Dialogue in the Age of
David calls this chapter: The Manifestation of Rebazar Tarzs: Authenticity, Legitimacy, and Deception in the Study of Religion.
David starts off by saying:
Many followers within Eckankar today feel that the truth or underlying message of their founder, Paul Twitchell, is valid, regardless of whether or not his (or their) beliefs fit a historic and objective purview. To such Eckists, the inner core of the teachings relates a truth and a reality far superior to the shadowy contradiction it casts in a fact-oriented world. Thus, when accusations of plagiarism, cover-up, and fraud are labeled against their founder, devout members dismiss the allegations under the pretext that it has nothing to do with the real path, which is the ascension of the soul into the higher "God Worlds."
But is this truly the case? Can we separate the factual world from the inner spiritual realms? According to Ken Wilber, perhaps the premier transpersonal philosopher in the world today, the answer is no. Reality is not the exclusion of one conditional part from another (as we find in the extreme case of dualistic Zoroastrianism), but the very ground of being from which all conditions and events arise. In this light, the material world and the spiritual planes cannot be arbitrarily dissociated--rather they are inseparable and complementary.
Yes, the inner and outer worlds fit together like a hand in a glove and cannot be separated, and in fact it is for this very reason that we must look beneath the surface of the so-called factual world if we want to truly understand what is taking place. It is David, however, who is not seeing the whole picture, and therefore is imagining a split when there is none.
David's first paragraph, above, fairly describes the way most ECKists see the matter, except they would never call it a "pretext" or an excuse. David's accusations of plagiarism, cover-up, and fraud really have little to do with the spiritual path of ECK for most ECKists. These things are simply not that relevant.
Constance Robertson, an ECKist, put the whole matter very well when she responded to an article by David Lane that appeared in Fate Magazine in 1983. Fate Magazine printed her letter in a later issue:
"David Lane's research on the background of ECKANKAR may or may not be accurate but he completely misses the point. The principles of ECKANKAR when properly applied cause transformation within the individual and each change brings great relief as obstacles fall away and personal capability and understanding increases.
"As an ECKist for seven years, I don't care if Paul Twitchell got it out of a can. It works. He is respected as one who undertook the nearly impossible task of translating and correlating Eastern (in truth, universal) principles for the Western mind and way of life. Lane seems to think that Twitchell's involvement with numerous other spiritual paths casts doubt on his authenticity. To my mind, it is only proof that he was no upstart but an individual well-grounded in spiritual knowledge...
"From my own lengthy spiritual odyssey I can affirm that no other path offers the simple ways to experience these astonishing other realities while allowing one to keep in balance in an involved and responsible daily existence with family, work and leisure.
"As for Rebazar Tarzs and the other Masters having been 'made up,' my own happy encounter with Rebazar, before I ever knew of him through ECKANKAR, is validation enough for me. Lane's motive for his negativity in this respect must be his own regrettable lack of experience."
As Constance said: Whether or not David's research is accurate, it misses the point. And even if Paul got it out of a can doesn't matter, because it works. That's not a pretext. That's how it is for most ECKists. Therefore, the reason most ECKists dismiss these issues raised by David has nothing to do with rejecting or excluding factual reality; it is simply that these things are not that important to them. Is there some psychological flaw with ignoring things that aren't important to you?
There is a term called sophistry, which according to Webster's means: misleading but clever reasoning. It is one of the greatest dangers to the seeker of truth. Simply because something sounds logical, or seems to make sense from an intellectual standpoint, doesn't mean it isn't also very deceptive. Since David raised the subject of authenticity, legitimacy, and deception in the study of religion, I think it is only fair to make this point.
To help illustrate this, let's look at a classic example of Sophistry:
One of the points that David has raised on numerous occasions since writing his book has been what he calls Paul's duplicity and hypocrisy about copyrights. While Paul easily dismissed any concerns about the copyrights of others when he borrowed their writings, according to David, Paul did not hesitate going after John-Roger Hinkins for copying Paul's writings. David claims that Paul even threatened legal action against JR over the matter.
When I first ran across this argument from David, however, it immediately struck me as inaccurate. I'd heard Paul speak about his issues with JR on more than one occasion, but Paul's concern had never been copyrights. Paul didn't like JR's claims that he was a Master trained by Paul, carrying on the teachings of ECKANKAR. In fact, my impression had always been that the May 1, 1971, letter sent by C. Lydon Harrel, Paul's attorney, addressed to ECKists, that I referred to in Chapter Four, was mainly in reference to JR. A little research turned up an article on JR's own web site, of all places, that confirmed my own memories.
The following is from a 1998 article by Massimo Introvigne called, "The Origins of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA)" which is the group that JR founded shortly after studying ECKANKAR under Paul. Massimo writes:
Letters were sent to John-Roger first from Twitchell's secretary and then -- on April 14, 1971 -- by C. Lydon Harrell, Jr., an attorney representing Eckankar. Interestingly, Harrell did not accuse John-Roger of copyright infringement but rather "wanted to be sure" that John-Roger "will in no way refer to him [Twitchell] or Eckankar in your lectures, writings, etc."
Quoted from the Letter of C. Lydon Harrell, Jr. to John-Roger Hinkins, April 14, 1971, published in The Movement Newspaper, (MSIA's organ), June 1973.
In other words, Paul was asking JR to stop using Paul's name and association with ECKANKAR as a way of validating JR's teaching. What makes this so fascinating is that this is exactly what Paul had done, himself. Paul stopped using any references to Kirpal Singh or Sant Mat, so that his teachings would be taken on their own merit.
In other words, Paul apparently did this out of his own sense of what was right and was asking JR to show the same respect. Paul didn't want seekers being confused that JR was speaking for Paul or was representing the teachings of ECKANKAR.
Therefore, what David claims is a case of hypocrisy is actually a complete example of consistency in Paul's action. In fact, if we look at this matter closely, we can see that David mistakenly characterized Paul's reason for dropping Kirpal Singh's name in the first place, as we dealt with in Chapter Five. David then follows this by misrepresenting Paul's issue with JR Hinkins as a copyright matter, which it was not. By combining these two together, David then seems to create his great case of Paul's hypocrisy, which he has used down through the years to convince people of Paul's duplicity.
This is a perfect example of Sophistry. Contrary to David's claims, this issue with JR, if anything, shows us another insight into the reasons why Paul chose to distance his own teachings from Kirpal Singh, and remove references to Kirpal. Apparently it was Paul's way of standing on his own feet, and taking responsibility for what he, himself, was teaching and creating. In other words, there is a fine line between giving credit to others and drawing on the name of others for our own credit. From this case we can see that Paul was concerned with not drawing upon the reputations of others.
From examples like this, we can see why our understanding of the spiritual path needs to be much deeper than mere philosophical ideals. It must be rooted in our experiences. Philosophical and intellectual discussions, as well as historical or personal facts about a religious founder, can often be very deceptive and are wide open to misinterpretation and spin. It is our spiritual experiences, however, and the changes that they can bring about in our lives that are the basis of the path of ECK. This is why David's research, while interesting, is not core to most ECKists.
However, I think there is also a bigger issue at stake here. It appears that David is the one who seems unwilling to see ECKANKAR for what it is. It is David who insists on seeing ECKANKAR as an offshoot of Sant Mat, even though the facts show that ECKANKAR is something much more than that. It is David who has excluded so many of the facets of Paul's teaching while accusing ECKists of not facing his facts about Paul. But more than anything else, David appears to be having a problem with the paradox of a spiritual teacher who is also a human being.
