Dialogue in the Age of
David explores three subjects in Chapter One of his book: The birth date of Paul Twitchell, where he was born, and a few details concerning Paul's life up until about 1950. These might not seem like subjects worthy of a whole chapter, but Paul's life is far from easy to pin down.
David has pieced together information from a delayed birth certificate, a marriage license, family bibles, a death certificate, school records, quotes from relatives of Paul's brother and sister, and other records. Interestingly, the information from all of these sources is contradictory.
The upshot of Davids research is that Paul's family and friends reported differing birth dates at different times in his life. For example, Paul's death certificate in 1971 records a birth date of October 22, 1922. However, this would have made Paul only 10 years old when he entered college in September 1933.
Paul's first marriage certificate, to a Camille Ballowe, dated September 1942, shows a birth date of October 22, 1912. This is the same date that Paul's father recorded when he filed a delayed birth certificate for Paul, one year earlier. Apparently no official birth certificate had been recorded at the time of Paul's birth. But none of these records agree with dates recorded in the Twitchell family bible, or through a family genealogy, which would place Paul's birth in 1909, 1910, or perhaps even 1908.
David does a pretty good job of reporting these facts, except for a couple of instances where he simply couldn't contain himself. Such as his comment:
...these two documents do summarily indicate that the '1922' birth date was a fabrication made years later by Paul, presumably to convince his young wife, Gail, that he was not much older than herself.
Why David insists on inserting his unsupported presumptions, I dont know, but it sure does cloud the facts. While the records David turned up clearly show the 1922 date to be untenable, David hasn't produced a single record showing that Paul himself was the cause behind any of these inaccurate dates. This fact isnt at all obvious in his book. Like most readers, when I first read Davids chapter, I thought David had caught Paul lying about his birth date. I had assumed that David had something to back up such comments as:
For some reason, Twitchell had led Steiger and others (including Gail Atkinson and Jack Jarvis) to believe that he was born in the early 1920s (specifically October 22, 1922) when in actuality he was born much earlier (1908-1912).
It was only after posting my first response to Davids Chapter One on the Internet that Steve Rundfelt wrote to say he could not find a single case where Paul had lied about his age or birth date. After all, he said, we can hardly accuse Paul of lying on his death certificate! Thats when I looked more closely at the facts and discovered he was right. Suddenly, a different picture began to emerge.
For example, Paul enlisted in the Navy shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, in December 1941. He wanted to support his country during that time of great unrest. It was apparently for this reason that Pauls father filed a belated birth certificate, since Paul needed it to enlist. Next year, when Paul married Camille Ballowe, of course this same certificate would have been used for his marriage license. But this 1912 date of birth that Pauls father recorded is also wrong, just as the 1922 date was wrong on Pauls death certificate.
This would be odd enough if we didnt also learn that the Twitchell family bible was also incorrect. Through our Internet dialogues, David finally thought he had produced a document that had Paul dead to rights. He had tracked down the age Paul recorded upon entering college. But this turned out to be another misunderstanding, since the record was actually from the date of Pauls admittance to college, which easily explains the one-year error. The college Registrar even apologized for his mistake.
One-by-one the long list of examples that David offered up to prove that Paul had lied about his birth date disappeared. What looked like a strong case at first, dwindled away to mere quotes from family members or friends who made the mistakes. In fact, the new image that has emerged is of a man who never spoke about his age or his year of birth, and also chose not to comment when others got it wrong.
David argues that Paul was probably still the instigator behind many of these errors, since that is the simplest explanation. He calls this the principle of Occams Razor, which says that when facing many theories, the simplest and most obvious is usually the best. However, after watching all the cases of Pauls youth resolve themselves with a more thorough investigation, I didnt find much use in trusting Occams Razor.
The simplest answer is that we dont know. However, what we do know is that from the day Paul was born, until the day he died, other people were recording his birth date wrong. It makes for a fascinating story, which only came to light after dialogue.
Some of the confusion around Pauls real date of birth was cleared up when I made public, for the first time, a public record that reliably places Pauls birth in 1909. (See the addendums to this book for a more complete story.) However, the question of whether his date of birth was October 23, as recorded in his family bible, or October 22, is still unknown.
