Dialogue in the Age of
This chapter covers the few short years just before Paul officially introduced ECKANKAR as a spiritual teaching. David begins by referring to an interview by Jack Jarvis, on July 9, 1963, called "Paul Twitchell, Man of Parts," which appears to be the first time that Paul mentions the name ECKANKAR. Shortly after, Paul wrote a response to Jarvis' article, called, "The Square Peg," which I quoted from earlier in Chapter One.
These days, then, were Paul's Cliff-Hanger days, when he also began introducing the name and concept of ECKANKAR.
The Psychic Observer based in Southern Pines, North Carolina, published several of Twitchell's articles prior to 1965. "The Cliff-Hanger," printed in July of 1964, expounds Twitchell's definition of the "enigmatic one" and of the Cliff-Hanger's philosophy--Eckankar:
Eckankar, which I formed out of my own experience, is the term used for the philosophy I have developed for the Cliff Hanger. It is based on Shabd-Yoga, a way out form of yoga. The word is the Hindu locution for the cosmic sound current which is known in our vernacular as the cosmic river of God.
David reports that in January 1964, Orion Magazine published what seems to be Paul's first public article entirely devoted to ECKANKAR. In this article, called, "Eckankar, The Bilocation Philosophy," Paul wrote:
Eckankar, the philosophy of out of body experience, is that understanding which I have gained from bi-location excursions similar to those in the lives of saints of all faiths...
Man needs to learn to leave his body at will and dwell in his spirit body, on other planes. He must someday leave this fleshy temple, so he should learn that by going in and out of his body that he can give it up to death without suffering...
The orthodox eastern philosophies teach that man must become one with God, but I cannot hold to this concept. The individual self of man becomes a coworker of God, not a part of the unity of Him, in the sense of being one with the divine source anyway, for we are dwelling in the body of God, but we have the freedom of movement and of choice inside this framework of the Almighty...
It was thus by a series of articles on the philosophy of Eckankar and on the eccentric personality of the "Cliff Hanger" that Twitchell laid down the public groundwork for Eckankar. Brad Steiger, in his biography of Twitchell, In My Soul I Am Free, asked Paul when he really began to settle down and start to formulate how to spread the message of Eckankar. Answered Twitchell, "probably when my sister Kay Dee died in 1959." In response to Steiger's question on when he changed from being a "Cliff-Hanger" to a spiritual adept, Twitchell replied:
The switchover from the Cliff Hanger to Eck began taking place after I met my present wife, Gail. She insisted that I do something with my knowledge and abilities.
Paul began gaining quite a bit of attention from his articles. The concepts of Bilocation, his Cliff-Hanger philosophy and hints about ECKANKAR apparently struck a strong chord with many people. Edna Rice, at the California Parapsychology Foundation, in San Diego, offered Paul some lecture time, and Paul then began a six-month series of workshops on the art of bilocation.
Although the auditorium where Twitchell gave his lecture series was almost always filled to capacity, it was not his speaking engagements that captured the bulk of his followers. Rather, it was his correspondence courses on Eckankar which attracted most of his devotees (or "chelas" as he called them) to him and his new philosophy.
David also quotes from a few of Paul's early advertisements, which I found interesting, such as this one of Paul's, which he ran in the July/August 1965 issue of Orion Magazine:
Bilocation is the Illuminated Path of the Supreme Consciousness. It is the secret way that all masters use to reach the ultimate of all universes. One must learn the separation of spirit from body by his own volition. It increases awareness, helps solve problems and gives a spiritual insight into one's own akashic records and the hidden worlds. New techniques. For information, write: Paul Twitchell, P.O. Box 13052, San Diego, California 92113.
Later, Twitchell took out full page advertisements in Orion Magazine with his photograph and the headline caption, "ECKANKAR, The Secret Science of Soul Travel." Similar advertisements were also taken out in other occult magazines, including the New Cosmic Star.
Most of this information was generally known in the early days of ECKANKAR, so there isn't anything too surprising here, although it is interesting to see some of Paul's early quotes and activities that led up to when be began teaching ECKANKAR openly. Through this same period, of course, Paul was also writing his well-known series of letters to his future wife, Gail (they were married in 1964.)
Well over 100 letters were later published, that cover the full range of subjects concerning the spiritual life. Paul discussed everything from basic spiritual principles, Mysticism and Magic, Metaphysics, Comparative Religions, Self-Analysis, Creativity and use of Imagination, as well as many of the basic doubts, dilemmas and questions that confront the spiritual seeker.