I think the idea that someone can be both a human being and a spiritual Master at the same time is foreign to most people. Paul never tried to portray himself as a pure and holy man, like the traditional Indian guru. He has never claimed to be a Saint, nor a moral icon, like the Pope in Christianity. Rather, Paul realized that he was a paradox and an enigma for most people, since the idea of spiritual mastership is one of perfection and omniscience, while the idea of being human means limitation and error.
David seems to feel that ECKists are separating the factual world from the inner spiritual reality because the two cannot exist together in the form of a paradox. Since David cannot accept the paradox, he thinks only one or the other can be real. Therefore, by showing Paul's human flaws David thinks he is proving that Paul was a fraud as a spiritual Master, because Paul cannot be both human and a Master at the same time.
The irony of all this is that Paul wrote a great deal about this very issue. The factual world is illusory. It appears to be objective, but its existence is highly pliable. It is shaped by our attitudes, attention and expectations. It is not as solid as it looks. If you hold a belief deeply and long enough, it will create changes all around you.
The reason that most people never realize this is because their imaginations are filled with the ideas of a factual world that is limiting and solid, and they have forgotten that they themselves are gods with the ability to create and change life itself. Another way of saying this is that most people are creating continuously, but are doing so unconsciously and reactively.
Therefore an ECK Master is not one who lives a life of purity and prayer, hoping that God will send His blessings, but rather one who takes full responsibility for the state of consciousness in which he or she lives. Why spend time feeling limited or defined by the past when we are creators of the present and our experience with Life Itself?
So, when David asserts that ECKANKAR is not facing the reality of the factual world - meaning that ECKists are not feeling the guilt and embarrassment of the cold, bleak and ugly picture that David is painting with his accusations - whose psychological disassociation are we seeing here, ECKANKAR's or David's?
Idries Shah, a well-known author of many books on Sufism, and a spiritual leader in his own right, relayed a question he was once asked in his book, Learning How To Learn - Psychology and Spirituality in The Sufi Way.
Q: I have seen in an English translation of AWARIF EL MAARIF, a Sufi textbook, a statement to the effect that a disciple should conceal his teacher's shortcomings. How can a man be a teacher if he has shortcomings?
Idries Shah answered: One might almost put it the other way round - how can a teacher be a man *unless* he has shortcomings? But your question is more properly and probably usefully answered by pointing out that the fact that someone is a disciple means that he is likely to regard some actions of a teacher, which he does not understand, as shortcomings. It is a matter of understanding.
If the student imagines that something said or done by his teacher is a shortcoming when it is not, and this student maintains publicly that his teacher has deficiencies, the results will be undesirable for everyone.
Mark Twain is reported to have said that as a youth he thought his father ignorant. When he grew up he was surprised how much the old man had learnt in so few years. Supposing, then, that in the years between his first and second assessments of his father, he had published the *fact* that his father was ignorant, what would the consequences have been?
Furthermore, you should know that the Sufis have always maintained that whatever comes into this *abode of decay* - the world - must partake of its imperfections.
As Shah is pointing out, it is not very helpful trying to decide if the teacher is right or wrong, good or bad, or is acting out of selfishness. Rather, it is all a matter of understanding. What is there for us to learn from the situation? If we aren't careful, by passing public judgment upon others we can freeze our perceptions about them and limit our ability to learn.
The Question of Legitimacy:
Therefore, any comprehensive study of new religious groups like Eckankar, according to Wilber, must take into account two important factors: 1) legitimacy, the degree of integration that a particular religion offers. That is, how well does the group harmonize its follower with the teachings, the membership, and the society at large? And 2) authenticity, the determination of the religion's real goals. Is it aiming for just a better world? Or is it trying for the realization of higher planes of consciousness?
David is raising a very interesting point here, and I think Ken Wilber has developed a useful tool for evaluating religion, although as we will see later it has its limitations.
As Ken Wilber is defining the word, Legitimacy is about a religion's ability to help us in our interaction with the world. Does it help us grow in our understanding and responsibility to our family, or in our abilities to contribute to society? Does it help us better know our own psychology, our own strengths and weaknesses so that we can be successful individuals and live a more complete life? Wilber says this horizontal integration describes a religion's Legitimacy. Authenticity, on the other hand, deals with the vertical transcendence of our consciousness into the higher spiritual realms.
Therefore, living a life of spiritual awareness that intertwines us with the ways of the world leads to the horizontal integration that Ken Wilber calls Legitimacy. Being able to make contact with the inner pools of spiritual knowledge that extend up into the higher God worlds, containing the wisdom of those who have walked the path of life before us, is an example of the vertical ascension that Ken Wilber calls Authenticity.
Wilber's point is that these are two very different aspects of a spiritual teaching. Many religions can become completely focused on social betterment, but forget about true spiritual growth that comes from transcending the human states of consciousness. On the other hand, a religion can also become so concerned with spiritual enlightenment that it teaches withdrawal from the world and from society.
So, the question of this chapter is: How do the teachings of ECKANKAR stack up? Since David first addresses the issue of Legitimacy, let's take a look at a few examples of how the ECK teachings deal with this matter. Following is an excerpt from a talk that Paul gave at the Fourth World Wide Seminar, in Las Vegas, in October 1970:
We find many people these days are leaving the cities. They are moving into communes to live, which they believe will meet their own desires. We are also finding people who are moving into the wilderness, because they feel that they don't have enough space in the cities.
I agree with them one hundred percent, and I certainly would like to move into the wilderness myself, but there is a certain amount of instinct in man, which is a herd instinct, that he must have friends, he must have families, and he must have neighbors in order to maintain a certain amount of communication to live with this world. Unless he does that, he can go overboard. He becomes unbalanced in the wrong direction.
Many times, when a person goes out into these worlds of space and wilderness, he loses himself. He loses all perspective of his own life, his sense with the world and everything else. There are some people who can do that, but I find of myself, my personal self, I must be away from people for some time and then I have to come back and I have to communicate. I have to outlet, like these talks, in order to relieve the pressure that is within.
Now these pressures both inner and outer are terribly strong. The inner pressure that wants all of the message to get out cares very little about the body, cares very little about the body health. And it will use the body any way that it possibly can if the owner of the body will allow it. And if he doesn't, then he usually has physical problems. It will work out some way through physical problems, it can be almost anything. He can have physical diseases. He can have mental derangement. He can have many of these problems, because he will not let the inner come and flow outwardly.
This is just one example of the numerous times when Paul taught about the inner and outer forces in our lives, and the importance of integrating these power flows into our lives.
Paul described this further in The Flute of God, on page 36:
The outflow is the creative energy. It enables Soul to be cause, to make Its own creations. This is why the mystics proclaim the love of God as the greatest of all principles: To love God so wholeheartedly that the consciousness is taken off the self and centered on Him. The outflow of creative energy is so great that there is no room for struggle here, no space for the feeling of injustice. There is only the giving of good feeling, smoothly and uninterruptedly.
Paul often said that we cannot always be the cause of events in our lives. Sometimes we must be the effect, but it was a crime against Soul to be unknowing effect. Therefore, we should carefully look at and become conscious of the subtle forces that often carry us along in their path. Gaining an insight into the changes and forces at play in our world, to help us work with them more consciously, was often a subject of Paul's.
In one of Paul's last talks, for example, he discussed daydreams. He explained how the dreams we have as children will often affect the choices we make in our lives. Paul was a believer in exploring and understanding these inner forces. He was also aware how often people become cut off from their own nature in order to fall in line with expected behavior. This is especially true in religion, where people for the best of intentions feel compelled to follow some outer form of morality because they think it will help them spiritually.
Paul wrote in The Flute of God, pages 24-25:
Instead of having the "power flow" pour toward you, it can be reversed whenever you desire and you can have it flow outward toward the original cause point.
This may be done by prototype. These prototypes, visualizations or mental pictures must be of the time of the event. If you read a book, your visualizations must be of the events created by the author. You must see him writing that particular scene; see the words being put upon the paper in his typewriter.
If you actually understand this action, you realize that you can use the same technique in any of the arts - music, sculpture, modeling, stage plays, painting, business negotiations, or anything that life presents to you as a situation, circumstance or problem in which you regard yourself as effect.
Can you visualize Mozart composing one of his great masterpieces, while you are listening to a recording of his works; or Dickens, working on his immortal book, David Copperfield?" Do this with anything you desire, and after awhile it will become a part of you.
This is when you begin to cleanse the tablets of the mind of any errata so that you can receive Truths of absolute transcendence. The accumulation of falseness must be taken from the Atman, the Soul, to enable it to shine forth in its own resplendence.
Of course, we are dealing with energy in space. That is all there is to this phenomenon. Nothing more. We must work toward the end of keeping effect, the negativeness, from depositing accumulations of falseness as unnatural additions to the body. If we do not do this, we will become bound and inhibited by this material, which produces reactive patterns that are bothersome to us.
These words of Paul may sound somewhat cryptic when first reading them, but if you study what Paul is talking about here, you will see that he is really describing how to turn the thousands of images, pressures and forces that flow in on us everyday into a two-way dialogue. We can send those energies back to their source with our own inner reflection. We can become the mirror and add our own creative energies. This is what dialogue means, and I believe if we look closely at this matter we will discover that dialogue is the central element at the heart of what Wilber means by Legitimacy.
A religious teaching begins to break down its own Legitimacy when it stops encouraging dialogue with the world, when it no longer desires creativity and leadership, but wants only followers who are obedient. When it begins to preach harmony without equally pressing for honesty, or visa versa. And when it becomes more a religious dogma than a spiritual practice. All of these things - inflow versus outflow, leading versus following, harmony versus honesty - these are all elements of spiritual dialogue with life. It is like the breathing in of the world and breathing out the inner scripture of our heart. We must listen and speak, even if that listening is with our intuition, and that speaking is with our actions. This living path of interchange and integration with life is what brings Legitimacy to a spiritual teaching and can make it a positive force in our lives.
There are so many examples like this in the teachings of ECKANKAR that I find it hard to understand why David never mentions anything about them in his book. Perhaps he never notices these teachings because they can't be found in Radhasoami or Sant Mat.
What does David have to say about this subject? Here is what he wrote:
Wilber's methodology is important because it judges religious groups on both its spiritual aims and its worldly interactions. When we apply such a scale to Eckankar, we find that the group is essentially an illegitimate expression (because of its founder's denial of his real theopneusty) of an authentic religious aspiration, the attainment of higher levels of consciousness.
In other words, ECKANKAR is illegitimate because Paul does not teach that ECKANKAR was an offshoot of Sant Mat! Amazing! Only one paragraph after David explained Wilber's definition of Legitimacy, David has already forgotten that it refers to how well a religion harmonizes its followers into its teachings, the membership, and society at large.
Whether or not ECKANKAR was an offshoot of Radhasoami, Sufism, Theosophy, Gnostism, etc., has nothing to do with its Legitimacy. David has simply switched definitions to fit his needs. Another perfect example of the deceptive reasoning, called sophistry. While ECKANKAR might look like an ugly and illegitimate duckling to David, as in the Hans Christian Anderson story, it makes for a beautiful and graceful swan to many ECKists, because it opens up and expands our dialogue with the world.
But the sophistry gets even deeper. Here is what David wrote in his book's Appendix One:
An important question arises when one reviews the startling tendency inherent in many of the new panths [fellowships of believers grouped around specific lines of teachers and teachings] and their founders to deny their religious heritage--a denial which has taken on the form of name-deletions, plagiarism, and cover-ups. Why?...
Simply put, it is not that the new panths are in all instances concerned with suppressing their historical roots, but rather that they are overly anxious about their own distinctiveness as a new movement. It is primarily because of this emphasis on becoming established as a separate entity that the given group and its founder disconnect instead of integrate the past out of which they arose. This severance, which has its basis in developmental psychology, I have coined as "genealogical dissociation."
This disunion in many of the new panths (e.g., like Paul Twitchell's denial of his association with Kirpal Singh and Ruhani Satsang), springs forward not so much out of ignorance but out of hope for a separate, distinct and lasting survival--an autonomous tradition. But as Freudian and Jungian theories about personality maturation demonstrate, the unconscious or shadow self cannot be disregarded because it is part of the entire organism. It, quite simply, must be dealt with...
Though the psychological modus operandi of "emergence by repression" is age-old and is itself instrumental in the evolution of religion, in the case of some of the new panths (particularly Eckankar), it remains an essentially immature and disunifying attempt for genuine autonomy.
Strange, I can't think of a single existing religion that has not separated itself in some way from previous religions. In fact, I can't even imagine how a religion could even be recognized as a unique religion unless it did. Therefore, David is basically arguing that ECKANKAR is illegitimate because it has done what all legitimate religions have done.
But David gives it such a wonderful label. Genealogical dissociation. Sounds like a horrible disease, doesn't it? And what do we think of the founding fathers of the United States of America, who felt the need to dissociate themselves from England to become a separate country? Do we treat all expressions of individuality and signs of emerging uniqueness or distinctiveness, as indications of a disease?
If you'll remember, David first suggested that Paul disassociated himself from Kirpal Singh because of the so-called Tiger's Fang incident, which didn't match with the facts. Then he went on to assert that Paul did this for financial reasons, which wasn't consistent with the times either. Now David has come up with this wonderful psychological analysis.
But after reading the above paragraphs, I finally understand what all this is about: David has come to save ECKANKAR. What a wonderful and noble thing he is doing. ECKists only need to accept that they are really just students of Radha Soami and they will be saved from this horrible disease. Their deeply buried subconscious guilt will then be absolved.
This incredible sophistry of David's reminds me of a story that Rumi once told:
A certain king entrusted his son to a team of learned scholars. In due course, they taught him the sciences of astrology, geomancy, and the interpretation of signs, until he became a complete master, despite his utter stupidity and dullness of wit.
One day the king took a ring in his fist and put his son to the test.
"Come, tell me what I am holding in my fist."
"What you are holding is round, yellow, inscribed and hollow," the prince answered.
"You have given all the signs correctly," the king said. "Now say what it is."
"It must be a sieve." the prince replied.
"What?" cried the king. "You know all the smallest details, which would baffle the minds of anyone. How is it that out of all your powerful learning and knowledge, the small point has escaped you that a sieve will not fit in a fist?"
In this same way, the great scholars of the age split hairs on details of all matters. They know perfectly and completely those sciences that do not concern Soul. But as for what is truly of importance and touches us more closely than anything else, namely our own Self, this your great scholars do not know. They make statements about everything, saying, "This is true and that is not true. This is right and that is wrong." Yet, they do not know their own Self, whether it is true or false, pure or impure.
