Twitchell, (John) Paul (ca. 1918–1971)
Founder of the ECKANKAR, a spiritual movement teaching
the ‘‘ancient science of soul travel.’’ ECKANKAR is derived
from the Radhasoami religion of the Punjab area of India.
Twitchell was born in Paducah, Kentucky, around 1918. He
joined the navy during World War II and then pursued a career
as a journalist and the life of spiritual seeking after the war.
His spiritual search led him to the Church of Absolute Monism,
a Hindu offshoot of the Self-Revelation Fellowship. He
became editor of the church’s periodical, The Mystic Cross, but
came into conflict with the church’s founder, Swami Premananda,
in 1955. Shortly after leaving, he became a disciple of Kirpal
Singh, a teacher in the Radhasoami tradition and head of
the Ruhani Satsang. He also became involved with the recently
founded Church of Scientology.
Tweedale, Charles L(akeman) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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In 1964 Twitchell and his wife, Gail Atkinson, moved to San
Francisco, where he became an independent Radhasoami
teacher, and the following year founded ECKANKAR and announced
that he was the Living ECK Master. He claimed that
he had originally heard of soul travel from his foster father,
who learned about it from an Indian holy man, Sudar Singh,
originally from Allahabad, whom Twitchell later met in Paris,
France. He further claimed that he had been taught soul travel
by a mysterious Tibetan master named Rebazar Tarzs, who first
appeared to Twitchell in 1944 while Twitchell was serving on
a U.S. Navy vessel in the Pacific. He visited India after World
War II and upon returning to the United States began writing
books allegedly dictated by Rebazar Tarzs.
Twitchell authored a number of books in the years after the
founding of ECKANKAR. He died unexpectedly on September
17, 1971, by which time ECKANKAR had become a successful
new religion. He was succeeded by Darwin Gross as the new
Living ECK Master.
During the 1980s David Christopher Lane made serious
charges of plagiarism against Twitchell. He suggested that
Twitchell not only took his basic teachings from the Radhasoami
tradition but also plagiarized lengthy passages from the
books of several prominent authors. Lane’s well-documented
charges caused much dissension within the movement and a reappraisal
of Twitchell’s career.
Sources
Lane, David Christopher. The Making of a Spiritual Movement.
Del Mar, Calif. Del Mar Press, 1983.
Simpson, Patti. Paulji A Memoir. Menlo Park, Calif. ECKANKAR,
1985.
Steiger, Brad. In My Soul I Am Free. New York Lancer
Books, 1968.
Twitchell, Paul. The Tiger’s Fang. New York Lancer Books,
1969.