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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