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The Eckankar "EK" symbol
TypeDharma influenced new religious movement
ScriptureMain: Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad
Minor: Autobiography of a Modern Prophet etc.[1][2]
LeaderHarold Klemp[3]
RegionMostly worldwide
HeadquartersTemple of ECK, Chanhassen, Minnesota
FounderPaul Twitchell
San Diego, California[4]
The Temple of Eck in Chanhassen, Minnesota, U.S.

Eckankar (/ˈɛkənˌkɑːr/ EK-ən-kar) is a new religious movement founded by Paul Twitchell in 1965. The spiritual home is the Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Eckankar is not affiliated with any other religious group. [5]

The movement teaches simple spiritual exercises, such as singing "HU ", called "a love song to God", to experience the Light and Sound of God and recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit.[6][7][8]


Twitchell was known for adapting Sanskrit words into English, and the word Eckankar is likely Twitchell's adaptation of the sacred Sikh phrase Ik Onkar, meaning "One Om". Eck is intended to mean the Holy Spirit, as found in the biblical and Christian terminology.[9]: 55  According to the Eckankar's glossary, the term Eckankar means "co-worker with God".[citation needed]


The movement was founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell (spiritual name: Peddar Zaskq), who remained its spiritual leader (called "Living ECK Master") until his death in September 1971. He was succeeded by Darwin Gross (spiritual name: Dap Ren). On October 22, 1981, Harold Klemp (spiritual name: Wah Z) was announced the spiritual leader. Between 1981 and 1987, both Gross and Klemp claimed being the Living ECK Master, and to be the Inner Master, and had their own followers.[citation needed]

Eckankar's headquarters were originally in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1975, under the leadership of Gross, the organization was moved to Menlo Park, California. In 1986, Klemp moved the base of operations to Minneapolis, Minnesota.[10]

Eckankar is registered as a nonprofit religious organization in the United States. It reports members in more than 120 countries, and its teachings have been translated into more than 25 languages.[11] The exact number of members, known as ECKists, is undisclosed. The world headquarters and Temple of ECK, Eckankar's Spiritual Center, are in Chanhassen, Minnesota,[12][13][14] on a 174-acre (70 ha) campus with 2 miles (3.2 km) of contemplation trails open to the public.[15][16]

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.[17] Sources estimate that there were around 50,000 followers in the 1990s.[18][19]


Some scholars believe that Eckankar beliefs draw in part from the Sikh and Hindu religions,[20] in particular the Radha Soami movement.[21][22] However, J. Gordon Melton finds significant differences between Radha Soami teachings and Eckankar.[23]

One of the basic tenets is that soul (the true self) may be experienced separate from the physical body and, in full consciousness, travel freely in "other planes of reality." Eckankar emphasizes personal spiritual experiences as the most natural way back to God.[24] These are attained via Soul Travel: shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.[9]: 187 

Certain mantras or chants are used to facilitate spiritual growth. One important spiritual exercise of Eckankar is the singing or chanting of HU, and is viewed in Eckankar as a "love song to God". It is pronounced like the English word "hue" (or "hyoo") in a long, drawn-out breath and is sung for about twenty minutes to half an hour. ECKists sing it alone or in small groups.[9]: 59  ECKists believe that singing HU draws one closer in state of consciousness to the Divine Being and that it can expand awareness, help one experience divine love, heal broken hearts, offer solace in times of grief, and bring peace and calm.[25] 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.

Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journals to facilitate study.[26] According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to Soul Travel,[27] also known by Eckankar as out of body experience (OBE), or the shifting of one's consciousness to ever-higher states of being. Soul travel was a new term created by Twitchell.

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 final spiritual goal of all ECKists is to become conscious "co-workers" with God.[9]: 59 [28]

The leader of Eckankar is known as "the Living ECK Master" (LEM). Eckankar claims that only a man can be the LEM as Soul needs the atom structure of a male body in the physical world to become the spiritual leader; a choice made before birth. Eckankar now claims that some leaders, Twitchell and Klemp, for example, also hold the title "Mahanta", which refers to the inner aspect of the teacher. During Gross’ ten year leadership 1971-1981 the nonprofit religious organization claimed he was the Mahanta. The leader functions as both an inner and outer guide for each member's individual spiritual progress.

