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CHAPTER FIVE

Virtual Gurus:

The Impact of Radhasoami on the Quasi-Temporary Movements of

Jerry Mulvin, Gary Olsen, and Michael Turner

 

In subatomic physics a cursory search of underlying particles only reveals those materials which have a semi-permanent basis. But looking further physicists discovered that there are in fact other subatomic materials, coined "virtual particles," which exist only for nanoseconds and even then only under certain very "hot" conditions. To detect these virtual particles scientists have developed ingenious experiments where they literally run two particles into each other at nearly the speed of light to see what "debris" is left over. The debris, of course, is the insides of the exploding particle, which unmasks its inherent constituents. It is those very constituents, short-lived as they are, which reveals something of the internal structure behind what makes up the atom's nucleus. In many ways it is an ongoing process. Even if you discover what particles lie within the nucleus, the next question follows naturally: what makes them up? Thus the particle physicist is an archaeologist of sorts, attempting to uncover what nature has so elegantly concealed from our naked eye for billions of years. The only catch is that to properly discern subatomic material demands tremendous amounts of energy--in some instances, much more energy than is available on earth. Hence, the researcher of rarer forms of material is circumscribed by the limitations of his/her instruments.

In a small analogous way, certain religions are like subatomic material. Today most of the religions we discuss are those which are rather well established, like atomic material which has a more permanent basis. But underlying them we may find nuggets of the infinitesimally small which from the viewpoint of human history "exist" for almost no measurable time. For instance, if one tries to imagine how many gurus, prophets, yogis, and visionaries there have been in human history I would venture to guess that one would be hard-pressed to recount ten, much less one hundred. But surely there must have been millions of people who have believed that they had revelations of one sort or another. Where is their history? Most of it lies buried in the recesses of time likely never to be unearthed. In many ways they are reminiscent of virtual particles--definable but difficult to discern. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to look derisively at religions which has not lasted several hundred years, and even then they can still be regarded in the mainstream as "cultish." [1] However, I would contend that many--to be sure, not all--significantly contributed to the evolution of religion as we now know it today, even to those religions which have been accepted as "traditional" or "mainstream."

Thus it can be rightly argued that what passes as "religion" is merely the tip of huge iceberg that has been forgotten or neglected. What we see are the political successes which in an almost Darwinian fashion have succeeded merely because their offspring have survived long enough to reproduce more healthy offspring. All the other start- ups in religion which failed for whatever reasons are lost. And yet it may have been these very failures--at least in terms of numbers or reproductions--which helped their counterparts to succeed in the first place. The history of religion, I would argue, would benefit greatly by trying to "capture" the forgotten history of what I term "virtual gurus." Similar to the virtual particles in an accelerator tunnel, virtual gurus are those religious leaders which have too small a following or live for too short a period or are overshadowed by larger prophets of the time to be fully noticed and recognized in history. Like the particle zoo in physics (where the names of so many exotic small bits of matter defies any clear classification), there was and is a zoo of gurus lost to scholars and lost to our common understanding.

Looking at the world of Radhasoami offers us a portal into the sheer quantity of would-be messiahs. Already there have been over a hundred "masters" claiming divine godship connected with the ministry of Shiv Dayal Singh in Agra. And even among these, only a handful have been "successful" in the sense that they will be listed in some history book for future scholars to ponder over. The majority of lesser known masters in Radhasoami will, no doubt, be forgotten, or if one or two are remembered it will be as footnotes for interested historians.

In this section I will look at three relatively obscure gurus which have offshooted from Eckankar. Although these gurus may in time become well known and transcend the admittedly arbitrary category of "virtual," at this stage they exemplify how small religious groups develop and how such shoestring operations survive beneath the shadows of the much larger organizations from which they first sprang. By looking at these gurus and groups during their infancy allows us the rare opportunity of maybe understanding how and why such groups die out before their adolescence, much less adulthood, or, conversely, how and why they live on and continue for centuries. In any case, these three virtual gurus, Jerry Mulvin, Gary Olsen, and Michael Turner, are merely specimens of a huge array of potential candidates that fills almost every nook and cranny of the religious universe. If taken as a whole, these virtual groups, which individually may seem insignificant, make up a large organism themselves. One has only to think of the New Age Movement for a further example. In the New Age Movement, there are several integral parts, like channeling, shamanism, and ufo-ology, but add these elements together and one gets a noticeable religious network that strongly impacts the American religious scene.

 

 

Jerry Mulvin

Jerry Mulvin was a sixth initiate in Eckankar and a well-regarded speaker in the group for many years. However, in the late 1970s he developed some doubts about Eckankar and its organization. At the same time he began to believe that he was divinely commissioned to work as a Master. As Mulvin writes in his first book, The Annals of Time:

In November 1979 I received physical verification of Mastership; my final initiation that had already taken place in the formless worlds. At long last--a meeting on the Physical Plane with my Guardian Angel. There he sat in plain view, Fubbi Quantz. His eyes gleamed like mirrors and reflected me. My only thoughts were, 'I'm looking into the eyes of the Master.' . . . From that moment on, the 'Great Ones,' Fubbi Quantz and Rebazar Tarz [sic] have been the guiding force behind me. I immediately began straightening out any loose ends in my universe. All teachers both on the Physical Plane and the inner planes that I have been associated with in this lifetime have been extremely important in my unfoldment; I hold them in the highest regard. [2]

