How dangerous is the Eckankar cult
Eckankar is a new religious movement that was founded by the American Paul Twitchell in 1965 as the "Ancient Science of Soul Travel" and "Path of Total Consciousness" and is now - in small numbers - spread around the world in around 40 countries. It belongs to the wider context of the guruistic Sant Mat / Radhasoami traditions (see MD 5/2011, 191-194) in the west. The focus is on spiritual exercises, dreams and soul journeys. The organization is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA).
There is conflicting news about the life of John Paul Twitchell (born between 1908 and 1912 in Kentucky), mainly due to his self-expression and the mystification of himself. He was a writer, “religion seeker”, as his first wife called him, a marine during the war and then a journalist. In 1955 it was initiated by Kirpal Singh, the well-known Sant Mat master (Ruhani Satsang), on his first trip to the USA. Before that he had been a member of the “Self-Revelation Church of Absolute Monism” of the Indian Swami Premananda for a few years. Twitchell remained on friendly terms with Kirpal Singh for more than eight years, during which time he joined Scientology. He worked for L. Ron Hubbard and apparently was one of the first to achieve "Clear" status.1 Starting in 1963, Twitchell developed the basis for Eckankar. After Kirpal Singh had rejected a manuscript of his book "The Tiger's Fang" (The Tiger's Fang), Twitchell published it anyway, but replaced the names of his teachers Kirpal Singh and Swami Premananda (later also that of L. Ron Hubbard) with names like "Rebazar Tarzs" and "Sudar Singh", which appear for the first time at this time. Twitchell broke with his teacher and forged his own mythology. He declared himself to be the 971st Living ECK Master who had received the “staff of power” from the Tibetan monk Rebazar Tarzs. He created his own spiritual genealogy, which goes back to prehistoric times to "Gakko", who is said to have brought the teachings of Eckankar to earth from the city of Retz on the planet Venus six million years ago. Plato, Rumi, Francis of Assisi and other historical figures are also captured. Paul Twitchell's Eckankar literature also contains passages from Radhasoami books and esoteric works that have been copied word for word on a large scale, without the takeovers being marked. Often only the names were exchanged in order to disguise the origin. In particular, the standard work by Julian P. Johnson "The Path of the Masters" has been used extensively by Twitchell. These and other facts were brought to light by the religious scholar and Sant Mat initiator David Christopher Lane.
Eckankar grew rapidly, and the correspondence courses with study material were successful. After Twitchell's death in 1971, Darwin Gross followed, who was only with Eckankar for a very short time, but from Twitchell's widow Gail Atkinson, among others. was lifted into office on the basis of a vision. The two married shortly thereafter, which lasted until 1978. In 1981, Gross passed the “staff of power” on to Harold Klemp (born 1942), the third (or 973rd) and reigning ECK master to this day. Klemp banned his predecessor from Eckankar in 1984 and banned his books.
Eckankar has had an ECK temple in Chanhassen, Minnesota, as a spiritual home since 1990. There are probably tens of thousands of annual paying members altogether today. In Germany there are said to be around a thousand. On the homepage 33 addresses with ECK centers or study groups are given for Germany, six to eight for Switzerland and eleven for Austria.
Teaching and practice
The term Eckankar corresponds to the Sikh or Sant-Mat expression, without this being explained in this way Ik Oankaru or Ek Onkar. This means “God is one” and describes the absolute reality, the undivided supreme being, neither female nor male, timeless over the eternal cycle of life and death. Ek (the number one) was at Twitchell ECK with "c"2 and received the meaning "audible stream of life", "life force" or "Holy Spirit". Eckankar is portrayed as the “way to the one”, but also as “God's co-worker” (the goal of the ECKists).
