Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wake Up Calls

Have you
had a spiritual experience?

How did it change your life?

Often, people will come to an Eckankar meeting seeking explanations or answers about their spiritual experiences. Where else can you go when your priest or minister doesn't know?

Sometimes it's not all love and wonder.

Chicks Can't Get
Back in the Egg

One fellow I met laid down for a nap on a Saturday afternoon. He expected only rest and recovery after a tough week. Instead, he found himself up on the ceiling looking back down on his body.

In that higher state, it was plainly aware to him that he was not just a human body. Rather, he was an occupant of that body. He was a Soul.

A lot of other things were just as obvious to him, such as the meaning of life and why he was on earth.

Just as suddenly, it was all over. He tried to talk himself out of it as just his imagination. However, it was just too real.

Oh, he'd heard of such things before. But he paid them no mind. Religion and such was the farthest things from his mind.

In fact, he was very happy with his life. He went to work, came home, popped open a beer or two. Ate in front of the TV. Went to bed early looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.

"I wish it had never happened to me," he said.

"I know there is much more to life -- and I can no longer be satisfied with just my beer and TV. I wish I could go back."

What was he to do now?

I didn't know what to say to him. At least I could understand what he was saying.

At the time, I was one of those people in Eckankar who were trying to have just that experience that this fellow had. And here this guy had it, and wished he didn't.

A little bit more, I started to respect these powerful things I was asking for.


Another fellow had a past life experience.

It was made plain to him that what we find in our lives today is often because of what we did in previous lives. In other words, we deserved what we got.

This kind gentleman with graying temples was clearly distraught by this realization. He tried to forget it, but he couldn't.

Often referred to as karma, this cause and effect dynamic we encounter in the human state means, in part, there are no victims. No accidents.

And it was affecting his work. He was a judge.

"I have to pronounce a man guilty. But what if the so-called victim deserved what he got based on his behavior in a past life."

What had been simple and clear cut was no longer so simple and clear. This judge was struggling to reconcile his role within the greater context of karma and reincarnation. How to live rightly with a larger view of life?

Again, I didn't know what to say. I just listened. The Inner Master would have to help him. I was out of my depth.
* * * * *
Like a kind hand jostling my shoulder, something was waking me up to appreciate the awesome responsibility of spiritual realization.

Could I handle it when it's my turn?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Drunk From A Book

got me interested in reading spiritual books

It had to be the set of tarot cards I asked to get for Christmas.
I was 14 years old.

If you have a set of tarot cards, then you need to learn to use them. So, I went to the library and got some books on the topic. Nothing much came of the tarot -- but I was introduced to a whole new shelf in the library. Next to the tarot card books were volumes on all kinds of strange things: prophecy, astrology, dreams, meditation, etc. So I read all that was there.

Having exhausted my local library's section, I only found myself hungry for more.

Striking It Rich

Luckily, I lived in Virginia Beach, the home of the Edgar Cayce Foundation. There was a big building down near the ocean beach that included a library full of books on all things psychic, religious and spiritual. On my first visit I felt like I had struck it rich.

On Saturday's, I'd ask my Dad to drive me down to the Edgar Cayce place. He would drop me off and come back for me a few hours later.

In my T-shirt, knee-worn jeans and tennis shoes without socks, I'd sneak upstairs into the library. Thankfully, most people paid me no mind as I wandered in and out of the shelves.

In time, I'd come in and pile the books I was returning onto the front desk. Then if old Mrs. Gillespe was there, I'd get a little smile. She was ancient looking, full of wrinkles. The knuckles of her hands were huge, swollen with arthritis. But so nice to me.

"Well, what will it be this time, young man?"

"Oh, I'm tired of reading about Buddhism. Now I'm curious about Vedanta. And I want to read about hypnotism and astral projection, too."

Like a prospector searching for gold, I'd flip through one book after another, on the trail of the mother lode. I had to watch the clock carefully so my Dad didn't have to wait for me downstairs in the parking lot. The time just seemed to fly.

I remember seeing those Eckankar books on the bottom shelf over hear the window. It was the Ancient Science of Soul Travel in those days. But I had tried astral projection (an entire two times) and since that didn't work, I went on past the Eckankar books.

The Key to Secret Worlds

Looking back, I can see a major turning point happened a week before Christmas of 1975. I was in a shopping mall with my Mom and two younger sisters.

Because I had strict instructions not to buy anything, I was just loitering in the mall. Impatiently, I paced back and forth waiting for my mother's shopping to be finished.

From my pacing spot, I could see into the opening for Walden's Books. A book cover even caught my eye. Oddly, it seemed to glow. It said, ECKANKAR - The Key to Secret Worlds. Right there in the middle of the mall, I just had to have that book!

Only later did I wonder how I could have possibly seen that book so far away on the back wall of the store.

The clerk said, "With tax, that's $2.03."

But I only had two dollars in my wallet.

"You'll need three more cents," she said.

I had to have that book. Since necessity is the mother of invention, I suddenly got more creative than ever. I tried a few excuses and deals, yet I just ended up begging and pleading until the clerk let me have the book in exchange for my two dollars. Yep, I was a 15 year old baby.

I tried to hide the book in the back of my pants underneath my coat. Yet, mothers seem to have radar vision, and I was found out. I can't remember the punishment I received for breaking her rule --- fortunately, the book wasn't taken away from me.

That book blew me away. It seemed to condense, explain and put into perspective all the other books I had ever read on spiritual topics.