Later in the same book, Mulvin describes what it means to become a Master:

The 'GOD FORCE' is an integral part of all the Master's vehicles (bodies). With the guidance of the 'Great Ones' and SAT NAM, the 'GOD FORCE' had established itself in me. It is the responsibility of each seeker to truth to find out for themself [sic] who the Master is behind the Radiant Form. My purpose is to keep and perpetuate the 'Original Teaching' that I have been given over these many lifetimes. It is called THE DIVINE SCIENCE OF LIGHT AND SOUND. [3]

Jerry Mulvin's claim to mastership caused some controversy in Eckankar, as evidenced by Bernadine Burlin's thinly veiled reference to Mulvin and his activities in her officially sanctioned Eck book entitled, My Eck Master Affair. Burlin writes:

In Paul Twitchell's time, a former second initiate left the path of ECKANKAR, started his own religious teachings using some of Paul's copyrighted materials [sic: John-Roger Hinkins]. A former sixth initiate [sic: Jerry Mulvin] has done the same thing during Darwin's time as Living ECK Master. For them to misuse the ECK power that had been given to them with each initiation is suicidal. It will not work against Itself but will turn back upon the one misusing it. Darwin stated that he feels sorry for those they mislead for they become responsible for their followers' spiritual growth and are only able to take them to the astral plane. [4]

Mulvin, unlike Twitchell who attempted to deny his genealogical connections, admits that he was a member of Eckankar and that it was instrumental in his life, but he tends to downplay its significance in his current role as master. Explains Mulvin:

You could say that Eckankar was instrumental. Their ethics prompted my leaving the teaching. It didn't take long for Eckankar to turn into the very thing it said it wasn't. . . a religion. Eckankar is not responsible for my present Spiritual state of being. That was accomplished through my own out-of-body journeys in this lifetime and many others. . . [The Divine Science of Light and Sound] was founded [on] February 2, 1982. Its 'mission' is to present the 'Original Teachings' from the Soul Realm to those Souls that are ready to go back home there, and the method of return via Out-Of-Body Exploration. [5]

Mulvin's break with Eckankar coincided with two controversial events that took place in the group: the publication of SCP's journal, Eckankar--A Hard Look at a New Religion, which alleged that Eckankar's founder extensively plagiarized and covered-up certain biographical details of his life, [6] and the transference of "Rod of Power" from Darwin Gross to Harold Klemp. Mulvin's ministry did not start until several months after this unexpected transition took place.

Even though Mulvin's teachings are clearly drawn from his experiences in Eckankar (he dedicated his first book to "Fubbi Quantz and Rebazar Tarz [sic]"--figures first written about by Paul Twitchell in several of his official Eck books), he has dramatically streamlined his teachings, doing away with much of Eckankar's elaborate superstructure. As Mulvin points out, "There are no initiates or initiations in this Divine Science." [7] Rather, for a yearly fee of one hundred dollars which he claims is tax deductible Mulvin offers three basic components: 1. the monthly home study discourses. 2. inner guidance and protection through the inner realms. 3. the CONNECTION. [8]

Originally, Mulvin started his operation in Manhattan Beach, California, but eventually he moved it to Scottsdale, Arizona. Although exact membership figures are not given by Mulvin, it is believed that his following is in the low hundreds. He has published several books and has even attended several psychic fairs to sell his path.

Mulvin's terminology almost exactly parallels Eckankar's, except that he incorporates some Radhasoami and Ruhani Satsang interpretations which slightly distinguish his ideas. Although he does not use Eckankar's term "Vairagi Masters" (which is trademarked), he nevertheless refers to a tradition of "Great Ones" which includes many of the names given in Eck's pantheon of living masters who descended from Gakko some six million years ago.

Mulvin has not attracted any noticeable publicity and his activities are mostly unknown among most shabd yoga practitioners in Radhasoami or Eckankar related groups. However, he has been serving as a spiritual teacher for over thirteen years, a long tenure in today's spiritual marketplace. Mulvin also may have been an inspiration for other Eckists to break-off and start their own ministries. To be sure, there is no causal correlation between Mulvin's break with Eckankar and several others who have followed suit to pursue their own claims of Mastership. But since he was a highly placed initiate in Eckankar for many years, his example cannot be ignored or downplayed. I would argue that gurus like Mulvin, even if their followings remain small and relatively invisible to the mainstream media, serve as bridges from one movement to another. One only has to look at Shiv Dayal Singh's popularity today to realize that a once obscure guru can emerge after decades to be recognized and acclaimed by millions. And where did Shiv Dayal Singh get his inspiration? From Tulsi Sahib of Hathras. But who has heard of him? Not many, but that is precisely my point. It may well be that Mulvin and gurus like him are players in a potential spiritual lottery, where one or more "winners" will find a niche among religious seekers, only to emerge from obscurity into the limelight of unheard of popularity. Far-fetched? Unlikely? Well, Jesus Christ only had twelve apostles and they were not an organized group to start with. Cliche ridden as it may sound, the advertisement for the California lottery holds a very valuable truth which is applicable to virtual gurus: "You can't win unless you play." Arguably, the same holds true for competing gurus--unless you are a candidate (regardless of your credentials, regardless of the odds against you and regardless of your varied competition) willing to go head to head with other proclaimed masters you can not be considered a potential winner. That Mulvin and others have literally placed their claims to public scrutiny at least insures them the opportunity that seekers will inspect their wares. It may be that very few will buy their offerings, but at least they have opened shop in the booming religious gallery. Although it may sound trite or inappropriate to cite Woody Allen's famous aphorism to explain guru politics, it does have a ring of truth to it when applied to the lottery of competing masters: "ninety percent of life is just showing up." In our example, given the unexpected contingencies of the buying public, it is surely a significant percentage of the game. In other words, if you (or someone in your behalf) don't make the claim, you won't have any chance to secure a public following.