Now, being hollow and yellow, inscribed and circular, these features are accidental; cast the ring into the fire and none of them will remain. It becomes its essential self, purified of all appearances. So it is with the knowledge of scholars; what they know has no connection with the essential reality that alone exists when all these "signs" are gone. They speak wisely, expound at great length, and finally pronounce that what the king has in his hand is a sieve. They have no knowledge about the root of the matter: life's purpose.
Therefore, the question of genealogical dissociation is not whether we recognize all of the physical sources of the religious teaching that we follow, but do we know the source of Soul, our true Self? Has our path brought us closer to that essence, which is the real origin of all spiritual teachings? That is the only genealogical dissociation that matters. The rest is mere sophistry.
As Constance Robertson's letter above illustrates, most ECKists find both Legitimacy and Authenticity in ECKANKAR. But from the simple fact that David Lane could arrive at such an opposite opinion, we can see that judging these things from the outside is often impossible. Wilber's tools can help us see the difference between the vertical and horizontal aspects of a spiritual teaching and not confuse the two, but no matter how scientific this process may appear, such evaluations are mostly subjective and open to interpretation. Wilber's tools will not stop them from being misused by those whose eyes are clouded by prejudice or researchers who think they understand a spiritual teaching from simply reading its books.
It is most likely on account of Eckankar's lofty aims that it draws such an extensive following. However, what the group finally delivers is not the same as what it advertises. First, Eckankar is not a unique path unduplicated anywhere in the world, since, as we have previously noted, almost all of its teachings and practices are derived from pre-existing movements. And secondly, its founder, Paul Twitchell, does not qualify as a genuine spiritual master since he not only disqualifies his verdicality by copious lying, cover-ups, and plagiarism, but because he also cannot live up to his own self-made criterion for a true Eck Master.
More sophistry. Would you say that Leonardo's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, would not qualify as unique or original because of all those paintings before that had used the same colors and paints? Or that Beethoven's 9th Symphony was not unduplicated anywhere in the world because other composers had used those same notes and musical instruments previously?
It is the whole of a work that makes it original and unique, not its parts. It is the influence that a spiritual teaching has upon our lives that defines it, not what the founder may have studied, or which works he had borrowed elements from.
And David, in his second point above, decides for all of us that Paul does not qualify as a genuine spiritual master. Not that David ever offers us any reason to believe that he, himself, is qualified to make such a judgment, but as David cleverly words it, this is all because Paul disqualifies himself.
Funny thing, it doesn't appear that Paul is disqualifying himself. It looks more as if David is simply trying to disqualify Paul based on David's own moral and ethical criteria. More misleading but clever reasoning. Of course, we must not forget this comment that Paul could not live up to his own self-made criterion for a true Eck Master. What is David referring to here?
Here is David's answer:
Refer to SCP Journal: Eckankar--A Hard Look at a New Religion (Berkeley, September, 1979) for a comprehensive breakdown of Twitchell's inconsistencies in Appendix Number One.
Why David insists on using the intentionally biased work of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, I don't know, but let's take a glimpse at what David is referring to. Here is the first item on the list of "sampling of Eck contradictions" from the SCP Journal:
Paul wrote in The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad I, page 140:
Kal encourages . . . shabby beards and hair and untidy dress.
The contradiction is that a newspaper article, reprinted by ECKANKAR, called, Miracle Healings Draw Millions to Spiritual Leader, said:
He [Twitchell] goes clean shaven but is always in need of a haircut . . . his attire is always the same - a blue sports cap, blue suit which constantly looks baggy and rumpled . . .
In other words, Paul disqualifies himself as a genuine spiritual master because some newspaper reporter thinks Paul needs a haircut and describes his suit as baggy. That's supposed to be untidy dress, I take it. We're talking about a suit here, aren't we? Yes, Paul was known for not buying expensive suits, and used the suits he owned for many years. That's pretty damning proof, isn't it?
By the way, the complete quote of Paul's from the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad runs two full paragraphs, listing over 60 characteristics, and ends like this:
Kal assumes great intellectual knowledge, long and unnecessary periods of meditation, shabby beards and hair and untidy dress.
Sounds a little bit different in context, doesn't it?
It would simply be a waste of time to spend any more time with this list from the SCP Journal. Anyone can take words or concepts out of context and make them sound contradictory for the purpose of deception. David doesn't do himself any favors by using this document by the SCP to back up his arguments. I can't even call it sophistry. It is pure propaganda.
David now turns to the subject of Authenticity and addresses what he calls:
The Manifestation of Rebazar Tarzs:
Documented research indicates that Paul Twitchell created the character Rebazar Tarzs, basing the monk's life story on the biographies of Kabir, Shiv Dayal Singh, Sawan Singh, Kirpal Singh, and several other real life gurus. This finding, however, is known only to a few members in Eckankar. Others, not conscious of this fact (and who are allegedly adept at "soul travel"), claim to have extraordinary visions of the Tibetan, describing in detail his appearance and peculiar dress.
You might wonder, as I did, what this documented research is that is known only to a few members of ECKANKAR? You might also ask, as I did, if this research is so important, why has David not included it in his book? I have no idea what David might be referring to here, or why he would have left it out, but I do know that the implication that some secret is being kept from members of ECKANKAR is ridiculous.
This whole discussion on the nature of spiritual experiences is an exceedingly complex and subtle one that often baffles even the advanced spiritual student, yet David stomps through it with an air of absolute conviction, jumbling and mixing things up in the process. Some of his statements are simply wrong, others are partially correct. Overall, it is deceptively misleading.
There is a very real difference between imaginative projections and real spiritual encounters. The first will bring us experiences that fall in line with our expectations and preconceived ideas because they fundamentally spring out of our beliefs. But making contact with states of consciousness beyond our own brings us face to face with things we could never have imagined or expected. It is like opening doors in our awareness that we never knew existed. These are often the kinds of experiences that ECKists report. This shows the Authenticity of such experiences.
The problem that David has, if he is going to prove that ECKANKAR is not authentic, is the extraordinary number of ECKists who claim to have had experiences such as these. But David has chosen to focus on experiences with Rebazar Tarzs. Even still, there must be literally thousands of reported experiences of encounters with Rebazar Tarzs by ECKists and non-ECKists alike. However, this hardly even touches the much larger cases of all types of spiritual experiences and openings in spiritual awareness known to those who have studied ECKANKAR.
Keep in mind that David does not mention the cases where people have shared stories of meetings and experiences with ECK Masters before these people ever heard of ECKANKAR. As an example, Harold Klemp related the following story in his book, How The Inner Master Works, page 65:
Another ECKist from Africa, an electrical engineer, went to the home of a retired school principal to do some electrical work. Although the retired principal was up in years, he told the ECKist he shared his house with his father.
As they worked on the wiring together, the ECKist was telling him about ECK, when a very old man came into the room.
"Hey, what are you doing there, telling the secrets of ECK to this child?" said the old man. The child, of course, was the old man's son, the retired principal.
"They are not secret anymore," the ECKist said. "A man named Paul Twitchell brought them out to the public in 1965."
The old man thought about this for a while. Then he said, "I first heard about ECKANKAR in 1914." He described the ECK Master who had taken him to a Temple of Golden Wisdom in the inner worlds, the inner heavens. "He spoke to me about Eckankar. I see this teaching has finally made it out to the earth plane."
"What did this Master look like?" the ECKist asked.
"He had long blond hair," the old man sad.
"I think I know who you met. I'll bring you a picture." The ECKist went home and found a picture of Gopal Das, an ECK Master who once served as the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master--the position that I fulfill today as the spiritual leader of ECKANKAR. He brought the picture to the old gentleman, who recognized the face immediately.
"Yes," the old man said, "that is the man who first told me about the teachings of ECK in 1914."
I like to mention these stories for the benefit of those who question how an organization founded in 1965 could be based on an ancient teaching. They may or may not accept it; they may or may not become members of ECK. Doubts can set in even after one steps on the path of ECK. At some point the person may begin to wonder; is the path of ECK really true? Is it really a teaching that has come to earth from the inner planes?
So whenever these stories come to me, I share them. They come from people who have nothing to gain by telling of their previous association with ECKANKAR, often years before Paul Twitchell brought the teachings out again in 1965.
Here is another short one, recently posted on the Internet by Barbara Rogers:
Last year a woman attended worship service at our local center and told of a man she called "Red Shoes" who had been with her for over thirty years. He was always there to help, guide and protect her and her five children. She said he was Chinese and always stood near her right shoulder.
He got the name "Red Shoes" because her five children didn't see him the way she did. They only saw a pair of red shoes and would know that he was near.
After worship service she and I walked into the book room to get a cup of tea where she saw a picture of Lai Tsi (he was on the wall with all the other Master's pictures.) She started to cry and pointed at the picture and said, "That is Red Shoes!!!!" I held her as she cried for over five minutes. There are no words to describe what this experience was like for me, and I was only the observer.
When she left the center, she said she was going to call her five children (now grown and living in various states) and tell them that she finally knew the identity of "Red Shoes." She joined ECKANKAR shortly after that experience and drives a long distance to attend worship and satsang each month. Just try telling Doris that "Red Shoes" isn't real.
Stories such as these may not be proof for anyone else, but as Constance Robertson said in her letter to Fate Magazine, they are proof enough for those who experience them. And the number of people who have reported similar occurrences is extraordinary.
David is completely without foundation reducing all such cases down to his simple psychological explanation. However, David is hardly the only one who reacts to these stories in this way. For example, after the above story was posted on alt.religion.eckankar, a passerby on the Internet going by the name of TerraTrekr wrote this:
These stories are lame. They (even if true) simply represent the revisionistic power of suggestion. As humans, we look for patterns. Recognition of patterns has allowed us to survive. But, often the patterns are "misses" and aren't a reflection of any real connection between events.
It's akin to Catholics seeing images of Mary on building facades, in oil spills, and on tortilla chips. When you badly want to believe in something, your mind finds a way to do so. That includes revising the past to support your new paradigm. It's in no way particular to Eckankar.
I responded to this post like this:
If what you say is true, TerraTrekr, then how do you know that you are not simply seeing in these stories what you badly want to see?
Might we not also be people who are trained in the religion of science seeing subconscious projections based on the belief system of science, when there aren't any projections?
I don't mean this critically, TerraTrekr. I, myself, love science and use it in my work all the time. But the real question is how do we see our own projections? It is not nearly as easy as it sounds, and the level of understanding that most scientists have about it is simply appalling.
Scientists live with just as much mythology as the next person. And they believe that they don't just as much as the next person.
Over the years, I've come to realize that this sort of scientific thinking has simply become the popular religion of the day in most Western countries. Such thinking believes it is superior to all other religions, much like most religions themselves proclaim.
The effort that the scientific mind often goes through to discount or reject the experiences of others, always amazes me. But as TerraTrekr pointed out above, this is just the same case of wanting to see what fits our own belief system.
All experiences are real experiences. The problem comes after the experience, when our own worldview tries to color the experience, or in some cases can't accept it at all. This creates problems within ourselves, when we cannot accept our own experiences for what they are. We can become like a person divided against our own self. Some people even wonder if they are going crazy, when they unconsciously start suppressing their own experiences. To then find outward evidence of the reality of our experiences can often bring a powerful emotional feeling of release and love. It can change our whole viewpoint, as we suddenly realize we are a part of a much greater reality than this clay shell we call a body.
This whole process of self-discovery is what Paul meant by The Science of Soul Travel. It is based upon experiences, and seeing those experiences for what they are. Not more, nor less. And adjusting our beliefs from what we learn.
Here is what David has to say:
The preceding issue raises an important question with regard to Eckankar's claims for authenticity. Can a religion which is proven illegitimate still be authentic? More precisely, can Eckankar, though it is founded upon fraudulent lines, nevertheless, deliver genuine spiritual experiences? Surprisingly, the answer is both yes and no.
Obviously, David believes that ECKANKAR has been proven illegitimate and was founded on fraudulent lines, but I, for one, don't believe he has even come close to proving anything of the sort. This is merely deceptive reasoning at work again. David is simply stating his own personal opinion here and nothing more.
Yes, because it is theoretically conceivable that an earnest devotee may have an authentic experience of a fabricated mystic in higher planes of consciousness beyond the waking state. However, it is important to remember that the authenticity of such an encounter has nothing to do with the image-content as such. Rather, it is the structure of consciousness itself which gives numinous power to the experience. Whether or not a guru is a literary invention or a historical personage matters very little in terms of authenticity. (It does have an important role, though, in determining the ultimate legitimacy of the encounter.) Near-Death experiences, which are replete with culturally bound visions, indicates that the content of one's experiences may be unconscious projections (Christians see Jesus, not Buddha; Sikhs see Guru Nanak, not Mohammed; and so on), whereas the context or field of such transpersonal interplay is superconscious and not due to cultural restrictions.
Therefore, an Eckankar member may achieve a higher state of consciousness and behold a vision of what he/she believes to be Rebazar Tarzs. But it is not the Tibetan monk who is bestowing the elevated experience; rather, it is the devotee's own inherent capability for advanced structural adaptation (manifested, for example, in N.D.E.'s) which allows for such mystical heights. Hence, the important point concerning the authenticity of religious visions, as Wilber clearly points out, is not one of content (structurally speaking, it matters little if one beholds the Virgin Mary, Buddha, Krishna, or Fubbi Quantz), but of context.
It is one thing for David to say: it is theoretically conceivable that an earnest devotee may have an authentic experience of a fabricated mystic. This is true. It is quite possible that an individual's own imagination can be the springboard for experiences of higher states of consciousness.
However, it something altogether different for David to say: But it is not the Tibetan monk who is bestowing the elevated experience; rather, it is the devotee's own inherent capability for advanced structural adaptation ...which allows for such mystical heights. This is simply incorrect. Yes, it may be true in some cases, but David is going way too far implying that it is always true.
The important point that David misses is that we are fundamentally talking about the experience of communication and dialogue with another being. Therefore, meeting one of the ECK Masters inwardly is no different than a physical encounter with someone we know. In both cases we can tell the difference between a real encounter and an imagined one.
Rumi explains it this way in his discourses:
Someone said: "That crowd are disciples of a dimwit, and venerate the fool."
Rumi answered: That "dimwit" of a Sheikh is no less than a stone or an idol.
Those who worship stones venerate and magnify them. They direct their hopes and longings toward them, and their petitions, needs and tears. The stone knows nothing, nor can it feel anything of this. Yet God has made stones and idols to be the means of devotion, of which the stones and idols are totally unaware.
In the same way, these disciples are in love with the image of this foolish Sheikh, and the Sheikh is oblivious to their "banishment," "union" and all the phases of their love life.
If misguided and misdirected love for a phantom can produce ecstasy, still it is nothing like the mutual love enjoyed with a real beloved who is aware and wide awake to the lover's condition. Like the person who embraces a pillar in the dark, thinking it to be their beloved, the pleasure they enjoy cannot be compared with one who embraces their living and conscious friend.
