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Paul Twitchell (born Jacob Paul Twitchell) (October 23, 1909 - September 17, 1971) was an American spiritual lecturer and writer, pulp fiction author, and modern-day founder of the religion known as Eckankar. He is accepted by the Eckankar members as the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master from October 22, 1965 until his death. He created and directed the development of Eckankar as a new spiritual teaching. He stated in his writings that his spiritual name is Peddar Zaskq.
Birth and early life
Twitchell's death certificate, filed by his wife, Gail, states that he was born on October 22, 1922, which is based on their 1964 marriage certificate information. In 1936 Twitchell personally listed his birth date as Oct. 22 1908.
Author and Eckankar member Doug Marman has sided with the 1909 year, based on census information first researched and reported on by Dean McMakin in 1992. The 1910 Census indicates that Twitchell was six months old in April 1910. The 1940 Census recorded his age as 30 years old in April, 1940.
Twitchell is listed as 1908 in the Library of Congress biographical information on authors. The 1922 birth year in his 1964 marriage to Gail and the invalid SSN on his death certificate are explained by Harold Klemp's comments in 1984: "Early in his youth he was involved in a variety of activities, but he made it a point to obscure any facts associated with his life."; and "In a way, they feel they can protest against the tax system by not participating in it. But, of course, they began to participate in it even before they had a voice in the matter—by way of a social security number. A tax protester might reason that one way to obscure your record is to provide the computers with such a mishmash or volume of information that no one could keep up with it. You open a few bank accounts here and there, close one or transfer a little bit of the money to another, buy up stocks or property, take a loss on one, and reinvest in another. In a sense, this may have been Paul's philosophy in covering the trail of his life. He kept adding and changing so many things that it's taking a while to unscramble it and figure out who he really was." 
Klemp made these remarks and others in similar vein after he had gained access to Paul Twitchell's private archive, unpublished manuscripts, and personal documents. These materials are still being held by Eckankar following the sale in July 1982 of the archive, all the remaining Copyrights, and original materials to Eckankar for $500,000. Nothing new has ever been published since, with the exception of redacted editions of Letters to Gail: Volume 3 in 1983 and 1990.
Twitchell was born at home in Paducah, Kentucky, in the second hour of the morning to Effie Dorothy and Jacob Noah Twitchell. Paul Twitchell reported that he was born just after a major earthquake. However, Volker Doormann was the first to report that a 4.6 magnitude quake hit about 30 miles away from Paducah, centered on the Mississippi River, at 1:10am on October 23, 1909.
The accumulated evidence points to Jacob Paul Twitchell being born in the early hours of the morning, probably close to 1:10am, on October 23, 1909.
Twitchell attended high school in Paducah, Kentucky, where he graduated in May 1931 aged 21 years old. That same year Twitchell attended Murray State College a teacher's college for two years, and then Western Kentucky State Teachers College until 1934 but failed to graduate from either.
In 1925 Twitchell became really interested in sports and fitness after becoming actively involved in the local YMCA. Later Twitchell would become Manager and then Director of the local branch of the YMCA. Twitchell extended these activities into becoming a sports assistant Coach and Trainer, first at High School and then in his College years. By 1935 he was appointed the Recreation Director for the local McCracken County for a year. Twitchell played a very active role in organizing meets, competitions and the like in all kinds of sports activities across Kentucky. This included preparatory involvement in the coming 1936 Olympics and also managing several New Deal WPA Programs in McCracken County during the peak of the Depression years. In 1936, then aged 26 years old, Twitchell was included in the "Who's Who of Kentucky" publication of notable Kentuckians.
Twitchell's first full-time paid job was as a Painter, which he began in late 1936 via his father Jacob who worked as an Office Administrator at Marine Ways. Twitchell was still living at home with his parents and after several years of little success at College and no income from his athletics sports coaching efforts through the beginning of the depression years this somewhat easy going and exciting 'Andy Hardy' type lifestyle which he had enjoyed came to an abrupt end. Twitchell took to mundane office work as well as he took to his College work; he didn't like it.
It's around this time, 1938 that Twitchell began to write poetry and articles to submit in writing competitions and for publication. A natural story teller who enjoyed entertaining others with gags and jokes, Twitchell found something new to put all his energy into - creative writing and story telling. In late 1939 Twitchell lost his job as Shipping Clerk at Gulf Oil in Paducah. Soon after Twitchell's mother Effie passed away in April 26, 1940, and then he decided to try his hand full-time as a professional freelance writer.
