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