Religion of the Light and Sound of God
The following terms are trademarks owned by Eckankar: ECKANKAR, ECK, EK, MAHANTA,
SOUL TRAVEL and VAIRAGI.
Eckankar is a unique religious and spiritual path, sometimes called the Religion of
the Light and Sound of God. Its name can be translated " co-worker with
God". Eckankar members are called ECKists or ECK chelas.
("Chelas" means "student").
Eck teachings have ancient roots. Unfortunately much knowledge was lost to history
until Paul Twitchell (Paulji) rediscovered it. He founded Eckankar in 1965 and established
it as a non-profit religious organization in 1970. Details of Twitchell's life are
obscure: his date of birth has been listed variously as 1908, 1912 and 1922. Eckankar
followers believe that he studied under two Eck Masters: Sudar Singh in
Paris and India, and a elderly monk Rebazar Tarzs in Tibet. They believe that he
received the title of the 971st Eck Master from Tarzs in 1965, thus becoming the latest in
a series of Masters which began before recorded history. Some of the past Masters are
known historical figures; most have been solitary practitioners or have taught small
groups. Paul Twitchell apparently gained additional knowledge from Kirpal Singh, an
Eastern Guru, founder of the Ruhani Satsang movement.
After Paul Twitchell's death in 1971, Darwin Gross, the 972nd Eck Master became
the Mahanta of Eckankar. (A Mahanta is the spiritual leader of Eckankar, a "living
manifestation of God"). Subsequently, Sri Harold Klemp (1942-) became the
973rd Eck Master in 1981; he now heads the movement as its Mahanta.
Eckankar currently has over 50,000 members, who live in over 100 countries. They
maintain facilities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. The main
spiritual center is the Temple of ECK, located in Chanhassen, MN near
Minneapolis-St. Paul. A public reading room, chapel, fellowship hall, classrooms and
administration offices are located on the same site. They publish a periodical, the Eckankar
||Sugmad is a sacred name of God. God is perceived as neither male nor female.|
||An ECK Current connects every person with the Heart of Sugmad. It flows from the
Creator to the lower levels of existence and then returns to God. It is often called the Holy
Spirit. ECK manifests itself in two forms:
||an "Inner Sound", the "Voice of God calling us home".
The Sound may be present as a sound of nature or as music.
||an "Inner Light which is a beacon to light our way". During spiritual
exercises, the light sometimes materializes as "brightness or colors on your inner
||Eckankar believes in the duality of the soul and body. The soul is the inner, most
sacred part of an individual. It is eternal, without beginning or end. It lives only in
the present. One's soul can exist and travel separately from the body and even from the
||A person is capable of exploring other planes of existence, through Soul Travel.
Unlike "Astral Projection" which is taught by other spiritual traditions, Soul
Travel is not limited to the Astral Plane; it allows you to go further and explore any of
the God worlds.|
||Among the 11 worlds there are 5 lower (psychic or material) and 6 upper (spiritual)
planes. Each has a regular name; a classical name; an associated sound and light; a Temple
of Golden Wisdom and a guardian. The lower planes are:
||Physical plane: the coarsest material level
||Astral plane: the "source of human emotion, psychic phenomena, ghosts and UFO's".
||Causal plane: where memories of previous lives are stored
||Mental plane: which contains the source of ethics, moral teachings and philosophy
||Etheric plane: this is the boundary with the higher worlds. It is the source of the "subconscious
and primitive thoughts".
Before entering the spiritual levels, the chela (student) discards their mind
and continues in their Tuza (soul).
||Eckankar has a concept of Karma which is somewhat similar to that found in Hinduism. Through attachment to the five passions (anger,
greed, lust, undue attachment to the physical world and vanity) one's bad karma
accumulates. This requires a person to be reincarnated at death, in order have an
opportunity to work off the debt of karma in their next life. The goal of Eckists is to
pay off all of this accumulated debt and achieve Self-Realization in their present life.
