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Eckankar

Eckankar

Overview
Eckankar is a new religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

 founded in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal experience of this spiritual Light and Sound is a primary goal of the teaching. It claims to provide a personal, unique and individual spiritual inner path
Inner path
Inner path, in its generic meaning, is any sort of path that is "turned inward" or is contrasted with an "outer path".- Spiritual or religious :Inner path, as a spiritual or religious concept, is referred to in:* Spiritual paths...

 to understanding of self as soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

, and development of higher awareness "consciousness" and God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

.

According to the Eckankar glossary
Glossary
A glossary, also known as an idioticon, vocabulary, or clavis, is an alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms...

, the term Eckankar means "Co-Worker with God".
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Encyclopedia
Eckankar is a new religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

 founded in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal experience of this spiritual Light and Sound is a primary goal of the teaching. It claims to provide a personal, unique and individual spiritual inner path
Inner path
Inner path, in its generic meaning, is any sort of path that is "turned inward" or is contrasted with an "outer path".- Spiritual or religious :Inner path, as a spiritual or religious concept, is referred to in:* Spiritual paths...

 to understanding of self as soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

, and development of higher awareness "consciousness" and God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

.

According to the Eckankar glossary
Glossary
A glossary, also known as an idioticon, vocabulary, or clavis, is an alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms...

, the term Eckankar means "Co-Worker with God". It is likely drawn from the Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 term, Ik Onkar. Since 1985 followers of Eckankar have described it as "The Religion of the Light and Sound of God". Prior to 1985, Eckankar was known as "The Ancient Science of Soul Travel".

ECK is another word for the Holy Spirit, also known as the Audible Life Current, Life Force, or Light and Sound of God.

Eckankar's headquarters are in Chanhassen
Chanhassen, Minnesota
Chanhassen is a city in Carver and Hennepin counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is southwest of Minneapolis. The population was 22,952 at the 2010 census....

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 (southwest of Minneapolis). The Eckankar Temple, an outdoor chapel
Chapel
A chapel is a building used by Christians as a place of fellowship and worship. It may be part of a larger structure or complex, such as a church, college, hospital, palace, prison or funeral home, located on board a military or commercial ship, or it may be an entirely free-standing building,...

, an administrative building, and the ECK Spiritual Campus are located at this site.

History


The leader of Eckankar is known as the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master. According to Eckankar doctrine, the Living ECK Master is respected, but not worshiped, by followers of Eckankar and is seen as a spiritual guide for their own spiritual progress. Paul Twitchell
Paul Twitchell
Paul Twitchell was an American spiritual writer, author and founder of the group known as Eckankar. He is accepted by the members of that group as the Mahanta, or Living ECK Master of his time. He directed the development of the group through to the time of his death...

 founded Eckankar in 1965 and led it until his death in 1971. Darwin Gross
Darwin Gross
Darwin Gross was an American spiritual teacher who succeeded to the leadership of Eckankar in 1971 at the death of its founder Paul Twitchell. Gross officially took up the position of "Living ECK Master" on October 22, 1971 and appointed his successor Harold Klemp as Living Eck Master on October...

 then took over leadership, serving until 1981. On October 23, 1981, Harold Klemp
Harold Klemp
Harold Klemp is the spiritual leader of Eckankar, Religion of the Light and Sound of God. He holds the titles of Mahanta and Living ECK Master. Eckists believe he is the 973rd Living Eck Master in an unbroken line of Masters...

 became the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master, and is the current spiritual leader of Eckankar.

Teachings


One of the basic tenets is that Soul (the true self) can leave the body in full consciousness and travel freely in other planes of reality. Eckankar emphasizes personal spiritual experiences as the most natural way back to God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. These are attained via "Soul Travel", shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.

Certain mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s are used to facilitate spiritual growth. One important spiritual exercise of Eckankar is the singing or chanting of HU
Hu (Sufism)
Hu or Huwa is a name for God in Sufism. Literally: He. God. In Sufism Hu or Huwa is the pronoun used with Allah or God, and is used as a name of God...

. The HU has been used in the Sufi and other traditions, and is viewed as a "love song to God". It is pronounced like the word "hue" in a long, drawn-out breath, and is sung for about 20 minutes. ECKists sing it alone or in groups. ECKists believe this practice allows the student to step back from the overwhelming input of the physical senses and emotions and regain Soul's spiritually higher viewpoint.

Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journal
Dream journal
A dream journal is a journal in which dream experiences are recorded. A dream journal might include a record of nightly dreams, personal reflections and waking dream experiences. It is often used in the study of dreams and psychology. Dream journals are also used by people trying to lucid dream....

s to facilitate study. According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to Soul Travel or the shifting of one's consciousness to ever-higher states of being.

Eckankar teaches that "spiritual liberation" in one's lifetime is available to all and that it is possible to achieve Self-Realization (the realization of oneself as Soul) and God-Realization (the realization of oneself as a spark of God) in one's lifetime. The membership card for Eckankar states: "The aim and purpose of Eckankar has always been to take Soul by Its own path back to Its divine source."

The emphasis has shifted away from out-of-body experiences to expansion of awareness through experiencing God's love in everyday matters. The final spiritual goal of all ECKists is to become conscious "Co-workers" with God.

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, which means "Way of the Eternal", is the holy scripture of Eckankar. The Shariyat, as ECKists call it, is a set of two books that tell of spiritual meaning and purpose as written by the Mahanta, the current head of Eckankar. Some of the key beliefs taught in the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad include Soul Travel, karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

, love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

, Light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 and Sound
Sound
Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.-Propagation of...

, and many other spiritual topics. ECKists believe Sugmad is the endless source from which all forms were created, and that the ECK, the Sound Current, flows out of Sugmad and into lower dimensions.

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad is a set of two books and may now be considered scripture of Eckankar, however there are also a series of 'Satsang' writings, that are available with yearly membership in Eckankar. There are Satsang classes available to study discourses with others, as well as individually.

Harold Klemp


Sri
Sri
Sri , also transliterated as Shri or Shree or shre is a word of Sanskrit origin, used in the Indian subcontinent as polite form of address equivalent to the English "Mr." in written and spoken language, or as a title of veneration for deities .-Etymology:Sri has the root meaning of radiance, or...

 Harold Klemp is currently the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master. His spiritual name is Wah Z. Eckankar always has a living master. Harold Klemp has authored numerous books, articles and discourses about the teachings of ECK. Audio and video recordings are available of his talks. He grew up on a Wisconsin farm and attended divinity school. In the 1960s he began studying the teachings of ECK. After years of rigorous spiritual training he became the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master in 1981. "He has the ability to act as both the Inner and Outer Master for students of Eckankar." Many students of Eckankar report uplifting and life changing encounters with the inner Master, Wah Z, through dreams, spiritual exercises, soul travel experiences, and other means. "His teachings lift people and help them understand their own experiences in the Light and Sound of God.". His teachings have helped people around the world find greater spiritual freedom and love. "As the Living ECK Master, Harold Klemp is responsible for the continued evolution of the Eckankar teachings."

Origins


Although Twitchell founded Eckankar in 1965, ECKists claim that the basis for the Eckankar teachings dates back to the beginning of human life.

According to Doug Marman, Twitchell sourced many modern and ancient religious teachings in his creation of the Eckankar Teaching, but the main sources appear to be Sufism
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 and a little-known teaching in India called "The Parent Faith". (This is where other light and sound teachings, such as Sant Mat
Sant Mat
Sant Mat was a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent from about the 13th century...

 and Surat Shabd Yoga
Surat Shabd Yoga
Surat Shabd Yoga or Surat Shabda Yoga is a form of spiritual practice that is followed in the Sant Mat and many other related spiritual traditions...

 also derived their roots.)

Eckankar headquarters were originally in Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Nevada and is also the county seat of Clark County, Nevada. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, and fine dining. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous...

, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

. Under the leadership of Darwin Gross, the organization was moved to Menlo Park
Menlo Park, California
Menlo Park, California is a city at the eastern edge of San Mateo County, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the United States. It is bordered by San Francisco Bay on the north and east; East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Stanford to the south; Atherton, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 in 1975. In 1986, Harold Klemp moved the base of operations to Minnesota, where it remains today.

Eckankar was founded as a business; however, the Panel of Administrators urged Twitchell to conform to usual standards, and the teaching was later registered as a non-profit organization
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

. Eighteen years later, in 1983, Harold Klemp changed it to a recognized religious institution. Currently, Eckankar is accepted as a religion by the U.S. Army, the Boy Scouts of America, and many other public institutions.

Beliefs


Primary to the teaching is the belief that soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

 can leave the body (soul travel) and explore the inner planes of creation in the physical world and in the dream state. Also, the concepts of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 and reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 help to explain situations in life.

