Lane, David (Christopher) (1956– )
Philosophy professor and writer on new religious movements.
He was born on April 29, 1956, in Burbank, California,
and received his education at Los Angeles Valley College (Associate
of Arts) and California State University, Northridge (B.A.,
1978). He did his graduate work at the Graduate Theological
Union (M.A., 1983) and the University of California at Berkeley
from which he received both a M.A., 1988, and Ph.D., 1991,
in sociology. While there he was a research assistant to Mark
Juergensmeyer on a grant to study the trans-national Radhasoami
faith. He traveled throughout North India and compiled
an exhaustive genealogical tree of Radhasoami gurus and gaddis
(seats of Sikh gurus). He helped to produce a documentary
film on the history of Sant Mat (a transcendental Sikh movement),
and was instrumental in arranging a rare interview with
Baba Faqir Chand, then a 94-year-old sage in the foothills of
the Himalayas. The research became the basis of his M.A. thesis
(1981) and ultimately a book, The Radhasoami Tradition (1992).
His research also helped satisfy his own spiritual quest and in
1978 he was initiated by Radhasoami master Maharaj Charan
Singh. Prior to assuming his present position, Lane taught at
the University of California, San Diego, where he received a
Regents Fellowship in Sociology. Lane’s research on the Radhasoami
movement led to work on two modern western offshoots
of the movement, ECKANKAR and the Movement for
Inner Spiritual Awareness (MSIA), both of which had denied
their contact with the larger movement. The first result was the
publication in 1983 of The Making of a Spiritual Movement (originally
presented as a term paper at California State University,
Northridge, 1978), a detailed study of the intellectual roots of
ECKANKAR and of its founder, Paul Twitchell. The book
charged that Twitchell had been trained by Radhasoami master
Kirpal Singh and had plagiarized extensively from Radhasoami
literature in books circulated as ECKANKAR texts. Lane
went on to found a journal, Understanding Cults and Spiritual
Movements, with his colleague Brian Walsh and continued his
research on various Radhasoami and Indian-based groups,
some of which he felt had perverted the Radhasoami tradition.
John Roger Hinkins and Da Free John especially became objects
of severe criticism.
Lane’s own publishing venture was interrupted in the mid1980s
by a series of events including some death threats, a
break-in at his home, and the theft of his mailing lists and other
documents. However, he has continued to write in the field and
has recently published two volumes, including an updated text
of his early study of the Radhasoami tradition and an anthology
of his critical works on Indian spiritual movements.
Sources
Lane, David Christopher. Exposing Cults When the Skeptical
Mind Confronts the Mystical. New York Garland Publishing,
1994.
———. The Making of a Spiritual Movement. Del Mar, Calif.
Del Mar Press, 1983.
———. The Radhasoami Tradition A Critical History of Guru
Successorship. New York Garland Publishing, 1992.

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