 

Gary Olsen

Following in the footsteps of Jerry Mulvin, Gary Olsen, also a former Eckist, founded "MasterPath" in the mid-1980s. Claiming the title of "Sri" (an honorific prefix which all three Eckankar masters have used for themselves--it is derived from Hindi and simply means "Sir" or "Respected One"), Olsen states that he is in a long line of "Satgurus" who have been appointed to act as vehicles for God to bring souls back home to the highest abode. Unlike Mulvin whose terminology is closely linked with Eckankar, Olsen has taken a more traditional shabd yoga approach, basing much of his terminology on Radhasoami and Sant Mat. Though he also invokes Eckankar's unique definition of terms at places, his teachings lack the amalgamation of Scientology and Theosophy which Twitchell intertwined with shabd yoga. Olsen's MasterPath is an attempt to present Eckankar's version of shabd yoga without the admixture of other non-related New Age thought. In so doing, the MasterPath appears to be a fusing of Eckankar with more traditional Indian versions of shabd yoga. Olsen's following statement reveals this fusion:

The first central reality of the MasterPath is Soul Transport. Every individual has the opportunity to explore the divine regions of Light and Sound on his own volition. After having the secrets imparted by a Living Master, and then discovering and identifying with the Soul essence, the inner door opens and we experience soul transport firsthand. . . The second central reality is the Audible Life Stream, the might stream that issues out of the God head. All creation came into being upon this Sound Current, and it on this gigantic river that all subsequent creation is sustained. . .[9]

But on almost all key features, Olsen's teachings parallel Eckankar's. The following are five areas in which Olsen's MasterPath is similar to Paul Twitchell's Eckankar:

 

Dreams as an Avenue for Spiritual Unfoldment

Unlike Radhasoami which disdains dreams as mostly projections of the lower mind, Eckankar advocates dreaming as a royal road to spiritual progress. Gary Olsen also agrees with his mentor, Paul Twitchell, on this issue and advocates dreams as a viable means for inner progress. Writes Olsen:

If there is anything you do not completely understand or believe, please ask for assistance from the Inner Master. During the dream state [my italics] and in contemplation, the Master will help you understand the greater mysteries. [10]

For many the claim that spiritual experiences can occur in the dream state may be an attractive one. Since dreams are part of one's daily life the opportunities for religious visions are vast. A feeling of comfort and security may arise believing that the Master is regularly manifesting. Thus, disciples of Eckankar and MasterPath receive an almost immediate boost when they begin on the path, unlike those in Radhasoami who may spend years meditating before any kind of spiritual state is believed to be reached.

 

The God-Worlds

Olsen's "Planes Chart" given in his booklet, MasterPath (1993), [11] reveals a significant influence from Paul Twitchell's God-Worlds chart which Twitchell copyrighted in his book, The Spiritual Notebook. While Olsen utilizes Eckankar's official version, he also draws from some Radhasoami terminology here--particularly the names of the various presiding rulers and the names of the highest regions. Below is a comparison of Twitchell's and Olsen's cosmologies:

Cosmological Correlations #1

Eckankar Version (as given in The Spiritual Notebook by Paul Twitchell)

MasterPath Version (as given in MasterPath by Gary Olsen)

1. Physical

1. Physical Plane (ruler: Ganesh)

2. Astral

2. Astral Plane (ruler: Jot Niranjan)

3. Causal

3. Causal Plane (ruler: Omkar)

4. Mental

4. Mental Plane (ruler: Kal Niranjan)

*Etheric Plane

*Etheric Plane

5. Soul

5. Daswan Dwar Plane (ruler: Ramkar)

6. Alakh Lok

6. Banwar Gupha Plane (ruler: Sohang)

7. Alaya Lok

7. Sach Khand (ruler: Sat Purush)

8. Hukikat Lok

9. Agam Lok

10. Anami Lok

11. Sugmad World

12. Sugmad

 

A more detailed cosmology is offered by Olsen in an early work, MasterPath Book II (1988), [12] which is almost a near match with the Radhasoami cosmology found in Daryai Lal Kapur's Call of the Great Master (1964). Both authors describe twelve states of consciousness, the first six being the classic Indian chakras, and later six being beyond the third eye. In his cosmological chart, Olsen not only refers to the same deities found in Radhasoami literature, but he also mentions the same signposts, like the "crooked tunnel," intended to direct the soul back to Sach Khand, the highest spiritual region. In fact, Olsen is so indebted to Radhasoami that his chart appears to have been a "photocopy" of Kapur's, which he then slightly altered. Hence, Olsen is clearly relying on both Eckankar and Radhasoami for his sources of inspiration. Here is a direct comparison of Radhasoami's and MasterPath's states of awareness:

 

Cosmological Correlations #2

 Radhasoami Version (as given in Call of the Great Master by Daryai Lal Kapur)

MasterPath Version (as given in MasterPath Book II by Gary Olsen)

  1. Muladhar
  2. (location: rectum; color: reddish; presiding deity: Ganesh; function: elimination of physical matter)

Stage 1

(location: rectum; color: reddish; presiding deity: Ganesh; function: elimination of physical matter)

  • Svadasthan
  • (location: genital; color: whitish black; presiding deity: Brahma; function: to prepare the physical body)

    Stage 2

    (location: genital; color: whitish black; presiding deity: Brahma; function: to prepare the physical body)

  • Manipurak or Nabhi
  • (location: navel; color: dark red; presiding deity: Vishnu; function: to nourish the physical body)

    Stage 3

    (location: navel; color: dark red; presiding deity: Vishnu; function: to nourish the physical body)

  • Anahat or Hirday Chakra
  • (location: heart; color: blue; presiding deity: Shiva; function: protection and destruction of the physical body)

    Stage 4

    (location: heart; color: blue; presiding deity: Shiva; function: protection and destruction of the physical body)

  • Vishudhhi or Kanth Chakra
  • (location: throat; color: dark blue; presiding deity: Shakti; function: minor creative spirit)

    Stage 5

    (location: throat; color: dark blue; presiding deity: Shakti; function: minor creative spirit)

  • Ajno Chakra
  • (location: center of eyes; presiding deity: Soul and Mind; function: enlivens the body)

    Stage 6

    (location: center of eyes; presiding deity: Soul and Mind; function: enlivens the body)

    Radhasoami Version

    MasterPath Version

  • Sahansar, the Thousand
  • Pettalled Lotus

    (the flame/jyoti; before Bank Nal or the Crooked Tunnel; presiding deity: Sabal Maya Brahm (Brahm with Maya); after this region there is Brahm without Maya)

    7. Sahansar, the Thousand Pettalled Lotus

    (the flame/jyoti; before Bank Nal or the Crooked Tunnel; presiding deity: Brahm with Maya; after this region there is Brahm without Maya; here is the radiant form (dhyani) and the sound current begins)

  • Musalsi [Trikuti]
  • (presiding deity: Brahm; Aum or Om; from here the creation began

    1. Trikuti
    2. (presiding deity: Kal; Aum or Oml from here the creation began; cosmic consciousness)

  • Sunna [Daswan Dwar]
  • (presiding deity: Par Brahm; these are two parts of Daswan Dwar [referring to the next region])

    1. Daswan Dwar
    2. (presiding deity: Rankar; these are two parts of Daswan Dwar [referring to the next region]; self realization)

  • Nirala (Maha Suna)
  • (as yet aloof; though descended much, still not engulfed in matter)

    10. Maha Suna

    (as yet aloof; though descended much, still not engulfed in matter; soul merges with Master)

  • Anaa Hoo (I am that)
  • [Bhanwar Gupha]

    (soul unalloyed; drop separated from the ocean)

    11. Bhanwar Gupha

    (drop separated from the ocean; soul unalloyed; spirit realization)

  • Sach Khand
  • (the ocean of spirituality; oresiding deity: Sat Purush)

    1. Sach Khand

    (the ocean of spirituality; oresiding deity: Sat Purush; God realization)

     

    The Sacred Writings

    Gary Olsen has been highly influenced in his teachings by the writings of the Radhasoami Satsang Beas Masters, particularly Sawan Singh, Jagat Singh, and Charan Singh. However, Olsen has like his predecessors before him, particularly Paul Twitchell, attempted to veil his indebtedness to Radhasoami. For instance, in his private discourses which are only available to paying members of MasterPath, Olsen has appropriated large sections from Beas publications without citing or referencing where he got the material. Instead Olsen infers that he is the sole author of the discourses, even though there are hundreds of sentences and direct quotes from Charan Singh's Words Eternal, Jagat Singh's Science of the Soul, and Sawan Singh's Dawn of Light. In these private discourses, Olsen even prints a warning that they are meant for "members only" and he includes a copyright page which states: "All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by an electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording means or otherwise without written permission of the copyright holder." Such stark warnings to his would-be readers is consistent with Eckankar's and M.S.I.A.'s policy of not letting outsiders read or copy what is considered esoteric or "secret" material meant only for initiates. Another reason, of course, may be that Olsen does not want to face accusations of plagiarism from other shabd yoga groups--groups like Beas which have been the source of much of his esoteric material. Indeed, when Olsen learned of a defection within his group, he asked his secretary to contact the disciple in order to get the "members only" discourses back. The secretary even went so far as to offer payment to get Olsen's discourses back. Due to increasing pressure from both within and outside of his group, Olsen has reluctantly admitted on taped discourses to "plagiarizing less than fifteen percent" of his material, a startling admission for any fledgling God-man to make. Below are numerous examples illustrating Olsen's unquestionable indebtedness to Radhasoami literature. [13] His inspiration in this case was Charan Singh's Words Eternal. [14]