His first marriage was to a Paducah hometown girl Camille Ballowe in Providence, Rhode, Island, on August 12, 1942, during the war. He served in the United States Naval Reserve during World War II, from February 1942 until August 1945 when as Lieutenant Jg. he was honorably discharged. Twitchell became a correspondent for Our Navy magazine after the war for a short time. He later went on to become a freelance journalist.
Spiritual Seeker and Pulp Fiction Author
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 also 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 Premānanda Giri's Self-Realization Church of Absolute Monism, an offshoot of Paramahamsa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship. He lived on the grounds of the church, and edited the church's periodical, The Mystic Cross. He was asked to leave the church in July 1955, and a few months later he formally separated from his first wife Camille Ballowe who stayed on at Premananda's for a time.
Very shortly after this, Twitchell was initiated by Sant Kirpal Singh into Ruhani Satsang, aka Surat Shabd Yoga or Sant Mat, in October 1955 in Washington DC. The day after this Twitchell escorted Kirpal Singh by plane to Boston as part of his ongoing tour. Twitchell, immediately became a very 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 Kirpal Singh in New Delhi, India. By 1966 reports to Singh that Twitchell was teaching a program very similar to Ruhani Satsang caused a serious disagreement between them which was never repaired. Weeks before Twitchell died he sent off a letter to Kirpal Singh denying he ever saw him as a 'master', denied that he ever received any initiation from Kirpal Singh because Singh had no power to give initiation, and claiming that Twitchell's spiritual achievements were gained years before he met Kirpal. Twitchell also suggested that he never spiritually benefited from his connection with Singh and that he never recognized him as a genuine master.
However, Twitchell did ask for Kirpal Singh's permission in December 1963 if he could dedicate a book to him that Twitchell wanted to get published with Singh's help. Kirpal agreed to have a look at it, and so Twitchell sent his The Tiger's Fang manuscript for Singh's approval. Twitchell never received a positive response from Singh, and so when they had their disagreement in 1966 he asked for the manuscript back to later publish it himself in 1967.
But Twitchell had again also 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 L Ron Hubbard himself who later, circa 1968, listed Twitchell and Eckankar on their Suppressive Persons/Groups list.
Moving to Seattle WA in late 1960 after the death of his sister Kaydee (Katharine) in 1959, he met Gail Ann Atkinson in 1962. Gail was working part-time at the Library, where they met, while doing an under-graduate degree. Twitchell later introduced her to the Ruhani Satsang teachings, as well as others, and Gail was also formally initiated by Kirpal Singh in early December 1963 in San Francisco, during his second tour of the USA. At the same time Twitchell relocated to San Francisco permanently. They married soon after in January 16, 1964, when Twitchell began more seriously writing and compiling materials about his new teaching, Eckankar. The first draft manuscript for 'The Far Country' was written during this year in San Francisco. Twitchell also began having articles about Eckankar published in various newspapers and magazines.
In late 1964, they moved south to San Diego, where Twitchell gave his first lectures on Eckankar and what was then termed the "bilocation" technique, which he would later call Soul Travel. Gail quit her studies to work full-time so that Twitchell could dedicate himself to getting Eckankar up and running as a new business venture. In spring 1965 Twitchell presented a long term series of regular lectures and workshops on Eckankar at the California Parapsychology Foundation in San Diego. These proved to be popular and showed that people could gain personal spiritual experience using his techniques. He also started selling monthly "Discourses" to interested students By late 1965 Paul and Gail Twitchell together founded the Eckankar Corporation as well as Illuminated Way Press, registering both as company businesses in California.
