Dialogue in the Age of
David calls this chapter, Twitchellian Choice. He explains what he means in his opening paragraph:
It can be argued that Eckankar is nothing more than the sum-total of Paul Twitchell's experiences; or, if not entirely his own "personal" observations, at least his own unique choice of differing spiritual and occult teachings. Thus, the following study is designed to show how Eckankar is the result of an ongoing selective process, what I have termed the Twitchellian choice.
I find this paragraph strangely dehumanizing. Why would anyone want to reduce someone else's religious teaching down by saying that it "is nothing more than...?" Why characterize Paul's individuality and creativity like it was some kind of "process" that could be simplified into a psychological behavior pattern?
There is a real danger to David's approach in this chapter. As soon as we start putting down another person, or devaluing their words, then we stop listening to what they are saying. It is as if they are no longer a real person. The moment this happens, our interactive dialogue stops. And without true dialogue, we have no hope of knowing who they are or learning from their life's experiences.
It is this rich well of dialogue that I think has been robbed from our modern society. The one-way media of TV, radio, and publications surrounds us, and we have forgotten the art of true interaction, which is perhaps our best way of learning from each other. We have developed the habit of pompously proclaiming our opinions, as if they represent something valuable to the world. Without dialogue, however, our opinions and beliefs become further disconnected from reality.
I think one of the most fascinating things is to see how Paul brought to life the teachings of ECKANKAR through the use of spiritual dialogue. The interchange between the Master and chela, as Paul displayed in The Far Country, The Tiger's Fang, Stranger By The River and Dialogues With the Master, show us something much more important than the material itself. It demonstrates the importance of dialogue in our search for truth.
Not just the dialogue of words, but the silent exchange between the spiritual student and those spiritual teachers that can teach us inwardly, which Paul called the ECK Masters, as well as our daily invisible dialogue with the ECK, or Life Itself. This is the real basis for the spiritual path of ECKANKAR.
Let's return to David's book. David writes:
Most of what Twitchell teaches (a.k.a. Eckankar) is garnered from Ruhani Satsang. The differences, however, between the two movements are not only distinctive but fundamental.
Actually, the differences are much more dramatic, I believe, than David portrays. While the words may often sound similar, and there are certain elements that are the same, the approaches are worlds apart. Let's hear what Paul wrote about this in his Letters to Gail, dated March 31, 1963:
The greatest thinkers in Islam have been freebooters and raiders of the spirit who have not taken easily to established laws, even laws of their religion. They have moved like lightning to gain everything; they have adopted the spirit of knowing all or giving up the game. In this way you find that they have made war on heaven to gain all knowledge, or nothing!...
What I've said here is a clue to my thinking - an insight into my philosophy of thought! My thinking comes closer to that of the Sufis than to other philosophies. The western man's burden of guilt is unknown to them - it never bothers me. I am not bothered by a vast series of unresolved theological problems, and do not consider myself a willing servant of an ideal which few can ever hope to approach. My heroes have been different from those of most people and my God has certainly been One in whose direction no others have thought to look. The points being made are progressing in fairly logical stair-steps, however my nature is not the same. I rush into areas of spiritual enlightenment, overstep my bounds, and sometimes have to retreat because I'm left in darkness, in unmapped territory, since I'm certainly without patience. This is one reason that I make war on the Social God, or public God, of the orthodox.
Not only does this quote contradict David's stance that Paul was mainly influenced by Kirpal Singh's teachings, but it also describes exactly how Paul lived and taught.
David sees inconsistencies, I believe, because he continues to treat ECKANKAR as an offshoot of Radhasoami. David criticizes Paul for being a self-proclaimed guru who does not credit the teachings of Radhasoami, as if Paul were hiding his own true heritage. David points out where Paul has "changed" or wandered from the Radhasoami teachings as if these were proof of Paul's vanity or ignorance. David strangely blames Paul for copying, and then turns right around and accuses Paul of making it all up. Yet, all of these inconsistencies, all of these problems go away once we stop trying to treat ECKANKAR as an offshoot of Radhasoami and accept it as a unique teaching of its own. In other words, unless it becomes like a real person to us and we engage in it with real dialogue we have no hope of discovering its treasures.
Paul made creativity a fundamental aspect of his teaching. Not only the arts, music and writing, but also the creative use of imagination, and creating one's own life by the choices we make. You will not find this in Radhasoami or Kirpal Singh's teachings.
Paul taught the importance of understanding our dreams. Our nocturnal experiences can provide deep insights into our spiritual path. They often bring personal guidance and spiritual experiences that open the inner worlds to us. Our dreams speak to us in a language of our own inner Self. But you won't find this in Radhasoami or Kirpal Singh's teachings.
Paul wrote a complete book and a number of articles, discourses and booklets on the subject of Prophecy. Not for the purpose of telling the future, but for the purpose of telling forth insights into the mysteries of life. To see the invisible web behind the events of our lives and the world. As Paul has said, these are not the ends, to be able to speak forth spiritual truth, but simply one of 32 steps on the path of ECKANKAR. You will find no reference to such subjects in Radhasoami or Kirpal Singh's teachings.
You will not find Paul claiming that the Living ECK Master is God or should be worshipped, as you will in Radhasoami. You will not find Paul stressing a rigid moral lifestyle as a pre-requisite to spiritual growth, as Kirpal Singh taught, but quite the opposite - that our morals and ethics change naturally as our connection to the spiritual current grows and deepens.