But more than that, I had the distinct feeling that I had found it. Whatever it was I was trying to get to, I had finally gotten there. It felt very, very good.

I read that book from the mall over and over again -- each time trying to grasp the key to the secret worlds. I couldn't quite figure it out. Then, I remembered those other Eckankar books at the Edgar Cayce Foundation. Maybe they could help.

Better Than Beer

One of those books happened to be the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, the Eckankar bible. Even though I read all the books on Eckankar from the library at least twice -- the Shariyat was the one I read over and over and over again.

This may surprise you.

The Shariyat is not an easy read. It's like . . . uh, like a bible. I prefer stories and down to earth kinds of things. That metaphorical, abstract, philosophical kind of stuff wasn't my cup of tea. In fact, it was way over my head.

So why did I read it over and over again?

It made me drunk.

I've never really ever been drunk, for real. However, after school when the guys would invite me out into the woods to drink some beer that an older brother had bought for them, I always declined. I only hoped their beer made them feel half as good as that Shariyat book did for me. I had to rush home to read that book some more. It's all I thought about all day.

If I read those words on the page, after a few paragraphs I started to feel real relaxed. A few more paragraphs and I'd get a little woozy and nice and warm all over. I would sit on my bed leaning up against the headboard, and let this blissful feeling melt me away. Everything in life made sense, without even trying. Oh, it was wonderful.

Today, I call it a feeling of love. At that age, I'd never experienced anything like it.

I had no idea what I was reading. I understood practically nothing of the words. But I didn't care in the least. If I just kept reading, that wonderful feeling would continue until I got so relaxed that I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.

I'd wake up again after about 15 minutes, pick up the book and go at it again. I did that until suppertime most days. It was hard to get my homework done with that book tempting me.

A Secret, Internal Rhythm

It took me years to have any success at what I hoped from my narrow understanding of Soul Travel. If anything, I just wanted to Soul Travel away and never come back -- but it doesn't work that way.

However, whatever it was about that Shariyat book -- I wanted it. Greedily, I wanted lots more of it.

So I joined Eckankar.

Then I got the ECK discourses in the mail each month. They had a similar effect on me. I remember one of them made me cry.

I had read that the ECK discourses are written with a secret, internal rhythm that gradually unfolds your consciousness in a very precise and orderly manner. I could only suppose that's what I was feeling.

That's what Eckankar has always been to me. Not knowledge or beliefs. Not even dreams or Soul Travel. I don't even care if I understand any of it.

Eckankar, to me, is that stuff that came out of the Shariyat and the ECK Discourses.

Thankfully, I can drink of it still.

How have spiritual writings helped your spiritual awakening?
What are your most powerful spiritual books?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mountain Climber

I called out to him, "Harold, wait for me!"

As I broke out of the trees, Harold was getting further away, stepping briskly from rock to rock.

"Harold, wait for me!"I shouted as loud as I could. "I'm coming. I'm coming!"

But he didn't stop. So I just ran all that much faster, scrambling over the rocks, desperately trying to catch up to the Master.

My continued shouting brought no response.
* * * * * *
Strangely enough, just moments before I had been in Chris' living room. The ECK Satsang class was drawing to a close. We typically ended by singing the HU for a minute or two.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Then I softly sang "Huuuu . . . " with the other four members of the class.
* * * * * *
Suddenly, I found myself in a wooded area. I could see the light streaming through the trees from an open area ahead of me. I started walking that way.

Chris' living room was no longer within reach -- like something barely forgotten, like a word just on the tip of my tongue.

As I got closer I could see a rocky streambed where the trees ended. To my surprise, I saw Harold Klemp, the Living ECK Master, making his way along the stream.

"Harold, wait for me!"I shouted. "I'm coming."

Only after I caught up to him did he stop and turn to face me. We were now standing at the base of a huge mountain. It was a near-vertical wall of rock that ascended into obscurity beyond the clouds.

Is that where he's going?
How far up does it go?

He looked at me -- but with the most expressionless face I've ever seen. There was no greeting. No response at all.

A bit disconcerted by the silence, I stammered, "I . . . um . . . I want to go with you."

He just looked at me. That's all.

Today, the look on that face is my definition of inscrutable. Could I go with him? Did I say something wrong? There wasn't an iota of feedback on his face.

Shifting my feet and wiping my sweaty palms on my pants, I didn't know what to do but stand there. And wait.

Finally, he said, "The way I go is very long."


I looked up at that rock wall and then I looked down the way the stream traveled. Maybe if I followed the stream, I could get wherever I needed to go just as quickly.

Nah, so it's a little bit longer. No big deal.

"That's okay," I replied. "I'd like to go with you."

Again, only that inscrutable face. Why didn't he say something? I couldn't make out even the slightest smile or frown. Did he want me to go or not?

So, I just waited. I felt naked, sort of like in a spotlight. Somehow, I stood my ground.

Eventually, he spoke again. "The way I go is very long and very hard."


Long and Hard? Uh, oh. That didn't sound good at all. I could handle a bit longer. But harder too! I'm sort of allergic to hard work. The prospect of following that stream was looking much better all the time.

Eh, what's a little hard work. Okay, suck it up.

"That's okay," I replied. "I'd like to go with you."

Again, that blank face. Was he trying to discourage me? Was my request out of line? I couldn't tell.

I was pretty uncomfortable with him looking at me that way. But I waited.

"The way I go is very long and very hard and very painful," he finally said.


