FATE Magazine Letter Debate

Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: Fate Magazine
Publication date: 1982-1986

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

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       ECKANKAR LETTER DEBATE IN FATE MAGAZINE [1982-1986]

     A Contradiction?

     Over the years I have studied many spiritual subjects. I have
been involved in kundalini yoga, surat shabd yoga and Eckankar,the
science of soul travel. Thus I found David Christopher Lane's
article "Speaking in Tongues" (July 1986 FATE) interesting it that
he describes a personal experience which we are supposed to accept
as true. Yet in his book The Making of a Spiritual Movement (which
deals with Eckankar, its founder Paul Twitchell and its
relationship to surat shabd yoga and its master Kirpal Singh) Lane
brands as fantasy all the thousands of experiences Eckists have had
over the years.
     All this is confusing. Is Lane after the truth? There seems to
be a contradiction.
               --Bob Van Wagenen, Auburn, N.Y.


     The Author Replies

     Although I understand Bob Van Wagenen's confusion, the fact is
that I have never dismissed the experiences of Eckankar followers
as "fantasy." Rather, in my book The Making of a Spiritual
Movement: The Untold History of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, I
documented how the founder of Eckankar lied about his biography,
covered up his association with Indian gurus (e.g., Kirpal Singh
and Swami Premananda), plagiarized extensively from Radhasoami Beas
texts (particularly Julian P. Johnson's The Path of the Masters
[1939]) and created fictional "vairagi" masters to buttress his
false historical claims. Masters such as "Rebazar Tarzs," "Fubbi
Quantz," "Sudar Singh" and "Yaubi Sacabi" are not real persons but
products of Paul Twitchell's creative imagination.
     Hence, on page 96 of my book, I argued that an Eckankar member
may indeed achieve a higher state of consciousness and behold a
vision of what he or she believes to be "Rebazar Tarzs." But it is
not the Tibetan monk (or Eckankar for that matter) who is bestowing
the elevated experience. It is the devotee's own inherent
capability for advanced structural adaptation (manifested, for
example, in near-death experiences) which allows for such mystical
heights.
     Therefore, anybody in any religion (legitimate or
illegitimate) can have authentic spiritual experiences. The
confusion arises when we mistakenly believe that Eckankar is the
power behind the numinous encounter. No, Eckankar is only the
cultural super-structure which "flavors" and "names" the archetypal
astral experience. For instance, we know from studies of near-death
experiences that people all over the world, regardless of
background, have had out-of-body experiences and have seen wondrous
beings of light. Because of a person's particular religious
upbringing, however, he or she may call that inner light "Jesus" or
"Allah" or even "God." The names are cultural; the experience
itself is universal.
     The important question concerning the authenticity of
religious visions is not one of content (it matters little if one
beholds the Virgin Mary, Buddha or the local minister) but of
context. That is, on which level of consciousness is the vision
seen? Is it a subconscious dream image? A psychic intuition? Or a
genuine encounter with an astral plane deity? Only after such a
contextual-structural determination can the critical
phenomenologist proceed to analyze the content of the vision
properly and assess its degree of legitimacy.
     Since Eckankar is primarily based upon surat shabd yoga (union
of the soul with the divine inner sound) --which Twitchell learned
from Kirpal Singh-- it is not surprising that certain Eckists have
extraordinary experiences. There is no question that surat shabd
yoga is an experientially viable discipline for interested
spiritual seekers. Indeed, in the latest issue of Understanding
Cults, I have illustrated how shabd yoga offers a scientific
methodology for exploring inner regions of light and sound,
practically testable for anyone willing to engage in the prescribed
practices. But the problem with Eckankar is that it is an
illegitimate offshoot of more authentic shabd yoga groups. In
India, shabd yoga is taught at no cost by genuine saints. In
America, it is taught by misinformed teachers for monetary profit.
               --David Christopher Lane, Del Mar, Calif.