       Empirical Correlations 

      

    Radhasoami Literature:

    Charan Singh’s Words Eternal (published 1983)

     

    MasterPath Literature:

    Gary Olsen’s MasterPath Book II (published 1988)

    Example One

    The very reason we are placed on this earth is to enable us to realise God within ourselves. (p. 2)

    Example One

    The very reason we are placed on this earth is to enable us to realize God within ourselves. (p. 96)

    Example Two

    There is nothing in this world that is worthy of our effort and achievement except the wealth of Nam, the jewel of Shabd…(p. 7)

    Example Two

    There is nothing in this world that is worthy of our effort and achievements except the Jewel of Soul…(p. 96)

    Example Three

    The real form of the Pertfect Master is the Word of Shabd. It assumes the human form in order to be able to communicate with man and to show him the way back to his home. (p. 10)

    Example Three

    The real form of the Pertfect Master is the Word of Shabd. It assumes the human form to communicate with man and to point the way back home. (p. 96)

     

    Example Four

    The first and most important thing for an initiate to realize is the great value of human life and its true purpose. The human body is a priceless gift bestowed on man through the Lord’s Grace. The purpose of this rare gift is to afford us an opportunity to return to our True Home. (p. 17)

    Radhasaomi Literature

    Example Four

    The first and most important thing for an initiate to realize is the great value of human life and its true purpose. The human body is a priceless gift, for only through this vehicle can we attain Godhood. No other life form has this opportunity. (p. 96)

     

    MasterPath Literature

    Example Five

    We are to do everything according to the best of our knowlegde but the results are to be left entirely in the hands of God. The Lord loves to meet us even more than we can possibly long to meet Him. It is He who creates the desire in out hearts to meet Him. (pp. 18-19)

    Example Five

    We are to do everything according to the best of our knowlegde but the results are to be left entirely in the hands of the Master…The Inner Master desires to meet us more than we desire to meet Him…He creates the desire in us to find Him in the first place.

    (pp. 96-97)

    Example Six

    Blessed are those whose hearts the Lord has kindled the flame of His own Love. (p. 21)

    Example Six

    Blessed are those in whose hearts the Master has kindled the flame of His own love. (p. 97)

    Example Seven

    It is only a question of time. The battle with the mind has to be won. Many blows will be given and many received but with the Master and the Lord on our side Victory is assured. (p. 27)

    Example Seven

    It is only a question of time; the battle with the mind has to be won. Many blows will be given and many received, but with the Master on your side victory is assured. (p. 97)

    Example Eight

    God is your Father and you are His child. Try to approach Him in that light. (p. 31)

    Example Eight

    God is your Father and you are His child. Try to approach Him in this light. (p. 97)

    Example Nine

    It is not for us to judge the progress. Ours is to do duty faithfully and leave the rest to the Master (p. 38)

    Radhasoami Literature

    Example Nine

    It is not for you to judge your progress…Simply to do your duty and leave the rest to the Master… (p. 97)

    MasterPath Literature

    Example Ten

    The doctrine of karma is not against making any effort but teaches us to be content when our efforts fail. (p. 43)

    Example Ten

    The doctrine of karma is not against making any effort but teaches us to be content when our efforts seemingly fail. (p. 97)

    Example Eleven

    It is true that slow and steady wins the race. How many times do we stumble and fall when we are learning how to walk. But as we grow older we forget the struggles and enjoy the performance. So it is with spiritual work. (p. 47)

    Example Eleven

    It is true that slow and steady wins the race. How many times do we stumble and fall when we are learning how to walk. But as we grow older, we forget the struggles and enjoy the performance. So it is with spiritual unfoldment. (p. 97)

    Example Twelve

    Ups and downs come into the life of everyone in this world, but a Satsangi who always has the protecting Hand of the Master to guide him should never lose heart under any circumstances. (p. 59)

    Example Twelve

    Ups and downs do come into the life of everyone in this world, but a chela who always has the protecting hand of the Master to guide him should never lose heart under any circumstances. (p. 59)

    Example Thirteen

    One should follow a career or profession to make one’s living but should not become engrossed in it to the detriment of one’s spiritual attainment. (p. 63)

    Example Thirteen

    One should follow a career or profession to make one’s own living, but should not become engrossed in it to the detriment of one’s own spiritual attainment. (p. 98)

    Radhasoami Literature

    MasterPath Literature

    Example Fourteen

    You can say, "I am doing the meditation," providing you are doing it. But when you really do it then you won’t say, "I am doing it." "I" only comes when we don’t do it. When we truly meditate the "I" just disappears. (p. 74)

    Example Fourteen

    You can say, "I am doing the contemplation," providing you are doing it. But when you really do it, then you won’t say, "I am doing it." "I" only comes when we don’t do it! When we truly contemplate, then the "I" just disappears. (p. 98)

    Example Fifteen

    Please don’t worry about any persons leaving the Master. The Master will never leave any of His disciples. (p. 77)

