Human Beings have long had the desire to believe in something greater than themselves, so religions have always been around in one form or another. Especially in ancient times they were ways to explain the unexplainable, and the major religions started out as teaching tools, stories that helped people remember some basic truths. Over the centuries they changed and transformed and new ones have sprung up, yet the divide between religion and cult has narrowed. In this series we are going to look at some of the new religions that have emerged in the recent past. Like my mother always said, be informed before you choose your path.
Eckankar is a religion that was founded in Las Vegas by Paul Twitchell in 1965. Meaning “Co-Worker with God” Eckankar is described as the Religion of the Light and Sound of God and it’s Headquarters are now in Chanhassen, Minnesota that includes an outdoor chapel (rather chilly in the winter I imagine). It’s leader is known as the Mahanta, the living ECK Master, who is respected by followers but not to be worshiped. He is a spiritual guide for the ECK believers journey back to God.
One of Scientology’s first “clears,” Twitchell went on to study under the master teacher Kirpal Singh and those of Sant Mat surat shabd yoga, dropping the Indian cultural elements of the teachings when founding Eckankar.
Another word for Holy Spirit or Life Force, ECK teaches that the universe was created by the sound of the Divine. Humans are sparks of God trapped in a cycle of reincarnation but can return to the Divine by having the soul leave the body in full consciousness and travel freely to other planes of reality. Personal experience is emphasized and the use of mantras is integral to their journey.
Students or members of Eckankar are called Chelas’, they practice spiritual exercises at their own pace. Over one hundred different exercises are taught, all designed to give the Chelas’ a greater understanding of themselves and of God. These Spiritual Exercises include meditation, prayer, concentration, mental exercises, mantras, past-life discovery, and conscious dreaming. A central ritual is the chanting of HU, which is viewed as a love song to God.
Dreams are considered an important teaching tool as well. Dream travel is said to serve as the gateway to Soul Travel, the shifting of consciousness to higher states of being. Eckankar is about spiritual liberation, self-realization and God-realization in ones lifetime.
Currently Harold Klemp is the Mahanta and his spiritual name is Wah Z (sounds like a rap name to me) he is the 973rd living ECK master. I know, I know how can he be the 973rd when the religion was founded in 1965? ECKists claim that the foundation of it’s teachings reach back to the beginning of the human race and while Twitchell sourced many teachings both modern and ancient his main influence was Sufism.
Sounds interesting, right? While there are many intriguing things about the religion at the core it appears to be a compilation of other religions including Scientology and Occultism. By the late 1990s 367 ECK centers existed worldwide, 164 in the United States, the estimated membership was around 50,000.
“Since the Living ECK Master is the avatar of the world who has been sent here to take all souls back to their heavenly home again, none can dispute this. Anyone else who makes such false claims is indeed a false prophet in sheep’s clothes. If anyone so makes claims that his teacher has gained the status of mastership that is likewise false.” – Eck Satsang Discourses – 3rd series – P. Twitchell
That is sobering. You’d think that if he is not to be worshiped the ECK master would be a bit more humble.
“The ECK enters into the womb of a virgin, the queen of heaven, who has submitted to the true spirit of the universe. The consciousness of the Mahanta state is planted as the seed, and carefully nurtured in the womb. When the embodiment of flesh is brought into this world, a man-child is born. It starts its unfoldment over a period of years until the state of perfection is reached, in adulthood. Then the chosen one learns that he is the Living ECK Master of his times.” – Shariyat ki Sugmad 1, pg. 111-112, 2nd edition, 10th printing, 1987
Now that sounds familiar, although it’s clear that all the “modern” Mahanta’s did not spring from the womb of a virgin.
One last quote.
” . . . each of those who are ECKists must come to the realization that they each, belong to the chosen race of the superior being. All others are aliens, that is those who have not yet voluntarily taken up the path of ECK. These aliens, as we speak of them, are, in a way, heathens or pagans who have not yet found truth. They are the agents of the Kal, and the enemy of those who are the followers of ECK.” – Paul Twitchell in Illuminated Way Letters–
I have always felt that it’s up to each individual to follow the religion of your choice and I honor everyone’s right to do so, but you don’t have to call me an alien.
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