     A Natural Way

     In the June 1982 issue of FATE, an article entitled "World's
Oldest Astrological Record" by David Christopher Lane contains some
misinformation about the teachings of ECKANKAR. [The author wrote:
"It is of interest... that the Radhasoami movement has been the
basis for several popular religious groups in America including...
Eckankar..."] I would like to clarify the origin of ECKANKAR and
the ECK Masters.
     ECKANKAR, as a way of life, is a natural way back to god. It
embraces the purest of teachings dating back to the beginning of
time. Traces of this spiritual teaching can be found as far back as
the Nacaal records. ECKANKAR, ECK, and EK appear in the temple
carvings of Greece, the Sanskrit scriptures of India and the Pali
texts of Tibet and China.
     The ECK Masters of the Vairagi Order, also traceable
throughout history, have always been present on this planet to
serve as way-showers for those wishing to obtain Self-Realization.
Sri Paul Twitchell was the 971st Living ECK Master and brought
these ancient teachings to light in the modern world through his
numerous manuscripts on ECKANKAR.
     Nowhere in the ECK teachings is there denial of the validity
of other paths or teachings. ECKANKAR is available for those who
freely choose to follow its principles. It offers spiritual
techniques for proving to oneself that there is survival after
death and that one may experience the heavenly worlds during this
lifetime. It provides a method for the individual to demonstrate by
his own volition total awareness, the awareness of God.
               --Joanne E. Spall, Menlo Park, Calif.


     Eckankar Objection Overruled

     I object to Joanne E. Spall's letter ("Report from the
Readers," September 1982 FATE) in which she claims that my article
"World Oldest Astrological Record" (June 1982) contained
misinformation about the teachings and origin of ECKANKAR. Let me
illustrate why ECKANKAR is mostly derived from the Radhasoami
tradition of India:
     (1) Paul Twitchell was initiated in 1955 by Kirpal Singh, a
close disciple of Sawan Singh of Radhasoami Satsang Beas, but later
tried to cover up his association with the guru by deleting the
name "Kirpal Singh" from his articles and books and replacing it
with the fictitious name "Sudar Singh."
     (2) Parts of Paul Twitchell's writings are adapted from
Radhasoami Beas publications. Twitchell's The Far Country (1966) is
almost entirely copied from Julian P. Johnson's two books The Path
of the Masters in India (1933) and The Path of the Masters (1939).
This constitutes a serious infringement of copyright laws.
     (3) The word "Eckankar" does not appear in the temple carvings
of Greece or priestly scrolls of Egypt, as Joanne E. Spall claims.
Eckankar (spelled usually "Ek-onkar") was a word used extensively
by the Sikh Gurus to describe the one (ek) true God (onkar) in
their holy writings, the Guru-Granth Sahib. "Ek-onkar" is the very
name for God in Guru Nanak's Japji (16th century) which was
translated by Kirpal Singh. Twitchell learned of the word and its
usage through his association with Ruhani Satsang, founded by the
late Kirpal Singh of Gur Mandi, Delhi, India.
     (4) The teachings of ECKANKAR are primarily derived from four
distinct spiritual movements: Ruhani Satsang, Self-Realization
Fellowship, Scientology and Theosophy. Twitchell at one time was
follower of Kirpal Singh, L. Ron Hubbard, and Swami Premananda.
     (5) Twitchell has stated in at least two places (see Letters
to Gail, Volume II) that he considers the Sar Bachan to be "his
Bible." The book was written by the founder of Radhasoami, Shiv
Dayal Singh, otherwise known as Soamiji Maharaj.
     (6) Spall's claim that the ECK Masters of the Vairagi Order
are traceable throughout history is patently untrue. Even Paul
Twitchell's immediate predecessor "Sudar Singh" is a fictional
character whose life story is factual only to the extent that it is
based on the biographies of some real gurus, Kirpal Singh and
Jaimal Singh. Twitchell literally made up names such as "Fubbi
Quantz," "Rebazar Tarzs" and "Jagat Ho." None of these can be found
in history; they are the products of Twitchell's vivid imagination.
     (7) Finally, Spall is incorrect when she writes that "nowhere
in the ECK movement is there denial of the validity of other paths
or teachings." To quote the founder of ECKANKAR himself: "ECK is
the highest of all paths to God. There is no other way to gain
spiritual enlightenment... All other paths are only stepping-stones
into the astral plane." Twitchell, in fact, goes to great lengths
to show that no path, movement or religion is valid in light of
ECKANKAR.
     I suggest that anyone interested in the real biography of Paul
Twitchell read any of the following works: The Making of a
Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Twitchell and Eckankar by
David Christopher Lane (Berkeley: B. William Walsh, 1979); SCP
Journal: "Eckankar- A Hard Look at a New Religion" (Berkeley,
1979); or several recent encyclopedias of religion --for instance,
Prof. Mark Jurgensmeyer's articles on religion in the new
Encyclopedia Britannica.
     ECKANKAR surely has the right to its own existence. But when
thousands of people are being given a distorted view of history,
plagiarized texts and cover-ups, I think researchers and scholars
also have the right to inform an unsuspecting public.
                    --David Christopher Lane, San Diego, Calif.