David sees that many of the terms and words are similar between ECKANKAR and Radhasoami, but he doesn't see that they are often used very differently. When Paul uses the term "co-worker with God," he does not mean the same thing as Kirpal Singh did. Soul Travel is different in many ways from the experience of Surat Shabd Yoga. And the inner experiences of most ECKists are not at all the same as the satsangis of Radhasoami.
For example, according to Kirpal Singh and Radhasoami, the inner sound that is heard in the left ear should be ignored, since it brings one down into the world, while the sound heard in the right ear should be followed and listened to. This is not at all the experience that ECKists have with the Sound Current of ECK, nor is this taught in ECKANKAR. Whether from the right or the left, the spiritual resonances of ECK lift us into the higher worlds.
ECKists would be surprised to learn that a number of Radha Soami Masters would not initiate satsangis who were blind, because it was believed that they would be unable to see the Light or the Master's form. This explanation will make no sense to ECKists, based upon their experiences with the Light and Sound of ECK. On the other hand, I think most Sant Mat students would be surprised to learn how much of an ECKist's spiritual exercises are spent in actively creating, testing, and exploring their inner worlds and inner realities. Only a small portion of an ECKists time is spent passively waiting for the form of the Master, or the sound current to arrive.
In Radhasoami and modern day Sant Mat, the satsangi is instructed to raise the spiritual energies in the body to the Tisra Til, the spiritual eye. This is why hours of meditation are required each day, and why a vegetarian diet is useful. In ECK, both the inward and outward flow of the spiritual currents are to be mastered on each of the planes of God. From the lowest to the highest state of consciousness, the ECK is present. Therefore, only half an hour in contemplation is generally required, since these are considered exercises only, and Life Itself is the Path.
Whether Sant Mat satsangis realize it or not, by withdrawing the currents in their bodies, they are actually reversing the currents of their lower chakras. This can lead to serious difficulties unless an extremely pure lifestyle is maintained. The ECK Masters teach, however, the natural expression of all the chakras. Since these chakras are the means with which we are in dialogue with this world, we don't withdraw - rather we expand our awareness beyond the physical dimensions through the spiritual senses.
These are just a few examples that show how different these teachings really are, even though the words may often sound the same.
Apparently David cannot see this. Perhaps because he has labeled ECKANKAR an offshoot of Radhasoami. Therefore, all of the things that do not fit are simply stuffed away out of sight. Or they become proof of Paul's transgressions or Paul's inconsistencies. This is exactly the danger that spiritual students should avoid if they are interested in Truth. This is exactly what happens when we break down our dialogue with others by reducing down their beliefs, or fitting them into some little box that we've labeled for them. Reality does not fit in little boxes.
To look at this issue in more detail, rather than just a general discussion, I think we should examine David's three specific examples that he uses in this chapter. Here is example one:
One significant change that Twitchell brought about in Eckankar was his restructuring of the traditional Sant Mat "eight plane" cosmology. Twitchell did this, though, only after having used the original Sant Mat cosmology in several of his earlier books--most notably in The Tiger's Fang and The Far Country. The intriguing aspect is that Twitchell's revised and copyrighted "twelve plane" cosmology (which is given in the Spiritual Notebook and was standard in Eckankar by 1971) contradicts his previous "eight plane" one. The following is a comparison chart of the two cosmologies:
(based upon the Sant tradition;
depicted in Twitchell's first books on Eckankar):
1. Sahasra dal Kanwal; sounds--bell and conch
2. Brahm Lok (Trikuti); sounds--big drum (thunder)
3. Daswan Dwar; sounds--violins (sarangi)
4. Bhanwar Gupha; sounds--flute
5. Sach Khand; sounds--vina (bagpipe)
6. Alakh Lok*
7. Agam Lok*
8. Anami Lok (Sugmad)*
* Twitchell does not give the exact sounds of the higher regions above Sach Khand in this particular cosmology, nor does Sant Mat, Radhasoami, or Ruhani Satsang.
(as given in the Spiritual Notebook
and standard by 1970):
1. Elam (Physical); sounds--thunder
2. Sat Kanwal Anda (Astral); sounds--roar of the sea
3. Maha-Kal/Par Brahm (Causal); sounds--tinkle of bells
4. Brahmanda Brahm (Mental); sounds--running water
5. Sat Nam (Soul); sounds--single note of flute
6. Alakh Lok; sounds--heavy wind
7. Alaya Lok; sounds--deep humming
8. Hukikat Lok; sounds--thousand violins
9. Agam Lok; sounds--music of woodwinds
10. Anami Lok; sounds--whirlpool
11. Sugmad Lok; sounds--music of universe
12. Sugmad/Living Reality; sounds--music of God
The most noticeable difference in the two cosmologies is in the location of the various sounds (known in Radhasoami as shabd dhuns). Note that in the first "eight plane" cosmology the sound of the flute is heard on the "fourth" plane (Bhanwar gupha), one region below Sach Khand (the eternal "soul" realm), whereas in the "twelve plane" chart, the sound of the flute is now heard on the "fifth" plane (Sat Nam; the "soul" region). This contradiction, while perhaps not noteworthy in any other spiritual tradition, is crucial in Shabd yoga, where the whole essence of the path is based upon the internal hearing of the "sound current" or "audible life stream." The knowledge of which sounds to listen to and which to discard is an extremely important part of the teachings. Other variances in the cosmologies include:
1. The sound of the thunder which was heard in Trikuti (causal realm) in the original Sant Mat cosmology is now according to the "twelve plane" chart heard in the physical region (Elam).
