If you’re lucky, you learn something new every day. I was reading the New York Times Book Review, in this case a review of Lost In The Valley of Death, a look at the life of international backpacking daredevil, Justin Shetler and noted a reference to a religious tradition called Eckankar, which was founded by an American who was, at one time associated with L. Ron Hubbard. So the religious organization’s web site says:
“Paul Twitchell introduced the sacred teachings of Eckankar to the modern world in the mid-1960s.
“Born in Kentucky in the early part of the twentieth century, Paul explored a variety of professions in his early life—writer, promoter, military man. Yet his destiny was guided by an ancient line of spiritual teachers known as the Vairagi ECK Masters.
“The ECK Masters had taught truth since humanity’s earliest history, but without the name Eckankar. While different paths accepted parts of it, they attached their own conditions and interpretations.
“Paul Twitchell’s mission was to gather the scattered fragments of truth and restore them via the body of teachings now known as Eckankar. Paul ventured into a wide range of spiritual traditions under different teachers. He separated the golden threads of wisdom from their cultural trappings.
“A spirited nonconformist, Paul called himself a Cliff Hanger, an individual who lives in a high state of spiritual freedom and self-responsibility. Yet years came and went before his life-changing experience of God-Realization in 1957. In October 1965, he became the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master.
“Eckankar grew from humble beginnings as Paul held workshops, gave lectures, and wrote discourses for spiritual students. At the time of Paul Twitchell’s passing in 1971, Eckankar had become a worldwide spiritual path and organization serving seekers all around the world.”
There’s also a fairly extensive piece at Wikipedia; here’s an excerpt:
Twitchell investigated a number of diverse spiritual movements and became an avid reader of spiritual, philosophical, religious and occult books at the Library. In 1950, he joined Swami Premananda Giri’s Self-Revelation Church of Absolute Monism, an offshoot of Paramahansa Yogananda‘s Self-Realization Fellowship. He lived on the grounds of the church, and edited its periodical, The Mystic Cross. In July 1955 Twitchell was arrested following violent fights with others living in the Swami’s compound. The Swami’s group terminated its relationship with Twitchell. A few months later his wife left him, they formally separated, and she remained in the compound for a short time. Their divorce was finalized in 1960.
Twitchell was initiated into the Surat Shabd Yoga by Kirpal Singh, Master of the Sant Mat group named “Ruhani Satsang,” in October 1955 in Washington, D.C. He immediately became a devoted student of Singh, acknowledged experiences during Initiation and later on wrote to his master of his appearing in Twitchell’s apartment and dictating discourses to him which he would type up and mail to Singh in New Delhi, India. By 1966 reports to Singh that Twitchell was teaching a program very similar to Sant Mat caused a serious disagreement between them which was never repaired. Weeks before Twitchell died he sent a letter to Singh denying he ever saw him as a ‘master,’ denied that he ever received any initiation from Singh because Singh had no power to give initiation, and claiming that Twitchell’s spiritual achievements were gained years before they met. Twitchell also suggested that he never spiritually benefited from his connection with Singh.
However, in December 1963 Twitchell reportedly asked Singh to allow him to dedicate a book, The Tiger’s Fang, in Singh’s name. Twitchell wanted Singh’s help to get it published and sent the manuscript for Singh’s approval. Twitchell never received a positive response from Singh and following their disagreement in 1966 he asked for its return. He published it himself in 1967.
Twitchell’s first known connection with L. Ron Hubbard (also a US Naval Reserve Officer during WW2 and pulp fiction author) was around 1950 during the Dianetics period. He again became involved in the Church of Scientology from about 1956 to 1959, becoming a member of the Church’s staff and one of the first Scientologists to achieve the status of clear it was claimed. Twitchell taught classes, audited others, wrote articles for the magazines, and other activities for Scientology. He made many long term friendships during this time with the exception of Hubbard himself who later, circa 1968, listed Twitchell and Eckankar on their Suppressive Persons/Groups list. Hubbard described Twitchell not as ‘a clear’, as Twitchell always claimed, but as ‘aberrant’.
Read the whole thing: