Eckankar is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China. 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 to understanding of self as soul, and development of higher awareness "consciousness" and God.

According to the Eckankar glossary, the term Eckankar means "Co-Worker with God".[1] It is likely drawn from the Sikh 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.[2]

Eckankar's headquarters are in Chanhassen, Minnesota (southwest of Minneapolis). The Eckankar Temple, an outdoor chapel, an administrative building, and the ECK Spiritual Campus are located at this site.



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 founded Eckankar in 1965 and led it until his death in 1971. Darwin Gross then took over leadership, serving until 1981. On October 23, 1981, Harold Klemp became the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master, and is the current spiritual leader of Eckankar.


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.[3] These are attained via "Soul Travel", shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.[4]

Certain mantras are used to facilitate spiritual growth. One important spiritual exercise of Eckankar is the singing or chanting of HU. 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.[5] 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.[6]

Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journals to facilitate study.[7] According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to Soul Travel[8] 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.[9][10]

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.[11] Some of the key beliefs taught in the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad include Soul Travel, karma, reincarnation, love, Light and Sound, 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.[12]

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.[13]

Spiritual leader

Harold Klemp

Sri 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.[14] "He has the ability to act as both the Inner and Outer Master for students of Eckankar."[15] 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.[16] "His teachings lift people and help them understand their own experiences in the Light and Sound of God.".[17] 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."[18]


Although Twitchell founded Eckankar in 1965, ECKists claim that the basis for the Eckankar teachings dates back to the beginning of human life.[19]

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 and a little-known teaching in India called "The Parent Faith". (This is where other light and sound teachings, such as Sant Mat and Surat Shabd Yoga also derived their roots.)[20]

Eckankar headquarters were originally in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under the leadership of Darwin Gross, the organization was moved to Menlo Park, California in 1975. In 1986, Harold Klemp moved the base of operations to Minnesota, where it remains today.[21]

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. 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,[22] the Boy Scouts of America, and many other public institutions.[citation needed]


Primary to the teaching is the belief that soul 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 and reincarnation help to explain situations in life.[23]

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.[24]

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".[25]

Current status

Eckankar's 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) main "Temple of ECK"[26] 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, 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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29]

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,[30] 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 [2], 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 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.[citation needed]

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.[31][32] Other groups created by former ECKists, like Michael Owens' The Way of Truth :: Path to God Realization; Michael Turner's "yahoo group" [33] and Gary Olsen's MasterPath[34] could be seen as organizations that maintain Eckankar-like cosmogonies.[35]

David C. Lane, a philosophy professor, discusses the phenomenon of these numerous related teachers.[36] 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[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Claims of Plagiarism

After Twitchell's death in 1971, David C. Lane published a book [37] 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’s Paths of the Masters).

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

Master Compiler [3]

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.[38] 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.[39] 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."[40][unreliable source?] Twitchell biographer and paranormal researcher Brad Steiger has also written and commended this work as the most researched and authoritative to date on Paul Twitchell.[unreliable source?][41]

Lane has published commentary on Marman's book, reaffirming his view that Twitchell tried to cover up his past associations and plagiarized several authors.[42]


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 by some, including both former members and Christian writers.[43] 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.[44]

See also


  1. ^ A Glossary of ECK Terms
  2. ^ Klemp, Cosmic Sea of Words, 55
  3. ^ Eckankar: Spiritual Exercise of the Week
  4. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.187.
  5. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  6. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  7. ^ Dreams: A Source of Inner Truth
  8. ^ Soul Travel
  9. ^ Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two, 65
  10. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  11. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  12. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59 & p.187 & p.194.
  13. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.177.
  14. ^ Harold Bio Info
  15. ^ Klemp, A Modern Prophet, xii
  16. ^ Harold Stories
  17. ^ Klemp, A Modern Prophet, xii
  18. ^ International Who's Who of Intellectuals
  19. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p. 59.
  20. ^ Marman, Doug. The Whole Truth.
  21. ^ "'Soul Travelers' Move," San Jose Mercury News, 24 August 1986.
  22. ^ US Military approved gravestone markers
  23. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, pp.186-187.
  24. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  25. ^ Highlighted Google page mentioning Eckankar / US Department of State 2008
  26. ^ Eckankar: The Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA
  27. ^ Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers – Burial & Memorials
  28. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.189.
  29. ^ Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words". Eckankar, 2009, p.186.
  30. ^ A Glossary of ECK Terms
  31. ^ The Truth Seeker
  32. ^ Higher Consciousness Society
  33. ^ Spiritual Freedom Satsang
  34. ^ MasterPath: Light and Sound is the Cutting Edge of Spirituality
  35. ^ Klemp,Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words".Eckankar, 2009, p.59.
  36. ^ Introduction
  37. ^ [1]
  38. ^
  39. ^ Marman, The Whole Truth
  40. ^ Spiritual Dialogs
  41. ^ Spiritual Dialogs
  42. ^ master index
  43. ^ Internet Church of Christ – List of Cults and Religions N-Z
  44. ^ Meet Harold Klemp


  • Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words, The Eckankar Lexicon." Minneapolis, MN: ECKANKAR,1998, ISBN 978-1-57043-307-8.
  • Klemp, Harold. "A Modern Prophet Answers Your Key Questions about Life." Minneapolis, MN: ECKANKAR, 2010, ISBN 1-57043-142-6.
  • Marman, Doug. (2007) The Whole Truth, The Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell', Ridgefield. WA: Spiritual Dialogs Project. ISBN 978-0-9793260-0-4
  • Twitchell, Paul. (1988). "The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two", Minneapolis, MN: Eckankar.
  • Klemp, Harold. "A Cosmic Sea of Words, The ECKANKAR Lexicon". Minneapolis, MN: ECKANKAR, 2009, ISBN 978-1-57043-286-6

External links

Plagiarism discussion

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Eckankar — (est. 1965)    Eckankar or ECK, the “Religion of the Light and Sound of God,” was founded in 1965 by former journalist Paul Twitchell (c. 1909–70). During the 1950s Twitchell became a student of numerous esoteric and spiritual movements. He… …   Encyclopedia of Hinduism

  • ECKANKAR — ▪ religion       a Westernized version of the Punjabi Sant Mat or Radha Soami Satsang (Rādhā Soāmi Satsaṅg) spiritual tradition. ECKANKAR was founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell (c. 1908–71).       The Sant Mat tradition was established by Param… …   Universalium

  • Eckist — Eckankar Logo Eckankar (Religion von Licht und Ton Gottes) ist eine weltweite neue religiöse Bewegung, die sich als Urreligion versteht und auf den Prinzipien des Karma und der Reinkarnation basiert. Die Lehre wurde 1965 von dem US Amerikaner… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Paul Twitchell — Eckankar Eckankar est un groupe spirituel qui se défini comme religion de la lumière et du son de Dieu . Paul Twitchell, n est pas le réel fondateur du mouvement Eckankar. Il est né dans le Kentucky au début du XXe siècle; voir les liens suivants …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Harold Klemp — (b. 1942, Wisconsin US) is the spiritual leader of Eckankar, Religion of the Light and Sound of God . He holds the titles of Mahanta (spiritual leader) and Living ECK Master. Eckists (followers of Eckankar) believe he is the 973rd Living Eck… …   Wikipedia

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  • Paul Twitchell — (d. 1971) was an American spiritual writer, author and founder (or modern founder) of the teaching Eckankar. As the Mahanta (the Living ECK Master) of his time, from 1965 until his death in 1971, he uncovered what Eckists (members of Eckankar)… …   Wikipedia

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