David added one other strange comment in his section on Pauls date of birth:
Furthermore, some Eckankar officials do not accept any of these dates. Instead they propose that Paul Twitchell was really born as Peddar Zaskq before the Great Southern Earthquake of 1812. This is by far the most unusual account - and subsequently, the most difficult to prove concerning Twitchell's birthday and birthplace. The source of this story comes from Twitchell himself in one of his later books, The Spiritual Notebook (San Diego: Illuminted Way Press, 1971) wherein he writes on page 195: Following him (Sudar Singh) is Peddar Zaskq (the spiritual name for Paul Twitchell) who was born on a packetboat in the midst of the Mississippi River, a few minutes after a great earthquake shook the mid-south and formed a great lake in this region
There are a number of odd things about this comment. First, this quote from The Spiritual Notebook says nothing about 1812. Secondly, Paul clearly explains in the forward to his book, The Drums of ECK, that the 1812 date refers to a prior lifetime.
However, the most fascinating fact came to light on this subject from an Internet visitor, who joined the dialogue from Hamburg, Germany. After I had posted my evidence showing that Paul had actually been born in 1909, Volker Doormann posted a page from the US Geological Surveys on-line database, listing US earthquakes over 3.0 magnitude, in the year 1909.
One of the 13 earthquakes listed for 1909 occurred shortly after midnight of October 22. It was a 4.5 magnitude quake, centered on the Mississippi River, about 30 miles from Pauls first home in Paducah, Kentucky. Once again, Mr. Occam would never have guessed the truth.
The stories of Pauls youth:
David also uncovered information that challenges two of Paul's stories about his childhood; First, that he was born out of wedlock and raised by a foster mother at the suggestion of his father. Second, that he first met Sudar Singh, an ECK Master from Allahabad, India, while Paul was just a teenager visiting his half-sister, Kay-Dee, who was studying art in Paris.
As sources for his information, David refers to comments by Kay-Dee's husband, Paul Iverlet, (since Kay-Dee died in 1959) and Mattie Twitchell, the widow of Paul's older brother Clyde, since Clyde had already passed on as well. Both sources felt that these stories were nothing but "fanciful yarns," as David puts it, developed over the years by Paul himself. David then thoughtfully includes this quote from Mattie's son:
"It's a good thing my daddy wasn't living; he would have beat the hell out of him [Paul] for telling lies about his early life."
I really love that quote.
I don't find these sources terribly convincing, since they were all twice removed from the actual events, and after first publishing my chapter, numerous other information came to light that shed even more doubt on Paul Iverlets comments (see the addendums.) For example, Iverlet assured David that Paul was actually born in 1908, which wasnt true.
Iverlet also called Pauls story about being born out of wedlock an atrocious lie, since Pauls father and mother were good Christian folks. Unfortunately, Iverlet was not aware of the records that indicate Effie was pregnant with her first child when she married Jacob Twitchell, and that Jacob had impregnated another woman while Effie was on her deathbed, in 1940. Pauls story about his fathers philandering was apparently true.
How could Iverlet have been so in the dark on these matters? Well, it turns out that he was not Kay-Dees first husband after all, as David had thought, and actually didnt marry Kay-Dee until 1943, more than a year after Paul had left Paducah for good, to join the Navy. Also, by the time David spoke on the phone with Iverlet, in October, 1977, David didnt realize that Iverlet was dying of cancer, and in fact passed away one month later. All this information came out later.
According to Paul, he only learned the truth about his birth when his grandmother told him in private, after he had graduated high school and Kay-Dee had gone off to college. So, it is quite possible that other family members either didnt know the whole story, or simply chose not to talk about it. This does offer one explanation why there was so much confusion over Pauls exact birth date in his family.
On the other hand, Paul's story about meeting Sudar Singh as a teenager is fraught with troubles. Since Kay-Dee's birth records, according to the family bible and her death certificate, indicate that she was born in 1904, and Paul's story indicated that their visit to Paris was interrupted by their mother's death, which took place in 1940, then Kay-Dee would have been about 36 years old, and Paul, himself, would hardly have been a teenager either. Also, Kay-Dees husband, Paul Iverlet, swears that not only did Kay-Dee never visit India, or France, but in fact she had never even been outside the US her whole life. Something about this story doesn't add up with the facts.
