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Dialogue in the Age of

Criticism

 

Chapter Four

     In this chapter David jumps to the time of Paul's passing and Darwin Gross being announced as the next spiritual leader of ECKANKAR. Unfortunately, almost every paragraph in this chapter contains errors and misunderstandings. David’s sources have not helped him, showing the importance of who we turn to for information.

     David starts with this:

     As with his birth, several stories have cropped up concerning Twitchell's unexpected death (translation).   A few Eckists, including Jim Peebles, believed that he was poisoned to death; some state it was in Spain, others claim in Czechoslovakia.  No one seems quite sure.  At the time of his death, Dr. Louis Bluth, one-time President of Eckankar, reported seeing Twitchell's soul carried out in a celestial cloud of light.  Yet, he later changed his story, claiming instead that Twitchell had disobeyed the orders of the Vairagi Masters and was carried away in chains.  Whichever story one believes--even if one belongs to Eckankar--the fact remains that an autopsy was performed and the coroner's findings were that Twitchell died of a heart attack.

     How could Paul have been poisoned to death in Spain or Czechoslovakia, and no one be quite sure? I’ve never heard that one before. Yes, it is true that not a lot has been said about Paul's trip to Spain where he was poisoned, still the fact remains that he returned alive and lived for more than a year after this until his passing in Cincinnati on September 17, 1971. So, obviously, Paul wasn't poisoned to death. I assume this was a slip of David's pen.

     However, Paul was close to death after his return from Spain, and it took him months to recover. He was severely weakened by this poisoning, and his complexion turned almost completely white, which was noticed by many ECKists and can be seen in the photos of Paul, published from that time. Paul never fully regained his health after this. But I don't understand why David is acting like there was some big surprise that Paul died of heart failure. He had been poisoned over a year earlier. What sort of residue is expected to turn up in an autopsy after all that time?

     Here is what was published in The Mystic World two months after Paul passed on:

    The official cause of death was a heart attack. The separation was immediate and Doctor Louis Bluth, 7th Initiate who was hastily summoned witnessed Paulji ascending in the company of the Masters of the Vairagi. He realized that efforts to revive the body would come to no avail although every medical effort was made.

     So apparently there was no confusion about the official cause of death after all.

     However, rather than mere rumors, let's listen to the personal account of someone who was very close to Paul at the time of his passing. Patti Simpson writes in her book, "Hello Friend":

     On the night of September 17, 1971, my phone rang at 1:00 a.m., awakening me from a deep sleep. It was a Higher Initiate calling me from Cincinnati informing me that Paul Twitchell had just died, translated from this plane, and she was asking me to please get in touch with Paul's wife, Gail and tell her. For a minute I was stunned. Then as I sat and thought about it, I realized that Paul had been trying subtly to prepare me for the fact that his earthly existence was about to terminate. I thought about the letter that had come a week and a half before with a lock of his hair enclosed, and a strange, cryptic message about what I was to do with it after he was gone.

    I thought about the phone call, the night before he left for Cincinnati. He was grumbling about the trip, saying he was tired and really didn't feel like going. I said, 'Paul...' and then suddenly a plug was mysteriously pulled in my head. Whatever it was I was thinking and feeling and about to say was wiped so totally out of my mind, so completely erased, that I just stood there mute and blank. There was a long silence between us, and then he said, 'What were you about to say, Patti?' I laughed in the confusion. 'I don't know, Paul. It's the funniest thing, I had something important I wanted to tell you and it's just gone. It's left me completely.' He laughed, too, and we talked some more, kidding gently, then said goodbye. It was the first and last time Paul Twitchell ever called me in the evening.

     I sat on the bed remembering the strange erasure of my thoughts - and suddenly knew what it was I had been going to feel and say, and was not allowed to. I also realized that on some level, he knew - and that the emotions had to be overridden - even his own. I once heard the ridiculous accusations that Paul Twitchell had committed suicide. I don't know where people dig up some of these absurd notions. It took all the strength and powers Paul could muster just to stay alive the last year or so of his life. He didn't have to do anything to translate, but he had to do more than any of us can even conceive of to stay alive as long as he did...

     I thought about Paul and how tired he was. He'd been hanging onto and running a body that by rights should have stopped running a year before when he was poisoned by a demented man in Spain. He was ready to go, I think he wanted to go, but he had some things he just had to get finished first. He had told me in August, just a month before, that everything was going to be okay. He looked at me with total weariness and said, 'You have no idea what a struggle it's been.' I really didn't know exactly what a struggle it had been, but I knew a lot from the look of weariness on his face and the fatigue and resolution in his voice. I was glad for him that he could finally let go.

