow Gail, claimed that Twitchell came to her in a dream and told her that Darwin Gross was to succeed him as the new Mahanta. Gail did as she was told and named Gross the new Mahanta. She then married him in October 1972. Gross described himself as "the only man ever manifested in all of history in whom individualism and universalism are combined in their full expression". In his time as the Living Eck Master, he only published a few monographs and one book. in 1978 he and Gail were divorced and in 1981, upon the advise of his advisory council he resigned as the "God Man"
At this point, Sri Harold Klemp takes over the "Staff of Life", and remains the Living Eck Master to this day. Don't take his seemingly mild manner and soft voice at face value, he rules with an iron fist. He could be called Eckankar's David Miscavige. In the words of Twitchell, "The Living Eck Master is the only man, should I say being, who is capable of manifesting both individuals and universalism in their full expressions. He is law unto himself, does what he pleases, has what he wants, comes and goes absolutely at his own will, and asks no favors of any man." Klemp calls all who do not practice Eckankar "weeds", (Scientologists call them "wogs"), a derogatory term that implies they are only worthy to be stepped on and ground into the dirt. He has said in some of his lectures, "each of those who are ECKists must come to the realization that they each, belong to the chosen race of the superior being. All others are aliens, that is those who have not yet voluntarily taken up the path of ECK. These aliens, as we speak of them, are, in a way, heathens or pagans who have not yet found truth. They are the agents of the Kal, (the god of the lower worlds, the devil) and the enemy of those who are the followers of ECK"
Those who have left Eckankar usually leave quietly without speaking about it publicly. This is because the organization has a most unsettling habit of gathering personal data on people who dare raise the least criticism of it. (where have we heard this before?) This is especially acute on the Internet, where a contingent of priests devotes countless hours trying to track down and compile personal information on anyone careless enough to divulge their personal information. This information has been used to harass critics in their real lives and has been effectively used to silence many who might ordinarily speak up. Then is the psychological damage done to many people when they give their hearts, souls, money, time and energies to an organization that betrays them. Most ex-eckists are able to pick themselves up, dust off their pants and, after a period of grieving, move on with their lives. Some, though, have extreme difficulty breaking free of the fear and bad karma threats that are strewn throughout the writings. They've been conditioned to believe that if one walks away from the "master", they lose all spiritual status and must begin their journey in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms again. For some people, these fear implants have led to terrible suicidal depressions that can last for years. Others have had to seek out trained psychologists to help them through it. Twitchell said, "Whosoever…shall divulge the secrets of his initiation…shall be deprived of his sight and tongue in order to never say anything about the degrees of initiation in ECKANKAR." Sri Klemp has said, "But once the chela [member of Eckankar] has become a member of the inner circle, HE CANNOT RESIGN…Those few have found that spiritual decay sets in immediately, affecting the health, material life and spiritual life, and BRINGS DEATH MORE SWIFTLY." Klemp further states, "The wrath of the eck (spirit) crashes down upon anybody who is still a slave to the ego and deserts the master. Not once will he see the connection between his betrayal of the eck and the horrendous troubles that strike him down like a plague on every hand. And thus he goes downward on the spiral of awareness until he leaves this body in hopeless despair, still wondering why the fates have treated him so cruelly."
Is Eckankar dangerous? There have been a few instances of suicides, usually people in the upper levels of training. One critic said, "Yes, I have known someone who's 2 brothers were in that religion. One of them committed suicide in his garage, with the car running, and a picture of Eckankar plastered on the inside of his windshield. I would run, not walk away from this religion." Many more have had psychotic breaks on the upper levels. They are usually escorted out the back door with admonishments to keep silent about their experiences or suffer the consequences. Also as in all religions, there is a certain fanatical core group and with such ones around, anything could happen, (like the Sea Org in Scientology). Twitchell once wrote that "the Eck not only condones warfare, but has used it on occasion." Dangerously inflammatory words from a so-called spiritual teacher. Fanatics of all stripes latch onto such irresponsible words and use them to justify the most horrible treatment of others, if history is any guide. So yes, Eckankar can be considered dangerous.
So what do ECKists believe? Their number one precept is soul travel as guided by an Eck Master. In this way they can avoid further incarnations if they so desire On Reincarnation. According to Eck, as souls live their lives and make both conscious and "unconscious" choices, they accrue karma and karmic debt. Souls must then pay for or work off negative karma acquired through wrong action, either in this life or a previous one. In Eck, the individual soul must go through seemingly endless rounds of reincarnations to work off karma, taking millions of years and millions of reincarnations as the soul rises up the evolutionary scale of life. Eck teaches that the soul enters the universe as a mineral, then works its way up through plant, fish, reptile, and mammal incarnations, eventually becoming human, where it will spend any number of lifetimes until it attains spiritual enlightenment. [Twitchell claimed to have entered the lower universe as an unspecified mineral eight million years ago, and supposedly got off the “Wheel of 84” (meaning no more reincarnations) when he “translated” (Eckese for “died”) in 1971.] The shortcut to God-realization is to meet and follow the Living Eck Master, whose presence will burn away eons of karmic debt, freeing the soul from the endless rebirths on the "Wheel of 84."
Their Spiritual Practice. The primary means of spiritual unfoldment practiced by Eck is soul travel or out-of-the-body experiences. Five of the major techniques used are: (1) imaginative projection, (2) meditation, (3) projection via the dream state, (4) trance, and (5) direct projection (intentionally willing one's consciousness to be in another location). Mantras are frequently chanted and contact with spirit guides is practiced as well. Almost all forms and types of occult/mystical consciousness alteration come into play. Trance states and spiritism are encouraged from the outset in Eck spiritual practice, but the experience grows more esoteric as the Eckist travels up through "the realms." There are ten initiations — one for advancement to each plane. They are generally given yearly and are considered the basic "sacrament" of Eckankar.
What do Eckists say about sin, Christ, salvation and prayer? Sin – Eck does not adhere to the concept of "original sin." Eck believes this about sin: "The idea of man born in sin is one of the oldest pitfalls which the Kal Niranjan ("Kal" for short — Eck terminology for the negative force of the cosmos, otherwise identified by Eck as "the Devil") could plan for keeping Soul in ignorance of Its true glory. … All the doctrines of man born in sin, to be purified by the appearance of a messiah who dies for man's sins, is that of a Kalistic belief." (Eck does not endorse or uphold Christian morals concerning sexual behavior. Also, Eck does not believe this Soul enters the body of an unborn child; thus, they have no problem with abortion.)
Christ – Eck does not recognize any authenticity of the "virgin-birth." Twitchell stated that "Kal is the Jehovah of the Jewish faith and the Father of the Christian teachings. … Therefore, we really see [Jesus] as a son of Kal Niranjan, king of the lower worlds." Thus, in Eck, the Bible, the entire structure of its moral teachings, and Jesus Christ Himself are identified with the evil power of the cosmos — in a word, with the Devil!
Salvation – Twitchell said that "Eck is the highest of all paths to God. … there is no other way to gain spiritual enlightenment." He sweepingly pronounces that "belief in anything except the Eck is false. … ECKANKAR is the only direct path to God. … All other paths are only stepping stones into the Astral plane. … belief in anything except the Eck is false … it is not possible to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven except through the teachings of ECKANKAR."
Prayer – Eck believes the Biblical concept of intercessory prayer is an "occult" technique.
I hope this has answered a few questions for you. Please watch the short video below. It says a lot in a short time. Thanks for reading this post. If you have any comments, pro or con, I would love to hear them. Also please subscribe so that you can be notified when I post the next issue. And please remember to click the social share buttons!