    Example Fifteen

    Please don’t worry if any persons leaves the Master, for the Master l never leaves him. (p. 77)

    Example Sixteen

    The constant feeling of loneliness and missing something is in reality the hidden unquenched thirst and craving of the soul for its Lord. It will always persit as long as the soul does not return to its ancient original Home and meet its Lord. This feeling has been purposefully put in the heart of man. (p. 82)

    Example Sixteen

    The constant feeling of loneliness and missing something is in reality the hidden unquenched thirst and craving of the Soul for its Master. As long as the Soul does not return to its original home, this feeling will purposefully persist in the heart of man. (p. 98)

     

    Example Seventeen

    The Master is not very far. He is within you and if you go in, you will be able to contact Him…(p. 84)

    Example Seventeen

    The Master is not far from you. He is within you and if you go in, you will be able to contact Him…(p. 98)

    Radhasoami Literature

    MasterPath Literature

    Example Eighteen

    To lose our own identity and to become another being is love…Who are the true devotees of the Lord? Not those who know the most, but those who love the most. (pp. 96-98)

    Example Eighteen

    To lose our own identity and to become another being is love…Who are the true devotees of the Master? Not those who know the most, but those who love the most. (pp. 99)

    Example Nineteen

    Without Divine Grace Satguru cannot be contacted. Without Satguru Nam cannot be obtained. Without Nam there can be no salvation. Such is the essence of the Path of the Masters…In this world we accept a reflection for real, a counterfeit for genuine, a piece of galss for a diamond. (pp. 99-100)

    Example Nineteen

    Without Divine Grace, the Sat Guru cannot be contacted. Without the Sat Guru, Shabda cannot be obtained. Without Shabda, there can be no liberation…Such is the essence of the MasterPath…In this world we accept a reflection for real, a counterfeit for genuine, and a piece of galss for a diamond. (p. 99)

     

    A larger question naturally arises: Why do American gurus like Olsen, Twitchell, Thind, and Rogers utilize Sant Mat publications without acknowledging their sources or properly referencing them? According to Paul Johnson, author of Initiates of Theosophical Masters (SUNY, 1995), it is not a new phenomenon but one which has a longstanding tradition in America, dating back to Madame Blavatsky and her claim that there was a Brotherhood of Great Masters living in the deeper recesses of the Himalayan mountains who were guiding her path and those of others in Theosophy. What Blavatsky, Twitchell, Thind, and Olsen are trying to do is "genealogically dissociate" their roots. As Johnson writes:

    The nature of the evidence makes it impossible to determine the truth about Gurdjieff's sources. He, like HPB and the Baha'i leaders, exemplifies a pattern of genealogical dissociation. This term, coined by David C. Lane, is illustrated in his study of the roots of the Eckankar movement. It describes the practice of concealing the real origins of an emergent spiritual tradition and supplanting the truth with more appealing mythological genealogies. [15]

    Olsen's reticence in identifying many of the sources of his written material is reflective of genealogical distancing, just like his predecessor Twitchell had done with his books. The overriding concern that Twitchell had with Eckankar and which Olsen has with MasterPath is the establishment of a new lineage, a new mythology--in sum an autonomous tradition divorced from Radhasoami or any other previous parampara. The problem is that Twitchell's and Olsen's struggle to divorce themselves from Radhasoami is impossible to achieve. Why? Because both grounded their respective teachings (both in written and in oral form) directly from Radhasoami. For Eckankar and MasterPath to completely cut asunder their ties with Radhasoami would necessitate a wholesale transformation of their tenets--a transformation that both have been unwilling to do.

     

    The Hu Sound Meditation Technique

    One of the more popular spiritual exercises given by Paul Twitchell in Eckankar's extensive literature is the "Hu Chant." Practiced both privately and publicly, both audibly and silently, all Eckists chant Hu as one of the cardinal spiritual exercises. Olsen also advocates the technique in his path. He reveals:

    The HU is a word that is a part of every sound in the universe, whether it is the physical world or the worlds beyond. If you listen closely, usually at the end, you will hear the HU sound. In using this HU, you are saying respect to the Divine creation, its power and its love, and therefore, you become peaceful and tranquil. [16]

    There are a couple of other obvious parallels in the meditation procedures of Twitchell and Olsen. First of all, as mentioned previously, Eckankar advocates doing spiritual exercises in twenty minute intervals, twice daily if possible, and Olsen also advises the same exact time period. As Olsen puts it, "Twenty minutes at one sitting is plenty for the novice." [17] Moreover, both Twitchell and Olsen encourage the disciple during meditation to contemplate on the picture of the guru. In Gary Olsen's booklet, MasterPath, his picture is included on the back page for this activity. This is a practice which is not allowed by Radhasoami Satsang Beas related groups.