     But there was something else that needed to be taken care of. The ascension of a Master is a joyous thing. It is impossible to be sad about it. But, I, Patti, had just lost a close, personal friend. Never again would I hear the phone ring and hear the soft, southern accent saying, 'Well, Miss Patti, what's new?" Whatever marvelous things were going on out there in the universes with the Great Ones and the Masters of the Vairagi, couldn't change the fact that the most beautiful human being I had ever known in my life, my friend, was no longer here in my physical life, and I was going to miss him terribly. I allowed the tears to come and the pain of the loss to wash over the person, Patti. I cried for me. It was true. It was kind. It was necessary. This is an example of being the knowing effect of emotions.

     David now launches into what he calls The Controversial "Five Year Plan". He writes:

    When Twitchell first took over as the "Living Eck Master" in 1965, he stated at the very outset that he had been given a "five-year" mission, and that after those five years a new master would be appointed.

     Yet when 1970 came around (five years after his proposed statement), Twitchell told his followers at the Fourth World-Wide Eckankar Seminar that he had been given a five-year extension by the Highest Lord, the Sugmad, because the second Mahanta had failed his preliminary testing.  Therefore, he would continue as the Mahanta until the third one was ready.

     Now, take careful notice of David's terms referring to first, second and third Mahantas. This is the beginning of a significant misunderstanding that will grow as we go through this chapter. But for now, let's listen to Paul's actual words from the Fourth World Wide Seminar in Las Vegas, in 1970:

      As many of you that have been in ECK for a long time know, since you've read this in the letters, in the books, and in the works, that this is my last year. And it almost became my last year. When all of these things happened to me, I thought, well, it's very interesting to know that I made the prophecy right. But, I have been given an extension to stay in the work and stay in for another five years at least. And the reason for the extension was they had no one to follow me.

     We have chosen on occasions several persons to follow me, and they were prepared and they were given the test, but they failed. Now I told you this morning it isn't an easy route. And whoever follows will have it somewhat easier, but he will find too the hardships are just as great as it has been in my case.

     Why certain things happen in this work or the reasons why they want a successor, why the Masters want certain things to be done, are not revealed to me. Perhaps it's just as well. Because if I did know, then I would be in that position of having the future already laid out for me in my own knowledge. I somewhat know what the future is. I've seen quite a bit of it, but on the people who will succeed... [Paul pauses here] ...and that is why we are working so much in the youth program. We dropped the idea of some of those people who were to follow me and went into a new group which is now coming up, and these are out of the youth program which we formed last summer in Chicago. It will take anyone who goes into training quite a considerable time in order to ever inherit the mantle.

     As I told you this morning, it took me more than 15 years of intense training, it took me a terribly long time to ever realize so much of this. So, whoever follows will have to go through the same path. There are no exceptions...when they're chosen. But it still depends upon the individual whether he wants to take and accept the responsibility.

     Those were Paul's actual words. Now let's return to David's book:

     Nichols and Albrecht in their paper, "Eckankar: The Ancient Science of Deception," have researched extensively Twitchell's self-proposed "five-year plan."  They consider it to be a crucial point of controversy within Eckankar. Below is the essence of their study.

     Before we jump into their study, you might ask who are these researchers? Are they one-time members of ECKANKAR and therefore writing from their own personal account of this controversy? Are they academic students or professors? No. They are an editor and writer for the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, the conservative Christian group we discussed in David's Preface. I am still surprised that David would consider them a credible source.

     David continues:

     By January 1971, the dispute within Eckankar had reached such proportions, Twitchell had to devote his entire letter of that month to quelling the disturbance:

     There is a lot of idle chatter going on by some chelas in ECK who make the unusual claims that they are going to be the next MAHANTA, the Living ECK Master.  But whatever you hear about this can be taken with a grain of salt, as the old expression goes. It simply isn't true.

     What exactly was this dispute that had reached such proportions that Paul would dedicate a whole Illuminated Way Letter to this subject? David and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project suggest that it was over Paul not resigning after five years, as he had once predicted. But there is no basis to this accusation. They provide no quotes, no back-up for this whole controversy they claim to have researched.

     The Spiritual Counterfeits Project wrote this in their article on ECKANKAR:

     With all this preparation, it should have come as no surprise that Twitchell said nothing about the end of his mission at the Fourth World Wide Seminar, held in Las Vegas on 22 October 1970, the precise date he had earlier established for his abdication. But quite a few people were surprised, even shocked. They put pressure on Twitchell to deal with the question, and he was forced to discuss the five-year plan in his second lecture.

     Paul Twitchell was "forced" to discuss this? They put pressure on Paul? Who on earth were these people? Everyone I know was thankful and grateful that Paul could continue on. The whole work of ECKANKAR had come out of Paul's writings and teachings. There was no one even considered close to Paul's stature, and certainly no one was telling Paul what to do. For the ECKists who looked up to and loved Paul, why would they be shocked? Why would they want to force Paul into dealing with this issue? They were glad that Paul was still around and could continue his teaching.

