Da Free John vs. Paul Twitchell and a note on clarifying terms

Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: Alt.religion.eckankar
Publication date: 1996

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

I want to go back to the home base now.


The more I read of your stuff the more I like it.

Okay, let's start with your first point concerning differentiating
the message from the medium.

In Da's case, we have noticed that he has written some very
insightful stuff (his critique of shabd yoga, for instance, is
remarkable--see THE PARADOX OF INSTRUCTION [still my favorite
Da book].     

Yet, some have taken his penetrating writing (message) and then confused that
with him as the God-Man (medium).

Back in 1985, after getting robbed and receiving death threats from
J.R., I wrote a fairly "soft" piece on Da, arguing that we should
distinguish the message from the medium. See my postscript to that
very article for my more "current" appraisement.

We can read Da, but we don't have to buy his God-man claims.

Now in comparing Da with Twitchell, I would say the following:

1. Da is not a plagiarist. He cites his sources and he is oftentimes
quite original. He is also a unique stylist.

2. Having said the above, however, does not mean that I think Da is
a Supreme God man. Far from it, he writes well, but he has abused a
lot of people in his career. See Scott Lowe's fine essay in DA: THE
STRANGE CASE OF FRANKLIN JONES (MSAC, 1996). On this score there are
a number of fine manuscripts circulating which reveal how absusive
Da can be. See Ken Wilber's latest critique of Da on his website via
Shambhala, for instance.

3. So I may like to read Da, but that does not mean that I have to 
accept HIM. I can distinguish the message from the medium, enjoying
the former while critiquing the latter.

4. Now in Paul Twitchell's case, I think he was much LESS
(notice the caps) abusive than Da. He was probably a nicer guy than
Da, especially to women, as well.

5. But Twitchell was indeed a first-rate plagiarist, who copied
extensively from other people's writings. He essentially lied about
his sources and he appropriated other's work while taking undue
credit for it.

6. Thus, some may want to read Twitchell's message, divorced from
the medium (for instance, "I like his writings, but as a guru he is
questionable"), and say that they like the curious mix.

In this way they have distinguished the message from the medium.
However, there is still a further step here, since Twitchell
plagiarized (unlike Da). What can be argued is that one now needs to
acknowledge "where" Twitchell got his stuff and "why" he didn't
properly cite it or quote it. That's another question altogether.

7. Concerning value judgements and the like, it is obvious that I
have drawn certain conclusions based upon my study of Twitchell,
Gross, Klemp, and Eckankar. Those conclusions are grounded in my
empirical observations of plagiarism, cover-up, and biographical

I heartily agree with you Joseph that my conclusions are value
judgements which are open to debate and discussion. Yet, I want to
underline that I have not made these conclusions out of thin air.
I have demonstrated why I think such and such.

Now obviously we can disagree, argue, and dispute such conclusions.
Indeed, I think it is healthy.

That is why, for example, Mark Alexander put one of my essays on his

I essentially stated that if someone loves Twitchell and can take
him with all his warts and all his pluses (and not try to lamely
excuse his plagiarism, cover-up, and biographical incongruencies),
then I understand.


Because I know that all religions and all gurus and all prophets
that I have encountered have some questionable things about them.

It is really a question, as I posed in an earlier post, of how much
B.S. we can stand. How much plagiarism can we tolerate? How much
deceit? How much cover-up?

My bias is this: If you can't trust a guru on the outer, then what
compelling reasons are there to trust him or her on the inner?

I just happen to think that our gurus should be held to a pretty
high standard.

That does not mean that my standard is absolute or unquestionable.

It just means that I have a standard and I have pointed to it
throughout my writings.

But just because something is a value judgement does not necessarily
mean that all appraisements are the same in terms of rationality,
logic, or rhetorical persuasion.

This newsgroup essentially allows us this freedom to question and to
doubt other's observations.

We are in a way "testing" and "questioning" our insights.

This, I believe, is altogether good and healthy.

As much as I write to Steve R., or as much as we may get "heated" in
the exchange, I am well aware of the beauty of the situation.

And sometimes even those things which we consider "facts" (like the
plagiarism comparisons) have been transformed into questions of
"value" (hey, Lane, how do you know it is plagiarism? Astral
libraries, typos, etc.).

Thus this fine line between fact and value often gets blurred.

I think one of the reasons I have written so much on 1922 and the
like is because of this very point.