     Missing the Point

     David Lane has gone to great lengths to ridicule ECKANKAR
("Report from the Readers," February 1983 FATE). Although he writes
as if he is knowledgeable about ECKANKAR's teachings, his letter
clearly shows that he has missed the whole point.
     First, in one paragraph Lane claims that Paul Twitchell,
Living ECK Master from 1965 to 1971, stole all the ECK teachings
from other groups; yet in the next paragraph he is supposed to have
made it all up. Twitchell did neither of these; he simply traced
out the influence of spiritual history down through history to the
present. He showed that truth or spirit or ECK, whatever you wish
to call it, has not been evenly distributed throughout mankind but
has been fostered by the few individuals who consciously and
continuously brought it forth for the people of their time. Some
were ridiculed, some were attacked and many never were publicly
known because they taught only the few who showed a true desire to
gain the experience of God.
     No master who has reached the spiritual worlds could care two
cents about which book says what, which organization did what first
of what the world may say. A master cares only about the spiritual
force which can be heard by the inner ear and seen as light by
spiritual vision.
     Twitchell has studied not only Theosophy, Radhasoami and
Scientology, as Lane points out, but also Cabalism, Sufism, Taoism,
all forms of Buddhism and Hinduism, the Mystical Orders of the
Church, Muhammadanism, Jainism, Christian Science, the Mormon
religion and modern-day New Thought. He studied just about every
form of religion known to man in his attempt to show that the ECK
flows freely across the borders to all races and creeds and yet
slowly withdraws when man attempts to codify, control or contain
it.
     No organization in this world can contain all of ECK; it is
universal. No one can claim sole rights; no one can say he wrote it
first and everyone else is a copycat.
                    --Doug Marman, Los Altos, Calif.

