In March of 1988, I was invited by Sant Darshan Singh, the son and chief spiritual successor of the late Kirpal Singh, to visit him and
his wife at Sawan-Kirpal Ashram in Vijay Nagar, Old Delhi, India. It was my sixth meeting with the venerable leader of one of the largest surat shabd yoga groups in the world. Darshan was a well known Urdu mystic poet and had written a number of books on spirituality, including Spiritual Awakening and Secret of Secrets.
Although I have had long talks with Darshan Singh before (ranging from two to ten hours), I did not suspect that for the next two days we would spend close to ten hours together discussing various aspects of Radhasoami and Sant mat. What was most remarkable about this particular visit, though, was that Darshan had located Paul Twitchell's initiation records and other related correspondence (they had been lost for a number of years due to mismanagement on the part of Madam Hardevi and Thakar Singh), which clearly documented the founder of Eckankar's ten year plus association with Kirpal Singh and Ruhani Satsang. It was a rare opportunity for me, so I meticulously went over the file which contained a number of affectionate letters by Paul Twitchell to his "Master" Kirpal Singh.
Paul Twitchell was duly initiated in 1955 by Kirpal Singh, as had been known for sometime. His experiences at initiation appeared to be significant: he heard the inner sound, saw light, and felt elevation. Indeed, Twitchell's subsequent correspondence with Kirpal Singh reveals that he had nightly excursions out of his body, apparently visiting higher astral regions and conversing with a number of spiritual masters, including Sawan Singh. Interestingly enough, however, Twitchell did not mention Rebazar Tarzs or Sudar Singh in any of his letters to Kirpal Singh - not even once. This is quite revealing since Twitchell's letters span more than a decade (1955-1966). From a close reading of the correspondence, it is obvious that Twitchell's inspiration for Eckankar came directly from his contact with Kirpal Singh and Ruhani Satsang. In fact, Twitchell even goes so far as to ask Kirpal Singh to publish his book The Tiger's Fang in 1966, well over a year after he founded Eckankar.
Apparently Twitchell's break with Kirpal Singh had more to do with economics than anything else. If Eckankar had not taken off as it did (attracting a large number of Americans interested in astral travel and other esoteric matters willing to pay money for membership, books, and interviews), Twitchell most likely would have kept in friendly contact with Kirpal Singh. As it turned out though, Kirpal Singh represented a significant threat to Twitchell's emerging empire, since, unlike Eckankar, Ruhani Satsang offered its teachings for free.
In sum, Twitchell's decision to cover-up his past associations with Swami Premananda, Kirpal Singh, and others appears to be financially motivated.
Another interesting piece of information that emerged from the file was Gail Atkinson's initiation record, which shows that she was initiated in 1963 and, like her husband Paul, apparently had good experiences at the time of initiation (hearing inner sound, seeing light, feeling bliss). I should add that these initiation papers (1955 and 1963) were personally signed by Paul and Gail respectively. Twitchell's file also contains several pictures of him and Kirpal Singh together; these were taken in 1955 while Kirpal Singh was on his first tour of the United States.
In 1955 alone Twitchell had written ten letters to Kirpal Singh; each one describing, albeit briefly, Twitchell's inner experiences in meditation. Concerning these experiences, a close reading of Twitchell's descriptions indicates that most of them occurred while he was asleep. That is, Twitchell's inner voyages are, for the most part, dream excursions, which may or may not have been consciously produced. One comes away with the impression that Paul's technique for inducing out of body experiences was to lie down and fall asleep, only to awaken minutes or hours later in a lucid (read astral) dream. It may have been precisely for this reason that Kirpal Singh dismissed many of Twitchell's inner experiences as inaccurate and incomplete.
Kirpal Singh's responses were also revealing, since in none of the letters that I read did the Ruhani Satsang master reprimand Twitchell for his behavior. Rather, Kirpal Singh was tolerant of Twitchell's ways, and always appeared interested in the work that he was doing. In one letter, Kirpal Singh even asked for Twitchell's help in getting one of his books published in America.
What finally emerges from Twitchell's file is a portrait of a
spiritual seeker turned economic opportunist. Instead of admitting to
his weaknesses (like persistent lying and gross exaggeration), Paul
instead tried to cover them up under the guise of being an enlightened
being and a genuine spiritual master in the "Vairagi"
tradition. Sadly, he was neither.