The soul is seen as the true self in that it is housed in a physical body. The physical body then uses the mind and emotions to become aware of who and what they are. When one sleeps, it is believed that the soul can leave the body and return at will, once it learns how. Dreams are seen as very important, with books such as The Art of Spiritual Dreaming forming part of over thirty books available for all people and Eckankar students alike (Chelas).

The beliefs that individuals are responsible for their own destiny and that their decisions determine their future are important concepts to contemplate. Eckankar students meet in open public services and classes to discuss personal experiences, topics, books and discourses. ECKists do not proselytize, and seem to attract membership from those who find confirmation of personal experiences and understandings after reading the books, discussing with a member, or seeing a video available to the public.

According to the U.S. Department of State (International Religious Freedom Report for Côte d'Ivoire 2008), the current Nigerian branch of Eckankar describes its beliefs as "a syncretistic religion founded in 1965 in Nigeria that sees human passion as an obstacle to uniting a person's divine qualities".

Current status


Eckankar's 50000 square feet (4,645.2 m²) main "Temple of ECK" was dedicated in Chanhassen, Minnesota on October 22, 1990. As of late 2007, the largest capacity Eckankar Temple was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, with a total capacity of 10,000.

Eckankar has produced over sixty books, videos, CDs, and tapes on a variety of spiritual topics. Members receive discourses, and they are invited to study at home or in the company of other members in Eckankar Satsang classes. Eckankar does not attempt to convert individuals. They do, however, advertise their presence and distribute literature to interested persons.

The Eckankar "EK" symbol appears on the list of Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ceremonies and rites


There are few personal requirements to be an ECKist; however, certain spiritual practices are recommended. Chief among these is daily practice of the "Spiritual Exercises of ECK" for 15–20 minutes a day. The most basic ECK spiritual exercise is singing the word "HU", an ancient name for God (also known and practiced in Sufism), for upliftment and spiritual experiences. A wide variety of spiritual exercises are offered, and members are encouraged to create their own. There are no dietary requirements, taboos, or enforced ascetic practices. Eckankar does not require potential members to leave their current faith to join.

There are a number of ceremonies an ECKist can experience as part of the teaching:
  • ECK Consecration Ceremony : Celebrating the entrance of the young and infant into Eckankar, and new life in the Light and Sound of God.
  • ECK Rite of Passage : Celebrating the passage from youth into adulthood, usually around thirteen.
  • ECK Wedding Ceremony : Celebrating the marriage bond as two ECKists commit their lives to one another before God.
  • ECK Memorial Service : Honors the journey of Soul and welcomes It into the worlds beyond the physical.


In Eckankar's original form, the Consecration Ceremony, Rite of Passage, and Memorial Service did not exist. Sri Harold Klemp, the Living ECK Master, added them later. Eckankar now is referred to as a religion with ceremonies mirroring more mainstream religions.

ECKists celebrate a spiritual new year on October 22. There is no organizational celebration of personal anniversaries, such as birthdays of the leaders.

ECK Masters


ECKists believe contact with Divine Spirit, which they call the ECK, can be made via the spiritual exercises of ECK and the guidance of the living ECK Master. It is held that the ECK Masters are here to serve all life irrespective of religious belief. The main Eckankar website offers this list of Masters: Official Eckankar Masters List
  1. Gopal Das
  2. Fubbi Quantz
  3. Kata Daki
  4. Lai Tsi
  5. Paul Twitchell
  6. Rami Nuri
  7. Rebazar Tarzs
  8. Towart Managi
  9. Yaubl Sacabi

Membership costs


Currently, a one-year membership for an individual and children living in the same household is a donation of $130 per year. A one-year family membership (for a couple and all children) is a donation of $160.

Since members are not forced to donate, there is no cost for membership.

Related groups


Groups such as ATOM and Dhunami http://www.dhunami.org/, claiming to carry on the original teachings of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, were created by Darwin Gross (now deceased) and Paul Marché respectively. John Roger's Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness
Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness
The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness is a 501 non-profit religious corporation, incorporated in California on June 25, 1971. Before incorporation, the group was founded in California in 1968 by John-Roger...

 appears to have split from the main body of Eckankar. Gross and Marché have made this public while Roger denies any connection to Eckankar beyond having once been a student of Paul Twitchell.