     *    *    *

     David Lane's research on the background of ECKANKAR may or may
not be accurate but he completely misses the point. The principles
of ECKANKAR when properly applied cause transformation within the
individual and each change brings great relief as obstacles fall
away and personal capability and understanding increase.
     As an ECKist for seven years, I don't care if Paul Twitchell
got it out of a can. It works. He is respected as one who undertook
the nearly impossible task of translating and correlating Eastern
(in truth, universal) principles for the Western mind and way of
life. Lane seems to think that Twitchell's involvement with
numerous other spiritual paths casts doubt on his authenticity. To
my mind, it is only proof that he was no upstart but an individual
well-grounded in spiritual knowledge.
     Twitchell's uniqueness stems from the fact that his efforts in
spiritual areas transformed him into one who did indeed rise to the
higher realities which have always existed. This is the reason that
ECKANKAR can truthfully claim to be the most ancient teaching known
to man. It deals with what always was and always will be. And it
was Paul Twitchell who made the breakthrough to reach the general
public with the principles of this transformation into higher
awareness. It was he, not any who preceded him, who made the
techniques available to all who desire the same knowledge. From my
own lengthy spiritual odyssey I can affirm that no other path
offers the simple ways to experience these astonishing other
realities while allowing one to keep in balance in an involved and
responsible daily existence with family, work and leisure.
     As for Rebazar Tarzs and the other Masters having been "made
up," my own happy encounter with Rebazar, before I ever knew of him
through ECKANKAR, is validation enough for me. Lane's motive for
his negativity in this respect must be his own regrettable lack of
experience.
     I recall my own anger when my years of research into world
religions revealed that all of Christianity existed long before
Christ: Communion from the pagan ceremonies of Bacchus, the Trinity
from Egypt, and savior gods (including baptism, virgin births, the
cross, the resurrection) all were common to numerous ancient
cultures. Even the Sermon on the Mount was recorded in the Book of
Enoch at least 100 years before Christ, as the Dead Sea Scrolls
reveal. Are these "plagiarisms" good cause to attack and expose
Christianity?
     Perhaps it is best to allow people to discover spiritual truth
for themselves, not to attempt to intimidate them with negative
attacks on their chosen path.
               --Constance Robertson, Peoria, Ill.




     A Final Word

     Constance Robertson's letter ("Report from the Readers," May
1983 FATE) is not so much a critical assessment of my research work
on ECKANKAR (since it contains no contradictory evidence) as it is
a testimony to her own faith in the validity of ECK teachings. I
have no argument with her beliefs but I do object to her several
inaccurate allegations concerning my investigation of ECKANKAR.
     (1) Robertson is incorrect when she claims that I believe
Twitchell's involvement with numerous spiritual paths "exposes" his
authenticity. Rather, it was Twitchell's denial of his spiritual
roots that caused me to question his genuineness. To put it simply,
does a true Master make false claims about his past (such as
claiming to be born in 1922 when in fact his birth date is 1908).,
hold out other authors' ideas as his own, and commence
international cover-ups? I would think not, but that is precisely
what Twitchell did from 1966 until his sudden death in 1971.
     (2) Who is Rebazar Tarzs? Even Paul Twitchell does not seem to
know for sure, although he is the one who made him up. At one point
in his career, Twitchell refers to Kirpal Singh, the founder of
Ruhani Satsang, as the Master who helped him have out-of-body
experiences (and who used to visit him nightly in Washington D.C.,
and dictate the book The Tiger's Fang), but later on, with the
growth of ECKANKAR and the influx of money, he switches names, not
the story, and claims that it was Rebazar Tarzs who visited and
helped produce the now-famous book. What we have here, in reality,
is not one individual but a composite of gurus. this, Rebazar Tarzs
represents not just a 500-year-old Tibetan monk but also Kirpal
Singh, Swami Premananda, Sawan Singh, Kabir and even Jesus Christ.
Robertson's spiritual encounters with Rebazar Tarzs are really
better understood as meetings with her "higher self" which
manifests according to her own religious upbringing.
     (3) The reason that ECKANKAR "works" may have nothing to do
with the organization itself; it might be due to Robertson's own
self, since every human being has an inherent structural potential
for higher levels of experience. We can see this exemplified, for
instance, in the universality of near-death experiences. In any
case, almost all of ECKANKAR's techniques are derived from
preexisting spiritual teachings, including Kriya Yoga, Shabd Yoga
and other esoteric disciplines.
     (4) Instead of giving a documented rebuttal to my findings on
ECKANKAR, Robertson resorts to superfluous innuendoes about my
spiritual progress --all of which has nothing to do with the
subject at hand. My research is not a contest of personalities but
rather a tool for deeper and better understanding. As I have stated
before, I have nothing against ECKANKAR or the late Paul Twitchell;
I just happen to believe in good historical scholarship.
               --David Christopher Lane, San Diego, Calif.

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to go back to the home base now.

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