Gail wrote about these letters in the Foreword to the first published volume:
"Paul knew I was striving for an education. He also knew that the knowledge I needed was not to be found in an ordinary book...Paul taught me that in order to talk with others we must have an open mind and be knowledgeable in many areas."
Thus, we run into October 1965 when Paul officially founded ECKANKAR. David quotes Paul from Brad Steiger's 1967 book on Paul and ECKANKAR, In My Soul I Am Free:
My first out-of-town lecture was at Long Beach, where three gentle ladies, two widows and a spinster came. I decided that I could lecture as well to three as to three hundred. Word began to get around about Eck, so I agreed to write the monthly discourses and to offer instructions by mail. I went from three chelas to thousands in less than three years.
There is only one quote in this chapter from David's book that I think needs correcting. It is a quote from a term paper by Jim Peebles, a fellow classmate of David's, written in 1977:
Eckankar, though it is non-profit, is also quite expensive. The texts, which a devout Eckist is expected to purchase, range in price from $2.00 to $10.00, the average price being around $7.00 (remember there are over twenty texts). . . An Eckist is also required to take at least one set of discourses each year. By purchasing these on a time payment plan he will pay $85.00 for each set (there are seven adult sets now).
David then adds:
Peebles' paper was written in 1977; the prices have since increased considerably.
The problem here is Jim's quote says that ECKists were expected to purchase all twenty ECKANKAR texts, which simply isn't true. Most ECKists are eager to buy many of them, but they have always been free to do so or not. Besides, many of the books have been available through public libraries, as well as lending libraries in many ECK Centers, where they can often be borrowed for free. The only real suggestion here is that newcomers read a few of the books to understand what the spiritual teachings of ECK are all about, before becoming a member of ECKANKAR.
Also, David's comment about the prices increasing considerably seems strange, since in the last 23 years, while the prices of most things have increased more than ten times, the discourses have only doubled. I don't think many would call $130.00 per year for monthly discourses "quite expensive", but even still, this amount is only a suggested donation, and discourses are often sent out for a much smaller amount, or even free, to those who cannot afford the suggested donation.
Aside from this one area of correction, David touches on only one contentious subject in this chapter, and this is only mentioned in passing. He quotes Paul's comments on non-profit organizations from Brad Steiger's book:
There is too much dishonesty among those who try to get tax shelters because they claim to be religious groups. God didn't establish nontaxable foundations, so why should I try to get under such claims? If Eck cannot take care of itself, then it can be of little value to anyone else.
I do not run Eckankar as a non-profit organization. Most people in this line of work do indeed use the Religious non-profit organization provision as an escape clause on their taxes. Eckankar is licensed in the state of Nevada as a business organization. I do this because I feel that it is only proper and fitting that I make my own way instead of trying to get under a tax shelter. It is hard, of course, but I manage to do it.
David then commented as follows:
Twitchell's hard line against tax exempt religious organizations, however, did not last long. Later, under mounting pressure from Eckankar board members, he had Eckankar's original status changed to that of a "non-profit" religious organization.
I believe David is wrong about the pressure from board members, since the Board didn't exist until ECKANKAR became non-profit. However, Paul spoke about this subject a few times in later years, and about his reluctant change to a non-profit organization, which took place July 1, 1970. But, rather than leaving this item open, as David did, following is what Paul said in a talk he gave, about a year later, at the 1971 Youth Training Seminar in Las Vegas:
Back in 1965 and up through '67 into '68, we were working as just individuals. We were taking in a fair amount of income but we were paying a large tax. When Brad Steiger's book came out, we grew 8 or 9 times over our regular income. I could see we were going to have problems with taxes, so we set ourselves up as a corporation, but then I started running into all sorts of headaches. I mean we were taxed by anybody and everybody. We were taxed by the state, the government taxed us, we were taxed by the city and there was another board in the state that put another tax on us.
Then we had to pay withholding tax and FICA, the federal tax that goes with Medicare, and all of these sort of things. All of a sudden I was being a businessman and not a spiritual leader. Half of the day was spent trying to straighten things out with the tax accountants, because I never had the books right. So I hired a secretary and that didn't work out. Then I went into half a dozen different other areas, and all of sudden we had four lawyers and two tax accountants working with us, and I said this is too much. This is too clumsy.