In any case, if one wants to love Da no matter what, or love
Twitchell no matter what, there is nobody stopping them.

All I am doing is giving my argument, based on documents and my
standards for ethical guru behavior, for questioning and doubting.
Twitchell and his Vairagi claims.

I will never tire of discussing what facts or conclusions I have
come up with.

Feel most free to rip, shred, or lacerate.


Sant Mat, Radhasoami, Shabd Yoga, and Ruhani Satsang

I liked your review very much Joseph.

In the MAKING, I make those distinctions--between Ruhani Satsang and
Radhsoami Satsang Beas--quite clear.

Clarification is always helpful and I welcome it.

Below is what actually appears in the original text.

One can also review the R.S. Tradition for further distinctions.

Concerning the Theosophical Influence, you may want to ask Daniel
Caldwell for his input.

Chapter Six of MAKING (93 edition):

Chapter Six



Retracing the Roots of Eckankar

To retrace the teachings of Eckankar to their origin is, in some
ways, to rediscover the actual religious influences upon Paul
Twitchell's own life.
For Eckankar, although it has its basis in many different
religious traditions, is, in the final analysis, a "Paul
Twitchell" creation.
In creating his new movement, Twitchell
drew extensively from his own personal
He took grafts (each of varying degrees) from the
many mystical and occult groups he had encountered, finally
blending his knowledge of these traditions into what is
now known as Eckankar--the ancient science of soul travel.

While several movements have had a major impact on Twitchell's
development of Eckankar, three spiritual traditions were
of primary importance: 1) Theosophy, as founded by Madame
Blavatsky; 2) Self-Realization Fellowship, as presented
by Swami Premananda; and 3) Dianetics and its religious outcome,

But of all the religious movements to have an effect on Twitchell's
development of Eckankar, no tradition had as much influence as
the Sant mat tradition of North India.
Twitchell first encountered the tradition through the auspices
of Kirpal Singh, founder of Ruhani Satsang, a spiritual
movement entirely based upon Sant mat. 

For more on the Sant tradition, see  The Sants  edited by
W.H. McLeod and Karine Schomer (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987).

By knowing of the definite parallels between Paul Twitchell's
teachings and Kirpal Singh's, one can better understand
the context out of which Eckankar was formed.
A brief history of Ruhani Satsang and its antecedents
will better enable us to realize the vast influence
it and the Radha Soami Satsang Beas has had on the creation of

Radha Soami Satsang Beas 

I have only given a gist on the history of the Radha Soami faith.
For a more thorough study, at least genealogically, see my Master's
Thesis,  Radhasoami Mat  (Berkeley: Graduate Theological Union,

Shiv Dayal Singh (more popularly known as "Soami Ji") was the
first guru in the line of Radha Soami masters.
He was a follower of Sant mat and had a close association with
Tulsi Sahib of Hathras.
Soami Ji was born in 1818 and died in 1878.
After his death, several of his disciples worked as gurus. 

The four main successors were Rai Saligram, who taught within
Agra; Seth Partap Singh, who was the younger brother of Shiv Dayal
Singh and was stationed at Soami Bagh; Gharib Das, a blind sadhu who
settled in Delhi; and Jaimal Singh, who founded the Radha Soami
Satsang at Beas in the Punjab.

One of the successors to Shiv Dayal Singh was Jaimal Singh.
Baba Ji, as he was affectionately called, was initiated by
Soami Ji in 1856 at the tender age of seventeen.
He was a celibate his whole life and was very much
respected for his holy ways.
After serving as a master for over nineteen years, he
passed on the mantleship to his most devoted disciple,
Sawan Singh.

Sawan Singh (known as the "Great Master") attracted
an exceedingly large following to his teachings.
He initiated over 125,000 people into 
Sant mat.
He reigned as the master of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas
colony in India for over forty-four years.
A number of books were written during his tenure, the most
important Punjabi work being  Gurmat Sidhant  (otherwise
known as  The Philosophy of the Masters ).
After Sawan Singh died, his mission was carried on by
Jagat Singh (and later Charan Singh) in the Beas colony.
Kirpal Singh, who also claimed succession, started his
ministry, Ruhani Satsang, in Gur Mandi, Delhi.

Ruhani Satsang

The teachings of Ruhani Satsang are almost exactly the
same as those taught by the Radha Soami Satsang Beas;
the differences are slight. 

Ruhani Satsang requests the keeping of a spiritual
diary and does not advocate the practice of  dhyan 
(contemplation) on the physical form of the guru during
Radha Soami Satsang Beas does not suggest writing
a spiritual diary, but does advocate the practice
of  dhyan 

Kirpal Singh explains the essence of Ruhani Satsang:

Ruhani Satsang is neither an intellectual nor scholastic
system of philosophy, nor is it merely an ethical
code of rigid moral virtues, though to a certain
extent it partakes of both. . .
Ruhani Satsang deals with the Science of the Soul or
contact with the Inner Self in man.
It teaches how the Self can be extricated from
the clutches of the outer self. . . . 

Kirpal Singh,  Ruhani Satsang: Science of Spirituality 
(Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1970), page 1.

According to Kirpal Singh, Ruhani Satsang is the science of
connecting the individual soul with the "sound current"
(also known as the shabd, nad, or "audible life stream").
This is done by a perfect adept.
Vegetarianism plays a central role in the moral ethics
of the group.
All initiates of Kirpal Singh are pledged to a vow
of vegetarianism, which includes abstaining from meat,
fish and eggs.
In addition to the strict diet, initiates are asked to abstain
from alcohol and narcotics, and to give a minimum of two hours daily
in meditation.
Initiates are also asked to keep a regular diary in order to record
their efforts on the path. 

Kirpal Singh died in 1974. He was succeeded by his son, Darshan
Singh, who has established his headquarters in Vijay Nagar, Delhi.
Others have also claimed succession, including Thakar Singh and
Ajaib Singh.

Three things are of elementary importance in the teachings of Kirpal
Singh, as well as in Sant mat and Radha Soami:

1.  Satguru , both as the Absolute Lord (nirguna) and the
living human master (saguna).

2.  Shabd , which encompasses both  varnatmak  (that
which is spoken or written) and  dhunyatmak  (inner spiritual
sound--beyond expression), the primal current of the Supreme
Lord (Sat Purush).

3.  Satsang , externally the congregation of the earnest
devotees of the truth, and internally the communion of the
soul ( surat ) with the  Satguru  and  Shabd . 

 Radhasoami Mat , op. cit.


Julian P. Johnson


The greatest influence the Radha Soami faith, the parent of Ruhani
Satsang, had on Paul Twitchell and Eckankar came in the form of a
book entitled  The Path of the Masters .
The work was first published in France in 1939; its author was
Julian P. Johnson.

Johnson, a native Kentuckian and distinguished surgeon, was
initiated into Radha Soami on March 1, 1931. 

Julian P. Johnson,  With a Great Master in India  (Beas:
Radha Soami Foundation, 1971).

The next year Johnson left his medical practice in California
and traveled to Beas, India, in order to serve his
Sawan Singh.
From 1933 to 1939, Johnson devoted much of his time to writing
about his master and his experiences in the Radha Soami path.

He first helped Sewa Singh in translating the Hindi book  Sar
Bachan  (prose) into English.
Later, he authored four of his own books on Radha Soami.
Johnson's first work,  With a Great Master in India , was
a compilation of letters he had written to Americans about his
first eighteen months in India studying under the master.
His next two books,  Call of the East  and  The Unquenchable
Flame  were semi-autobiographical accounts of himself and his
future wife, Elizabeth Bruce.
Yet, it was not until 1939 that Johnson's most famous work,  The
Path of the Masters , was published.
The English book was the first its kind; it described in detail the
history and practice of  Santon-Ki-Shiska  (Sant mat).
The work was Johnson's magnus opus and today is considered a 
classic in oriental mysticism.  

It should be noted that Johnson never saw the book in its final
published form, as he died in 1939 shortly before it came out.
A number of rumors have cropped up concerning Julian Johnson's
death, and this may be a good place to clarify what actually
happened. Apparently, Johnson got into a fairly heated debate
with a younger friend of his named Paul [not
Paul Twitchell] over health treatments.
During the heat of the debate Johnson either tripped or was
pushed and hit his head on a rock. He subsequently died from his
injuries on the way to the hospital. Since there was some confusion
over what actually transpired (Was it an accidental fall on
Johnson's part?  Or, was it an accidental fall caused by 
Paul who pushed Johnson to the ground?), there was naturally a lot
of speculation (which led to gossip) about Johnson's death.
Even today some uninformed observers claim Johnson was murdered.
According to witnesses who were in India at the time, though,
Johnson's death was a tragic accident and nothing more.