However, as fate would have it, some new information surfaced that fills in this picture a little more. I discovered, from a 1920s Whos Who in Kentucky article on Paul that he had, in fact, been in Paris the year after graduating high school. Only it was Paris, Kentucky, not Paris, France. Was this more than a coincidence? Yes, since we later confirmed that Kay-Dee had also gone to Paris, Kentucky, to study art. (For more information, see the addendums.)
How could Paris, Kentucky, have turned into Paris, France? David offers an answer from the pages of his own book. In writing about Brad Steiger, the author of Pauls biography, In My Soul I Am Free, where David has quoted these stories about Pauls youth, David wrote:
Steiger himself admits to having changed the real names and places in Twitchells biography, which he adds is a common practice in the biographies of famous people.
So, where does this leave us? What does all of this mean? None of these details about Paul's birth and childhood are central to the spiritual teachings of ECKANKAR. In fact, they are quite irrelevant. If they impact anything, they alter what we might call the mythology of Paul Twitchell, meaning the images of Paul that he created for himself, or that we have created of him.
As we grow and learn more about others, we continually adjust how we see our friends, our parents and even our wife or husband. This is natural. Sometimes these changes come from things we learn about ourselves, as well. Therefore, new information that alters our images of Paul should not of itself cause significant problems.
But according to David, it is a major problem. According to David, these are core issues and are central to believing anything Paul has said or written. David put it this way to me in an Internet post on April 16, 1997:
I think it is foolish to trust mandalic [spiritually symbolic] statements when the guru is dishonest about empirical [factual] statements - and we know Twitchell 'twisted' facts.
In other words: How can you believe anything Paul teaches about the spiritual path once you know he has lied about something like his childhood?
There is a fascinating paradox in this matter that is not immediately obvious but is extremely important. To illustrate this let me start off with a few observations. There was another facet of Paul's childhood that only got a moment's mention in David's book, even though it did not agree with the facts any more than other stories Paul told. Paul said that the name of his hometown was China Point, when it was in fact Paducah, Kentucky. There is one big difference with this lie, as David would call it, and the other stories that Paul told. The difference is that China Point was something that Paul had been asked about while he was still alive.
I don't know how it got started, but most ECKists that I remember in the early days seemed to know that China Point wasn't the real name of his hometown. Someone had once asked Paul why he used a made-up name for his birthplace, and he had answered something along the lines that he didn't want to bother any family members or townsfolk with any intrusions into their lives. At least that's how I heard it. So, although I never knew that Paul's real hometown was Paducah, I wasn't at all surprised that it wasn't China Point.
In other words, there was no great surprise nor feeling of being lied to later on when we found out the truth. Why? Simply because Paul had explained his intentions before he died. The shock value and negative reaction were not there because Paul had explained his creative constructions. But why should our experience be so different with these other stories of Paul's when the facts are so similar?
What if Paul, before he died, had been asked publicly about if he changed his date of birth, and what if he had answered:
"Well, first, I'm a private man. Also, I like having fun with people that use the outer facts of my life to fit me into some kind of box. I don't live in their boxes, you see. And I decided when I was a boy that I would define my age from the inside out, not from the outside in."
[After I first posted this chapter to the Internet, I ran across a quote that fits too perfectly to be left out. It comes from a 1976 ECK World News interview with Dick Braun, a friend and associate of Pauls from 1959-1961. Dick told some fascinating stories about Pauls psychic abilities, which he saw for himself in those days. Dick also said:
I was constantly after him [Paul] as to how old he was. And he said he was not really of this particular world.
And I said, Well, what do you mean world? Now we have to define world. And how old are you?
He said he was 23,000 years old. And he was a Thetan. And he said that he had come from outside of our solar system, but in the physical universe.
But you see, at this particular time, I didnt understand what he was talking about, because I didnt understand the three levels of the negative world. And he kept talking about them.
Of course, Im going back 15 years. I didnt take notes on things like this. These were things, some of it, I would look at with a jaundiced view. And I would look at it and say, Mmm, yeah, youre 23,000 years old. And then I said, You really are 23,000 years old?
Paul said, Richard, what difference does it make how old I am? Its what my spirit is, and spirit is eternal.]