Well, that does it. Maybe I could handle a little sweat and extra time, but pain? Why put up with that? It couldn't possibly be painful following that stream instead.

When that pain idea finally stopped bouncing around inside my head, I swallowed hard and unclenched my jaw. I was scared, but I could still see what I wanted.

"That's okay," I replied. "I'd still like to go with you."

Not a flicker on his face. I couldn't read him at all. I worried about what he must be thinking of me.

Again, it seemed like a long wait before he said anything out of that deadpan face.

"The way I go is very long, very hard, very painful, and I cannot guarantee you any success."

All for nothing?

No way, José! Who in their right mind would do that? Why waste all that time and effort if nothing is to come of it? There has GOT to be a better way.

The rattling pots and pans inside my head finally quieted down. On one hand I had long, hard, pain for maybe nothing. But then on the other hand, I could go with the Master. Which would it be? I surprised myself.

"That's okay," I replied. "I'd just really like to go with you."

No response. But I was getting the hang of this. So I waited. If he was trying to discourage me, it wasn't going to work.

"The way I go is very long, very hard, very painful. I cannot guarantee you any success, and you are likely to die."


That one hit like a punch in the gut.

Oh, no. Not good. Not good at all. But after I got my proverbial breath back, it still didn't matter. Come what may, I was going. By this time, I was convinced nothing outweighed the chance to go with the Master. Without wasting a moment more, I responded.

"I don't care about all that. I just really, really want to go with you!"

Without the slightest twitch of an eyelash, he just turned away from me and started climbing up that wall of rock.

I wouldn't of had a clue about how to proceed on my own, so I carefully watched where he placed his hands and feet. I mimicked his moves exactly, right behind him.

He never looked back. It was up to me to follow as far as I could.

There was nowhere else I'd rather have been.

* * * * * *

"May the blessing be," spoke the class leader, signaling the end of the HU chant.

I opened my eyes, not quite sure whether I was relieved to be on the ground in Chris' living room or disappointed that I wasn't up there hanging on for dear life with the Master.

It seemed I had been gone for an hour, but everyone else acted as if it had been only a minute or two.

Regardless, I returned a different person. I knew something I didn't know before.

I was going. No matter what.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Beyond Perfect

Am I good enough
to do these things
out in the world?

Too often I hold back because I'm not 'good enough' in some way. Whatever ruler I'm using, I just don't measure up.

So what can an ordinary, less-than-perfect person, such as myself, bring to the world?
* * * * * * *
My friend Rhonda learned something about this in music school. She was in a vocal literature class as a music major in college.

The first assignment of the class was to get up and sing a song in front of the class. When the assignment was explained by the professor, her stomach got queasy. Sing in front of everybody! I can't sing — I'm not a vocal major!

Rhonda — and likely every other non-voice major — dreaded what was to come.

One of the very first students to sing for the class was a very polished performer. She was a vocal major who had obviously spent years studying and perfecting her craft. This singer got up and sang not just any song, but an art song.

Every note was near perfection. No doubt she had worked on this song over years until it was truly polished -- honed to excellence by all technical standards.

"I'm glad I didn't have to get up and sing after that beautiful performance," Rhonda commented. "But someone had to."

"You could see the next singer literally trembling in front of the class. This young woman was a timid sort of person to start with, and she was a piano major, not a voice student. A soft spoken kind of person who usually sat in the back of the room, she was the last person who would want to call any attention to herself — much less sing in front of the class."
"But she had to do this. So she did.

"It took her a minute to get her voice working. The whole class was still enough to hear a pin drop.
"What we heard was a very quiet voice that had a slightly squeaky quality to it. Not a beautiful sound by any means. I doubt she had had any vocal training at all. She had her hands clasped tightly in front of her, I suspect to keep them from shaking so much."

"However, as rough and awkward as her performance was, one thing quickly became clear to everyone in the room: she loved this song."

"As we listened, we could feel the love and presence that she brought to it. And I was moved. I was touched. It was so beautiful."

"As I reached into my purse for a tissue I noticed that I wasn't the only one in the room that needed to wipe an eye."

"When the song was finished, I sat there, a little breathless, and amazed at what I had experienced. The strange thing was that the first performance with the polished performer hadn't touched me in the least. The first singer was excellent, maybe even perfect, but I now realized something was missing. It had no heart. No love."

Instead of Perfection

Rhonda made a few points for me after the story:

► These days I'm moving away from worrying so much about the technical details of my performances and presentations and trying to just work on my state of consciousness before I go on stage.

► I am not always excellent — in fact, sometimes my talks are a bit awkward and strange — not nearly as polished and professional as they used to be. But I think I'm bringing more of myself to the table, more presence, more love, and more trust that everything's going to work out just the way it needs to if I can just get out of the way.

► I think it's important to do our best, but at the same time, I think that doing our best will never be perfect, and usually not even excellent, because it takes so many years to excel at any one thing.

► Many of us are generalists and do not choose to go deep into one or two things. Our gift is that we bring a little of everything to the table.

But we can still do our best at that, and above all, do it with love and for love. Then it is beyond excellent — it is an expression of love. And that comes through.

A Secret Ingredient

I read about someone who saw the great opera singer Pavarotti backstage before one of his performances. Pavarotti was saying to himself, outloud, "I love my audience. I love my audience. I love my audience."

There are a lot of good singers. Perhaps Pavarotti brings something more to the audience that makes him great.

God doesn't look at how much we do, but with how much love we do it.
--- Mother Teresa

Do you know someone who might enjoy this?
Please share with the links below.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

The World Speaks

A Parable

A father and son were hiking in the high mountain passes.