God or the divine, also (that) Sugmad called, is the essence of love and the source of all life. God reveals himself in the lower worlds as an audible stream of life, ECK, which can be experienced as light and sound. Eckankar therefore calls himself (now) the "religion of light and sound of God". It is important to experience these two aspects of God, through them man can ascend through the cosmic spheres and achieve spiritual freedom. The human being is Soul, a “spark” of God, who spends some time in the earthly body to go through the “spiritual school” of life and thereby become god-like. This path of the soul as the true, eternal self, which exists beyond and beyond the human understanding, leads through many reincarnations via "self-realization" to "God-realization" (knowledge of self and God) and thus to "wisdom, power and freedom" . The law of karma is decisive here. Karma assigns perfect justice and creates serenity and insight into one's own responsibility.3 Karma has to be dissolved or “worked out”, every karmic debt has to be “paid”. This is done using the law of love. According to Eckankar, spiritual experience and karmic release are available to all people in this life. Cosmology is richly designed, in which the “god worlds” are explained through which the soul ascends on the way to God. The lowest is the physical level in which we live, followed by the astral, causal, mental and other levels, a total of twelve. The fifth level is of particular importance because this is where the transition from the lower (still material) to the higher spiritual worlds lies and self-realization is achieved.
All of this is understood as the original truth from which all philosophies and religions originate. The claim is that this secret science has been passed down by the ECK Masters and made public since Twitchell. Eckankar is the most direct way to happiness.4 The central position is taken by the Living ECK Master, who is the only "Master of the Age" (Satguru) understands and as inner (Mahanta) and outer master is responsible for the soul guidance of his initiated students (Indian chelas). He takes over the administration of your karma and helps you to “work out” it. Dreams and mind-expanding soul journeys (with out-of-body experiences) play an essential role.5 Dealing with these phenomena consciously and actively is the main goal of the Eckankar practice.
In practical terms, this means devoting yourself to one of the more than two hundred “spiritual exercises” once a day for around 20 to 30 minutes, e. For example, waking up at night and writing down an experience, keeping a spiritual diary, and studying the monthly courses and Eckankar literature alone and in groups. The most important exercise is to relax and sing the name of God HU with your eyes closed (like the “Hu” or “Allahu” of the Islamic Sufis, but pronounced “hjuu” in English). After minutes of chanting, inner images or auditions often appear, which are associated with the work of the ECK (“Holy Spirit”) and certain states of consciousness, which in turn indicate spiritual progress. Those who progress on the spiritual path receive higher initiations. The first takes place after about half a year through an apparition of the master in the dream state (“inside”), the second after two years. These and the following - there should be a total of 14 initiations - are given “in the physical”, combined with a small ritual in which instructions and a mantra are given as a “password” for the next higher spiritual level. With the fifth initiation one reaches the soul level and is called higher initiated. Higher initiates are given responsibility for members who are not yet ready.
In contrast to Sant Mat, Eckankar does not officially set any rules for the lifestyle. In personal decisions, reference is made to the guidance of the divine spirit. Tobacco, alcohol and drug use are strongly discouraged. In religious matters, tolerance should be practiced and the freedom of opinion and religious freedom of others should be respected. The important role of other religions and religious leaders is recognized.
Organization and structure
The Eckankar membership is renewed annually, so it is not extended automatically. As a guide, an individual member should donate 60 euros per year, a family 120 euros as a contribution, but this can also be deviated from. The price includes the study courses, which are written by the Living ECK Master and which are sent annually with twelve monthly lessons. There are lessons for 17 years of study and a large number of books by Klemp and Twitchell, some in German. Eckankar can be practiced alone, but discussion groups and satsangs are also offered, as well as seminars and larger, also international meetings. There are four ECK ceremonies, the ECK consecration (infants up to 12 years old), the youth celebration (for 13 to 21 year olds), the wedding ceremony and the ECK memorial service, which celebrates the transition into a new life in the spiritual worlds . The approximately one hour church services with HU singing, contemplation, reading from ECK literature, discussion of a topic and lecture are led by ECK clergymen.
Eckankar is organized hierarchically. A higher initiated member can be appointed (“ordained”) as an ECK minister. The next level is the ECK initiator who can conduct initiation ceremonies. A deserving initiator can become a “Spiritual Helper in ECK” (ESA), who talks to members and supports them in their spiritual development. In the individual regions or countries, "Regional ECK Spiritual Aids" (RESAs) are set up, which lead the national communities and maintain contact with the headquarters in Minneapolis. At the top is the Living ECK Master (currently Harold Klemp), whose authority is decisive and binding for all “Chelas”.
The ECK New Year is celebrated on October 22nd in commemoration of the handover of the baton of power to the next ECK master.