Or, what if Paul had been asked if he made up his story about being born out of wedlock and being trained by an ECK Master in the art of Soul Travel as a teenager, and what if he had answered:
"I am trying to get people to see the inner reality. These stories are describing an inner truth. Don't get too concerned about the outward facts. As I've said many times before, I'm just a man like any other man. But the question is did you understand the meaning of these stories? Did they call you and draw you on to the search for more? If so, then they served their purpose."
The point I'm trying to illustrate here is that when we are facing new facts without an explanation, people often imagine the worst. This is what actually causes that feeling of shock when we learn the unexpected - it is from a fear that we have foolishly believed in something that isn't true. That we have been duped. But it is just this sort of negative imagination that really dupes us.
David has suggested over the last 20 years that ECKists are fools if they don't accept this negative imagination about Paul because it shows they aren't facing the facts. But these facts failed to support the accusations David has made.
It is for this reason that journalists won't mix presumptions and guesses with facts when they are writing an exposť. The facts can be startling enough, and the readers are best left alone after being shocked to work through what it means by themselves. To insert strongly felt opinions after shocking the reader with new information, whether it is intentional or not, is a form of manipulation. If we are interested in spiritual truth, we must be mindful of our own subconscious reactions. We should look for a balanced state of mind before we try to understand the meaning of things that challenge our previous way of seeing things.
There is another important point to bring out here. As I mentioned before, David suggests that the facts about Paul's life should be used to judge the truth about Paul and his spiritual teaching. Or, if Paul lied, then you should not trust anything else he has said. The Sufis call this the mistake of judging the contents by the container. There is a real danger in this, because it creates a false sense of knowing something that is not truly understood.
To me, this is like using tea leaves in trying to see the present. If you can see the present by simply opening your eyes, then what need do you have of tea leaves? If you can sort the chaff from the wheat of spiritual truth by being able to see through direct spiritual perception, then why would you depend upon some sort of mechanical formulas to make decisions about truth? In other words, either we can judge the truth of Paul's spiritual teaching or we cannot. Relying on other mechanisms is only an indication that we do not really know what spiritual truth is.
The problem with the facts of people's outer lives is that they tell us almost nothing about the real person. But our modern era is an age of appearances. It is a time of great shallowness, when the masses are easily swayed by a few words, even if nothing in fact has really changed. The commentators on TV, in magazines and newspapers actually score people's success by whether their popularity has gone up or down, as if this says anything important at all about these people. Public humiliation and stardom, the rise and fall, are seen as some sort of sport for the masses.
Therefore the paradox here is that David is suggesting these facts of Paul's life, his stories and his alterations, you might say, somehow define who Paul Twitchell was. This is the ultimate irony, because from what I know of Paul, if anything, these stories show a man refusing to be defined by the events of his life. Paul has always struck me as a man perfectly at ease with creating who he was, and not at all dependent upon social acceptance or established norms. It is a part of his whole philosophy.
But rather than listening to what David or I have to say about Paul, why not read what Paul had to say about himself. The following is a quote from an article by him, called The Square Peg, which he wrote in 1963:
The Cliff Hanger is a one-man cult. I am the original Cliff Hanger and its sole disciple. The name was coined to explain my attitude regarding this age of mass culture as a lot of abracadabra. The name is synonymous of a man hanging on the edge of a cliff safe from the crowd; more outside than the outsider, happier than the angry young men, and at the opposite pole from the Existentialist who claims man has no hope in life.
The ways of this kooky civilization has left the Cliff Hanger with no alternative than to turn his back on our homogeneous society and go his way with those who might have been called Cliff Hangers, i.e., Byron, Tom Paine, Rimbaud, Lawrence of Arabia, and others who have earned the various tags of non-conformist, individualist, rebel, and lonely oddballs.
The Cliff Hanger is not interested in public bangles, nor willing to give himself the airs of a hero by proclaiming a great love to raise money for hospitals or worthy causes which involves the enthusiasm of the middle-class. Neither is there anything else in this mass age great enough to make him climb a wall, especially in religion....
History is made by the impact of the eccentrics, the originals, the proud imaginative people from which new ideas come. A society cannot get along without its Cliff Hangers, because they are the most vivid means of exhibiting the power of free men.
For this reason this bobby dazzler feels the break is necessary with our mass culture because it has considered the man of imagination and free spirit dangerous... He generally makes his living in one of the aesthetic arts, has his own lingo for communication, and has earned the 'Label of Illogic' in philosophy and deed.