The views were vast with brightly lit, snow-capped peaks looking down on them. Far flung valleys stretched out below them. In the midst of such majestic scenery, the two wayfarers felt they were but a speck in the immensity of nature.

There was hardly a sound except for the heavy breathing of the two hikers trudging up the steep incline until the young son twisted his ankle on a loose stone.

"Ouch! That hurts!" blurted the boy.
Ouch! That hurts! imitated a voice in the distance.

With a puzzled look on his face, the boy looked this way and that way.

"Who is that?" he called out.
Who is that? he heard in response.

"Why won't you show yourself?" he demanded.
Why won't you show yourself? came a reply from nowhere and seemingly everywhere.

Not liking to be made fun of, the youngster became more flustered.

"You coward!" he blasted.
You coward, mirrored back an enormous voice.

"I hate you" he screamed.
I hate you was all that could be heard from every direction.

Turning to his patient companion. "Who is it, Dad. And why is he hiding from me?"

"Son, what you are hearing is your own voice, reflected back by the mountains. It's called an echo. This is the way with all of life. If you can learn this lesson, you can be free. Watch and listen.

"You are great" shouted the father.
You are great, boomed the echo.

"You are invincible" he sang out.
You are invincible, crooned the scenery around them.

"I love you," called out the father.
As if the entire world was speaking, all the father and son could hear was:

I love you. I love you. I love you . . . . .

(Apologies to the author. I no longer have the source of this.)

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Secrets of Life

Oh, is that
a famous Spiritual Master?

Looking around at the plain, misty environment, Bob recognized that he was in a dream.

The stocky, white-bearded fellow approaching him was familiar looking, but it had been awhile since Bob was fortunate enough to have been in the company of this great spiritual being.

With anticipation building, Bob wondered what kind of experience he was in for this time.

Without a word, the spiritual master stopped directly before him. Bob could see how smooth his brown skin was. Those eyes were just black pools.

The master leaned forward, moving his head in closely over Bob's right shoulder. Then closer still, the Master whispered into Bob's ear.

Oh, if I could only tell you what was said. It was a secret of life that Bob had sought for a long, long time.

Bob was astounded. His insides swelled with a humbling gratitude. But by the time he could find words to thank this magnificent gentleman, he had already moved off. No doubt away on some vital business of God.

Marveling at his good fortune, Bob noticed someone else walking his way from the distance.

Oh, my gosh! he thought. Is that another Spiritual Master?

Indeed, it was.

This elderly Asian wiseman glided up close to Bob's side. There was the tiniest smile, and his eyes had a twinkle. Up on tippy-toes, this God-infused being leaned in and whispered into Bob's ear.

Another great secret of life!

If the world even had a clue! Bob was flabbergasted. By time he looked down to thank the ancient-looking gentleman, he was gone.

Bob could barely believe his great fortune. Two Master's visits. Two secret's of the universe . . . but wait.

Oh, no! What did the first Master say? Augh!

In his excitement over the second Master's breathtaking disclosure, Bob had forgotten what the first Master had revealed.

With his head hung down in disappointment, Bob didn't even notice a third Spiritual Master approaching until two boot-clad feet appeared in front of him. Looking up Bob saw yet another Spiritual Master that he recognized from pictures in a book he had at home.

Dazzling blue eyes and a wide smile out of a square jaw were all that Bob ended up remembering. Stepping even closer, the bald head leaned in to Bob, and whispered in his ear.

Another amazing secret of the cosmos!

The power! The freedom! Should mortal man be allowed to know this?

Bob's mind reeled and rocked. Regaining some composure, he looked this way and that way, but the majestic being was gone.

How can I ever thank him? Bob wondered. Am I even worthy of such trust.

He was overwhelmed by this great fortune. Three Master's visits. Three of the most precious secrets of . . . . but wait.

Oh, no! What did the second Master say? Awwww!

Staggered by the third Master's revelation, Bob had forgotten what the second Master had divulged.

Bob's gut clenched. The agony of having such a treasure within one's grasp, and then losing it.

A glance down the street showed another familiar form strolling his way. It was his regular dream companion, Harold, who just happens to be the Living ECK Master.

"What's up, Bob?" Harold asked. "You look a little upset."

"Oh, Harold. I can't believe it -- but three Spiritual Masters visited me. Each one whispered a wondrous secret of life into my ear. But the terrible thing is that I've forgotten what the first two . . . . Oh, no! Darn it! Now, I've forgotten what all three told me! It's all gone. How will I ever know it again?"

Harold chuckled a little.

"Bob, you can quit your worrying," soothed Harold, while patting those slumped shoulders.

"Just keep singing HU like I taught you. Then everything you heard -- and more -- will become a part of you. You won't have to remember it. You'll be living it."

A good and light feeling perked Bob up. His worries evaporated.

But that always happened when Harold was around.

(Based on a true experience)

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

There Was Something About Paul Twitchell

by Bob Hayes
Veracruz, Mexico
See concluding note
at the bottom
for source of this article.

There was something about Paul Twitchell.

Occasionally you hear people say that he was a fraud -- that he invented Eckankar wholesale out of his borrowings from other teachings, and so forth.

I've never paid them a moment's mind. They had obviously never met Paul Twitchell.

The Importance of an Ideal

There's a letter in the first volume of Letters to Gail, from December of 1962, very near the beginning of that strange courtship, in which Paul discusses with Gail the need for "an ideal or image by which to shape the inner life."