     Is it possible that these "people" were those who had hoped to succeed Paul? Is it possible that they are the source of this story?

     David writes:

    Dr. Bluth attributes this change of plan to Paul's attachment to Gail.  .  . Paul told Bluth that he [sic] was training a child somewhere on the West Coast to be the next Mahanta.  A lot of members of Eck began leaving the fold at this time sensing a betrayal.  Paul did not quell the disturbance.

     Sensing a betrayal? Paul betrayed the ECKists? How? By living one more year? And Paul did this because of his attachment to Gail? This is really some wonderful fiction. Paul would have loved it.

     Paul didn't quell the disturbance over the five-year controversy because this wasn't a problem, except for those who were expecting to succeed Paul. I have never heard that a lot of members left at that time, a time when membership in ECKANKAR was growing at its fastest rate yet. And we don't need an explanation for what Paul was doing since he is quite clear why he was addressing this issue of those who were claiming to be the next Mahanta. In that same Illuminated Way Letter that was quoted above, Paul wrote:

     The ego is the main factor in the mind of these who make claim to the Mahantaship. It not only lies in this era of false statements but also in the fact that many persons also state with the deepest sincerity that they are, as individuals, the reincarnations of some great personages from the past; religious, conqueror or political...Naturally, we are apt to run across those who state publicly that they are the reincarnated Jesus, but their actions and deeds do not prove out to be anything near this great being...

     This ego expression seems to be one of the major causes for problems which creep up in the open society. It mainly comes through public education which encourages everybody to express themselves publicly or through some media...Anyone who has a complaint can in a sense use the public media in some manner or other. This is not good because it allows the Kal [negative force] to enter into the public stream of thought and causes upsets and disturbances of those seeking a tranquil mind.

     This is what happens when those who make claims to being the next MAHANTA do. They may not enter into the public stream of thought but by speaking to their friends and perhaps a group in ECK they spread dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I have never announced yet who would be taking my place as the MAHANTA, but there are a few who have proposed to do so, but this means only one who has not come out of his childhood yet. Meanwhile it may be necessary only to appoint an ECK Master in the interim who will not be a MAHANTA, nor the Living ECK Master, but who will serve only during the period when the next MAHANTA reaches maturity.

     In other words, if there was any controversy, it was created by those who boasted that they would be the next Mahanta. And that is exactly the issue that Paul was addressing.

     David continues:

    Even in May 1971, the storm was still raging.  C.  Lydon Harrell, Jr., Twitchell's attorney, signed a letter dated May 1, 1971, on his letterhead, addressed to the chelas, that once again states that the next Mahanta is a child and won't be ready for fifteen years.

     Let's take a look at what David left out of that letter. C. Lydon Harrell's letter begins like this:

     In order to clarify some of the misinformation which is being given out about ECKANKAR and the MAHANTA, Sri Paul Twitchell, the Living ECK Master, the following is given:

     ECKANKAR, the Ancient Science of Soul Travel, is not affiliated with any other organization under any other name than its own, and any claim made by anyone to this effect is false.

     Sri Paul Twitchell is the only MAHANTA and Living ECK Master. He does not work with, nor speak through anyone in a trance state. In no way does he use the lower psychic worlds to give messages or initiations. Therefore, any messages claimed by anyone to be from the MAHANTA are false, and should be treated as such...

     ECK Discourses, books, tapes, and all other writings are copyrighted and are authorized to be used only through the ECK Satsang Groups of ECKANKAR, itself. The use of these materials by anyone else under any other names, or the followers, thereof, makes them subject to libel.

     If you are wondering what spurred Paul into writing this letter, here is a quote from his talks in the book, Difficulties of Becoming the Living ECK Master, page 161-162:

     Now, we had one man...This fellow takes every discourse we have, then he gets all the ECK books and he gets himself initiated up to the Second. Then he goes out and starts his own group, see? He had a meeting every night and he would give what they called aura-balancing or adjusting.

     I thought this was awfully funny. I sent some people in to see him and hear him. He was having kind of a seance every night. He was saying, "Well, Brother Paul's here. Brother Paul's going to talk to us now." Then he was saying that I had lunch with him about twice a month asking him if we could join organizations, see...

     There were two women who came up from Santa Barbara and one says, "Oh, we're ECK students." I said, "You are?" She says, "Yeah, we're studying under Roger Hinkins." See, this fellow who had taken all of this and stolen it from us...and this thing was building up because he was using us to build his organization.

     So I wrote him a letter and said, "Stop now!" And he didn't pay much attention to that. Then I told the attorney, I said, "Stop him." The attorney wrote him a letter.

