Paul Twitchell

Paul Twitchell

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) call the ancient science of Eckankar through several books and lectures; some have charged that he invented the religion. His spiritual name is believed by Eckists to be Peddar Zaskq.


Birth and early life

Much of Twitchell's life is shrouded in controversy and uncertainty. His birth date has been disputed; his widow Gail believed he was born in 1922, as evident by his death certificate, but Twitchell himself once claimed his birth year was 1912, and Twitchell's successors, Darwin Gross and Harold Klemp, later estimated that Twitchell was probably born in 1812 (Gross' estimate, implying Twitchell lived for more than a century), or in 1908 or 1910 (Klemp's estimates). Author Ford Johnson, on the other hand, has sided with 1909, based on census information. [Johnson, Ford. "Confessions of a God Seeker: A Journey to Higher Consciousness." "One" Publishing, Inc., 2003, pp. 97, 101-102.] The 1910 Census indicates that Twitchell was six months old in April 1910. Twitchell's birth certificate (registered in 1941) says that he was born 22 October 1912. [Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Volume 110, Certificate Number 54564] The young Paul was probably born in Paducah, Kentucky, although this, too, has been disputed.

In his later life, Twitchell attended Murray State College and Western Kentucky University in the 1930s but never graduated from either. [Johnson, 98.] He married for the first time in 1942. [Johnson, 100.] During the 1960s he lived in California, with his second wife, Gail Atkinson. He pursued a spiritual education under the inspiration of Kirpal Singh, but after a correspondence by mail, during which Kirpal Singh critiqued Twitchell's work, Twitchell rejected his teachings. [Johnson, 91-92.]

Role in Eckankar

Some people believe it was actually Gail's idea that Twitchell adapt some of his spiritual education into a new religion, Eckankar. [Johnson, 94.] (Gail broke from the religion in the early 1980s, publicly denouncing Eckankar as an invention, although Twitchell had claimed the religion was ancient). [Johnson, 226.] While at first Twitchell claimed his teachings were new, he soon reversed that position and called them an ancient science, and even claimed they were older than all other religions, and had spawned all other religions. [Johnson, 93-94.] Indeed, in his book "Eckankar: The Key to Secret Worlds", Twitchell claimed he received aid in uncovering Eckankar from the spirit of a predecessor ECK master, Rebazar Tarzs. After the religion was founded or uncovered, Twitchell then turned to writing for magazines, and in that position gave out spiritual advice, claiming to communicate with God about the problems of those who wrote to him. He also attempted prophesy, predicting that the Vietnam War would end in 1968 and that Lyndon Johnson would be elected US President for a second time. Many of his answers were concluded with the words "I HAVE SPOKEN!" [Johnson, 180-181.]


Twitchell died of a heart attack in 1971. His death, like his life, was not free of controversy. Some Eckists, including the prominent member Louis Bluth, believed his death was necessary; it was claimed Twitchell had defied the ECK masters of the past. Additionally, many Eckists came to question Twitchell's honesty after his death, since he had predicted that he would continue to lead the faith for another decade and a half. The death was also problematic because Twitchell did not have a chance to name his successor. His widow, Gail, eventually selected Darwin Gross, whom she later married. According to Gail, Gross was indeed Paul Twitchell's choice, as he had visited her in a dream to give his endorsement. [Johnson, 221-223.]

As a writer

Twitchell had tried, earlier in life, to be a poet and a novelist, but made insufficient income. However he had several works published and many more pubished later by Eckankar. [ Doug Marman, 2005] Additionally, the mail he had sent to Kirpal Singh was published as the book "The Tiger's Fang". [Johnson, 207, 91.] Twitchell told biographer, Brad Steiger, that he expected "The Tiger's Fang" to be controversial, having announced that it "would shake the foundation of the teachings of orthodox religions, philosophies, and metaphysical concepts." Twitchell even claimed to have been informed that the Pope saw the book and "was greatly disturbed by it, perhaps to the point of condemning it." [Steiger, Brad. "In My Soul I Am Free." Eckankar: 1968, p. 60, ISBN 0-914766-11-2.]

David C. Lane is a critic of Eckankar who believes that Twitchell plagiarized much of his work from the writings of Julian Johnson, Kirpal Singh, and others. However, according to Doug Marman's online publication "Dialogue in the Age of Criticism", Twitchell was praised for his work--even prior to starting Eckankar, and he had supporters of his work as a writer. Marman presents information that challenges the critiques of David C. Lane and Ford Johnson by presenting examples such as the Paduducah, Kentucky Library among others for historical reference related to Twitchell's career and personal information. [] Lane's thesis and his debates with Eckists and Eckankar officials are available online as well as Doug Marman's critques of David C. Lanes findings.

Additional comments

Some have pointed out that critics of Twitchell's work have benefited from such criticism. Although Twitchell has been criticized for starting a religion, such critics including Ford Johnson who is referenced, have started spiritual organizations of their own, such as The Higher Consciousness Society as outlined in Johnson's Wikipedia article, in which they accept donations to proliferate their own particular school of thought. So the neutrality of the criticism of Twitchell has been brought to light by those who support his work and have respect for Twitchell as a writer. The debates about Twitchell and his life continue to be of interest to those who study such work.


*Twitchell, Paul (1967) "The Tiger's Fang", Illuminated Way Press, ISBN 0-914766-17-1
*Twitchell, Paul (1988) "Dialogues with the Master", Illuminated Way Publishing, Inc.; ISBN 0-914766-78-3
*Twitchell, Paul (1969) "Eckankar: The Key to Secret Worlds," Forward by Brad Steiger. Illuminated Way Press, ISBN 1-57043-154-X
*Twitchell, Paul (1978) Letters to Gail, Volume 1, Eckankar, ISBN 1-122-54173-2
*Twitchell, Paul (1977) "Letters to Gail, volume II," Illuminated Way Publishing Inc., ISBN 0-914766-33-3
*Twitchell, Paul (1971) "Herbs: The Magic Healers," Eckankar, Library of Congress Catalog Number: 86-80814
*Twitchell, Paul (1972) "The Eck-Vidya Ancient Science of Prophecy", ISBN 1-57043-030-6
*Twitchell, Paul (1999) "Stranger by the River", Eckankar ISBN 1-57043-136-1
*Twitchell, Paul (1988) "Far Country", Illuminated Way Pub., ISBN 0-914766-91-0
*Twitchell, Paul (1998) "Sharyat Ki-Sugmad Book I", Eckankar, ISBN 1-57043-048-9
*Twitchell, Paul (1998) "The Spiritual Notebook", Eckankar, 1998, ISBN 1-57043-037-3
*Twitchell, Paul (1999) "The Flute of God", Eckankar; ISBN 1-57043-032-2
*Twitchell, Paul (1999) "Sharyat Ki-Sugmad Book II", Eckankar, ISBN 1-57043-049-7
*Twitchell, Paul (1999) "Talons of Time", Authorized Eckankar ed edition Twitchell, Klemp and Klemp, ISBN 1-57043-147-7


External links

* [ Paul Twitchell article archive]
* [ Harold Klemp, the Spiritual Leader of Eckankar]
* [ Dialogue in the age of Criticism]
* [ The Neural Surfer, David Lane's webpage]
* David C. Lane: "The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar", del Mar Press 1993, ISBN 0-9611124-6-8. Note: This book is also available online for free [ here] .

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