He states emphatically that such an ideal is, "one of the basic principles of the ECK [spiritual] life . . . You can take any of the philosophers, mystics or even the life of the ECK Masters to live by, " he says. "Or you can take a single line of scripture, poetry, or music. One of these will make for you life, an image or a picture to live by inwardly."

I first met Paul physically in the summer of 1970, at the first Eckankar Youth Conference in Chicago. I'd just turned 18. I saw him again at the 4th Eckankar World Wide in Las Vegas, and again at the Midwest Seminar in Chicago the following spring (1971). Three times in a year; the last year of his life.

But it was also, in many ways, the first year of my own life, for the images that I came away with in that short year have shaped the remainder of my life in decisive ways.

A Completely Different Experience

I first wrote Paul when I was 16, after having been guided to purchase a copy of In My Soul I Am Free in a dream. In my letter I told him, with all the self-dramatizing high seriousness of adolescence, that I felt I had wasted enough of my life already and that I was henceforward putting my spiritual affairs in his hands. Where that came from, I still am at a loss to say. I received a booklist by way of reply.

During the next two years, I ordered everything I could afford with my allowance, and kept it all locked in a drawer, not so much because I wanted to hide the material from anyone, but because of its sacred character.

I'd already read a great deal of other paths -- Tibetan Buddhism and Vedanta, mostly -- and although I found many things in them that moved me deeply, I felt somehow that each of them was ultimately like a large house, with a foundation and a roof and walls: interesting to walk around in, but I couldn't see myself living in any of them.

Then I read Paul's writings for the first time. The experience was utterly different. Instead of feeling myself in some sort of human construction, I had the feeling of standing at night under a sky burning with stars. There was the same sense of infinitude and depth, the same awed feeling of ungraspable mystery, the same apparently chaotic spangling of insight across the face of the void.

And I began having even more experiences with the ECK Masters in my dreams. I'd already been seeing Rebazar, long before I'd read a single book on ECK, but I'd assumed at first that he was Lobsang Rampa -- until I went to my first seminar and realized from the paintings of him there that he was indeed Paul's teacher, the same kind man who came and cloaked me in a blue light and went with me out the upstairs window at night.

But the clincher was the image of Fubbi Quantz, who also began appearing in my dreams at this time. It's hard to describe the feeling of wonder that came over me when I discovered at my first seminar that two of the figures I had assumed were denizens of my own private inner world were actually the familiar and beloved teachers of many thousands of other people all over the world.

An Irresistible Pull

But at this point, I had still not yet me another ECKist [member of Eckankar]. Then one day I found an advertisement in Fate Magazine for an ECK seminar in Chicago, a youth conference. I began making plans. I knew my parents wouldn't let me go -- not because of any resistance to the ECK teachings -- but for common sense reasons, like lack of funds.

I secretly sold off everything that remained of my suddenly outgrown childhood -- stamp collections and so forth -- and managed to scrape together $35. Then my poor parents unwittingly made the mistake of presenting me, on my 18th birthday, with a second-hand VW to be used for college, along with a gas company credit card. A couple of weeks later, I climbed out the window at 4:30 in the morning -- the same second-story window I was accustomed to use with Rebazar -- and headed for Chicago, a thousand miles away from where I was living in North Texas.

I wasn't running away from anything -- I was running toward something much larger than me, something that drew me irresistibly. I couldn't believe I was doing it. I had always been a rather too-well-behaved A-student, and this was completely out of character. but I didn't allow myself to think about it. I drove.

Like most other ECK chelas [students], I suppose I could write volumes about my experiences at the first seminar, my first contact with other ECK chelas -- there were only 120 people in attendance -- and my multiple contacts with Paul at that time, but I am going to limit myself here to a few words about Paul himself.

The Real Message of ECK

Up to the moment I first saw Paul Twitchell, most of what I knew about spirituality came from books. Humility, compassion, spiritual freedom, love and all the other divine qualities were merely words. But when I stood in Paul's presence, I suddenly realized that I had never really seen or experienced them until that moment.

I had known mock-humility, and modesty, perhaps, but real humility was something I could only vaguely imagine. Yet here it was, unmistakably -- the genuine article. I felt as if I'd spent my entire life indoors, seeing only paintings of the night sky, and then suddenly had been thrust out under the open sky on a clear summer night.

It was remarkably similar to the feeling I'd had when reading his books. I somehow sensed then, and I still hold it true today, that the divine qualities which the Mahanta embodies are the real message of Eckankar: the Mahanta's presence is the only place I have ever had the experience of seeing those God-like qualities, infinite and deep as the night sky, made fully and completely manifest -- accessible, tangible, and poignantly human.

His presence here is, for that reason, the promise of our own mastership, the promise that our highest goal and ideal of God-Realization is actually realizable.

It ceases to be a mere idea or abstraction and becomes a reality in our lives, a real-ization: a making-real of those very divine qualities in our lives. This realizing is a long and strenuous process, of course, but one which is impossible to achieve without a pattern, a plan, a blueprint, an image or ideal by which to shape the inner life.

When I first met Paul Twitchell -- just watching him from a distance talking with people or walking through a room, hearing the tone of his voice, the qualities of his gaze -- I knew instinctively that I had found such a pattern.

Our Highest Possibilities Awakened

But lets be clear about this: the ideal or image with which one imaginatively fuses is not that of the man. It is the image of those divine qualities which one is able to glimpse shining through him unobstructed by all in him that is merely human. To focus on the man is a bit like focusing on the window pane instead of on the starry firmament beyond it.