     

    Instructional Services

    Eckankar has charged money for membership since its inception. Usually being a member in Eckankar meant that the chela, as disciples are sometimes called, would receive a monthly discourse and a general letter from the Master. Olsen also follows this same format, though changing the titles of his services. He explains:

     

    When you feel certain that you want to start the discourses and become a student of the Master, then send a letter stating that. The monthly mailings cost 25 dollars a month, which includes a discourse, a contemplation note, and the ever-present guidance and protection of the Inner Master. This is a non-profit entity, and the majority of its substance and form exists on the inner planes, between Master and seeker. [18]

    According to Olsen, each member receives the protection of the "Inner Master." Like Eckankar (and dissimilar to Radhasoami), Olsen makes a clear distinction between the inner and outer master, pointing out that the outer form is limited while the inner form is unlimited. Comments Olsen:

    I am limited in my outer form, just like you are. But my Inner Form knows no boundaries, and is actually the True Master. [19]

    As we have seen, Olsen has gone back to Eckankar's roots, but apparently he has done away with much of Eckankar's Scientologistic influences, preferring a more straightforward shabd yoga presentation much like Mulvin. In many ways, Gary Olsen and those like him represent a new breed of American shabd yoga masters who have incorporated more traditional shabd yoga teachings into their group. While M.S.I.A. is the most successful to date of all the Eckankar offshoots, Gary Olsen's MasterPath is running a distant second. His popularity is growing steadily, with a following reportedly larger than Jerry Mulvin's, but not drastically (the numbers range in the hundreds to very low thousands). With his streamlined approach, planned tours, and publications which present him as an enlightened being, Olsen's MasterPath is positioned to emerge as one of Eckankar's survivors into the twenty-first century.

     

    Michael Turner

    Jerry Mulvin broke off from Eckankar before Sri Darwin Gross, the Second Living Eck Master, was excommunicated by his successor Sri Harold Klemp in 1983. When this ugly chapter occurred in Eckankar it took many Eckists by surprise. How is it that a former Living Eck Master can become a person non-grata, stripped of his initiations, and banned from Eckankar activities? A number of Eckists reacted by leaving the group entirely; still others chose to follow Gross and his newly founded group, Ancient Teachings of the Masters (or A.T.O.M. for short). Michael Turner, who had been a chela of Eckankar since the mid-1970s, eventually aligned himself with Darwin Gross' work, even serving as a facilitator for him and his ministry. However, in 1993 Turner started his own movement which he entitled The Sonic Spectrum. As Turner explains:

     

    Since 1984, Sri Darwin Gross has taught a small coterie of chelas (probably less than 10,000 worldwide) [sic: the number is actually much lower, closer to several hundred] as their Living Shabd Sat Guru. While I was indeed a chela of Sri Darwin's for many years, we severed all legal and contractual connections when I attained God realization and began teaching in late October 1993. This severance was a mutually agreed-upon decision which I initiated prior to my acceptance of mastership. [20]

    Unlike Twitchell, Gross, Klemp, Mulvin, and even Olsen, he is much more open about connecting his mission with the work of Radhasoami gurus in India. Whereas the other Eckankar related gurus have tried to shy away from their Indian roots and any parallels between themselves and their Radhasoami counterparts, Turner has tried to strengthen those apparent ties in his writings. Elaborates Turner:

    I also have a strong affinity with my Radhasoami and Ruhani Satsang brethren in the East. I have been particularly inspired--and inwardly guided--by Shiv Dayal Singh, Sawan Singh, and Kirpal Singh. [21]

    Turner's research into the history of Eckankar has led him in a direction which is opposite of Twitchell's. While Twitchell (and others who followed him) tried to cover-up his past associations, Turner has been extremely forthcoming about the specific influences in his life, detailing not only his personal associations with Gross and Klemp, but also providing details about his reading and music habits, as well as fleshing out his personal preferences in his daily life. Among the literary influences in his life, Turner mentions Guru Nanak, Darshan Singh, Kabir, Richard Bach, Paul Brunton, Ram Dass, Abbie Hoffman, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, and Tom Wolfe and many others. Since Michael Turner is a practicing musician (he earns his livelihood as a word processor for a hotel in Tucson), he also explains how music has played a significant role in his life. He is particularly fond of the Grateful Dead and believes that they sometimes act as conduits for the shabd. Others musicians he likes include: The Beatles, David Crosby, the Doors, Peter Gabriel, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Joni Mitchell, Moody Blues, and Neil Young, to cite a few from his litany. Turner even provides a list of his favorite foods (pasta, grape nuts), sports (football), television shows (Seinfeld, Simpsons), and movies (Casablanca, Star Wars trilogy). Turner, who was born in 1958 in Tucson, Arizona, his current place of residence, candidly reveals even more details of his life, like that he was married for seven years to Mary E. Dalgleish but divorced in 1990, that while he has held a number of jobs, he has worked primarily as a word processor and secretary, and that he received his Bachelor's Degree in English/Journalism from Sonoma State in 1981.

    That a fledgling guru is so open about the biographical details of his life contrasts starkly with his guru counterparts, who have been anything but forthcoming. It also suggests that Turner has read about what has continued to damage much of Eckankar's success. Since Eckankar's founder was extremely disingenuous about his life (covering up details by creating fictional characters and scenarios), a fact which has led to severe criticism of him both within and outside the movement, Turner has instead created a sense of openness about his ministry, where any or all questions are allowed to be asked. Turner represents a post-modern breed of gurus, ones who are willing to engage the public about almost every detail of their private lives. To be sure, Turner and others like him are part of the spirit of the age, where even the President of the United States' life has been subject to extreme public scrutiny. That Turner has volunteered a tremendous amount of information about his life bodes well for his ministry, especially in a time when almost all gurus and cults are suspect.