In other words, yes, it is possible to have inner experiences from the sheer thought of a spiritual master, but this is nothing compared with the real encounter. The two are as different as a teenager who falls in love with a rock star they have never met, compared to one who is drawn deeper and deeper into a bond of love with another person who is there returning that love. How can you even compare the two?
David not only tries to reduce all such experiences down to the level of subconscious projections, but he also fails to recognize that the spiritual teachings don't just appear or pour into the world from above. No living creature can incarnate into this world directly from the higher planes. All must take birth through physical form. The teachings of the higher spiritual laws and principles must also manifest through someone living in this world, or such teachings cannot manifest here. Even the ECK, or Spirit Itself, flows like electricity into this world through Soul, bringing life and consciousness.
To encounter such a Messenger, whether physically, inwardly or in a dream, can leave a deep and lasting impression that changes the course of one's spiritual growth. Even more importantly, once such a meeting takes place, the inner form of the Master becomes a matrix through which we can make contact with the higher spiritual realms. The Master's form becomes like the boat in Paul's book, The Tiger's Fang, that carries us across the sea of materiality to the spiritual shore. After repeated journeys, and learning the laws and principles of those higher worlds, we can establish ourselves there as citizens, you might say. Then we can travel there directly, without the need of the Master.
These principles have nothing to do with belief. They can be tried and verified by anyone. There is a truth to them that goes beyond imagination. Yet, David tries to reduce these fundamental principles of ECKANKAR to mere gibberish by his simplistic psychological theories.
David and I had a long public dialogue over this subject in 1998, through the Internet newsgroup alt.religion.eckankar (known as ARE). It ranged over a few months, covering many topics and gradually boiled down to the issue of whether it is possible to know that one's spiritual experiences are valid or mere projections. David said this:
Yet...one thing is crucial: the PERCEPTION (or perceived relationship) that the disciple has with the guru.
That perception, I have argued, is what "makes" the guru, and not some ontological status [state of beingness] that he or she may claim to possess...
Moreover, we can never really be certain of a guru's status apart from our own appraisement of him/her.
Quite frankly, we simply don't know.
My response to David went like this:
Of course, what you really mean here is that YOU don't know, David, which of course you have said many times. In fact, this not knowing seems to be something that you are quite certain of. So, I think it might be safe to say that you feel sure enough of yourself to say: THAT YOU KNOW THAT YOU DON'T KNOW.
Actually, I think this is refreshing to hear someone say this, and very honest of you. I certainly have no argument with it...
But, here is where I start to lose the thread of your argument. I thought you said that you didn't know, in fact even going so far as to imply that you didn't think you could ever know, the status of your guru, or any impact he might have upon you. However, now you seem to be saying with quite a bit of certainty that you do seem to know that your guru is having no real spiritual impact upon you outside of your own subjective creations. So now you seem to know.
Which is it? On the one hand you seem to be saying that you can't know, and yet from this you seem to conclude with enough certainty that you do know you can have no real direct perceptions, and therefore this means there is no real independent impact from your guru.
Is that what you are saying? If you are, how can you be so sure of this?
On the other hand, if you admit that it is possible that some guru could have had a true spiritual impact upon others outside of their own subjective creations, then why do you think it is impossible to perceive this? If there really is an impact, then something has actually changed. And if something has truly changed, then why do you think it would be impossible to detect this?
Now, this leads to another, even bigger problem I have with your line of reasoning. This has to do with your repeating claims that no one can know the true status of a guru. I can see why you might say that you do not know, but how can you be so sure that no one else can know? Once again you've confused me. Do you know or don't you?
Back to you, Dave.
My answer is an obvious one: I am so unknowing that I am willing and open to engage counter views to understand more (not less).
That is why (contrary to what you may believe) I enjoy the give and take on ARE. I actually do "learn"..... as surprising as that may seem.
So to address your question head-on: I am much too unknowing to assume that "my" unknowingness translates as the be-all and end-all of all universal inquiries.
That is precisely why I have engaged in this debate with you over the issue of "transmitting" gurus (true or purely relational?) because I was indeed interested in your lines of reasoning, your lines of evidence, your lines of belief.
However, you have not (at least to me) presented a compelling argument for "True" gurus vs. "Pseudo" gurus based on your experiences of knowing the difference.
Where is the proof?
How to "explicitly" know the difference.
Or, as we might say in the context of this argument, where does imagination (or relational perception) end and "reality" (or true gurus) begin?
Feel most free to present your counter arguments or evidence (or both). I will certainly listen, but just because I can "listen" (and be open) does not also mean that I must be "dumb" in replying.
I simply find your argument weak.
Make it stronger and I will listen.
Here's the response I gave to David:
Thanks for your answer. I've enjoyed this discussion as well, and with your above answer, I now feel we are on a little firmer ground to continue...
First, I think your point that you are unknowing enough to realize that there may be others who can know, is a very important point. This indeed is where the student of spiritual knowledge must begin. In fact, I think it is so important to understand this starting point properly that I don't think we should try to jump ahead too quickly. As Rumi used to say, "Don't try to shorten the story, listen to the whole tale."
The realization that we do not know is a necessary step. However, with this awareness comes an empty feeling, as if we know there must be more. It is really an emptiness looking for something to fill it. What many religionists do is try to fill this lack of knowing with something to believe in. What many scholars try to do is fill this lack of knowing with critical opinions of foolish beliefs. Both of these attempts to fill the void will prevent these people from finding true knowledge.
In other words, the path must begin with doubt, and this doubt must grow into the realization that we do not know. And then this realization must grow into a deep understanding of the emptiness that comes from truly not knowing. It is only after this emptiness is truly understood, and allowed to exist without being filled with any kind of spiritual fast food to satisfy that hunger, that one can begin to separate the true from the false.
Paul Twitchell, in an early talk of his called, "Doubt," mentioned that in the past, spiritual students had been asked to first believe in certain basic tenets, but that this has changed, and today the seeker must first begin with doubt.
Paul then went on to tell a story of when his Master appeared before him, one day. Later, when he had a chance to see his Master physically, he asked him, "Was that you that appeared before me?" His Master answered, "Well, why don't you go back and ask that great soul."
From this, Paul realized that his Master was saying, in a sense, "Well, do you know or don't you know?" And Paul realized that we must each decide for ourselves this very important point. It is not something to be glossed over too quickly. We must be willing to honestly cross that dry desert of not knowing, before we can expect to find that oasis of knowingness.
David, there is an important point here. The Masters will often not say whether they have indeed consciously appeared to others, or not. They will often not directly answer such questions. They are right in doing so, because it is vital that the seeker decides these issues for themselves. If they cannot find the inner authority to distinguish the true inner experience from the false, then they should recognize that they have not yet arrived at this point. They should not look toward outer authority to fill this void. If the Master were to answer, directly, such questions, it would prevent the students from solving this riddle for themselves...
Therefore, what I am saying is that when people do not know the answers to these questions such as: Is there a true reality beyond what we perceive? What is God? Are there real spiritual masters who can connect one to the path? ...Then, most people will try to fill this void with opinions and beliefs, and are not willing to live with that emptiness and hunger of unknowingness that leads one to true knowingness.
The state of unknowingness, therefore, is an advanced stage if it is accompanied by the hunger and desire to learn. And that emptiness will indeed be filled one day with true knowing. For this unknowingness is a question being asked from the heart, and such sincere questions will always draw Spirit to fill such emptiness with truth. But this story cannot be rushed. We should not try to shorten the process...
