Source: Chanhassen Villager
Book questions foundation of Eckankar religion
Richard Crawford, Staff Writer
Ford Johnson spent years as a leading speaker for Eckankar and traveled across the U.S. and overseas to spread its message. Now, Johnson is on a mission that questions the historical foundation of the religion, which is based in Chanhassen.
Johnson, who lives in Washington, D.C., is author of a new book called "Confessions of a God Seeker: A Journey to Higher Consciousness."
The book revolves around his nearly 30-year association with Eckankar and his break from the group in 2001.
The book, now being sold on Amazon.com, alleges that the modern-day founder
of Eckankar, Paul Twitchell, now deceased, fabricated the historical underpinnings of the religion and plagiarized much of the material that forms its basis.
In July, Johnson said he sent an open letter to Harold Klemp, the current religious leader of Eckankar, and informed him of the pending publication of "Confessions" and invited Eckankar to point out any inaccuracies in the book.
Johnson said he has received no direct reply.
But Eckankar President Peter Skelskey issued the following statement in response to questions posed by the Villager:
"Every religion has its critics," according to the statement by Skelskey. "This is why there are so many religions and spiritual paths in the world. The real question for any seeker of truth is this -- does the teaching work for you? Does it bring more of God's love and charity for others into your life?
"Each of us must decide our own path home to God. This is the gift of spiritual freedom.
"Those who want to know more about Paul Twitchell and the beginnings of Eckankar can visit our Web site at www.eckankar.org. There they will find an extensive archive of talks and articles from the spiritual leader of Eckankar, Harold Klemp, including a series of public talks that he gave almost 20 years ago.
"Religious critics come and go. Ultimately, people make their own choices about what rings true in their heart."
Johnson's book isn't the first to take aim at Eckankar's history. In 1993, a book by David Lane titled "The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar" also questioned Eckankar's foundation.
Lane, however, did not hold the stature in Eckankar that Johnson had obtained.
Johnson has been one of the foremost speakers for the religion worldwide and in the past 10 years he said he's traveled to Eckankar seminars in Europe, Africa, and Canada as a keynote speaker.
"I had committed my life to spiritual service in Eckankar," according to Johnson's July letter to Klemp. "Over a period of 30 years, some working directly with you, I have traveled as many miles and spoken before as many people as anyone in Eckankar. I was perfectly prepared to continue this service for as long as I was capable, such was my dedication, belief and
love for this teaching."
Johnson said he came to his realization about the alleged "fictitious" background of Eckankar, after he attempted to notify Klemp about a person in England who was having religious experiences that Johnson thought Eckankar leaders should hear about.
But after informing Klemp of the man's experiences, Johnson claims he was disciplined and told to undertake a study of Eckankar materials.
Johnson said that rejection from Klemp and the period of intense study prompted him to write the book.
The 500-page book raises questions about the historical accuracy of some of the religious experiences Twitchell claims to have had in his life as well as documents how some of the historical basis of Eckankar contains information attributed to other religions. Eckankar, which began as a modern-day religion in the mid-1960s, claims to have an ancient lineage
of spiritual leaders.
Johnson maintains in his book that Twitchell had a condition that contributed to the alleged fabrications:
"'Confessions' reveals that Paul Twitchell was troubled with a condition called Mythomania," Johnson said in the July letter. "Paul deceived himself and others because he could not control his impulse to lie and fabricate the most incredible stories, which at times he fervently believed. And they literally number in the hundreds."
Eckankar leaders have addressed what Johnson refers to as plagiarism, in part, by explaining that there is an "astral library" where some of Twitchell's writings came from.
In a 1984 essay by Klemp, which is posted on the Eckankar Web site, Klemp refers to the astral library: [editor's note: If this is true, then Eckankar wouldn't mind people stealing its writings or using its trademarked logos and artwork. Afterall, we could just claim these things exist on the inner planes and would be free of the arm of the federal law. In other words, Eckankar and Klemp have a convenient explanation that only holds water in their manufactured world of delusion. Would this kind of rhetoric hold up in court, in the real world wherein the Eckankar teachings say you should uphold the law of the land?].
"On these planes there are main libraries connected to the wisdom temples. But there are also many branch libraries. The main library of each wisdom temple is like the Library of Congress, providing the greatest source of all the books and materials ... There are very few writers who can come to this library. Most of the writers from earth go to the branch libraries, so
they don't get to use the best sources. But the good researchers, such as Paul ... can come in here and select the paragraphs that suit their audience."
In a recent phone interview, Johnson said Eckankar should "clean up" the mythology on which the religion is based. He said he believes the religion could flourish and become stronger if the alleged inaccuracies were addressed.
Johnson also maintains that he has heard from many members of Eckankar in
the Washington, D.C., area who have left Eckankar since his book was published.
At the worldwide Eckankar seminar in Minneapolis last month, 4,500 people attended, according to Eckankar officials. During his keynote speech at the seminar, Klemp indicated Eckankar membership was strong in Canada and he said growth in Africa was "astounding."
Johnson, however, believes that membership will decline unless the alleged
mythology behind the religion is addressed.
Johnson said he doesn't regret having spent so much time in Eckankar or having discovered its alleged inaccuracies.
"It is really a good thing," he said, "It allows you to correct your path."
Copyright, 2003, Chanhassen Villager (MN). All Rights Reserved.