A New Age
religion founded by Paul Twitchell, who led the group from 1965-1971. He was followed by Darwin Gross (1971-1981), and Harold Klemp (1981-present). Leaders of Eckankar are called 'ECK Masters.'
ECKKANKAR was "born" (or
brought into public view) in 1965. Its founder and formulator as Paul Twitchell ("Paulji"), who proclaimed himself the 971st Living Eck Master - the living oracle of God ("Sugmad") - the "Mahanta" for this age. Twitchell was a dabbler in things mystical and occult
, a former Scientologist
, initiate of the Kirpal Singh of the Ruhani Satsang branch of the Radhoasoami tradition on India, and excommunicated staffer of Swami Premananda's Self-Revelation Church of Absolute Monism, an offshoot of the Self-Realization Fellowship
Sometime around 1960 Twitchell began to formulate the idea of founding his own religion.
Twitchell claimed that he did not borrow ideas from any human source, but experienced his own "God realization" in 1956 and was initiated by a group of spiritual masters called the "Order of Vairagi Masters" as the Living Eck Master in 1965. The exact nature of these extraordinary beings is left vague in Twitchell's writings, but they seem comparable to the "Ascended Masters" of Theosophical lore.
Twitchell claimed that ECKANKAR is the oldest and most original religion in the world. All other religions are derivative from it and in some sense inferior to it. Whatever truth is in them belongs to ECKANKAR. According to some careful scholars of Twitchell and ECKANKAR, however, the self-proclaimed Mahanta simply borrowed and reworked the cosmology and spirituality of the venerable Radhosoami tradition of India as mediated to him by Kirpal Singh and the American Radhosoami adept and writer, Dr. Julian Johnson. David Lane's exposé of Twitchell's dependence on these men (and others) is convincing.
Source: ECKKANKAR: From Ancient Science of Soul Travel to New Age Religion, by Roger E. Olson, in America's Alternative Religions
(Edited by Timothy Miller), State Univ of New York Press, July 1995, p. 363
A member of the new age
family of cults, Eckankar teaches a process which after a series of reincarnation
culminates in a god existence, or Christ Consciousness.
The process itself involves the adherent progressing upward through twelve astral planes through the attainment of classified levels of knowledge (gnosticism
Eckankar believes that God exists in two parts, the Light and Sound, known as ECK. This is helf to be the sustaining force of all life and the equivalent of the Holy Spirit
. Eckankar teaches that it is possible to experience the Light and Sound through the proper use of spiritual exercises.
Spiritual exercise is important as the initiator of Soul Travel and for achieving spiritual growth and a deeper appreciation for one's pas lives. A key spiritual exercise is the singing of the word hu
, which is supposedly the name of God.
Adherents believe in karma and reincarnation and hold that ECK helps to purify a person of karma. They emphasize a cooperative relationship with God. Humans are considered a spark of God sent to earth to gain spiritual experience and to serve others.
Why I Left The Master
(Contra) By ex-member, Connie Cook Smith.
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Brief overview, by CARM