2. The tinkle of bells which was originally heard up to and through the first plane (Sahasra dal Kanwal) is now heard in the third region (MahaKal-Par-Brahm).
3. Par Brahm which used to be in Daswan Dwar (i.e., beyond mind and matter) is now in the causal realm--a region which was previously in Trikuti (the home of the mind).
The preceding comparisons are important in understanding that, although Twitchell employed basic Sant Mat concepts in the beginning of his group, the teachings themselves have undergone an evolution in Eckankar. This not only signals Twitchell breaking off from Ruhani Satsang doctrines but also indicates an evolving (and not a stationary) superstructure within Eckankar. More precisely, what may have been taught in Eckankar in 1965 and 1966 may not necessarily be disseminated in 1989.
Yes, Paul's teaching changed as he went along, as I said before. He was continually changing it, and never stopped changing it. For that matter, Harold Klemp, the current Living ECK Master, continues to change the teachings of ECKANKAR. That's one of the differences between a living teaching and a dead one: When the teaching is alive, it changes as the people and times change. These changes, then, are not the reflection of Paul breaking off from Ruhani Satsang, but of Paul following the creative spark of ECK, the spirit of Life, and the source of the ECK teachings. It is part of a living dialogue, which is the very foundation of the path of ECK.
Nowhere is this point clearer than over this matter of Pauls descriptions of the inner planes. A closer examination of Pauls numerous references tells a very different story than the one that David is trying to tell. Lets start by looking at the book that Paul says was his first real study of the works of ECKANKAR: Dialogues With The Master. The following quote from a chapter in this book called, The Cosmic Worlds, shows us Pauls first written reference about the planes:
"Let me begin at this point. Those ECK Masters who were explorers of the cosmic worlds have been pioneers for mankind to reach the inner heights. They have left legends which we adore and worship. These greater ones gave us philosophies to study and live by, but much has been perverted and used for individual gain instead of for the universal cause of mankind.
"Their real contribution has been the descriptions of those mystic lands beyond the physical world. What lies on the other side of this earth plane? How many worlds are there? Where do they lie and how much does the physical scientist know about them?
"The scientists look at the heavens from an objective eye and make use of the canopy of air for the purpose of helping mankind in this world. But the mystics start from the inside and travel though the same planes looking at each with a spiritual eye.
"The scientists say there are five layers in the atmosphere, lying upward, and that we are like the primitive savage who stands on the shores of an ocean and wonders how far the water stretches beyond the setting sun.
"They call these regions or layers the troposphere, tropopause, stratosphere, ionosphere, and the unknown. The mystics call them the Astral, Brahmanda, Daswan Dwar, Maha Sunna and Sach Khand; beyond these are other planes called Alakh Lok, Alakh Purusha, and Agam Lok.
"The Vedantists call these planes the Astral, Mental, Wisdom, Bliss and God-Plane."
A number of interesting points jump out from this quote. First, Paul credits the explorers and pioneers who left behind descriptions of the mystic lands beyond the physical world. In no way does Paul ever imply this was his idea or creation. It was the spiritual travelers, the mystics and the Vedantists who first left behind the legends and philosophies for us to study.
Second, notice that Pauls names do not match the names given by David as Pauls first depiction, nor do they match with the Sant Mat names. This blows apart Davids idea the Paul began with the Sant Mat concepts alone.
Third, even in this one quote it is clear that Paul is describing these planes with varying names. He does not hold to just one, as if these planes were solid and standardized. In fact, he offers two different inner versions, one with eight planes and the other with five, with two completely different sets of names.
Now look in Pauls book, The Tigers Fang, where he credits his sources, again. He writes this in Chapter Four:
I want to point out here that few western or eastern religions include the spiritual hierarchy of the five worlds and those nameless regions above them.
I found these regions mentioned only in the writings of the Persian mystics, the Sufis, some of the Hindu writings, particularly those of the Vedanta Society, and Radha Swami groups.
How could David suggest that Paul merely deployed basic Sant Mat concepts in the beginning of his group? Obviously, Paul had studied many teachings with references to the inner worlds and gave credit to these records. More importantly, from the following two quotes from this same book, we get a true sense of what these descriptions of the inner worlds mean.
From Chapter 3 of The Tigers Fang:
Writing about a mystical experience is like trying to recite a poem which one has written.
From Chapter 4 of The Tigers Fang:
Most of those who have visited the pure regions of God cannot write about them because of the lack of physical language. So there is nothing available to say what might be found here. Anything one could write would be pallid and sickly beside the actual glories of Gods great worlds.
Does this sound like someone trying to write a standardized and official description of the inner planes? Or, does it sound like someone who knows that all such descriptions are like the expressions of a poet trying to find words that can never do justice to the reality?
The picture becomes even clearer if we look at a few more quotes from Pauls books. This comes from Chapter Four of Pauls book, The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Book One, which was written after The Spiritual Notebook:
During its downward journey, Soul goes through such intermediate states as the Agam Lok, Hukikat Lok, Alaya Lok, Sat Lok, and the Saguna Lok (the subconscious plane); Brahm Lok (the mental plane); Brahmanda Lok (the causal plane); Sat Kanwal-Anda Lok (the astral plane); and the Pinda (the physical plane).
Notice that this does not match the version in The Spiritual Notebook. For example, this description makes no mention of Alakh Lok and lists Brahmanda Lok here as the Causal Plane, where Brahmanda is named the Mental Plane in The Spiritual Notebook. From this it becomes clear that Paul was not trying to standardize on his descriptions. David makes the same mistake as many who lack personal inner experience, after reading the writings of the spiritual travelers, by believing that the inner planes are like some kind of solid reality. However, Paul never falls into this trap any time from the beginning of his teachings to the end. Paul was not trying to give a geography lesson, but was describing the subtleties of inner states of consciousness.
This becomes even more obvious when we read what Paul wrote one chapter later in this same book, The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Book One. There he does mention Alakh Lok, but calls the Astral Plane by the name Turiya Pad Lok, and says that Par Brahm is the lord of the Mental Plane, which was the lord of the Causal Plane according to The Spiritual Notebook.
In Chapter Eight of this same book, Paul writes:
The chela must learn that in order to travel at will in the other worlds he must first learn to break his covenant with the material worlds that are so solidly real to him. It is not a mark of power for one to travel in the inner worlds, but it is concerned with consciousness. This alone makes it possible for the chela to move at will on all higher planes of life.
There are an infinite number of planes within the universe of God. They blend and shift from one state to another.
In other words, the whole idea that the inner worlds could be described solidly, in some standardized form, was exactly the opposite of what Paul was trying to do. He was trying to get the reader to break from this covenant that derives from the material worlds. This is why he never did standardize on his descriptions from his first writings to his last. He avoided solid or official versions because the inner worlds are not solid or official. He was not concerned whether he got names mixed up or gave different versions. The only reason for even describing them is to lead the readers to experience it for themselves. After all, if each persons experience of the inner worlds is different, why should there be a standardized version?
Paul writes in Chapter 1 of The Tigers Fang:
The study of sacred scriptures, singing of hymns and the seeking of God, as well as the constant talking about God, only increases the appetite of the senses to enjoy themselves in search for the Almighty One. These, in themselves, do not bring the seeker any closer to God, only the experiencing of God is important and does bring the seeker closer.
The fact is that it was only after Paul died that this changed. I remember hearing Darwin talk about this in the lunch room of the old ECK Office in Las Vegas, where he noted how many different versions Paul had given. But Darwin had to pick one for the God-worlds charts he was printing, since he could obviously only use one. So Darwin decided to use the version in The Spiritual Notebook.
Over time the idea has arisen amongst some that this is the official version. Fortunately, there have always been experienced ECKists who have pointed out that the God-worlds chart is only a symbol of a subtle spiritual truth. The planes are not stacked on top of each other like pancakes. They merely represent states of consciousness that we will each experience in our own way.
It appears as if David believes that the written descriptions of the inner worlds should be taken as an outer authority. He seems to miss the fact that Paul only wanted to inspire the reader to gain their own inner experience, which is exactly why his versions continued to change and shift. Look again at how David describes the conflicting names and sounds of the planes:
This contradiction, while perhaps not noteworthy in any other spiritual tradition, is crucial in Shabd yoga, where the whole essence of the path is based upon the internal hearing of the "sound current" or "audible life stream." The knowledge of which sounds to listen to and which to discard is an extremely important part of the teachings.
If David is talking about ECKANKAR, why is he referring to what is important to Shabd yoga? What are we talking about here? Are we talking about the ways that Paul has offended David's sensibilities? Is that what this point is about? The only thing that should be relevant is what is important within the ECKANKAR teachings.
Yet, to ECKANKAR, this matter has nowhere near the significance that David says it has to Shabd yoga. In fact, the distinguishing facets of the inner planes are described in much more detail through references to the different ECK initiations, the different states of consciousness and the operating laws found on each of the inner planes, as described in The Tiger's Fang and other writings. The sounds, themselves, as a means of discrimination, are not used as an absolute means of identification of the planes, as in Shabd yoga.
But David's point is that, "while not noteworthy in any other spiritual tradition" it is crucial in Shabd yoga. Obviously, then, this point becomes "not noteworthy" when we realize that ECKANKAR is not Shabd yoga.
I think that David has also left out some very important points. Someone reading what David wrote above could easily get the impression that all Shabd yoga teachers have agreed upon the names, sounds and locations of the God-worlds, and that these have never changed since the teachings of Radhasoami were first introduced. Let me share a few facts to show what I mean:
1. The Soamibagh Parent Faith of Radhasoami describes 12 regions beyond the physical, even though the Beas branch describes only 8.
2. The Soamibagh description says that Bhanwargupha, where you hear the sound of the flute, is located in the purely spiritual planes, beyond duality, while Beas says that it is below this division. This is a fairly big discrepancy.
3. The Beas and Ruhani groups say that the sound of Sat Lok is the sound of bagpipes. The Soamibagh group says it is the sound of the harp. As David would say, this is a huge difference, since this sound is so "crucial" to Shabd yoga.
4. Kirpal Singh described Bhanwargupha as split into two regions: Sunna and Mahasunna. Soamibagh says that Mahasunna is that dark region separating the pure spiritual God-worlds from the worlds of duality, while Sunna is the dark region separating the physical worlds from the spiritual/material worlds above. The two regions, therefore, are nowhere near each other, according to Soamibagh.
5. Beas says that Anami Lok is the highest region, while Soamibagh says that Anami Lok is located between Sat Lok and Alakh Lok.
I could go on.
David refers to the Radhasoami tradition as if it is an outer authority. So, what happens then when there are various descriptions and versions even within Radhasoami? More to the point, I wonder; has David verified the true sound of Sat Lok? Well, David, is it bagpipes, the harp, or single note of the flute?
David states how important the Sound Current is in Sant Mat, but he never indicates he has experienced these sounds of the Five Planes. While he refers to the Sant Mat codified description of these sounds, he misses the fact that in ECKANKAR the entire point of the Sound Current is the personal experience and connection to these streams of spirit. Without such personal experience, it is useless to talk about such things.
There is a principle that is well known by ECKists, as well as followers of Shabd yoga, Theosophy and Gnosticism: As above, so below. This means that the things that exist in the lower worlds are but reflections of the realities that exist in the higher worlds. You cannot find anything in the physical plane that does not have its purer and more complete original in the higher planes. Therefore, there are no sounds in this world that cannot be found in the higher worlds.
So, if this is true, all of these sounds of the planes must exist throughout all the higher worlds. Why should there be only one sound heard on each plane? Is it possible that this sound is not really "the" sound of that plane, but is actually the sound created by the spiritual current of that particular teaching as it reaches that plane? In other words, is it possible that the sound heard could vary from teaching to teaching, or as the consciousness of that teaching changes the sound could change as well?
I think it is safe to say that ECKANKAR sees the meaning of these inner sounds very differently than Shabd Yoga, and in ECKANKAR unless we are speaking from personal experience this discussion is meaningless. It is not about outer authority, but inner recognition.
Here is David's second example:
The two principles that all Sant Mat and Radhasoami groups agree upon are:
1) A pure moral life. This includes, among other things, a strict vegetarian diet (no meat, fish, or eggs) and an abstinence from narcotics and alcohol.
2) The teachings of Surat shabd yoga should be made available for free. That is, there are no charges for either initiations, instructions, or personal audiences with the Satguru. Also included under this guideline is the rule that a "perfect master" should earn his own living. The guru does not live off the donations made to him by his disciples.
Paul Twitchell has taken portentous exceptions to the two most agreed upon principles in Sant Mat and Radhasoami. First and most glaring, Eckankar charges for their teachings. In fact, the group was originally incorporated as a business organization for this very reason. (It was only later that it switched its status to a "non-profit" religious movement.) Second, though he took a vow of vegetarianism in 1955, Twitchell and Eckankar advocate eating animal flesh. Argues Eckankar's founder:
The vegetarian who is motivated by a religious creed takes his stand on the moral issue that eating flesh is against the principles of spirituality. Anyone who is a chela of ECKANKAR knows that after he has become efficient in Soul Travel and can go into the fifth (soul) plane, there is no right and no wrong, no beauty and no ugliness--only the one reality. Those who believe that vegetarianism is an asset to their spiritual growth are mistaken about the moral issue. [Paul Twitchell, Herbs: The Magic Healers (San Diego: Illuminated Way Press, 1971), page 78]
Concerning meat-eating, Twitchell remarks:
And one should eat plenty of meat, especially brains, kidney, and liver. These are generally good for the human system.
Third and finally, Julian P. Johnson in his book, The Path of the Masters, lists several objective indices of a "perfect master." The very first guideline is that a master does not charge money for his services or live off the offerings of his devotees. Twitchell interestingly, copies Johnson's list almost verbatim. However, the first objective indice Twitchell does not include...
Harold Klemp, the present living Eck Master, receives over two-thousand dollars per month as head of Eckankar. Twitchell, in his day, was reported to have earned a comparable amount. To have a personal audience with the Eck Master can cost anywhere from $100 to $500. The seminars held around the world by Eckankar also charge admission fees. The preceding clearly indicates that although Eckankar has similarities with Sant Mat and Ruhani Satsang, it is ultimately different.
I love this conclusion of David's. Here he is providing another proof that ECKANKAR is indeed a completely separate teaching from Sant Mat, but he spends all this effort to paint ECKANKAR as some cheap and debauched copy of Radhasoami.
Clearly, David is making the same mistake as before: He is trying to judge ECKANKAR's principles according to Sant Mat terms. Why? Why not compare ECKANKAR to its own terms? ECKANKAR is perfectly open about its practice of charging for discourses, books, and seminars. Paul discussed this at length early on. He explained that this fits with Western culture. Paul also observed that when some people get something for free they will not value it.
In a talk at the Youth Training Seminar in Las Vegas, March 1971, Paul said:
In my first or second year, I learned a great lesson. I was giving away at least ten percent of the teachings. But after I gave it away, I think only one man ever wrote to thank me for it and say how wonderful. The majority didn't say anything. Several people wrote and balled me out because they had no experiences with Soul Travel and therefore it wasn't any good to them, regardless of whether they got it free or not. I had one woman who claimed she was on welfare and couldn't pay for anything. Gail and I went up to Wisconsin, to Milwaukee, to a seminar up there, and this woman came in wearing Sak's Fifth Avenue clothes with a mink stole on, and then she tried to slip into the meeting. So, I said, "Oh well..."