Then we decided, through the insistence of some people, to go into the non-tax or religious non-profit organization. So we set up ECKANKAR, Ancient Science of Soul Travel. And we did this purposely because there were some people who . . . didn't want to donate anything unless they had a tax shelter. So we tried to accommodate them.
In a letter to me, dated September 13, 1987, Harold Klemp offered another view on why Paul changed to the non-profit status:
"The reason Paul abandoned the profit company for bringing out the ECK teachings is that it offered no umbrella of protection for the initiates of local Satsangs to hold classes. Each time they met, a city official could have insisted upon a business license. It took Paul awhile to realize it, but Constitutional protection had long ago been provided for groups of religious teachings, and that was to be a church."
In fact, a few officials did show up at ECKANKAR events a few times before Paul changed ECKANKAR to a non-profit status, usually at the instigation of someone trying to stop ECKANKAR from giving a public talk.
This is obviously one of the areas where Paul had to change his original plans as ECKANKAR began to grow. If anyone ever thought that the whole teaching was all laid out right from the beginning, it should be clear that Paul was continually making changes, adjustments and adding new developments as the movement expanded.
This raises a very interesting point that Paul talked about in a lecture he gave in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 23, 1970. The title of the talk was "Personality and the Message of ECK."
I look back five or six years ago, since the time I started bringing out the teachings of ECK, and I see a change in myself. I see a change in the people who come to study the ECK works. I see a change in many things; in communities, groups and people I meet, and then later meet again. I feel that the personality has grown smaller as the message has grown greater. And I'm always feeling that I personally don't count; I'm just the instrument being used to get the message out.
I say used, and I feel well used at times. The personality pretty well gets battered, bruised and beaten when it tries to get in the way of the message coming out. It gets to the point where the personality feels like it has no place, and this is true. The personality has no place in the works and the message of ECK. Of course, to some extent it has to be there, because after all I'm living in a human body too. And living in a human body, I must have what we call the personality and all the faculties of a human self.
Because of this, I feel there are times when the personality does get in the way, just as I know many times it gets in the way with you, too. So, I hope we can forgive each other when the ego or personality arises, because I know that isn't the real you, and you know that isn't the real me.
In all of this work, we must never forget the human side of life. This is where we are living. We cannot expect to move outside of this physical state of consciousness until we become quite aware of ourself as a person, or as the human. We have to recognize this first, and then we can begin recognizing the finer faculties, the subtleties and finer instincts of life. We can go beyond the human self into the psychic, and then into the Soul self, and beyond this into the God self...
You will find those who have reached great enlightenment all the way across the board from the poorest and the most ignorant, to the greatest in intellect. Take St. Thomas Aquinas, who had one of the greatest minds in all Christendom. He himself had good enlightenment, and yet on the other end of the scale we find those who have been poor and ignorant, such as St. Anthony of the Desert, who had no education. Here is a man who left a record, not in books, but a record of his life that showed he had great enlightenment.
We have writers, like Swedenborg, who was one of the great intellectuals. He wrote in great enlightenment. And yet there is St. Catherine of Sienna, who had no education, yet she was one of the greatest of the Christian world.
So, you begin to wonder how people got this. Each one of these people went beyond the mental world. Omar Khayyam was not an educated man, yet he wrote his Rubaiyat, and what finer piece of poetry can we find in all literature? And yet there was Rumi, another Sufi poet, who was a highly educated man. He held four professorships all at the same time in four different universities, and spent thirty years writing his great poem, "The Song of the Reed." He was one of the Saints with the greatest of enlightenment. We can go all through history and find this.
Now, I was talking about personality a minute ago - well, look at Jalal-uddin Rumi, who, as I said, was one of the greatest of enlightened men. A man who could do out-of-the-body travel, and had numerous accounts of his experiences recorded, yet his personality was always standing in his way. He was a man known as a carouser who frequented taverns. He was a man who took about five thousand pieces of gold when the King of Tiraz [sp?] asked him to be the official poet. He agreed and accepted the money. So, they started out on board a ship, but they had to put back into port when a small storm came up. Rumi didn't like water, so he walked off the ship and said he wouldn't go. Yet when they asked for their money back, he said, "No!" He wasn't giving the money back. He had made the attempt, so he should keep the money.