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. However, Twitchell wrote three of his leading books on Eckankar years before meeting Gail. What seems most accurate is what Paul says in his biography, In My Soul I Am Free, that Gail's encouragement was a spark for him to do something more with his writings. Critics state that at first Twitchell allegedly claimed his teachings were new, but he eventually referred to them as an ancient science that predated all other major religious belief systems. However, this interpretation is based on comments Paul made before he officially started Eckankar, when he was promoting what he called his Cliff-Hanger philosophy, which was an outsider's view on modern society. Those were indeed his own views and ideas. However, once he launched Eckankar in October 1965, he always referred to it as being an ancient teaching. Indeed, in his book ECKANKAR: The Key to Secret Worlds, Twitchell lays out wide ranging examples of the teaching down through history, while also explaining his own personal experiences with his teacher, ECK master Rebazar Tarzs. After the religion was founded, Twitchell wrote and published a series of books, personal study discourses, while actively giving talks around the world, writing thousands of letters to students, and continuing to write articles for magazines. He wrote a series of articles shortly after starting Eckankar that some critics have raised concerns about. In a series that Paul lightheartedly referred to as "The Man Who Talks To God", he pokes fun at gurus, including himself. He says that he wrote the series in exchange for getting a booklet printed on Eckankar, during a time when he couldn't afford it himself. In that column he gave out spiritual advice, claiming to communicate with God about the problems of those who wrote to him. He included prophecy, predicting that the Vietnam War would end in 1968 and that Lyndon Johnson would be elected President of the United States for a second time. Many of his answers were concluded with the words "I HAVE SPOKEN!"
Twitchell died of a heart attack in the very early hours of September 17, 1971, shortly after meeting with long-time students of Eckankar at a dinner in Cincinnati during an Eckankar seminar. His death, like his life, was not free of controversy. Some critics cite the comments of Dr. Louis Bluth, who was a prominent leader in Eckankar from 1968, an Eckankar Corporation Board Member, Eckankar President and Twitchell's natural health practitioner who was present in the seminar hotel and was one of the first people to see him postmortem. Leaving Eckankar several years after Twitchell's death, Bluth said that he believed his "death" was necessary; since Twitchell had defied the ECK masters of the past.
In fact, it was reported that one of Bluth's first comments about Twitchell's death was that he saw "Twitchell's soul carried out in a celestial cloud of light." Others came to question Twitchell's credibility and honesty after his death, since he had predicted that he would continue to lead the faith for about another fifteen years plus rumors about plagiarism and contradictions in Twitchell's life story and the teachings of Eckankar had already surfaced. These issues were later aired publicly beginning in the seventies by David C. Lane and others, however, it never gained any serious concerns among the larger body of ECKists who were mostly unaware of such controversies. Doug Marman theorizes that Twitchell's comment about the next Master wouldn't be ready for fifteen years was not about his immediate successor, who would only be an ECK Master only and not a Mahanta. Twitchell was simply pointing out different levels of mastership, because, as he explained, there were a number of people who were claiming to become his next successor and what they said simply wasn't true.
Paul Twitchell's sudden death did create some serious concerns for the leadership group of Eckankar because Twitchell did not name his successor according to the Eckankar doctrine which he himself had articulated. His widow Gail Atkinson was placed in the position where she was expected to make the final decision and she selected Darwin Gross. Rumors about no one really knowing what to do, and pressure from the leadership group upon Gail to make a decision quickly appear over stated. Gross was advised by Gail of his 'appointment as the next living Eck master' within days of Paul's death.
As a writer
Twitchell wrote dozens of books and discourse study programs under Eckankar, gave public lectures around the world, and also wrote thousands of letters. Some critics claim the mail Twitchell sent to Kirpal Singh was published as the book Dialogues With The Master, that was composed on Twitchell's early experiences. Singh would go on to claim that he had dictated The Tiger's Fang to Twitchell on the inner planes, and then criticized it because it was made up of dream experiences rather than real spiritual experiences. All of these comments, however, were misunderstandings based on his confusion with another book, since none of his comments fit with what The Tiger's Fang actually was about. Later, critics would claim that Kirpal Singh told Twitchell about his criticisms of The Tiger's Fang, and that he rejected it, and this was what led to Paul breaking away from Kirpal Singh. However, this is also a series of misunderstandings. Even David Lane has retracted his belief in these Tiger's Fang Incident claims, since his own notes show that Twitchell and Singh had a friendly relationship long after 1963, when The Tiger's Fang Incident was supposed to occur. 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."
Comparisons of Twitchell's Eckankar writings reveal that Twitchell profusely plagiarized the works of many authors. David C. Lane is a Professor of Philosophy and Sociology at Mt. San Antonio College, a lecturer in Religious Studies at CSU, and a long term follower of Radhasoami Satsang Beas. Lane, along with others such as Dr. John Sutphin, a Professor of Philosophy and a former Eckankar member, uncovered firm evidence in the 1970s that Twitchell plagiarized much of his work from the writings of Julian Johnson, Sant Kirpal Singh, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Walter Russell, L. Ron Hubbard, Helena Blavatsky, and many, many others. But some have also concluded, falsely, without any detailed research or supporting evidence beyond their opinion, that Twitchell's plagiarism accounts for only 2% of his entire Eckankar written materials. The opposite may be closer to the truth, but as yet no definitive answer for any percentages has been proven and likely never will be. "Extensive, manifold, and profuse" may be the best quantitative terms to apply here.