But there are certain people that are happy to get a chance to study this without cost. That's why I thought I'd set up some fellowships. Another thing I'd like to do in time, if I can get enough money flowing in, I'd like to reduce the prices on some of the things we have, because I know it's a little high for some people. If we could lower the price a little lower I think we'd have more people who could afford it.
Similarly, ECKANKAR does not teach that spiritual seekers need to adopt a vegetarian diet. Few ECKists that I know of have any issues with this, or the cost of the teachings, because they are both quite reasonable. So, why does David insist on using Sant Mat morals to judge Paul or ECKANKAR?
What would happen if we judged all teachings according to Sant Mat terms? How would we feel about Christian priests or ministers who dedicate their lives to their parish or ministry, but accept an income often significantly higher than Harold Klemp or Paul Twitchell? Should we pass judgment on Jesus, who we've been told ate fish and drank wine with his disciples? What about Thomas Merton, the monk, who earned money from his wonderful books about the spiritual path, or the Pope, whose room and board is paid for out of church funds? I could go on with endless examples.
However, the problem is even worse than this for David. Even his own "perfect masters" don't hold up in all cases to his own criteria. Shiv Dayal Singh, for example, who was the founder of Radhasoami, hardly worked even a few years during his whole life, and depended upon his family for sustenance. Or, what about Jalal-uddin Rumi, whom Sant Mat teachers have considered a Sant. Rumi held a religious post that paid quite well, teaching and offering religious advice to the rulers and people of Konia, then a part of Persia.
For that matter, Rumi made it quite clear in his lectures that the eating of meat was no crime, since the life of the animal had already departed and returned to its source. Or what about Shiv Dayal Singh's habit of smoking the hookah, a water pipe? No one seems to be sure of whether he smoked tobacco, betel nut or hashish, but in his day the practice was not uncommon, nor was it frowned on.
Or, if we want to look at the matter a little more directly, let us take Sawan Singh, "the great Master" of Radhasoami Beas Satsang, and the grandfather of Charan Singh, David's master. As I understand it, when Sawan first bought land in Beas, to be near his master Jaimal Singh, the property cost almost nothing, since it was mostly desert and there were hardly any people living nearby. That land has now been passed on to his family, and is worth probably thousands of times more because of the growth of the Beas Satsang. While not directly paid for by his religious teaching, he still profited quite handsomely none-the-less. The same could be said for the family of Kirpal Singh.
Or what about recent stories that have come out about Charan Singh asking his Western satsangis to smuggle through Indian customs large numbers of packaged goods, bought by him or his family in the West, to avoid paying duty? He put his own satsangis at risk of being thrown in jail or severely punished.
But what is the point of all this? I think the Radhasoami masters have shown some of the highest ethics and morals, and this holds great significance within their own teaching and tradition. But these ethics don't translate to other teachings very well. They are tied to the meaning of their own worldview.
Here is the definition of Ethics found in the ECKANKAR Dictionary, first published by Paul:
That which is not selfish, which is good for the whole, which will not harm one and will do justice for all concerned - actions for the benefit of all.
No guilt over eating meat. No inherent conflict over paying money for books and discourses. Once again, David's examples are not giving us an insight into Paul's selection process, but only David's. In fact, it is becoming clearer and clearer that David seems unable to really see Paul as he was because of the way he has labeled Paul.
If we want an insight into how Paul saw the above issues, I think we only need to re-read his quote from Letters to Gail, which I gave earlier this chapter:
My thinking comes closer to that of the Sufis than to other philosophies. The western man's burden of guilt is unknown to them - it never bothers me. I am not bothered by a vast series of unresolved theological problems, and do not consider myself a willing servant of an ideal which few can ever hope to approach.
There is a matter, here, that is even more important in understanding Paul or ECKANKAR. It is best illustrated with the following quote from The Discourses of Rumi:
One of Rumi's followers said: "A true lover of God must be submissive, abject and long-suffering." And they listed other qualities.
Rumi responded: "Should the lover be like that whether the Beloved wishes it or not? If the lover is this way against the desire of the Beloved, then they are no lover but merely following their own desire. If the lover accepts the desire of the Beloved, then when their Beloved does not want them to be submissive and abject, how could they be submissive and abject? Therefore, the states affecting the lover are unknown, and we can only know how the Beloved wishes us to be."
This strikes to the heart of the matter. All of these outer criteria for the judging of a Master, such as profiting from the books they write or eating meat, are meaningless. The spiritual path is a personal relationship with the Inner Reality and cannot be judged from the outside. Only those who see the inner dialogue between Soul and God know the true lovers of God. This is why the Sufis say to smash the bottle after drinking the wine. David, on the other hand, seems to be transfixed with the bottle and has forgotten completely about the wine.