Once this state is reached, at death one need not return and spend another lifetime on
earth. One is freed from the endless cycles of reincarnation.|
||Eckankar is regarded by its followers as the best (but not the only) path to
God-realization. Christianity is recognized as an alternative path that can aid a follower
to achieve a degree of enlightenment. Christians, and others, may join Eckankar without
renouncing their existing religion.|
||Eckankar does not attempt to evangelize the world by aggressively converting individuals
to their religion. They do not actively proselytize. However, they do advertise their
presence and distribute literature to interested persons.
||Members generally sing or chant a mantra for 20 to 30 minutes each day. HU
(pronounced "hue") is a common mantra; it is an ancient name for God, and is
considered a love song to God.
||Various spiritual exercises are promoted by the organization: chanting, contemplation,
meditation, singing, trance work and visualization techniques are used to achieve soul
travel. Travel during dreams is an area of growing importance in the movement. Dreams are
regarded as an important teaching tool; a "look into the heavenly worlds".
Members are urged to keep a dream journal to facilitate study.
||Worship Services consist of a readings, singing "HU", silent contemplation and
an open discussion. It "may also include music, group singing and talks".
||Initiations mark an individual's spiritual progress within Eckankar. At the Second
Initiation, one makes a personal commitment. At the fifth initiation, one becomes a Mahdis
(High Initiate) and a member of the ECK clergy.
||Members who have reached the Second Initiation are urged to conduct a partial or full
fast each Friday.
||Eckankar considers abortion, divorce, sexual orientation, and a decision to terminate
life to be personal matters. They discourage the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
Many followers are active in a community service.
Shariyat-Ki-Sugmand is the Eckankar Scripture. Paul Twitchell wrote many books
including Eckkankar, The Key to Secret Worlds, Consciousness, The Key to Life, and Stranger
by the River.
Criticism of Eckankar
Like all successful religions which deviate from traditional conservative Christianity,
Eckankar has attracted its share of critics. Most published opposition comes from the Anti-cult and Counter-cult movements. A
book by David C. Lane accuses Twitchell of covering up his past, lying about his
age an copying his material from other religions. In response, Doug Marman published a "Dialogue
in the Age of Criticism," and later updated it as "The Whole Truth, The
Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell." They analyze Lane's book and finds "that the
picture David tries to paint of Paul Twitchell and ECKANKAR is off base, with a
few elements of truth mixed in." See:
Amazon.com's online bookstore lists the following books on Eckankar:
If you see a generic Amazon ad here, please click on your browser's refresh key
Internet and communication references:
||Eckankar maintains a home page, which describes the religion, has an audio clip of
chanting and offers free information.
||They have a toll free number accessible from the US and Canada at 800-LOVE-GOD
(800-568-3463). They suggest that you ask for Dept. 151.
||The postal address is ECKANKAR Spiritual Center, P.O. Box 2000,
Chanhassen, MN 55317-2000. Their telephone is (952) 380-2222 weekdays, 8:00
a.m. to 5:00 p.m., CT. Fax is (952) 380-2196.
||A welcome WWW site for newsgroup alt.religion.eckankar is at:
||Tod Cramer & Doug Munson, "Eckankar: Ancient Wisdom for Today",
Eckankar, Minneapolis MN (1993).|
||Sri Harold Klemp:|
||"The Spiritual Exercises of ECK". It lists 131
||"The Dream Master". It teaches how to become more
aware of the meaning of dreams.
||"The Eternal Dreamer, The Golden Heart, How to Find God," Mahanta
Transcripts, Books 7, 4 and 2.
||D.C. Lane, "The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul
Twitchell and Eckankar", Del Mar Press, Del Mar, CA. Excerpts of this negative
portrayal of Eckankar can be seen at:
||Doug Marman, "The Whole Truth, The Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell."
||G.A. Mather & L.A. Nichols, "Dictionary of Cults, Sects,
Religions and the Occult", Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI (1993), P. 96-99|
||R.E. Olson, "Eckankar: From Ancient Science of Soul Travel to New
Age Religion", Article in T. Miller, Ed, "America's Alternative
Religions" , SUNY Press, Albany NY (1995), P. 364-370|
Copyright 1998 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-JUL-30
Author: B.A. Robinson