A member of Eckankar's clergy Douglas Marman acknowledges that Twitchell did in fact plagiarize others' works but believes it was only to a minimal degree. Marman presents information that challenges the many critiques of David Lane and Ford Johnson by presenting examples such as the Paducah, Kentucky Library, among others, for historical references related to Twitchell's career and personal information.,
Professor David C. Lane's research and his debates with ECKists and Eckankar officials from the late 1980s to mid-2000s are available online, as well as some of Doug Marman's critiques of David Lane's findings. Ford Johnson's websites begun in 2003 are no longer active and their discussion board archives corrupted by malware, but see  and use the Wayback Machine for The Truth Seeker site.
- 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. ISBN 0-914766-78-3
- Twitchell, Paul (1969) Eckankar: The Key to Secret Worlds. Foreword by Brad Steiger. Illuminated Way Press. ISBN 1-57043-154-X
- Twitchell, Paul (1978) Letters to Gail, Volume I. Eckankar. ISBN 1-122-54173-2
- Twitchell, Paul (1977) Letters to Gail, Volume II. Illuminated Way Publishing. ISBN 0-914766-33-3
- Twitchell, Paul (1978) East of Danger. Illuminated Way Press. Copyright Gail Twitchell Gross. ISBN 0-914766-38-4
- 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) The Far Country. Illuminated Way Publishing. ISBN 0-914766-91-0
- Twitchell, Paul (1998) The Shariyat-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) The Shariyat-ki-Sugmad, Book II. Eckankar. ISBN 1-57043-049-7
- Twitchell, Paul (1999) Talons of Time. Authorized Eckankar edition. ed Twitchell, Klemp and Klemp. ISBN 1-57043-147-7
- For linguistic derivation, see Ik Onkar, the first word of the sacred Mul Mantar.
- a Prakrit word; in Hindi, mahant. Mahanta is also a common name in Assam, India. The most well-known persons with this name are Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Vaishnavi Mahant
- Marman, Doug. The Whole Truth - The Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell. Spiritual Dialogues Project, 2007, pp. 48-53.
- Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Volume 110, Certificate Number 54564
- Marman, pp 55.
- Johnson, Ford. Confessions of a God Seeker: A Journey to Higher Consciousness. "One" Publishing, 2003, pp. 98.
- Johnson, 100.
- "John Paul Twitchell", Religious Leaders of America, 2nd ed., Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC.
- Bacon, Nicole (2001-08-30). Hadden, Jeffrey K., ed. Eckankar: The Religion of Light and Sound. University of Virginia Library, The Religious Movements Page. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
- Marman, pp 159.
- Johnson, 94.
- Marman, 266.
- Johnson, 93-94.
- Marman, pp 164.
- The actual existence of "Rebazar Tarzs," like that of other Theosophical and ECK masters, remains disputed, since he is not an historical figure, is not physically accessible, and has made no public appearance.
- Marman, pp 314.
- Johnson, 180-181.
- Marman, pp 179.
- Marman, pp 178.
- Marman, pp 183-192.
- Marman, pp 192.
- Marman, pp 137-139.
- Marman, pp 133-137.
- Steiger, Brad. In My Soul I Am Free. Eckankar, 1968, p. 60, ISBN 0-914766-11-2.
- Spiritual Dialogues Project | The Whole Truth
- The Neural Surfer
- Paul Twitchell article archive
- Harold Klemp, the Spiritual Leader of Eckankar
- Dialogue in the age of Criticism
- A short biography of Paul Twitchell
- The Neural Surfer, David Lane's webpage
- The Center for Twitchillian Plagiarism
- 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 at the Wayback Machine (archived October 26, 2009).
- The Whole Truth - The Spiritual Legacy of Paul Twitchell, by Doug Marman. A biography on Paul Twitchell with the latest research on the controversies, written by a Higher Initiate of Eckankar. The book has received high acclaim from Gail Twitchell (Paul Twitchell's wife), and Brad Steiger (previous biographer of Paul Twitchell).