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HandWiki. Eckankar. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 22 June 2024).
HandWiki. Eckankar. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2024.
HandWiki. "Eckankar" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 22, 2024).
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HandWiki. "Eckankar." Encyclopedia. Web. 02 November, 2022.

Eckankar is a new religious movement founded by Paul Twitchell in 1965. It is a non-profit religious group with members in over one hundred countries. The spiritual home is the Temple of Eck in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Eckankar is not affiliated with any other religious group. 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.

new religious movement eckankar twitchell

1. Etymology

According to the Eckankar glossary, the term Eckankar means Co-Worker with God.[1] ECK is another word for the Holy Spirit, also known as the Audible Life Current, Life Force, or Light and Sound of God.[2]:55

Eckankar's headquarters were originally in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under the leadership of Darwin Gross, the organization was moved to Menlo Park, California, in 1975. In 1986, Harold Klemp moved the base of operations to Minneapolis, Minnesota.[3]

The leader of Eckankar is known as “the Living ECK Master”. Some leaders, Twitchell and Klemp, for example, also hold the title "Mahanta", which refers to the inner aspect of the teacher.[4][5] The leader functions as both an inner and outer guide for each member's individual spiritual progress. Twitchell (spiritual name: Peddar Zaskq) was the movement's spiritual leader until his death in late 1971. Gross (spiritual name: Dap Ren) succeeded him until October 22, 1981, when Klemp (spiritual name: Wah Z, pronounced Wah Zee) became the spiritual leader.

Harold Klemp attended a Lutheran preministerial high school and college. He later pursued private study into different paths such as the Rosicrucians and Edgar Cayce. The extent of the influence of these teachings on Klemp is difficult to determine.[6]

Some scholars believe that Eckankar draws in part from the Sikh and Hindu religions,[7] and the Sant Mat movement.[8] Others find significant differences between Sant Mat teachings and Eckankar.[9]

2. Beliefs

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.[10] These are attained via Soul Travel: shifting the awareness from the body to the inner planes of existence.[2]: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 half an hour. ECKists sing it alone or in groups.[2]: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.[11] 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.[2]:59

Dreams are regarded as important teaching tools, and members often keep dream journals to facilitate study.[12] According to followers of Eckankar, dream travel often serves as the gateway to Soul Travel[13] or the shifting of one's consciousness to ever-higher states of being. [Also known as an out of body experience (OBE).]

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.[2]:59[14]

The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, which means "Way of the Eternal", is the holy scripture of Eckankar.[15] It comprises two books that tell of spiritual meaning and purpose as written by the Mahanta.[2]: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.[2]: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.[2]: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.[2]: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.[2]:59

3. Worship

Eckankar emphasizes personal spiritual experiences as the most natural way back to God. These are attained via the Spiritual Exercises of ECK. Eckankar offers a Spiritual Exercise of the Week[16] on its website.

An ECK Light and Sound service generally includes a HU Song and contemplation, a talk or panel discussion from members of the Eckankar Clergy, and often includes creative arts and group discussion. Eckankar hosts a Worldwide Seminar in October and a Springtime Seminar every year. Eckankar also hosts annual seminars in countries around the world. ECK seminars include speakers, creative arts, workshops, discussion groups and other activities.[17]

4. Current Status

Eckankar is a global organization recognized in over 40 countries as a nonprofit with religious purposes.[18] Thousands of members, known as ECKists, live in over 120 countries. The world headquarters and Temple of ECK, Eckankar’s international center, are in Chanhassen, Minnesota.[19][20][21]

The Temple of ECK is Eckankar’s worldwide spiritual center located in Chanhassen, Minnesota on a 174-acre campus with two miles of contemplation trails open to the public. [22][23]

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.[24] Sources estimate that there were around 50,000 followers in the 1990s.[25][26][27]


In February 2018, Iranian agencies reported the execution of Karim Zargar, an Eckankar member, for "corruption on earth" and forced rape.[28] Zargar was a lawyer, actor, and former Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting executive who was hanged at Rajai Shahr Prison. Marjan Davari, Mr. Zargar's former spouse, was also imprisoned and sentenced to death for being a member of Eckankar.[29][30][31] Ms. Davari's family has stated in the media and online that she is merely a researcher and a translator and is not a follower of Eckankar.[32][33]

5. 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.[2]: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.[2]:186

September 17 is celebrated as Founder's Day in honor of the modern-day founder of Eckankar, Paul Twitchell. October 22 is celebrated as the spiritual new year.[34][35]

6. ECK Masters

ECKists believe contact with 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.[36]

7. Criticism

In Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America, 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.[37]


  1. "A Glossary of Eckankar Terms". 
  2. Klemp, Harold. A Cosmic Sea of Words, The ECKANKAR Lexicon. Minneapolis: Eckankar, 2009. ISBN:978-1-57043-286-6
  3. "'Soul Travelers' Move", San Jose Mercury News, 24 August 1986.
  4. Etymology
  5. Mahanta (disambiguation)
  6. Timothy Miller (1995). America's Alternative Religions. Albany, NY: State University of New York. p. 366. “He gradually became disillusioned with the theology he was being taught, especially the exclusivity of Christian truth as the only way to heaven. He also began having mystical experiences while in high school and ministerial training ... For a time after leaving ministerial training, he ‘dabbled’ in Edgar Cayce and Rosicrucianism. The extent of the influence these esoteric teachings had on Klemp is difficult to determine.”
  7. George D. Chryssides (2001). The A to Z of New Religious Movements. Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press. p. 298. "Eminating 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 ..." 
  8. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc. ISBN:0-7876-6384-0. p. 1056.
  9. 17. Ibid. ^Melton, J. Gordon, Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh 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.”
  10. Eckankar: Spiritual Exercise of the Week.
  11. HU.
  12. Dreams: A Source of Inner Truth.
  13. Soul Travel.
  14. Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad, Books One and Two, 65
  15. Klemp, Harold, 1998, Cosmic Sea of Words: The Eckankar Lexicon. Eckankar, Minneapolis.
  16. [1] Spiritual Exercise of the Week.
  17. Seminars.
  18. 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 over 40 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and others.”
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.”
  22. 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.”
  23. 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.”
  24. Administration, National Cemetery. "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers - National Cemetery Administration". 
  25. "Eckankar". ""The Eckankar articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Encyclopedia of American Religions (both by J. Gordon Melton) estimated total membership at 50,000 in the late 1990s."" 
  26. “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
  27. 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
  28. "Karim Zargar: One Person's Story" (in en). 
  29. user4. "Iran Executions: Karim Zargar, the Head of a Spiritual Institution, Was Hanged" (in en-gb). 
  30. "Karim Zargar Holder of Ph.D. from Strasburg University hanged in Iran" (in en-US). Iran HRM. 2018-02-15. 
  31. "Translator in Prison for One Year Without Knowing Charges; Her Lawyer Denied Access to Case File – Center for Human Rights in Iran". 
  32. "Masih Alinejad". 
  33. "Amnesty International : Stop Execution of Marjan Davari #FreeMarjan" (in en-US). 
  34. Len Woods (2008). Handbook of World Religions. Barbour Publishing, Ohio. p. 73. 
  35. "About Eckankar: An Overview of Eckankar and its Teachings (PDF)". 2003. 
  36. Official Eckankar Masters List.
  37. 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. pp. 115. 
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