     So, then, which "raging storm" are we addressing here? David is arguing this is still over the five-year controversy, but it is quite obvious that Paul had become so popular by 1971 that his name was being used by many to start their own followings. Why would David try to argue that this proves Paul had betrayed his followers?

     David continues:

    Paul Twitchell never lived to carry out his five-year extension that had been granted to him by the Order of Vairagi, the ascended Eck Masters.  He never lived to pass the rod of power to another Mahanta, or even an interim Master.

     I must admit that this is probably David's most accurate statement in this chapter, but unfortunately even this paragraph is only technically accurate, and still misleading. First, David has tried to establish that Paul's five-year plan was a hard and fixed prediction, but this isn't at all consistent with what Paul wrote about seeing into the future. In Paul's many talks and writings about the ECK-Vidya, the Ancient Science of Prophecy, Paul has stated that there is a significant difference between foretelling and telling forth. The first is an act of predicting what is to come. The second is the art of the ECK-Vidya, which is speaking from the present moment about the influences that are shaping the future.

     Prophecy in ECK, therefore, is not a matter of fixed dates and events, since we each have free will and the changes we make in our lives and in our states of consciousness bring about changes to future events as well. This is why Paul had no difficulty explaining at the Fourth World Wide Seminar that things had changed. And this is why this whole theory of the five-year controversy is so at odds with what really happened.

     Secondly, David acts as if Paul's statement at the Fourth World Wide Seminar, about his five year extension, was the only statement he ever made on the subject and therefore must be taken as the final word. Here, however, is what Paul said at the Youth Training Council meeting in March, 1971:

     I want to get a book out a month for the next two years if I can last that long [emphasis added]. I've got the material. It's already laying there. All I have to do is edit it. I've got four manuscripts now that are sitting there, and I've got three typewriters going, [a new manuscript] in each one of these. I ease up, maybe about every 20 minutes, and go to another typewriter and type a little bit, for maybe another 15 minutes, and then to another one and type another 15 minutes. Then I go over and start editing a book, and then in the meantime I'm writing letters. So, you see, the communication we have [now] is in the book field, but in the field of electronics, through radio, television and music, we haven't even scratched the surface in these things, and on the whole we haven't scratched the surface of ECK yet.

     It was not uncommon for Paul to speak in this way. The future was not a fixed thing. But with his weakened health, and how hard he continued to work, it is difficult to understand David's insistence that ECKists could feel so shocked or even betrayed at his death. It is not at all consistent with the facts.

     As for David's comment that Paul never lived to pass the rod of power to the next Master, as we will see, Gail would have disagreed with that, as well.

     Next, David quotes two sentences from the same January 1971 Illuminated Way Letter we read from above:

    The next Mahanta is about fifteen years away.  He is now in training but where he is nobody knows and won't know for a long time yet.

     David then follows this up with the following statement:

     Sri Darwin Gross, Portland, Oregon Eck Mahdis, and professional engineer was announced at the Fifth World-Wide Seminar of Eckankar, to be the new living Eck Master.

     The clear implication that David is making is that Paul had predicted the next Mahanta was 15 years away, but here, less than a year later, Darwin was being announced as the next Master. However, let's read that quote from the Illuminated Way Letter again, this time with the sentence that follows it:

     The next MAHANTA is about fifteen years away. He is now in training but where he is nobody knows and won't know for a long time yet. Meanwhile, I am serving as the MAHANTA, the Living ECK Master, until the time comes to appoint an ECK Master who may serve in the interim until the next MAHANTA is appointed.

     If you think I might be reading too much into David's positioning of his two paragraphs, then read exactly what David says:

    It came as a surprise and a shock to many Eckists when Paul Twitchell died suddenly on September 17, 1971.  Many of Twitchell's followers had expected their master to live at least another five (if not fifteen) years.  It came as a bigger surprise and shock to some of those same Eckists when Darwin Gross was proclaimed the new "Living Eck Master," a month after Twitchell's demise. Shortly thereafter, several esteemed Eckists, including Dr. Bluth (President of Eckankar and Paul's personal doctor) and Edward Pecen (Paul's personal bodyguard and confidante), left Eckankar disclaiming Darwin Gross and Gail Atkinson.

     Can you see how David is trying to build this case that Paul had said he would be the only ECK Master for the next 15 years, or at least 5 years? Then after Paul died, and when Darwin was announced as the next Master, that these things were simply too much for the ECKists who left, feeling betrayed. Unfortunately, the whole controversy is without foundation, made up of quotes taken out of context, misunderstandings of the difference between the Mahanta, and the Living ECK Master, and relies on those who left because they could not agree with Darwin being chosen as Paul's successor.