It makes a funny contradiction when personality gets in the way with all of this, and yet, on the other hand you have this part of the man that is the greatest part. We always look at the little self. This is a mistake the majority of people seeking a path today are making. We have all this recrimination about little things, all the guilt. This is where our attention is put, so we miss this part of us which is the greater part.
We have It, It's here, and all we have to do is transfer the attention from the physical to It. This is the simplicity of it - but doing it is another thing. And this is basically the whole of ECK; trying to teach someone to transfer their attention from the outer - off the physical human side - to the spiritual side, the greater side. Until the individual does this, he is always thinking about the little things that get in his way; all the little problems, all the wrongs he did, and his attention is on the wrong thing.
The problem here is accepting self-responsibility. This is the greatest point being taught in ECK. Each of us must accept where we are today, here and now. The minute we start doing this, we start expanding...All it is is recognition, and the minute we recognize it, the moment we begin to see this as ourselves, we begin to take control of the switchboard and expand from this position where we are, to that position we call the other self, Soul...
This is a very important point that Paul is making. In the beginning, when Paul first started, it was largely his personality and enigmatic philosophy that captured people's attention. But as the message grew and the teachings grew, Paul's personality became less and less important, until, as he says, the personality now really has no place in ECK.
This is where an exposť, such as David's, which focuses on the personality of a spiritual leader creates a distorted picture. While attempting to cut through what some might call the mythology, to discuss only the outer events and recorded facts of the making of a spiritual movement, in effect such a study cuts open the breast of a living thing to find its spark of life. But in the end it only sees the outer form, and misses the amazing paradox that exists in all spiritual teachings.
Jallal-uddin Rumi, the Sufi poet that Paul spoke of, put it this way:
"I am like a smiling garden surrounded by a wall of filth and thorns. Those passing by do not see the garden; they see only the wall and ridicule it. Why then would the garden be angry with them? The critics only hold themselves back, because to reach the garden they must first cross the wall. So by finding fault with the wall, they send themselves far away from the garden and work to their own destruction."
The world's idea of truth seems more like a cartoon story made simple for the masses, presented by so-called authorities for those who don't want to search and decide for themselves what is true or false. It is also a problem of our times, where the focus on personal and human failings has reached an all time high in all matters for all the world's leaders, whoever they might be. No hero seems to be safe from the derision of the masses and the media. The public seems to take great joy in publicly humiliating its leaders by holding them up to standards that are inhuman and preposterous.
But leaders, especially spiritual leaders, do not fit the molds that the masses hold. They are fascinating people that cannot easily be understood. They might appear at times like any man or woman, but they also find themselves involved in events that influence the lives of others. It is easy to reduce their motives to simple human desires, and surely those human desires are there, but this cannot explain what it means to be moved by an inner vision, or to follow a path that can lead far away from the average lives of others.
All leaders, including spiritual leaders, take their places due to strong forces occurring in the inner and outer worlds, from powerful changes that leave most people confused and disoriented. But they, for some reason, understand these forces and see the direction ahead. They capture some essence that most people miss, and they come to represent and portray the qualities that help to align us with the great worldly shifts in consciousness.
Their personal lives cannot explain the influence they have upon us, and their human motives will not help us understand the vision that moved them. What is important is to see how they have carried upon their shoulders the powerful pressures and forces that have brought changes to all of us. Thus they occupy a place in our personal lives because of their roles as leaders. And they become our icons, and symbols in our individual inner worlds.
The personal lives of our leaders are private doors that we have no way of entering. We can study and learn a great deal from these men and women, but these insights will never replace what we gain from trying to glimpse their vision or understand their state of consciousness.
No doubt, there isn't a spiritual teacher who has ever lived that hasn't been the focus of criticism and ridicule. Their lives become mythic, and whether they intentionally created such myths, or they were created after their death, it doesn't matter much, because their mythic quality is a part of the spiritual place they occupy in our lives. Indeed they were but men and women, and not gods, but they have come to take up places within our hearts, and in our inner worlds, and in our private lives. How is it that simple men and women could accomplish this? This is the same question that Paul was asking, and what he was trying to explain.
The fact is that these leaders merely act as representatives of the forces and teachings that they bring into this world. These leaders are not the sources, but only the carriers of the message. God is the source of all, and the end goal of all spiritual teachings. And yet, as the Sufis say, God gives credit to His messengers.
I think these are a few thoughts we should remember when trying to peer into the personal lives of spiritual leaders.
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Copyright © 2000 by Doug Marman