ECKANKAR, the religion of light and sound of God, is a
variation of the Radha Soami Sant Mat (tradition of the masters),
a major religious tradition in the Punjab area of northern
India. It was founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell, a former student
of Sant Mat Master Kirpal Singh. In 1964 Twitchell
moved to San Francisco, California, and began to teach what
he considered an advanced form of surat shabd yoga, the Sant
Mat system of spiritual disciplines, which allows the student to
hear the divine sounds and see the divine light and prepares
the students soul to travel on what are considered the inner
planes of reality.
Twitchell claimed that he had come into contact with the
Vairagi order of mahabtas (masters) and especially with their
representatives Sudar Singh of India and ECK Master Rebazar
Tarzs in the Himalayas. In 1965 Twitchell was named the 971st
Living ECK Master, the lineage of the order dating back to prehistory.
As the ECK master, he wrote a number of books and
brought to publication two volumes of the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad,
the scripture of ECKANKAR. After his death in 1971 he was
succeeded by Darwin Gross and then by the current ECK master,
ECKANKAR offers a picture of the inner worlds divided
into an order of ascending levels through which the student
may travel to the realm of Gods presence. The student, or
chela, is aided in this process by the work of the ECK master,
who is believed to be able to meet and assist the student as he
or she traverses the planes, especially in the nighttime while
sleeping. The many ECK exercises (more than a hundred difEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. ECKANKAR
ferent techniques are now taught to students at different levels)
assist students in their awareness of the planes, and the literature
explains what they will encounter at the different levels of
the inner reality. To travel the planes it is necessary to be able
to see and hear the divine light and sound.
Devotees of ECKANKAR consider it a living, growing religion
headed by a master who continues to bring forth new
teachings. Under Harold Klemp, the present ECK master, the
organization moved into a new headquarters complex and temple
in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The religion is now
international in scope, and in 1991 more than ten thousand attended
an ECK seminar in Africa.
In the 1980s substantive charges were leveled that Twitchell
had fabricated his spiritual career, had plagiarized some of his
books from the writings of Julian Johnson, a prominent Sant
Mat writer, and had attempted to cover up his early associations
with Kirpal Singh and other spiritual teachers. Harold
Klemp has largely acknowledged Twitchells borrowing from
Johnson and ECKANKARs place in the Sant Mat tradition.
Several ECKANKAR students have also left to found rival organizations,
including Ancient Teachings of the Masters (Darwin
Gross), The Divine Science of Light and Sound (Jerry Mulvin),
and, most prominently, the Movement of Spiritual Inner
Awareness (John-Roger Hinkins). ECKANKAR address: Box
27300, Minneapolis, MN 55427.
Klemp, Harold. Soul Travelers of the Far Country. Minneapolis,
Minn.: ECKANKAR, 1987.
Lane, David Christopher. The Making of a Spiritual Movement.
Del Mar, Calif.: Del Mar Press, 1983.
Twitchell, Paul. All about ECK. Las Vegas, Nev.: Illuminated
Way Press, 1969.
. ECKANKAR, the Key to Secret Worlds. New York:
Lancer Books, 1969.