Paul Twitchell's concealed rooting of his teachings in Sant Mat cannot be overlooked. The techniques of consciousness (soul travel, Shabd Yoga of sound and light, meditation on the image of the master in the third eye, etc.) as well as cosmology (spiritual worlds through which the soul ascends with the help of secret mantras) up to the name come from the Radhasoami Tradition. Influences from Scientology and Theosophy are added to the creative mix of the founder. Important basic ideas are gnostic. The material world is seen as the place where the negative “Kal force” works, but is not devalued as “evil”.
The history of Eckankar's origins shakes the credibility of the religious community for outsiders. Its founder worked as a plagiarist on a large scale. Admittedly, this does not create a false impression for followers: The one truth in all religions is sometimes expressed in similar or even the same words, yes, Twitchell has his formulations - like other authors - directly from the original from an Akashic library on the " Astral Plane ". For the critical observer, the discrepancy between the (wrong) behavior of the “prophet” Twitchell and the teaching is obvious. Even if one focuses more on the experiences of the users and recognizes the authenticity of religious experience regardless of the reliability of its traditions, the difficulty remains that the content cannot ultimately be completely separated from its transmission. For some ECKists, the functional argument (“the main thing, it works”) may be sufficient. The assumption that Twitchell acted for sublime spiritual reasons only develops a certain persuasive power on the inside.
From a Christian point of view, the karma law with the idea of a “perfect justice” and thus the spiritual liberation by balancing the “karmic account” appear questionable and merciless. There is no forgiveness, but a strict doing-doing-relationship. The ECK stream of life has little more in common with Christian ideas of the Holy Spirit and its work than the name. The unrestricted position of the ECK master with regard to power imbalances and possible abuse of power is to be discussed in a similar way as in other guru movements.
1 A former Scientologist and friend of Twitchell wrote in 1987: "I still remember exactly what Paul said to me when he saw how the Scientology system worked: 'Boy, religion is a lot of money to be made'" ( DC Lane, Founding a Spiritual Movement, 20).
2 The Eckankar emblem, however, shows the two letters "EK" in a circular shape.
3 However, it also creates distance. A warning is given against intervening in conflicts: “Let them fight, let them kill each other. That is their free will and their burden, and it is not our business to intervene if we do not want to take on part of their karma ”(quoted from R. Hummel, Eckankar, in: MD 1/2000, 29).
4 Twitchell also speaks ofsingleWay: “There is no other way to achieve spiritual liberation except through Eckankar. Without current and conscious participation in the stream of sound or the stream of life, nobody can ever escape karma and reincarnations ”(The Tiger’s Fang, 74, quoted from R. Hummel, Gurus, Meister, Scharlatane, 180).
5 Eckankar began at Twitchell as a "bilocation philosophy" (philosophy of out-of-body experience), in which the soul leaves the body and wanders the spiritual worlds, which is especially possible in dreams. The aim is to achieve the self-confidence of the immortal soul.
Eckankar. Ancient wisdom for today, 32012 (Print and www.eckankar-de.info/fileadmin/open_downloads/AncientWisdom_GM01.pdf)
Harold Klemp, is life a random path? (Print and www.eckankar-de.info/fileadmin/open_downloads/RandomWalk_GM.pdf)
Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, 2 vols. ("Sharia of Sugmad" or "Way of the Eternal", Eckankar's holy book)
Journal: Mystic World (quarterly, internal journal)
www.eckankar.org (Eckankar main page)
www.eckankar.de (ECKANKAR non-profit study groups Germany e.V.)
http://webspace.webring.com/people/de/eckcult ("The Unauthorized Eckankar ™ Page")
Reinhart Hummel, gurus, masters, charlatans. Between fascination and danger, Freiburg i. Br. Et al. 1996, 173-183.
Reinhart Hummel, Eckankar, in: MD 1/2000, 28-32.
Julian P. Johnson, The Path of Masters, Beas (India) 1939 (Sant Mat)
David C. Lane, The Making of a Spiritual Movement. The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, Del Mar 1983 (http://webspace.webring.com/people/de/eckcult/); German version (slightly shortened): The foundation of a spiritual movement. The unknown story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar (www.eckist.info/dl/unbekanntPT.pdf)
Dr. Friedmann Eißler, March 2015
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