ECKANKAR, "the religion of light and sound of God," is a variation of the Radha Soami Sant Mat (tradition of the masters), a major religious tradition in the Punjab area of northern India. It was founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell, a former student of Sant Mat Master Kirpal Singh. In 1964 Twitchell moved to San Francisco, California, and began to teach what he considered an advanced form of surat shabd yoga, the Sant Mat system of spiritual disciplines, which allows the student to hear the divine sounds and see the divine light and prepares the student's soul to travel on what are considered the inner planes of reality.
Twitchell claimed that he had come into contact with the Vairagi order of mahabtas (masters) and especially with their representatives Sudar Singh of India and ECK Master Rebazar Tarzs in the Himalayas. In 1965 Twitchell was named the 971st Living ECK Master, the lineage of the order dating back to pre-history. As the ECK master, he wrote a number of books and brought to publication two volumes of the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, the scripture of ECKANKAR. After his death in 1971 he was succeeded by Darwin Gross and then by the current ECK master, Harold Klemp.
ECKANKAR offers a picture of the inner worlds divided into an order of ascending levels through which the student may travel to the realm of God's presence. The student, or chela, is aided in this process by the work of the ECK master, who is believed to be able to meet and assist the student as he or she traverses the planes, especially in the nighttime while sleeping. The many ECK exercises (more than a hundred different techniques are now taught to students at different levels) assist students in their awareness of the planes, and the literature explains what they will encounter at the different levels of the inner reality. To travel the planes it is necessary to be able to see and hear the "divine light and sound."
Devotees of ECKANKAR consider it a living, growing religion headed by a master who continues to bring forth new teachings. Under Harold Klemp, the present ECK master, the organization moved into a new headquarters complex and temple in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The religion is now international in scope, and in 1991 more than ten thousand attended an ECK seminar in Africa.
In the 1980s substantive charges were leveled that Twitchell had fabricated his spiritual career, had plagiarized some of his books from the writings of Julian Johnson, a prominent Sant Mat writer, and had attempted to cover up his early associations with Kirpal Singh and other spiritual teachers. Harold Klemp has largely acknowledged Twitchell's borrowing from Johnson and ECKANKAR's place in the Sant Mat tradition. Several ECKANKAR students have also left to found rival organizations, including Ancient Teachings of the Masters (Darwin Gross), The Divine Science of Light and Sound (Jerry Mulvin), and, most prominently, the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (John-Roger Hinkins). ECKANKAR address: Box 27300, Minneapolis, MN 55427.
Klemp, Harold. Soul Travelers of the Far Country. Minneapolis, Minn.: ECKANKAR, 1987.
Lane, David Christopher. The Making of a Spiritual Movement. Del Mar, Calif.: Del Mar Press, 1983.
Twitchell, Paul. All about ECK. Las Vegas, Nev.: Illuminated Way Press, 1969.
——. ECKANKAR, the Key to Secret Worlds. New York: Lancer Books, 1969.
"Eckankar." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/eckankar
"Eckankar." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved July 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/eckankar
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"Eckankar." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/eckankar
"Eckankar." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved July 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/eckankar