By 1955, the year Paul Twitchell received initiation from Kirpal
Singh, several books had been published in English about Sant mat
and Radha Soami.
However, it was Johnson's climatic text,  The Path of the
Masters  which remained the most popular explication.
The book served as a beacon for attracting seekers to either
Charan Singh of Radha Soami Satsang 
Beas (who was Jagat Singh's successor) or Kirpal Singh of 
Ruhani Satsang.
Twitchell, indubitably, first came into contact with the work in
the mid-1950's, if not earlier. 

Although Twitchell does not cite  The Path of the Masters  by
name or refer to Julian P. Johnson in his writings, he has,
nevertheless, cited another key Radha Soami text-- Sar Bachan --which
was edited by Julian Johnson.

The overall influence that Johnson's books-- The Path of the
Masters  and  With a Great Master in India , in
particular--had on Twitchell's own spiritual writings is
truly remarkable.
To actually document the effect would itself take several volumes,
for Twitchell not only borrowed and learned from the book,  he
also copied it. . . word for word. 

Spiritual Shoplifting:

A Question of Plagiarism

The striking similarities between Twitchell's work and Julian
Johnson's earlier writings are astounding.
Three of Twitchell's books,  The Tiger's Fang ,  Letters to
Gail  (both volumes), and  Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad , appear to
contain almost verbatim excerpts from Johnson's 1939 work,  The
Path of the Masters .

Yet, it is Twitchell's 1966 book,  The Far Country , which 
raises the serious question of his originality.
The work, amazingly, contains well over  four-hundred 
paragraphs from Johnson's two books,  The Path of the
Masters  and  With a Great Master in India , without so
much as a single reference note to them.
It is likely that almost one-half of  The Far Country  is
 not  of Twitchell's pen.

Realizing that it is  incontrovertible  that Twitchell
was intimately acquainted with Johnson's books (even Eckankar's
former President, Dr. Louis Bluth, admits that he loaned his
Radha Soami books to Paul Twitchell), the real question that
arises is,  "Did Twitchell knowingly plagiarize from them?" 
Although there are two contrasting viewpoints on this question,
the inevitable answer is:  Yes, he did--unmistakenly so. 
However, Eckankar strongly disclaims that their founder plagiarized
from anybody.
In a personal letter to the author, dated July 5, 1977, Eckankar's
attorney, Alan H. Nichols, elaborates:

With a wide background of study you will find many similarities
both approximate and exact in many religious statements, history
and mythology.
Whether one is a student of Zoroaster, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, or
Tao, many of the same things are said and (when translated) in the
way. . . How did you know Johnson didn't obtain his information
from Twitchell or Rebazar Tarzs (sic) or some other common source?
Don't be surprised that many people find the same truths and
even in the same words, commandments, etc., whether they are
concepts, stories of events, or levels of God Worlds or

I should mention here that the purpose of Nichols' letter was
to stop me from publishing my results on Paul Twitchell's
nefarious past. Although I was only twenty-one at the time,
I realized that Eckankar was hiding a devastating truth about
the origins of their group and its founder.
Naturally, I pursued my research with even my vigor after Nichols'
letter, despite the fact that I might be sued for uncovering the
 hidden  past of "Peddar Zasqk."

Nichols argues that when "truth" is given out from several
different religious traditions, it comes out inevitably "both
approximate and exact" to one another.
However, the criterion of "truth" (be it in concepts or stories) is
 not  the question involved here.
The charge of plagiarism has not been raised against Twitchell
for his use of similar ideas, teachings, or practices.
Rather, the accusation of plagiarism has been raised because of the
 way  Twitchell has chosen to describe that "truth."

Julian P. Johnson had his own unique style of writing, as can be
easily noticed by reading his books. Indeed, this very point has
caused some criticism of him.
Thus, when one notices the alarming coincidences between Johnson's
and Twitchell's writings, it is not a question of "truth" being
expressed but of  style being copied. 

Simply put, Twitchell was a plagiarist of the first degree. He had
a proclivity for literary piracy; he took whatever he wanted from
whatever books interested him. After long research in this area, it
is clear to me that all of the Eckankar books authored by Paul Twitchell
were lifted, to some degree or another, from other copyrighted
In fact, Twitchell stands out as one of the great religious
plagiarists of the 20th century.