More recently, former ECKist Ford Johnson formed a spiritual organization based on the idea that one does not need a master or spiritual guru to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Other groups created by former ECKists, like Michael Owens' The Way of Truth :: Path to God Realization;
Michael Turner's "yahoo group" and Gary Olsen's MasterPath could be seen as organizations that maintain Eckankar-like cosmogonies.

David C. Lane
David C. Lane
David Christopher Lane is a professor of philosophy and sociology at Mt. San Antonio College, in Walnut, California. He is most notable for exposing Eckankar as a cult and its founder, Paul Twitchell, as a plagiarist in his book The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul...

, a philosophy professor, discusses the phenomenon of these numerous related teachers. Lane suggests these might be seen more traditionally as an organic continuum or an historical school of "American Shabd" teachings, rather than a "splintering" of any movement. Lane is already distinguished in this particular subject for his research from the late 1990s concerning perceptions of distortions, plagiarism and concealment involving author Paul Twitchell during the first three decades of Eckankar's existence.

The current leader of Eckankar has stated that members should feel free to leave Eckankar unbounded by guilt or fear.

Claims of Plagiarism


After Twitchell's death in 1971, David C. Lane
David C. Lane
David Christopher Lane is a professor of philosophy and sociology at Mt. San Antonio College, in Walnut, California. He is most notable for exposing Eckankar as a cult and its founder, Paul Twitchell, as a plagiarist in his book The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul...

 published a book that claimed some of Twitchell's Eckankar books contained passages from other authors' books without proper citation. Lane claims Twitchell's The Far Country contains plagiarism (of Julian Johnson
Julian Johnson
Julian P. Johnson was an American surgeon and author of several books on Eastern spirituality. He spent much of the 1930s in India, is most closely associated with the Radha Soami movement and Surat Shabd Yoga, and wrote four volumes as a result of his experiences.The writings of Paul Twitchell,...

’s Paths of the Masters).

Eckankar states that Twitchell's role was that of "master compiler", saying;


Master Compiler http://www.eckankar.org/Masters/Peddar/writings.html



The high teachings of ECK had been scattered to the four corners of the world. The different masters each had parts and pieces of it, but they attached little requirements, or strings, to it: You must be a vegetarian, or you have to meditate so many hours a day if you want to really be a true follower on the path to God. And this was wrong for our day and age. It was geared for another culture.


Paul gathered up the whole teaching and took the best. Though it may be a strange thing to say, in this sense I see him as a master compiler. He gathered the golden teachings that were scattered around the world and made them readily available to us. So now we don't have to feel that we must spend ten or fifteen years in an ashram in India, sitting around in the dust with the flies, or locked in a walled-up little cell to keep our attention from the outside world, in order to live the spiritual life.



In 2007, Doug Marman, an Eckankar High Initiate, published The Whole Truth, a biography of Paul Twitchell, refuting these claims made by Lane. The information is highly detailed and examines the criticisms point by point through verifiable historical references. Marman also examines the rarity of respectful dialog in an age of criticism. In relation to this book, Twitchell's widow, Gail Twitchell, has written "...finally, someone got the whole thing right ... Paul's work [put in] in the proper perspective." Twitchell biographer and paranormal researcher Brad Steiger
Brad Steiger
Brad Steiger is an American author who has written or co-written over 170 books, a number of which focus on paranormal subjects.-Childhood:...

 has also written and commended this work as the most researched and authoritative to date on Paul Twitchell.

Lane has published commentary on Marman's book, reaffirming his view that Twitchell tried to cover up his past associations and plagiarized several authors.

Criticism


Internet communities of disgruntled ex-members and critics, such as the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.eckankar, include criticisms dating back more than ten years. Eckankar has been labeled a cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 by some, including both former members and Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 writers. Eckankar does not label itself this way and defines cult as the worship of a personality. ECK Masters are given respect but not worship by members of Eckankar.

See also

  • Contemporary Sant Mat movement
  • Sri Darwin Gross
  • Ik Onkar
  • Karma
    Karma
    Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

  • Sri Harold Klemp
  • Radha Soami
    Radha Soami
    Radhasoami is a philosophical organization originating in 19th century India, and considered by adherents as a true way to attain God realization...

  • Reincarnation
    Reincarnation
    Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

  • Sant Mat
    Sant Mat
    Sant Mat was a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent from about the 13th century...

  • Surat Shabd Yoga
    Surat Shabd Yoga
    Surat Shabd Yoga or Surat Shabda Yoga is a form of spiritual practice that is followed in the Sant Mat and many other related spiritual traditions...


External links



Plagiarism discussion