Now, you say that my explanations have not convinced you. Actually, that's good, since such a proof will never be long lasting anyway, and that was not my intent. The ECK Masters see no purpose in trying to convince you, or the world. The whole point here is that it is not important what you believe or do not believe, what is important is knowing what you know, and knowing what you don't know. In other words, ECKANKAR teaches that you must arrive at this understanding yourself, not through external proof.
You say that all inner experiences must come through our brain, which modifies everything we experience, so how can you ever be sure what we are seeing is real? Well, this same argument can be said also about looking through the instrument of a telescope, or microscope, or even through our own eyes or ears. The brain modifies all such tools, and how can you ever be sure what you perceive is real?
Such reductionist thinking leads only to theories that, once again, if they are indeed true then there is no way to verify them. If we are, indeed, hopelessly trapped in our brains, unable to perceive anything directly, and completely at the whim of our brain's modifications, then there is no way to ever know this. There is also no way to really talk about this with others, or be sure we are really saying anything to anyone else or they are even hearing us.
However, no matter how faulty the instrument, it is still possible to see beneath the surface to touch the reality behind it all. A fascinating test that has been done, has been to place mirrors, colored glasses and prisms before people's eyes, and allow them to wear these contraptions for days. The amazing thing that happens, is that the brains of these people will correct for these distortions and eventually turns the picture they are seeing back to normal. The color of the lens disappears. The upside down image turns right side up.
What this shows, is the wonderful innate nature of our brain to show us the truth, not to hide it or twist it. It is the same with inner experiences. However, for most people, it is their dependence upon outer authorities, and outwardly learned beliefs and traditions, that prevent them from seeing what is within. Clear away these beliefs, even educated beliefs or beliefs that come from reading spiritual books and opinions, and arrive at that empty state of unknowingness, and then the mind begins to start seeing the inner reality as it really is.
It is a valuable treasure to obtain this, but it is not the sort of treasure that can be given to others. Of course we can always talk with those brothers and sisters upon the path that recognize the hints, and know the signs. They are the ones that know. And they know that they know.
Since David never responded to my last post, this brought an end to a very interesting debate. However, I think this discussion shows the incredible complexity and subtly of the whole subject of spiritual experiences. It is one that the spiritual student must come to understand.
We should take no short cuts, but learn from experience itself. We should not look for simple explanations or formulas to make the questions go away, but should wait until we know. We should not accept substitutes that make us feel all knowing. True knowingness brings a great feeling of humility, and it has no value to anyone else but the knower.
We now return to the completion of David's point. Here he is explaining why ECKANKAR does not produce authentic experiences:
No, since Eckankar is illegitimate it has an inborn tendency to validate its spiritual claims in less than truly authentic ways. For instance, many so-called religious visions reported by Eckankar members of Rebazar Tarzs are nothing more than vivid images which manifest quite normally while one is dreaming. Simply because an image is of a holy or revered personage does not qualify it automatically as a Divine manifestation. A distinction must be made between subconscious (pre/dream-like) and superconscious (trans/transcendent) manifestations. If this is not done--as is often the case in Eckankar where most dreams are elevated to spiritual experiences--a "pre/trans fallacy" occurs, resulting in the confusion of infantile image with genuine spiritual apparitions.
The pre/trans fallacy that David is referring to is another concept developed by Ken Wilber. It is based upon the idea that the human consciousness has developed in stages. The more primitive stages that precede rational thought are called "pre-rational." The advanced stages that transcend rational thinking are called "trans-rational."
The problem, according to Ken, is that people commonly mistake pre-rational thinking with trans-rational thought and vice versa. For example, scientists might lump together those who believe in superstitions, which is pre-rational, with those who have experienced the state of cosmic consciousness. Why? Because these scientists believe that both are examples of non-rational thinking, and all non-rational thinking to them is pre-rational.
On the other hand, is it not uncommon to find New Age seekers who think all non-rational thinking is a higher form of thought. They will find teachings that awaken primitive emotions, and believe these represent communications with higher states of consciousness.
Most ECKists should have no problem relating to these ideas, since Paul discussed the planes of consciousness at length. Paul did this for the very reasons that Ken Wilber is pointing out; that people will confuse these different states and come to some very mistaken conclusions that can easily lead them in directions far from spiritual truth.
In a number of Paul's talks and writings, he points out that the field of spirituality is filled with problems of semantics. Writers will often use similar terms but mean very different things. A great deal of spiritual literature is vague and shallow, while portraying itself as deep and transcendental. Terms such as Self-Realization and God-Realization are thrown around to impress others, while the writer hasn't even a clue to the meanings behind these stages of development.
While the experienced spiritual traveler sees through this smoke screen quite easily, semantics can be a serious hazard to the newcomer. Therefore, as Paul explained, we must get to the bottom of what each writer means by their use of the terms, and not assume it is the same as anyone else. Once we have done this, then we can begin to translate what they are saying into our own understanding, using our own terminology. Until then, no real dialogue on spiritual matters is possible.
Now, what David is saying in his last paragraph, above, is that many of the experiences that ECKists report take place in the dream state, but that dreams represent pre-rational thought and should not be confused with Divine manifestation, which is trans-rational. This happens to be a principle that is taught in Radha Soami, which is why they put no attention of learning through dreams. So, here we run right smack dab into the very problem that Ken Wilber is talking about.
David is apparently unaware that there are dream states beyond rational thought, just as there are dream states that are pre-rational. But we can see from David's paragraph that he is lumping them all together as pre-rational. Therefore, it is David who has fallen into the very pre/trans fallacy that he is accusing ECKists of.
This doesn't mean, however, that we can lump all experiences with an ECK Master into the category of what David calls Divine Manifestation. I have seen many times where the Master represents the dreamer's own higher Self, or sometimes is a symbol for the dreamer's Conscience. The Master's image in a dream can come to indicate that something from the subconscious is trying to emerge into consciousness, or it could be a simple wish fulfillment dream. Just as we must learn the semantics of another person, in the same way we must learn the language of our own dreams. Unless we do, we can easily fool ourselves by labeling dreams without understanding them.
Before leaving this discussion on Authenticity, I must say that I wonder why David would focus on the subject of Rebazar Tarzs. Clearly, when it comes to the subject of experiences with higher states of consciousness, meetings with Rebazar Tarzs represent only one small element of what ECKists find valuable and valid with ECKANKAR. Yet, once again, David tries to paint the whole with a distorted picture of one little piece.
This shows us that while Ken Wilber's tools of Legitimacy, Authenticity and the Pre/Trans Fallacy, have a real value in creating a common terminology and common language for open dialogue, these tools may can also fool those working from the rational state of mind into thinking that they know more than they do.
David now turns to the last section of this chapter, which he calls:
The Future of Eckankar:
Professor Mark Juergensmeyer in the foreword of this book postulates that Eckankar will survive my revelations about its history relatively unperturbed. Comments Juergensmeyer, "criticisms from outside can sometimes solidify a group and buttress its members' faith all the more, a paradox demonstrated in Leon Festinger's study of UFO cult, When Prophecy Fails." No doubt, there will be those within Eckankar who will become disenchanted and leave the fold (as has already been the case), but eventually the overall membership will stay generally the same.
Why is this the case? What is it that allows obviously fraudulent groups to survive?