The last example that David raises in this chapter is the most fun. David found copies of an old series that Paul wrote for the Candid Press in 1966-67. This was the column I mentioned back in Chapter Five that Paul wrote in exchange for printed copies of his booklet, Introduction to ECKANKAR. This came at a time when Paul couldn't afford to pay the printing cost. Here's what Paul said about it in March 1971, at the Youth Training Seminar in Las Vegas:
It's real interesting from those times up to the present time. I'll give you some statistics. I guess we were selling about a thousand books a year, or something like that. Mainly we had that book, then, Introduction to ECKANKAR, and it was printed so bad, it had so many mistakes in it, grammatical errors and everything else, that I would hold it off [to the side with two fingers] like this when I had to pick up a copy.
We got into a little tabloid magazine and they wanted me to write a lovelorn column of some kind called, The Man Who Talks To God. (Paul chuckles.) They offered this book [The Introduction to ECKANKAR] for $2.00. That was the way they paid for doing this [column.] I think we had about 1000 or 1500 copies [of The Introduction to ECKANKAR] at that time, and we sold out in less than three months. It was just absolutely amazing how it went. And no one ever made a complaint [about the printing mistakes.] If they did, I never got the mail back.
I first saw copies of this column through an ECKist friend before David Lane's book came out, and I howled, I was laughing so hard. I thought the column was hilarious. Paul's sense of humor comes roaring through. But what is so incredible about this is that David has taken them seriously. David writes:
Perhaps the most controversial document to surface about Paul Twitchell's hidden life is his featured column, "Talk to God," for Candid Press in 1967. In the column, Twitchell claims to speak directly with God about reader's personal and spiritual problems. The founder of Eckankar always ends his words of advice (which he states comes from God Himself) with the bold statement: I HAVE SPOKEN!
The article raises some serious questions about Twitchell's personal motives for founding Eckankar. For not only does Twitchell make erroneous prophecies...but he also indulges in satirical sexual admonitions. A few graphic examples will best illustrate the latter:
Oh, yes, David, let's get to the graphic examples. They are the best:
DEAR MR. TWITCHELL: My penis is too long. Can you ask God to shorten it for me?
DEAR PETER: Why? That's what God said when He heard you wanted a smaller sex organ. God says that we can all be happy with what He gives unto us and you shall be happy too.
I HAVE SPOKEN!
DEAR GURU: I have the strange desire to wear lace panties. As I am a normal man in every other way, I want to know if God thinks this is bad?
DEAR FRILLY: He doesn't think it is good. We talked over your fetish--for that is what you have. We both feel that your fetish is due to lack of female companionship. You wish to secure a relationship with a woman whose initials are P.I. Do not ask how I know nor shall you question this advice which I now sayeth unto you: Call her and ask her for a date. She will accept. Do not wear your panties on the date. . . and you shall never again have a desire to wear panties. I HAVE SPOKEN!
DEAR LEARNED ONE: My penis is too small for a man of my age. Can you talk to God and make my penis grow?
DEAR TINY: God and I talked about your penis--and God has good news for you. He says that your penis is of average size and that you only believe it is too small for you failed to satisfy one woman when you were 19. Because it is of the proper size, there is no need for God to make it grow. I HAVE SPOKEN!
That David could take this stuff seriously really does make me wonder if he hasn't been working a little too hard. According to David, one of the problems he had with Paul's column was that right after writing one of the above, Paul would follow it up with something on ECKANKAR. David writes:
One can't help wondering, however, how serious Twitchell is in presenting his bilocation philosophy with such a humorous and mordacious context. Below are a few excerpts from the column on Eckankar:
DEAR ECK TEACHER: After learning bilocation, I sent my sole-being [sic] toVietnam to visit my son who is stationed there - and he didn't recognize me. Why?
--MRS. HELEN AYNEZ
DEAR MRS.: I was with you that day and I wanted so to allow your son to see you--but I was hopeless to help you. You see, Eckankar is only able to function as a path to God--and as such, it is no good if learned for ulterior motives. You bought my book "Introduction to Eckankar" just so you could visit your son. As entering God's universe wasn't your goal, so the true power of Eckankar failed to work fully for you.
I HAVE SPOKEN!
DEAR PAUL: I am only 16 and my problem may not be the type that you normally talk to God about, but here goes. I am still a virgin! My three best friends aren't and they always tease me. I want to wait until I marry, but they keep kidding me. What should I do?
--M. OF MICHIGAN
DEAR M. OF MICHIGAN: If a problem worries a person, then it is important enough for me to talk to God about. First and most important is what Rebazar Tarzs once told me. He said: "Unto thine own self and not beyond." My teacher meant that you must do only what you feel is best for yourself and these are God's sentiments exactly. By the way, God wants you to know that your three friends are still virgins. They are merely trying to sound sophisticated and adult. I HAVE SPOKEN!
David concludes his chapter, and this section, with this:
"Talk to God," probably more than any other piece of evidence, raises the question about the genuineness of Eckankar and about the authenticity of its founder. It is an issue which we will explore at length in the next chapter.
If David considers this to be his most significant piece of evidence, then I would say he's holding an empty bag. I think, rather, this column is a great example illustrating Paul's sense of humor. In this case Paul is playing on the ridiculous stereotype that people hold about asking a Guru for advice. He is making fun of the games that people play over gurus, the sorts of things they ask for instead of the path to spiritual realization, and he is making fun of himself at the same time. And as usual with Paul, he mixes some truth in along the way.