     Just to back my comments up a bit more, here is another quote from Paul. This also comes from the Youth Training Council meeting in March 1971. I should mention that Ed Pecen, who lived in Illinois at the time (a long way from Paul's home, which might seem odd for a "personal bodyguard") was present at this meeting with over twenty others, any of which could also be considered Paul's confidantes as much if not more than Ed Pecen:

     We've had a lot of people who have made claims, now not only one, but two, four and five, and the reports come to me quite frequently that they're going be the next Mahanta, or they're already the Mahanta. Well, there will always be, in paraphrasing the Bible, the false prophets who make these claims.

     Now, there is the whole of the worlds of the worlds, and in the center is the supreme Self or the supreme Reality as it flows out in waves, like the beams coming off of a radio station, going out into life and then returning. As it goes out, life is built and sustained. Then it returns as a wave and brings all life back to the center again.

     This is the essence, this is the ECK Itself. And when one enters into this, and becomes this of Itself, then he has entered into this state of consciousness. And I say that there are some within the field of ECKANKAR who are coming close to this state, and they will come close to this state before they reach the end of this life. I have not declared myself in stating who's becoming the next ECK Master, but I will say this, generally there is a Mahanta for about every 50 to100 years. They don't come back one following upon the other. Or, I would say longer than that, maybe 150 or 200 years, that there will be another one here. In the meantime there will be an ECK Master who will take over, and probably two, maybe three, in the meantime before the next Mahanta will come.

     As you can see, the time frame is not at all clear and Paul is not pretending that it is. He is simply saying that there is a difference between one who is the Mahanta and the interim ECK Master (or Masters) that will follow Paul before the next Mahanta appears. He also said that there were some in ECKANKAR who would come close to this state. This is all a far cry from the interpretations that David has made, and actually shows that Paul was preparing the ECKists for what was to come.

     However, David is a long way from being done with this controversy of his. He continues:

     Part of the reason behind the astonishment of many Eckists over the advent of Darwin Gross was because he had been in Eckankar only since 1969.

     In fact, Darwin became an ECKist in 1968, just over two years after Paul officially started ECKANKAR. This is certainly a long way from the fifteen years that Paul said he felt was needed for the training of a Mahanta, but this only shows us another reason that Paul might have been preparing ECKists for an interim Master.

     David continues:

     Nichols and Albrecht retell the controversy:

     According to Bluth, Gross was flown to Las Vegas...from Portland, Oregon, where Gross was immediately granted a fifth initiation and briefed extensively for days so that he could pass the scrutiny of the experts.   None of the experts were fooled, and there was a fairly large exodus from the movement at the time, including Dr. Bluth and Dr. Wiggelsworth.

     I have to say that I find this the funniest paragraph out of David's whole book. I laugh every time I read it. The scrutiny of experts! Thank goodness for those experts! But who were these mysterious experts? Well they obviously have poor memories, that's for sure, since Darwin received his fifth initiation at the Fourth World Wide Seminar, a year earlier than they claim. This fact was published in the October/November/December 1970 issue of The Mystic World, in an article about the seminar. And the next issue of The Mystic World lists Darwin as the ECK Representative for the states of Oregon and Idaho, and states again that he was a fifth initiate.

     Now it is true that a number of prominent leaders in ECKANKAR left shortly after Darwin was announced as the next Master, and the shift that took place was a significant one, even though it probably only represented perhaps 3-4% of the whole membership. But from what I can see, this is simply something that commonly takes place after a successor is appointed. Almost every case of succession amongst the Radhasoami lines of Masters, of which David Lane is quite familiar, shows this clearly, as well as with many other groups. In fact, similar changes take place at the tops of most large corporations when there is a change in leadership.

     There are many reasons for this. Paul, in his talk, "Personality and The Message of ECK," which I quoted from previously, said that we must not forget the human factor. Later in that same talk, he also said that many people studied with him because they liked him and he liked them. But a new leader brings a new personality. A new style, different talents. Those who were close to Paul, and who had gained recognition, as leaders in ECK, did not all find themselves in synch with Darwin. And some could not consider Darwin their Master simply because they felt they had attained more than he had. These changes are especially difficult for those who are the closest to the previous leader. They can find themselves suddenly in a whole new order where their previous rank does not give them the prominence they once had.

     These are some of the personality factors that can take place. However, there are other personal reasons that people will part ways when a new leader comes forward. I have found, for example, that there is often a karmic factor at work. I have seen that there are always a few people who will incarnate into this world for the purpose of helping a spiritual teacher. Spiritual leaders rarely come alone. There are also the cases of many people who have a particular spiritual lesson they need to learn, or spiritual talent they want to develop, and these things might fit very well with one Master but not the next. Therefore, there are many things at work when a person decides whether they like or accept a spiritual teacher as their Master.

     However, to fully see how far from reality the account proposed by Nichols and Albrecht really are, which David quoted above, we need to touch on a few more areas. First, David mentions in passing the following:

     Gail had claimed to have had a vision in the middle of the night where Paul had come to her in Nuri Sarup body and told her that Darwin Gross was to be his successor.  There was no more mention of the child that Twitchell supposedly had been training.