I might just as easily say that with all that I have written here in response to David's book, showing the misinformation, the distortions, and David's personal bias, it is unlikely that David will change his opinion about ECKANKAR. Why would this be? After so much of his evidence has been shown to be weak at best, why would he still cling to his accusations against ECKANKAR? Answer that question and you will answer David's question above.
In other words, this is not a case of the problems with cults, as David is trying to make. This is simply the problem of people thinking that they know more than they do and not being able to see beyond their own belief system. As Professor Mark Juergensmeyer said, people become locked into their beliefs, and arguments to the contrary only re-enforce their beliefs. This is the same point that Idries Shah was making: That we can freeze our perceptions and our ability to learn once we make public judgments and put our opinions out for publication. Academia is rife with such problems, just as the fields of science and politics are.
The real lesson here is the one that Idries Shah made: we must learn how to learn. This is especially true in the field of spiritual experience and knowledge, where the only rudder guiding our boat is our intuition and Soul's innate ability to see and understand.
Rational humanists, such as Paul Kurtz, will argue that man has a predisposition towards gullibility, a will to believe for its own sake even if the belief turns out to be false or misconceived. More sympathetic scholars, on the other hand, like Mircea Eliade, point out that religious beliefs are derived from myths, which are sacred truths dealing with the reality of a group or sect of individuals. It is not an indagation, these scholars contend, to determine if there was actually an Adam or an Eve, or, in Eckankar's case, if Rebazar Tarzs really exists, because myths transcend scientists' quest for origins. Hence, in such academic circles, the driving and always reappearing question of "is it really true?" or "did it actually happen?" is side-stepped, parenthesized, or called the "fallacy of demystification."
Both of the above viewpoints represent the opposite extremes currently popular in analyzing religious beliefs. The first perspective, as exemplified by Carl Sagan, Paul Kurtz, Issac Asimov, and others, depicts science's persistent materialistic (or, if generous, epiphenomenalistic) attitudes towards non-rational intuitions. The second purview, as propounded by the phenomenologist school, which includes Mircea Eliade and Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., reflects a basically empathetic and non-reductionistic stance towards spiritual phenomena. However, if we are left just to these two outlooks, we end up either reducing religion to its physiological-psychological roots (e.g., "God as vague birth memories of the obstetrician") or allowing for the inevitable, but thoroughly misleading conclusion that "all religions are the same."
I agree with David here. While both extremes do offer some interesting thoughts on the matter, they both show the limitations of being just another worldview. While they try to categorize all other religious experiences or beliefs, in the end they are simply seeing their perspective as the truest one. The religious teachings they study are seen as only partially complete. They believe their viewpoint, however, gives the true overview. This means that these scholars, themselves, are simply promoting their own religious belief system. They are preaching their own teachings. That is all that is happening here. The academic world, however, likes to elevate its own actions to some higher level, as if it is above the belief systems they study.
What is called for in the examination of new spiritual movements, like Eckankar, is not more 19th century materialism or indecisive phenomenological-hermeneutics, but a comprehensive and critical methodology, such as the one Wilber has outlined in A Sociable God and (with Dick Anthony and Bruce Ecker) in Spiritual Choices (1987). Only then can the claims of mysticism move out of the darkness of occultism and into the light of rational scrutiny.
Actually, I think what is really being called for is open dialogue. David is still in search of a grand belief system that will solve the world's problems, a rational method that can reveal the meaning of trans-rational experiences, but the real problem we have is that we have not yet learned how to learn. And we have not yet learned how to have intelligent, open dialogue.
True dialogue does not become frozen with a particular viewpoint, but is free to change as we learn things. It is not important to win our argument or convince others that our point of view is the right one, but it is important to create an environment where we can learn from each other. We can say something and then change our minds, in dialogue. We can discover a new way of seeing things through dialogue. It is more important to see things from many different perspectives, if we want to learn, not to find one comprehensive and critical methodology, as David says. Learning should be our main priority, not being right.
David end's this chapter this way:
In conclusion, since Eckankar has never really encouraged open and unbiased research into its founder's life and work, I don't envision any invitations for scholars to do so in the future. But if Eckankar remains in such a guarded position, then it will automatically castrate future researchers and objective seekers from its fold. In the end, a religion which does not open itself to logical inquiry cannot, with any form of reasoning, ask its followers to believe in its genuineness.
Castrate future researchers. I kinda like that. Will that limit the gene pool of researchers?
For that matter, what is unbiased research? Is there really such a thing?
The problem with what David is saying here is that he fundamentally believes that independent researchers, coming from the outside, are necessary to determine what is true or false. Why is that? Why isn't the research and study of every individual, every spiritual seeker, a valid way to determine what ECKANKAR means to themselves? Why must there be some outside body of scholars and academics that establish what is true for everyone else?
And why does David think that a more thorough study of Paul's life is necessary to discover what ECKANKAR is today? ECKANKAR has a living Master who teaches differently than Paul did, and the teachings continue to change and grow. This should be natural on a path that encourages dialogue. Because it is through dialogue, or what ECKists often call Satsang, meaning a true meeting with others in the spirit of the ECK Itself, that is one of the main ways that the teachings are integrated into our lives. (I should add here that in Sant Mat, satsang has very little dialogue. This is marks another significant difference.)
The path of ECK is not what you can find in the books or recorded talks. It is something far more alive than that. What does Paul's early life have to do with understanding ECKANKAR today?
I do agree that it is all very interesting. I have always found Paul's life fascinating. And for ECKists, I think there are many valuable lessons and insights to be gained. But I don't see how it helps define what ECKANKAR is. If you cannot see and understand ECKANKAR from the path of ECK, as it exists today, then why go back to the past to get a better view? That sounds more like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
In Paul's discourses, Letters to a Chela, he coined a term that he called "Spreading the Message of ECK." Paul was encouraging ECKists to participate in talking with others about the path of ECK, because he knew that by being actively involved in some way we learn much more, and we learn more deeply. But even more than sharing the principles of ECK, I believe that what Paul was really talking about was spreading the spirit of spiritual dialogue itself, which living the path of ECK inspires.
The whole discourse series, Letters to a Chela, is to help prepare the ECKist for open dialogue on spiritual matters. In other words, for real and valuable dialogue we must be knowledgeable about the common religions of the day, how beliefs have developed through history, and the influence that beliefs can have upon the world. Then we can see the real responsibility of true spiritual dialogue, and the real challenge. It is far more than spouting dogmatic principles. It is the miracle of exchange, learning and spiritual growth that comes from walking the path of spiritual experience with others.
I believe this is what Paul really meant by Spreading the Message of ECK. It is a spark that spreads into a fire.
I don't think that the world needs another comprehensive and critical methodology, as David has called it, nor another belief system that tries to act superior to all other belief systems. I believe that what is needed is a means for learning how to expand states of consciousness, especially to the higher worlds of reality, to see from and understand all belief systems without being locked into any one.
I believe that people of today are also looking for open dialogue that can follow the spark of truth like an invisible golden thread as it weaves Its way through many different viewpoints and levels of experience. And the seekers of Truth will always find a way of meeting and learning from those who possess a knowledge transcending the understanding of the human consciousness. They will look for a direct communication that opens up new vistas of awareness, and awakens Soul to Its own innate wisdom. Learning what we can from such beings is what is needed, not the academic study of their lives that categorizes and labels their teaching.
And if this isn't an open discussion on the ECK teachings, and an invitation to open dialogue, then I guess I must be having another one of those delusional experiences that David was talking about.
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Copyright © 2000 by Doug Marman