He has rejected the great unwashed who are up to their ears in this Department Store Culture, of pension plans, telephones, radio and TV, dogma and money-changers.
Accordingly, he sees this civilization heading down the path to destruction, and will be the greatest to suffer unless he can get out of it quickly. But he is in a sense like Thoreau who wasn't in the least interested in changing the ways of his time, but wants to be left alone to enjoy his own company and solitude.
My writings are pointed toward this, although they may appear on the surface like the works of a man careless of law and landlords with the attitude of gay mockery.
The Cliff Hanger may be the favorite of the Gods, and it's certain he is the lonely hero of these times, but as I have said, it is a one man cult, with myself as founder, president and disciple.
On the other hand, perhaps through Paul's own words he did explain himself before he died. Perhaps through his own words we get a clearer picture than the creations of our fearful imagination. And perhaps the only shock for us is that Paul was more creative in his own life than we thought, more interested in privacy than we realized, and less concerned about social conventions.
Before we leave this chapter, however, shouldn't we take a look at more than just the most critical facts of Paul's early life? If we are truly interested in The Making of a Religion, as David has called it, wouldn't we like to catch a glimpse of who Paul was in those days, and what he was thinking?
Unfortunately, there isn't much available to help us from that time of his life. Yet, there is one manuscript of Paul's that has survived. It was his first published book. Called, Coins of Gold, Paul first printed this book of poems in 1939.
I believe there is no better insight into another person than to read their own words. Therefore, although it requires a sudden shift, here, let's take a few moments to look at some poems of Paul's from Coins of Gold, now out of print, and first printed in 1939:
Down the roads of the yesteryears
Came a child with a smile so bright
With a cheerful eye and a buoyant step
His laughter a memory in the morning light
He waved a hand and spoke a soft word
Then passed along the dusty way
Until he was lost in the distant haze
In the ivory glare of the warm noon-day
Time whirled by and still I waited
For his return from some distant land
And he passed again in the evening-tide
With the wrinkled face of an old-old man
His step was slow . . . his hand trembled
His greeting was but a tired sigh
He had left a shell by the side of the road
For I saw the child and man was I
And the brown ache of the earth in pulsing
On the mellow light of an autumn day
I have ridden at dawn in a chariot of echoes
Across the clear of the magic blue
Startled the somber shadows into distant flight
And found in the grey, life anew . . .
O'er rough boulders of the falling stars
I journeyed on wings so swift . . .
And in the haunting vastness of space
I rounded the trail on God's cliff
In the afterglow of the lingering refrain
I paused upon some towering hill
Hobbled the steeds upon a quiet windy plain
And silently watched the golden still
Weave for me a life . . . O master
As everlasting as your barren hills
And hide my humble freedom in a phial
That the vice of men always chills
The fallen petals . . . in the early morning
Are the echoes of your eternal call
Treading like a ghost in the lonely night
Your wisdom of perpetual is all
You leave . . . a doubt . . . upon my tongue
As endless as the realm of time
And in the interlude of myriad dreams
It rings as clear as the Sabbath's chime
That was Paul writing in his late twenties, with the longing of his doubts, journeys of Soul through God's creation, and a glimpse of life passing by, written from some over-arching viewpoint. Plus someone who he called: "O master," even though, according to David Lane, Paul did not learn Soul Travel or have a Master until the 1950's.
It is interesting how the outward "facts," that David points to, really tell us very little about who Paul was, and how much louder Paul's own words speak to us, of his reality.
[NOTE: It is also interesting that shortly after I published this chapter new information about Paul's early life came to light, when an ECK friend sent me copies of news clippings about Paul and some old articles written by Paul long before 1950 that had been kept by the Paducah Public Library.
This new information turned up conclusive evidence of Paul's real birth date, and that I had been mistaken in stating that the Coins of Gold had been published in 1929 (I've corrected this to 1939).
We also now have a much clearer idea of Paul's early careers, his intense study of spiritual matters while even a teenager, as reported by Camille Ballowe, his first wife, and the surprising explanations for the stories about Paul and Kay-Dee spending time in Paris, as mentioned above.
For details of this new information, see the addendums and Chapter Eleven.]
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Copyright © 2000 by Doug Marman