If you think I'm not seeing Paul correctly, listen to what he has to say about Theory of Games, from his book, Letters to Gail:
This is the interesting study of people going through Cycles of Action set up for themselves, which must be considered merely a game, when viewed objectively If placed beside a sports game you can almost see the image pattern being followed out! It is amazing to stand off and view such activity portrayed by the human race
If the individual can cheerfully accept the responsibility of playing the Christian game, he follows the rules and plays someone elses game and not his own frankly, for the benefit of others If I accept the responsibility of playing the religious way then Im doing it for the benefit of the leaders. Understand? This is true of all religions, true of all business and economic fields, professions, and of this civilization
Is there any way out of this?
Of course there is. You dont have to play somebodys game. Napoleon didnt! St. John of the Cross didnt; Rumi, great poet of Persia didnt. And of course the hippies are not following the rules of society. One could go on and name numerous others who didnt. How did they achieve this?
There are two or three ways of breaking up the games of others, and get out of the games state. First, is to completely ignore the rules which have been listed and make yourself immune to what others say of you. That is to say, if you do not want to follow a certain line as set in the social standards between boy and girl, refuse to play the game
There are hundreds of examples which can be referred to but, if you dont want to play the game according to the rules which society has set, then society will as a whole turn on you to punish you for not playing the game in the fashion which has been established. This only means that you must be the master of the slave
The other way to get out of the games state is to be completely objective. Be detached from life and by being detached from the games situations you are not caught up in them.
This reminds me of a story Paul told when a man called Paul up to have a consultation. He wanted Paul to leave his hotel room in England, take a train far outside of London, catch a bus to a rural stop, and then hitch a ride to this man's home. After Paul politely told the man that he was too busy and said goodbye, Paul turned to someone else in the room and said, "Who does that man think he is - if I am who I think I am?"
That was Paul. Like the ECK seminar when some ECKists baked a five-layer cake, representing the five planes up to the Soul Plane. Each of the layers had icing of a different color to represent the different planes. Paul obviously thought it was funny. He then said, in a very serious voice, "You know, I'm really afraid that one of these days I'll be unwrapping a chocolate bar and find myself biting into my own face." Of course the audience totally broke up in laughter.
But if you read some of these things like David has, and you wonder when Paul is being real or when he is fooling around, well that's exactly the point. Paul doesn't want a bunch of followers hanging on his every word, believing whatever he says without thinking for themselves. That was never the type of readers he was writing for.
Here is what he wrote in his Letters to Gail, dated July 14, 1963:
The subtlest danger in spiritual learning is to substitute faith in book knowledge, or blind faith in authority, for direct experience. This is so in both East and West where many religiously minded people confuse an emotional-devotional attachment or an intellectual attitude with an experiential belief in a sacred scripture...
One of the grave dangers of organized religion lies in the tendency to ask the devotee to simply accept a creed or dogma rather than to insist that he investigate it diligently in his own life through contemplation, study and service.
Nothing then is to be accepted upon authority - for there are many authorities making claims for God and many gods. I do not accept anything on reason because spiritual truth is intuitively perceived in a realm which transcends the limitations of the everyday mind. It is essentially a matter of individual investigation; for contemplating and testing in one's own life; and for affirming through direct realization of its truth in higher consciousness.
Throughout this whole chapter David has addressed his own issues with Paul, which he thinks illustrate the choices that Paul made when bringing out the teachings of ECKANKAR. However, it appears to me that David showed more about his own selection process and his own sensibilities than Paul's. By labeling Paul's teaching an offshoot of Sant Mat, David seems to lose sight of what ECKANKAR really is. He has reduced it down by putting it in a box, so it never seems to become real to him.
But in the end, all of David's examples just further prove that ECKANKAR is a completely different teaching than Sant Mat. Sure there are similarities, and we can see that Paul used things that he found useful from other teachings, lots of other teachings, not just Radhasoami. And strangely enough, this is one of the pieces of advice that Paul gave newcomers to ECKANKAR. If you find something in the teaching of ECK that works for you, then use it. Don't worry about the things that don't make sense or don't seem right. Perhaps they will mean something to you later on, or perhaps they were meant for someone else, or another time.
The spiritual path of ECK is an individual path that grows out of our own efforts. The Living ECK Master can offer us guidance, but we must, in the end, each learn through our own explorations what the spiritual path means to us.
We also learned in this chapter about Paul's great sense of humor, and especially his attitude about the idea of traditional gurus. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to quote Paul on this subject, from his talk in March 1971, at the Youth Training Seminar in Las Vegas:
I don't want anyone, in any case, to ever put me on a pedestal. This [teaching] isn't to be of that nature. I was talking on the telephone not long ago, and some fellow was telling me how wonderful the last couple of books were and that they were going to be classics, and all that sort of thing, and I said, "Hold it a minute, Bub. I've got to go out and run around the building two or three times and shake this thing down. I can't take all of this [praise.]
So, I'm trying to say this, that in all cases that I'm here as a person. I'm treated as a person, especially in my own household, where I'm told that I'm only the husband, and reference is never made to anything else but that. Some fellow made a statement today to me, which I thought was very amusing. He said, "Well after all you go to the bathroom don't you?" And I said, "Well, of course."
That's Paul. He was a real person. And real people seem like a rare thing these days. But perhaps if we stopped labeling people we would find a lot more real people around than we thought.
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Copyright © 2000 by Doug Marman