     I believe I have shown that David is simply confused here about the child in training. Paul was not referring to his successor when he said this, but the next Mahanta. My guess is that David made the mistake of taking the Spiritual Counterfeits Project research at face value without investigating its validity for himself. However, this isn't some sort of great hidden skeleton that he has unearthed, it is merely an ordinary chicken bone, if you know what I mean.

     But this account of Gail's was skipped over much too fast, and it plays a much more significant role than anything Dr. Bluth or Ed Pecen could offer. Not a lot has been made public about this matter, but I had the good fortune of hearing a recording made by Gail shortly after Darwin was announced as the next Master. She made the tape as a historical record of what took place. I wish I could quote from the tape directly, but I don't have access to it at this time.

     I remember, however, Gail describing how many times she had told Paul that he needed to select his successor before he died - that she wasn't going to be put in a position where she or anyone else should have to make such a decision. Gail told Paul quite clearly that this was Paul's job and if he didn't take care of it before he left this world, well, that was just too bad, because she certainly wasn't going to make the selection.

     Paul apparently did make a list, a short list, of those who were potential successors. But he did not make a final choice before he died. This put Gail in a very awkward position.

     She began to get calls from a few of the prominent leaders, such as the ECKANKAR office manager and Dr. Bluth. They told her that the whole teaching would fall apart without a leader and that no one else except her could say who that leader should be, since she was the closest person to Paul. They urged her again and again to do something. But Gail told them exactly what she had told Paul: It was Paul's choice and he was going to have to make it. She wasn't.

     Then some days later, she had a vivid dream. Paul came to her in the dream and told her that Darwin Gross was the next ECK Master. Paul had not let her down. He made his choice clear to Gail. And to prove to her the truth of this dream Paul told her that the dream would be confirmed twice in the next few days. She would receive two outer confirmations.

     A couple days later, Patti Simpson, who was one of the people closest to Paul, called up Gail and said, "I know who he is. I know who the Master is." Gail asked, "Who?" Patti blurted out: "It's Darwin Gross." The second confirmation came from Millie Moore, one of Paul's longest time students and also one of the best known amongst ECKists. It was only then that Gail felt that Paul had indeed fulfilled his part of the bargain and she was willing to make the announcement.

     The thing that struck me about Gail's recording was how important it was to her that she not accept the responsibility for being the one making the choice of who the next Master would be. From the outside looking in, there will always be those who claim that she did choose, but apparently this is not how she felt about it at all. Rather she, along with Patti and Millie, recognized Darwin as the Living ECK Master. None of them felt as if they were choosing him. They were just witnesses.

     It should also be mentioned that many of the ECKists living in the Northwest, where Darwin taught Satsang classes, were not surprised at all, but had already guessed that Darwin was Paul's successor and the next Living ECK Master. I have heard this from a number of those ECKists, including my wife, who were students in the satsang classes that Darwin taught at the time.

     From this it should be clear that the experts, and those closest to Paul, did recognize Darwin as the rightful successor to Paul. This should show how mistaken the Spiritual Counterfeits Project story really is.

     But to understand what was going on a little better, I think we need to also take a look at another factor. If you will remember, Paul had mentioned that those who had been chosen to succeed him had failed the tests and he began looking toward the youth for the new leadership. This is the reason he started the Youth Council in 1970, and he reinforced this message at the Youth Council Training meeting in March 1971:

     Our big problem has been the older group who comes to us and think that finally they've found the path, but when we start teaching them and they get into a crisis they revert right back to what their old traditional thinking was. We're never going to change this type of people, because they have been in three, four or five different teachings and they feel that now they know the criteria by which they can judge these things...They want to work with us, sometimes out of curiosity, and sometimes because they feel like we've got it. This is the way they're feeling momentarily.

     They'll go along with us until the crisis comes and then they'll revert right back to where they were maybe 10 years ago, calling upon some strange god that they learned in some other group, in order to relieve them and pull them out of their problems. They won't depend upon ECK...Although we want to give them succor and the comforts of life as long as we can, we take the position: It's all right if they do that. We're not going to be concerned and we're not going to cast them out because they do this, but our future lies in training the very young...

     I believe that Paul was not just talking in general here, but was also thinking about those who had originally been trained to take over after him. When they hit some crisis, which was their test, they could not rely on the ECK to carry them through, but reverted back to their traditional thinking. It was an indication to Paul that the future leadership would have to come from the youth.

     Gail also mentioned something about this in her recording. She specifically named a few individuals whom she said that Paul had specifically told her he could not put on his short list of potential successors. They were well known leaders, but one, for example, still held onto racial prejudice and other strict traditional beliefs. These were the same people that would later leave ECKANKAR when Darwin was announced as the new Living ECK Master.