I'll leave you with one concrete example. I spent a lot of time at that seminar simply standing near Paul while he shook hands with and greeted the people who clustered around him in the hallways and meeting rooms of the LaSalle Hotel.

This meet-and-greet with the Master is known as the Darshan, and it is a profoundly important moment in the spiritual history of Soul. I had been shaken to my depths by it when I was first introduced to Paul, and I was interested to watch how others were handling the same event.

I'd been watching another man do the same, a diminutive black man whose face shone with love for Paul as he watched others lining up to shake hands and exchange a few words with the Master. Paul noticed too, and, after talking for a while with several other people, he suddenly turned and greeted this man by kissing him on both cheeks.

Now, remember that this incident took place in 1970, a few blocks away from the Cabrini-Green projects, a hotbed of racial strife in 1960s Chicago. Men just didn't kiss each other in those days -- much less a black man and a white man.

This was just the sort of thing that would have blown his cover if Paul was in fact a fraud. Had it been anyone else, this gesture would almost certainly have smacked of the self-consciously theatrical or the grotesquely sentimental. But the marvel of it was that it did not.

It was something so absolutely natural and genuine, so spontaneously right and appropriate, so unaffected and truly humble and at the same time full of a love whose larger-than-human majesty is really beyond my power to describe, that it took a few seconds for me to realize what had just witnessed.

Still Available Today

I am struggling here to convey a particular feeling -- an atmosphere perhaps -- that I associated with Paul from the very first. There was something about him -- something that awakened in you the dim memory of your own highest possibilities. Something that fired the imagination with visions of worlds within worlds at the same time that it inspired tremendous confidence that the Divine was something well within reach -- closer than your breath, as near as your heartbeat.

After Paul's passing, I felt that same night-sky feeling on one other memorable occasion: in 1981, at a World Wide Seminar in Los Angeles. I'd been haunted by something all day, unable to put my finger on what I was feeling, when suddenly, standing next to a bank of elevators in a large hotel, I knew what it was: it was Paul. It felt like the old days when he was still around. It was as if he were standing there next to me again, and my heart felt like it was going to explode if I didn't say something to someone quickly. I grabbed a fellow high initiate and told her excitedly that it felt like Paul was back. She looked at me oddly for a moment, then took me by the arm and led me away from other people in the hall.

"The Rod of Power has just been passed," she whispered. "We have a new Living ECK Master."


"Harold Klemp. They'll announce it tonight."

I'd gotten it wrong. It wasn't Paul that was back. It was the Mahanta. But I was even happier than if Paul had physically returned.

The Mahanta Consciousness had fully embodied itself here again, in a new Living ECK Master. It was quite clear to me at that moment -- and it remains just as clear today -- that the same fire that burned in Paul Twitchell continues to burn in the current Mahanta.

It was the first lesson I learned from Harold. And it has been my great good fortune that it was by no means the last.

* * * * * *

I've saved this testimony in my files because I can relate to his experience. And it's so beautifully written. My own story is the same, but different.

I also started with Eckankar when I was 15 years old -- and my initial experiences knocked my socks off so-to-speak, as well.

I loved this written piece so much I wanted to share it here. However, it is without the author's permission, since I don't know how to contact him. I just hope he doesn't mind.

A few years ago, this personal story was read at an event on an anniversary of Paul's translation (death) that honored Paul's monumental efforts to make Eckankar available to us in our times. A few aged people spoke of their most outstanding memories from 40 years ago of Paul Twitchell. I loved every minute of it.

And, of course, the experiences we like to share of Harold Klemp in our lives today are no less fascinating. In fact, I never tire of hearing them.

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Buttered Toast

"I picked flowers from my garden to fill several vases for my home," explained Bea.

"I was replacing previous bouquets that had to be thrown out days ago."

She made sure she had plenty of flowers left over to share a few with her house guest. The elderly gentleman lived in a grandmother's apartment attached to her house.

On this occasion, like others before that, Bea noticed something unusual: his flowers never seemed to wilt.

She recognized the same flowers in his vase from her last cutting -- the exact same flowers with which she had decorated her home. Yet, Bea's flowers had aged to the point that they needed discarding.

How was it that his flowers stayed so fresh and attractive for so long?

A Holy Man

This house guest was no ordinary person. He was from India. He was a Hindu scholar, and considered by many in his home country to be a 'guru,' a spiritual teacher.

In addition to being a well-regarded artist, Bea Burns was a professor of philosophy at the nearby university. When the university invited this Hindu professor to teach for a year, Bea offered her apartment. It was close to the university, and close so she could make his stay in this country a little easier.

In ways she never expected, this was a highlight in Bea's life.

A Secret Ingredient

"Whenever I would visit with him in the apartment," Bea continued, "he would always offer me something to eat. It was important to him that he give me something, no matter how small."

Of course Bea wasn't hungry, but she was a gracious guest. She would agree to "just a taste" of something.

Invariably, the well-mannered and impeccable sage would toast her a piece of bread. On it he would carefully and patiently spread a little butter, then tenderly and delicately present it to her on a small plate.

"The taste was nothing less than exquisite, " Bea marveled.

"It was the best tasting food I have ever had," she insisted. "I have never before tasted toast, or any food for that matter, that had this kind of effect on me."

Just a simple piece of toast.

This made no sense to Bea. She made toast for her husband and herself every day. But it wasn't like this.