To better understand Twitchell's literary indebtedness to Johnson,
consider the following facts:

1. Julian Johnson wrote  all  of his books on Radha Soami in
India during the  1930's .
Twitchell authored  all  of his works on Eckankar in America
during the  1960's  and the early  1970's .

2. Twitchell has stated in at least two published pieces that
he considers  Sar Bachan  (Beas: Radha Soami Satsang, 1933)
to be his "Bible."
The book was edited by Julian P. Johnson in the early 1930's.

Perhaps Twitchell's most revealing plagiarism, and one that cuts at
the very root of Eckankar's claim for legitimacy, occurs on pages
110 and 111 of his book  The Far Country . For not only does
Twitchell appropriate the words of Julian Johnson, as found on
pages 32 and 33 of  The Path of the Masters , but he also
plagiarizes Johnson's quotation of Swami Vivekananda (given on the
same pages)--forgetting
in the process that two  different people are speaking. 
The following is a comparison of Johnson's 1939 writing and
Twitchell's 1966 writing:


Julian P. Johnson, THE PATH OF THE MASTERS [1939]

[Johnson is quoting Swami Vivekananda in the following passage;
Johnson, by the way, properly references his quotation.]

Something behind this world of sense, world of eternal eating and
drinking and talking nonsense, this world of false shadows and
selfishness, there is that beyond all books, beyond all creeds,
beyond the vanities of this world--and that is the realization of
God within oneself.
A man may believe in all the churches in the world;
he may carry on his head all the sacred books ever written;
he may baptize himself in all the rivers of earth--still if he
has no perception of God, I would class him with the rankest
And a man may have never entered a Church or a mosque, nor
performed any ceremony; but if he realizes God within himself,
and is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world, that man
is a holy man, a saint, call him what you."

[The following passage is directly from Julian Johnson]

First of all, it is not a feeling. Secondly it not a metaphysical
speculation nor a logical syllogism.
It is neither a conclusion based upon reasoning nor upon the
evidence of books or persons.
The basic idea is that God must become real to the individual,
not a mental concept, but a living reality.
And that can never be so until the individual sees Him.
Personal sight and hearing are necessary before anything or
anybody becomes real to us. . . .


Paul Twitchell, THE FAR COUNTRY [1966]

[The Sugmad] is beyond this world of senses, this world of eternal
eating and drinking and talking nonsense, this world of false
and selfishness.
It is beyond all books, beyond all creeds, beyond the vanities of
the world.
It is the realization of the Sugmad within oneself. . . A
man may believe in all the churches in the world;
he may carry in his head all the sacred books ever written; he may
baptize himself in all the rivers of the earth--still if he has not
perception of the
Sugmad, I would class him with the rankest atheist.
And a man may never enter a church or a mosque, nor perform any
ceremony; but if he realizes the Sugmad within himself, and is
thereby lifted above the vanities of the world, that man is a holy
man, saint; call him what you will.

First of all, it is not a feeling.
Secondly, it is not a metaphysical speculation, nor a logical
It is not a conclusion based upon reasoning, nor upon the evidence
of books or persons.
The basic idea is that the Sugmad must become real to the. . .

The preceding comparisons reveal two things: 1) Paul Twitchell
incorporated Julian Johnson's quotations (in this case, Swami
Vivekananda's elucidation) without giving  any  reference note
to him or the Swami.
Instead, Twitchell claims that the Eck Master, Rebazar Tarzs, was
speaking  directly  to him.
And 2) on pages 110 and 111 of  The Far Country , Twitchell not
only exposes his outright plagiarism of  The Path of the
Masters  but reveals that almost all of Rebazar Tarzs' dialogue
is taken surreptitiously from Julian Johnson's writings.
Naturally, the authenticity of Twitchell's account of Rebazar
Tarzs is seriously damaged by such revelations.

Concerning the question of plagiarism, Woodrow Nichols sarcastically

It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes or even a Dr. Watson to see the 
resemblance between. . .  The Path of the Masters  by Julian
P. Johnson and  The Tiger's Fang  by Paul Twitchell. . . 

Nichols and Albrecht, op. cit.

In the case of Eckankar, one might add that it is not an issue of
a Sherlock Holmes undertaking the investigation, it is a problem
of perception, and finally a question of whether or not that
cognition is honest or deceptive.

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

I want to go back to the home base now.