     A great deal of attention is always given to the successor, but little is ever spent on the few who come close but are passed by. Think of the expectations these individuals must have only to be met with disappointment. It could of course become a great lesson for them, but few are able to set aside the pain. It can often leave them feeling wronged, and this can lead to their later attacking the very path that they once helped build. We should have compassion for such people, even if they feel the need to criticize our teaching, because the struggles they have gone through have not been easy.

     Patti Simpson, in her book, Hello Friend, told this story about the same subject:

     I was in the process of folding a two-page letter I'd written on a particularly perplexing and vexing situation in regard to some former loving and devoted friends of his [Paul's] who subsequent to his leaving, found themselves not enjoying the same highly personal attention from Darwin. Instead of being willing to take a back seat to their former prominence within ECKANKAR, they chose to move away and attack. Having been a very close, first-hand witness to their relationships with Paul, the things they did to help him and ECKANKAR, it puzzled and grieved me to see them now joining hands with forces they would formerly have detested and personally attacking the life's work of the man they loved.

     I was, frankly, utterly annoyed with their perfidy; with the strange blindness that permitted them to have been able to bask in the power of one who befriended them and then, when the glory faded, to call back all they had said and done. I inveighed against the kind of tunnel vision that could allow anyone to love and support Paul Twitchell and enjoy his personal friendship and find themselves able to attack his life's work and feel they were not in any way hurting him. I had said in the letter, 'To do this requires the kind of reasoning that can separate the moon from the tides. It is impossible to separate Paul Twitchell from his life's work. It was what he existed for and if you knew him at all, you knew that.'

     As I folded this letter, still burning and afire with my irritation and perplexity, I suddenly felt that old familiar warmth from my right ear down my back to the solar plexis; the subtle pressure of being hugged lightly. Everything inside me went on alert. Then I heard, in my right ear, the familiar chuckle, and the accent that cannot be mistaken. The first thing that was said was, 'You're a hard person to get through to. Your line is busy a lot.' I had to laugh. 'Okay, I'm listening.' What came out was a few words I was to record as dictation. I did my best, but once my mind 'edited' and I wrote a word that I thought fit better and made more sense. I was sternly corrected to write it exactly as said. There weren't many words. It was short, and incredibly simple. In one small paragraph, I had before me the explanation of the dilemma I had been struggling with through 2 pages, single-line, typed. It was so simple that I marveled that I'd not seen it. This is what Paul had to say in explaining the antagonistic behavior of his one-time friends and loyal followers:

     "Those who fight the ECK are drawing the same power and recognition from It as when they supported me [sic]. It's all the same thing, don't you see - for or against - they're still using my power. They use...they will not settle for what they'd have left without using me, whichever way it is done."

     This brings us back to the point that Paul made in his Illuminated Way Letter. This is what leads people to claim they are the next Master, or the reincarnation of a famous person. It is the same thing that leads people to attack a group that is having some success, whether in the name of an exposť, or why the follower of another teaching would try to ward off others from looking any further. These are all playing off the success and the power of the group or the teacher. Whether for or against, they still are drawn to the same force and the same reality.

     It makes for a strange sort of brotherhood, this spiritual path of Truth. We really can't know the story of anyone's life until the last page is written. If you think I'm wrong on this, after more than twenty years of writing critical pieces on ECKANKAR and other religious groups, this is what David Lane posted recently on his Internet web site:

     THE CONVERSION OF THE NEURAL SURFER: It has become exceedingly obvious to me that I can no longer "deconstruct" religions and cults the same way. This is not to suggest that I have let go of my critical mind (that is part and parcel of my package) but only that after time it is important to "reconstruct" a more positive and powerful story...

      What this means for me personally is what Nietzsche may term the "artist's life"--a way to paint new portraits based upon the totality of one's life experiences. I have looked in the mirror and found that there needs to be a major transformation of how to live this life. There are endless guru wars, endless cult controversies, endless bad stories about spiritual teachers gone south, and in the infinity of this rubbish, there comes a moment when one must either choose nihilism or choose art. It is time to choose Art, a time to choose Dance, a time to choose Invention.

      This does not mean that the old articles on the Neural Surfer will disappear (they too, I would imagine, have their place), but that my focus will be on UpLIFTING the narratives centering my life. One can only talk about plagiarism, deceit, and corruption for so long. I am thoroughly exhausted. I am also at the stage where I realize that the way we think is often governed by what Blackmore and Dennett and Dawkins have called "memes"--replicating units of ideas. Even if memetic theory is sophomoric or incomplete, its metaphoric power is illuminating. I am tired of the deconstructing meme. I am tired of the cynical meme. I am tired.