ECKists believe that contact with a divine spirit, which they call the ECK, 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 includes a list of Masters, some of whom are historical figures.[29]

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, which means "Way of the Eternal", is the holy scripture of Eckankar.[30] It comprises two books that tell of spiritual meaning and purpose as written by the Mahanta.[9]: 59  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.[9]: 177 

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.[9]: 59, 187, 194 

Primary to the teaching is the belief that one may experience the perspective of Soul beyond the limits of the body. Also, the concepts of karma and reincarnation help to explain situations in life as the playing out of past causes.[9]: 186–187 

The beliefs that individuals are responsible for their own destiny and that their decisions determine their future are important concepts to Eckankar. Eckankar students meet in open public services and classes to discuss personal experiences, topics, books and discourses.[9]: 59 

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.[9]: 189  The most basic ECK spiritual exercise is singing the syllable HU. A wide variety of spiritual exercises are offered, and members are encouraged to create their own. Study of ECK books and written discourses, alone or in groups, is also encouraged. 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, including a Consecration ceremony for initiating the young and infants, a Rite of Passage into adulthood (around age 13), a Wedding ceremony, and a Memorial service.[9]: 186 

September 17 is celebrated as Founder's Day in honor of Paul Twitchell. October 22 is celebrated as the spiritual new year.[31][32]


In his book, Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, written in 1977, David C. Lane writes:

This lineage, known as the Vairagi masters in Eckankar, allegedly traces its genealogy back through some 970 Living Eck Masters to Rama, an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. In other versions, the teachings go even further back to Gakko, a spiritual essence that traveled from the city of Retz on the planet Venus to Earth six million years ago ... In addition, Sudar Singh and Rebazar Tarzs are not genuine historical personages but literary inventions developed by Twitchell to conceal his past associations.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Books". Online Bookstore. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Eckankar sacred texts". ReligionFacts. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  3. ^ Handbook of World Religions, Len Woods, The Livingston Corp., 2008, Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P. O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683: "Harold Klemp (1942-Current)--a native of Wisconsin and former divinity student, Klemp discovered Eckankar in the 1960s. In 1981 he became Sri Harold Klemp, the Mahanta, the Living Eckankar Master, the spiritual leader of Eckankar; Klemp's spiritual name is Wah Z, 'the Secret Doctrine.'" Ch. 14, ECKANKAR, p. 69
  4. ^ "Search for "paul twitchell" "SoulTravel"". Chula Vista Star-News. 7 November 1965. p. 2. Retrieved 16 March 2018 – via
  5. ^ Wiki, Eckankar. "Introduction to Eckankar". Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  6. ^ "HU: A Love Song to God Archived 2017-10-28 at the Wayback Machine", Eckankar website, last modified 16 Jan. 2016. Retrieved 30 Jan. 2016.
  7. ^ "This sound develops through ten different aspects ... until it finally becomes Hu, the most sacred of all sounds. This sound Hu is the beginning and end of all sounds ... the echo of bells or gongs gives a typical illustration of the sound Hu. The Supreme Being has been called by various names in different languages, but the mystics have known him as Hu, the natural name, not man-made, the only name of the nameless which all nature constantly proclaims. The sound Hu is most sacred; the mystics of all ages called it Ismi-Azam, the name of the most High, for it is the origin and end of every sound as well as the background of each word. The word Hu is the spirit of all sounds ... This alone is the true name of God, a name that no people and no religion can claim as their own. ... All things and beings exclaim this name of the Lord, for every activity of life expresses distinctly or indistinctly this very sound. ... The mystery of Hu is revealed to the Sufi who journeys through the path of initiation." – Inayat Khan, The Mysticism of Sound / Abstract Sound.
  8. ^ Hu
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words, The ECKANKAR Lexicon. Minneapolis: Eckankar, 2009. ISBN 978-1-57043-286-6
  10. ^ "'Soul Travelers' Move", San Jose Mercury News, 24 August 1986.
  11. ^ and Multifaith Information Manual, 6th Edition, Canadian Multifaith Federation, Toronto, p. 181. “Eckankar subordinate churches have been legally recognized as nonprofit organizations with religious purposes in up to 40 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and others.”
  12. ^ Religions in Minnesota, “(New) Religious Movements)—Eckankar—Global Eckankar” by Lauren Alexander, “It is estimated that ECKists can be found in anywhere between one hundred to one hundred and twenty countries across the globe. The presence of Eckankar is particularly strong in Africa and Europe, and two such strongholds are located in Nigeria and Germany. Eckankar texts are translated into multiple languages.
  13. ^ Sam Barnes, “Members of Temple Say They Have the Passport for Spiritual Travels,” West—Star Tribune, Wednesday, January 18, 2006. “. . .The Temple of ECK in Chanhassen. . . . is the international center of a religious movement that claims tens of thousands of followers worldwide in more than 120 countries.
  14. ^ Nolan Zavoral, “Eckankar’s Soul Travel Opens Roads to Insight,” Faith & Values, Star Tribune, Saturday, October 25, 1997. “Eckankar, claiming more than 50,000 followers worldwide, moved its headquarters to the Twin Cities at the turn of the ‘90s. Each year, more than 15,000 people visit the Temple of Eck, an $8 million structure rising like a pyramid from rippling waves of prairie grass in Chanhassen.”
  15. ^ Ibid. Sam Barnes, “Members of Temple Say They Have the Passport for Spiritual Travels,” West—Star Tribune, Wednesday, January 18, 2006. “. . .The Temple of ECK in Chanhassen. . . . is located on a 174-acre site on the northwest corner of Hwy 5 and Powers Boulevard.”
  16. ^ Andrew Hazzard and Meghan Davy-Sandvold, “Spiritual Movements Ancient and Modern Develop Roots in the Southwest Metro,” Southwest News Media, August 31, 2018, “The temple sits on 174 rolling prairie off Powers Boulevard. Two miles of contemplation paths wind through the prairie and are open to the public.”
  17. ^ Administration, National Cemetery. "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers - National Cemetery Administration". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  18. ^ “Eckankar,” by David V. Barret, Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements, ed. Peter B. Clarke, Routledge, 2006. “Eckankar claims to have tens of thousands of members worldwide, many of whom also continue to be members of other religions.” p. 160
  19. ^ Ibid. Len Woods (2008) Handbook of World Religions. “Though Eckankar doesn’t publish membership figures, conservative estimates put the number of adherents to fifty thousand. Followers study at over three hundred Eckankar centers in more than a hundred countries around the world.” p. 69
  20. ^ George D. Chryssides (2001). The A to Z of New Religious Movements. Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press. p. 298. Emanating from the Radhosoami Satsang (q.v.) background, which is a synthesis of Hinduism and Sikhism (qq.v.), Eckankar teaches a form of surat sabda yoga ...
  21. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (7th edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0. p. 1056.
  22. ^ Jones, Constance A.; Ryan, James D. (2007). "Eckankar". Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Encyclopedia of World Religions. J. Gordon Melton, Series Editor. New York: Facts On File. pp. 144–146. ISBN 978-0-8160-5458-9. Archived from the original on 2022-10-20. Retrieved 2024-02-22.((cite encyclopedia)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  23. ^ 17. Ibid. ^Melton, J. Gordon, Encyclopedia of American Religions (7th Edition). (q.v.) "ECKANKAR is distinguished from the Sant Mat tradition in significant ways. ECKANKAR, for example, teaches that the ultimate state for each individual is that of a co-worker with God, not oneness with God; inner techniques are more active spiritual exercises than yogic practices; and Eastern austerities (vegetarianism, extended meditation) are not espoused. Twitchell also presented a different vocabulary than that of Sant Mat teachings." It is arguable that Eckankar’s denial of its reliance on Sant Mat’s yogic practices, and Twitchell’s assertion of a unique vocabulary were intended to distinguish Eckankar from its partial origins in the older established religion Sikhism and the Sant Mat teachings.
  24. ^ Eckankar: Spiritual Exercise of the Week Archived 2011-08-19 at Wikiwix.
  25. ^ HU Archived 2017-10-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Dreams: A Source of Inner Truth.
  27. ^ Soul Travel.
  28. ^ Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two, 65
  29. ^ Official Eckankar Masters List.
  30. ^ Klemp, Harold, 1998, Cosmic Sea of Words: The Eckankar Lexicon. Eckankar, Minneapolis.
  31. ^ Len Woods (2008). Handbook of World Religions. Barbour Publishing, Ohio. p. 73.
  32. ^ "About Eckankar: An Overview of Eckankar and its Teachings (PDF)" (PDF). 2003.
  33. ^ Lane, David Christopher (2006). Eckankar in Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America (ed Eugene V. Gallagher and W. Michael Ashcraft)Volume 3: Metaphysical, New Age, and Neopagan Movements. Greenwood Press. p. 115.

Further reading