Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: Alt.religion.eckankar Publication date: 1996
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I want to go back to the home base now.
Joseph, 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 incongruencies. 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 website. 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. Why? 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 LOST ANTECEDENTS 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 experiences. 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, Scientology. 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 Eckankar. 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, 1981). 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 meditation. 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 guru, 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 same 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 consciousness. 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 texts. 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  [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 atheist. 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  [The Sugmad] is beyond this world of senses, this world of eternal eating and drinking and talking nonsense, this world of false shadows 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 syllogism. 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 remarks: 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.
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I want to go back to the home base now.