     Time for the Neural Surfer to ride NEW Waves of Information, NEW Waves of Transformation. Time for the Neural Surfer to be Reflective, not Projective. In sum: the TRANSFORMED NEURAL SURFER is on how to move from skepticism to creativity (and hopefully not bypassing that obstruction known as the brain just to get to one's heart). Naturally I will still be critical, but hopefully with a more integrative vision, a larger and more pregnant holonic context...

      This is not to condone ethical transgressions, but rather to move BEYOND them into a more enlightened sphere where we stop to realize that even though all gurus may be human, so too are ALL disciples. Time, in other words, to move away from being like Toto and pulling away the curtain to show the Wizard's frailties. Time, in other words, to see how we can MOVE beyond our frailties.

     How I, years after my guru's death and after my own existential spiral, can learn to surf finer waves of the mind, finer waves of the body, finer waves of the heart.

      Time to surf anew.

     David later wrote:

    All of this change of heart arose from a profoundly personal situation...Whether I succeed or not is unclear. That I must make that change is certain.

     I certainly wish David the best of luck on the new phase of his journey. But one thing I have learned is that it is much harder to construct and build things than it is to destroy. It is easy to claim to be the next Master, but much harder to make this a reality. Attacking a teaching or a teacher is the easiest thing in the world. Finding faults and making them out to be monstrous and fatal flaws is not hard. It is the building up and creation that takes endless patience and perseverance. Standing up before a world of people, who love to rip apart the creations of other people, while they sit in the safety of their own armchairs as carelessness as those flipping channels on a TV. They may all draw from the same source, they may all be attracted to the same power, but one path helps us grow spiritually and the other after a time only depletes us.

     There are still a couple more errors to correct in what is turning out to be a very long chapter, but we are near the end here.

     David continues:

     Darwin Gross was revealed as the new "Living Eck Master" in Las Vegas, when Gail Atkinson Twitchell, Paul's widow, walked over to Darwin and presented him with a blue carnation.  Shortly thereafter, to the bewilderment of a number of Eckists, Gail and Darwin were married.  However, their marriage was short-lived.  In early 1978, Darwin sent a personal letter to every Eck chela in the world informing them that he and Gail were getting divorced.  A couple of years later, Darwin got remarried, but it lasted only a few months and he got the marriage annulled.  The ramifications of Darwin's divorce, remarriage, and annulment on the membership in Eckankar in the 1970's is difficult to ascertain.  Yet, it can be presumed by the continued growth of Eckankar in the United States that its ultimate impact, like Darwin and Gail's marriage, was nominal.

     To say that Gail and Darwin were married shortly thereafter could easily leave the impression that they were in some way intimate beforehand. I don't know whether David meant this intentionally or not, but in fact they were married more than a year later. And to say that the reaction of the ECKists was bewilderment is not at all the way I remember it. For most it was a sort of unexpected but pleasant surprise when you find that two people whom you like very much suddenly discover that they love each other.

     Years later when they were divorced, it was somewhat sad, but neither the marriage nor the divorce had much of an impact on most ECKists simply because these events belonged to the personal life of Darwin and Gail and had almost nothing to do with the rest of those who were studying the teachings of ECK. After all, the path of ECK is an individual path, and the way it manifests in our personal lives is what the path is all about.

     David then includes a few short paragraphs about what took place after Paul. Since these issues are dealt with in more depth in later chapters, I'll leave their discussion to then. I will only include this last item from David's chapter:

     The growth of Eckankar, since the death of its founder, Paul Twitchell, and the advent of Darwin Gross, has been remarkable.  Although Darwin has only authored a few books (including the small booklet, Eckankar: A Way of Life), as compared to Twitchell's enormous output (over sixty texts), Eckankar has increased its membership almost triple.

     Yet the most enterprising of Darwin's projects was to build a spiritual center in Sedona, Arizona.  The project, however, had to be abandoned due to lack of finances and a devastating lawsuit taken against Eckankar over property rights in the Sedona area.

     The lawsuit was hardly devastating. In fact, Helen Frye generously donated acres of scenic property in Sedona to ECKANKAR before she died. Many ECKists worked on the land, after she had donated it, while she was still alive. They helped to prepare the land to become a spiritual center and retreat. I remember this quite clearly, because I lived in Sedona at the time, not far from Helen's home that she called Wings of the Wind.

     The lawsuit that David is referring to was over a secondary piece of land that Helen told ECKANKAR she was donating in her will, but after her death no such will could be located. The Sedona project was ended many years later by Harold Klemp (Darwin's successor.) Although the property was breathtakingly beautiful, concern arose that the desert land had a very delicate ecology. It would not easily take to thousands of visitors that would make their way to see the spiritual center of ECKANKAR, nor were there sufficient hotel or visitor accommodations nearby. Harold chose a place closer to the heartland in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

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