She could see the package of bread on his kitchen counter. It was the exact same bread she had upstairs in her own kitchen. Likewise, with the butter. It was the same ordinary brand of butter she had always bought. The toaster, itself, was an old one that Bea had herself used for years before furnishing the apartment with it. The little plate was just as unremarkable.

This kindly, pleasant man looked just as ordinary: regular western clothing, graying hair, glasses.

Though they sometimes talked about deep thoughts of philosophy, that is not what Bea remembers so fondly.

"On numerous occasions, I was gifted with this simple buttered toast," Bea said.
"And I understood why the flowers stayed so fresh."

A Kindred Spirit

Bea Burns was a remarkable woman, herself.

She had survived not one, but two near-death experiences. One was from an airplane crash, the other on an operating table. She came back remembering what happened beyond the veil. The light, the love, the meaning underlying life on earth.

One of her sons was overweight in his teenage years. His self-imposed liquid diet removed all the fat -- and opened his spiritual eye. Strangely enough, the family just happened to be vacationing in Virginia Beach, the home of the famous psychic Edgar Cayce.

Word got around about the boy on the beach who could see colors around everybody. Hugh Lynn Cayce, who carried on his father's work, consulted with the family. He explained the boy's fat-loss diet was akin to fasting, a means historically used to release extraordinary perception. Taking an interest in the boy, Cayce became a long lasting friend of the family.

Bea also was a close friend to the head of the North American Theosophical Society, another prominent group pursuing unorthodox spiritual interests.

She came to the Tuesday night HU Chants in my rural county. Bea always had a different friend in tow to introduce to the HU.

She lit up several churches, historical groups, civic organizations, and other things in the county. For example, that fellow now teaching Tai Chi in town --- because Bea encouraged him to do it. I think everyone in the county knew her.

Yes, all the 'flowers' seemed to bloom in her presence.

Bea never made me a piece of toast, but knowing her was exquisite, like nothing before or since.

People of the golden heart are full of love and have the ability to give of themselves. They are the shining lights.
—Harold Klemp, The Language of Soul

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Worth Everything

The temple bell stops --
but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers.
-- Basho

"I took your book back to my daughter's house and started to read it. As I was reading, I knew it was the answer I had been seeking."

I recognized her immediately. She had on that black coat and carried that little quiet dog.

She had sat down next to me on the bench. In a very kind voice, she explained she had come back to thank me for the book.

I jumped in to say, "You're welcome. No big deal."

But there was more she wanted me to know, so I just got quiet and listened.

Kitchen Table Conversation

"I am in town visiting my daughter," she began. "I live in Tennessee."

I felt everything become still. That often happens if it's going to be one of those special moments.

She explained that only a few days ago before she came out to visit her daughter, she was sitting at the kitchen table talking to God. "Please show me the way for me," she was asking.

Going further, she expressed her unhappiness with the churches in her town. She has tried them all, but they did not have what she was truly looking for.

"They are all such good people," she mentioned, "but something was missing for me, and I didn't know what to do about it."

That's when a little tear leaked out of one of her eyes.

A New Awareness

As she was talking, something was happening inside of me. Something was expanding larger and larger. The overriding impression was that this moment was worth everything.

This powerful awareness was brand new to me.

All the pains and troubles of living were worth it so that I could sit there with that lady. In that moment, I just knew that if I had been asked beforehand – and maybe I had – I would have gladly agreed to live this entire lifetime just for that moment, just so that I could be there with this woman on this day. It was that important. It was worth everything and anything.

"And then I come here and find your book," she concluded. "I just know that what's in this book is what I have been looking for so long."

I don't know how long I was expanded out like that. It could have been a few seconds or a few hours, I could not tell. Rationally, it must have just been a minute or two. Either way, I now knew what eternity really was.

"This is my answer from God. I don't know how to thank you enough." With those last words, she stood up, smiled at me, then left in a slow, gentle pace.

I never saw her again. And I don't know whatever happened with her spiritual life. Did she feel that expanded state just then, too?

Free Book – Take One

While in college, I often had the urge to share my religion with people who were interested.

It is a natural kind of thing. When you receive greatly, you naturally want to return the gift in some way. Now I understand it as a spiritual law. In other words, everybody feels this way.

I believe people who don't give just have not received yet. Maybe that takes opening their own hearts.

I got so much from those Eckankar books, I just had to share them in some way.

So how did such a shy kid do this?

I would go to the local shopping mall and set up a card table. On the table I would pile little paperback books with a small, handmade sign that said, "Free Book -- Take One." The free book was an introductory one to Eckankar.

Then I would simply sit nearby on one of the mall benches and do my homework.

No Proselytizing Here

Of course, I had permission from the management of the mall to do this. They saw no harm in it. They knew I wasn't going to accost anyone.

In fact, I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was quite shy in those days. Besides, I had alot of homework to get done.

Every now and then, someone would meander by. A few would pause at the little table, maybe flip through one of the books, then put it down and continue on.

Sometimes people would take one, sometimes not. I didn't care either way. It's up to them what they want in their life. However, what was important to me was the opportunity to make it available. That's all I could really do.

"May I have one of these books?"

"If you would like to read it, please take one."

I thought it odd that people would interrupt my studying to ask. The sign was large enough to easily read. Regardless, I would always reply the same way. Not much to it. Looking back, it was a nice connection with these people.

She Caught My Eye

One Saturday, this elderly lady wandered by the book table.

I think I noticed her on the first pass because she was wearing a black coat in spite of it being spring time. I could understand that. Older folks circulation often wasn't what it used to be, so they can get chilly, especially in an air-conditioned building.

Also, this lady carried a small dog in her arms, something like a chihuahua. The dog was very quiet, just peacefully riding along, cuddled in the crook of the woman's arm.

I guessed I noticed her because she looked a little odd. But maybe there was another reason.

A few minutes after her first pass by, she came by again. Real slow. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her focused on the free books. I wondered if she would take one.

Finally, she spoke. "May I have one of these?"

I gave the standard answer. Then she left with the book. There was no more to it than that.

However, later that day she came back. It had been about three hours since I first saw her, and I was packing up the books.

Not About the Book

When I was expanded out into that worth everything moment, I realized that it's not so much about the book. Oh, it's a great book. However, the lady asked of God, and the answer came. She knew in that moment -- this time for sure -- that God loved her. Is that not worth everything?

I was completely unaware that something so important was happening.

The big gift to me was God had her come back to tell me, so that I would know. That was God speaking to me, letting me know that I am loved, too. Also, that my inner compulsion to sit by a card table in the mall was no waste of time.

I realized -- it became tangible and real -- that all I want to do is be an instrument of God like this again. And again and again.

Rich Beyond Belief

This was just my first time recognizing this "It's worth everything" kind of moment.

Sometimes it happens when I am all by myself. Other times it is with someone else. Regardless, I distinctly know that no matter what I have been through, it was worth it. If nothing else ever comes of this lifetime, that single moment made it all worthwhile.

That awareness is the whole thing. The point. The truth. Most often, I just cannot see it. Yet more and more, I find it there, quietly standing by my side. The simple knowingness that "this is worth everything." No price is too great to pay.

It's not something to believe in. It must be real. Alive. It is a state of consciousness. A higher consciousness, perhaps.

And that's worth everything.

It's the same for you, right?

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Peek A Boo!

"Michael," I heard Sarah's voice mildly ask after I finished chewing a few bites.

"How are you, really?"

When I looked up from my plate to her face, the eyes that were looking at me were not the same eyes that had been in that face telling jokes.

This new pair of brown eyes looked not just at me, but into me, deep into somewhere I've never even looked myself. Eyes that came from somewhere out of this world.

Suddenly, I felt my throat begin choking up. Quickly, I looked away. With my head down, I blinked fast and furious to prevent any tears from spilling out. I took a deep breath to try and keep my stomach inside of me.

There was no mistaking it. I recognized those eyes instantly -- the eyes of Harold Klemp, the Living ECK Master.

Meeting the Master

We were sitting at a restaurant table. My wife and I, and another couple. It was during the break at an Eckankar seminar.

Up to this point, I was laughing so hard my gut hurt.

While we waited for our food, the other woman, Sarah, was telling these bawdy jokes. They were so funny! The subject matter was not what I would have expected from a higher initiate of Eck. And, to tell you the truth, I was a little embarrassed by the content of the jokes. Yet, they were so hilarious.

I can't remember ever laughing so hard.

Then our plates of food came. We calmed down, and dug in. My wife started up a conversation with Sarah's husband, who was sitting across the table from her, about their music professions. They were both musicians.

Sarah and I, sitting across from each other, were left to ourselves. I couldn't think of anything to talk about, and Sarah seemed busy with her meal.

That's when I heard her voice ask, “How are you, really?”

And I looked up into those brown eyes looking at me – or rather, into me.

With the look of those eyes, I felt powerful things inside. Often, I think people use the word 'love' to label these kinds of feelings. I don't know how to tell you what it was --- but it was good. Very good. All at once it was the most powerful experience of intimacy and understanding I've ever known. And while I craved what I felt like a man dying of thirst in the desert, I was terrified. And awed.

Those eyes did something to me. But my body reacted involuntarily.

Then, as soon as I regained some measure of control, I dared to peek up again, desparately embarrassed, but also desparately wanting to look into those eyes for just a moment more.

Leaning over my plate, barely lifting my head enough to shift my eyes back to Sarah's face, all I saw was Sarah. Just Sarah's eyes.

"Well," she grouched. "are you going to tell me how you're doing or not!"

"I'm . . . I"m fine." I croaked out.

I quickly shoved a forkful of food into my mouth to delay any need to talk further. I needed to get ahold of myself. Regardless, I was strangely quiet and, perhaps, rudely preoccupied for the rest of our meal together.

The Personal Touch

Later, after my mind settled down, I understood I got to meet the Master, again, at this seminar. It had never happened like this before, and never has since. But always, somehow or someway, I seemed to get a little personal attention from the Living Eck Master at these seminars.

That's really the only reason I ever went to them anyway.

With thousands of people at these Eck seminars, there is no way a single man can meet each attendee. But that's never been a problem because the inner side of the Master does not suffer from such limitations. Or so I discovered.

In fact, the outer Master promises, "I am always with you."

This experience got my attention and was a bit more dramatic than most other experiences with the Master. It helped wake me up to the more subtle experiences that happened below my radar.

Even so, this explains for me the massive spiritual benefits in Eckankar. It's not the books, the ideas, the classes. It's the presence of the Master.

If a book or a seminar -- or even a bawdy joke -- can open someone's heart even a tiny crack, maybe they can glimpse what has been waiting there all along.

So the Master pours his love upon the devotee to lift that Soul higher upon the path of God. It is as Jesus said, that those who came unto him would be lifted up
--- Paul Twitchell, Stranger By The River

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