    Overall, Turner's teachings are much more eclectic than Mulvin's or Olsen's. While both Mulvin and Olsen stay close to Eckankar, though at times attempting to "purify" the teachings, Turner literally relishes in making connections with other shabd yoga gurus. In his monthly publication, The Sonic Spectrum, Turner cites widely varying sources for his ideas, ranging from Ching Hai to Charan Singh to the Grateful Dead--all in one page. The result is an unusual mixture of pop culture, esoteric Indian terms, and New Age philosophy. It is a combination, no doubt, that reflects Turner's varying tastes. His willingness to quote and cite such diverging figures allows one to follow the evolution of his ideas fairly easily.

    While Turner's group does offer a path which is similar in structure to Eckankar, there are also noticeable differences. For instance, instead of charging a monthly fee or yearly fee, like Eckankar and the offshoots that we have mentioned so far, Turner only charges for subscribing to his newsletter, attending his periodic seminars, and receiving his literature and tapes. And his prices are quite low when compared with his competitors.

    Turner's following, however, is extremely small--perhaps not more than ten people. But since his ministry has only been around for less than two years, this does not mean that his group does not have great potential for growth. In fact, Turner is the first Western shabd yoga guru to make wide use of the growing Internet. His chief disciple, Harry Kight, has even started a newsgroup entitled Alt.meditation.shabda devoted to the ecumenical approach of his guru Michael Turner. This market is still not fully understood, but its potential is vast. Turner may not have a core following, as of yet, but his name recognizability has increased a hundred-fold by his numerous postings on the Internet. He has also received his fair share of criticism, or "flames" as they are vernacularly termed on the Net. In his postings on Alt.religion.eckankar Turner has been subjected to extreme ridicule, ranging from simple name calling (several Eckists call him "Baba Turnip") to vicious personal attacks (some labeling him an opportunist and a downright fraud). Turner has responded to all of this with equanimity which has garnered a few outside admirers, who have come to his defense in the endless flame wars on the Net. Since Turner has tapped into the Net, he has done what his counterparts have not: tailored his message to a completely new medium. In the new age of light speed information, Turner is the first to turn the corner and it may well establish him and his ministry in a field untapped by most gurus selling their wares.

    In many ways Turner can be seen as the natural extension of Twitchell's attempt to Westernize shabd yoga. While Radhasoami has very strict guidelines for those seeking initiation (for instance, the present Beas Master, Gurinder Singh, requires interested seekers to follow the three moral vows--vegetarianism, sexual abstinence outside of marriage, and no drugs/alcohol--for at least one year before applying), Eckankar has reduced the prerequisites to a minimum (doing away with vegetarianism and sexual abstinence). Michael Turner has gone even further than Eckankar, asking for nothing except a serious interest in the subject. His approach, of course, is quite American, where conformity to set guidelines and rules has always been viewed with suspicion. Concerning membership to his group, Turner states:

    I reckon there are a couple of dozen people currently receiving the Sonic Spectrum. . . . My teaching is a baby seedling, just starting to sprout above the ground. There are no requirements to join on of my study groups, save a real interest in the subject. Those requesting initiation. . . should be willing to put at least 30 minutes a day into Shabd meditation on a consistent basis. . . There is no grading system in this path, and no series of hierarchical initiations. Those who are devoted to their spiritual unfoldment will be given a single initiation which connects them to the Shabd, and be allowed to blossom on their own pace. . . In that vein I do not have any stipulations regarding diet, use of intoxicants or sexual orientations/activity. . .[22]

    Thus The Sonic Spectrum's lack of requirements allows its teachings a flexibility not seen in other shabd yoga groups. It also allows for the following to be much less committed, which may be why Turner has yet to develop a core constituency. Although strict prerequisites may turn away potential seekers at first, when followed by members it insures a dedication to the movement which is often missing in groups that lack such indices. Turner's approach may be more ideally suited, however, to a spiritual market wary of authoritarian figures and absolutist claims. Indeed, Turner may be the first post-modern offshoot in Eckankar's short history. Though he does retain much of the ideology of Radhasoami and Eckankar, he has deconstructed much of the superstructure surrounding the teachings. In a way he has stripped away the moral and cultural edifice surrounding Radhasoami and Eckankar and has concentrated on the spiritual teachings and techniques. Of course, to longtime practitioners of shabd yoga, Turner's approach is too one-sided, since the moral edifice is the foundation upon which guru-bhakti and shabd-bhakti functions.

    Clearly, all three gurus, Mulvin, Olsen and Turner, represent different stages in the development of religion. At one end of the spectrum is Gary Olsen, who is the perhaps at this leg the most successful and who represents a slight modification of Eckankar; then there is Jerry Mulvin who has streamlined Eckankar to suit his own vision of the "Great Ones," while adding a creativity of his own; and finally at the other end of the spectrum is Michael Turner, who has brought Eckankar back to its roots, while at the same time doing away with many of the requirements that prevented some people from joining. Which group (if any) will be successful in the spiritual marketplace in North America may be difficult to predict at this stage [23]; certainly it will depend upon the group's ability to adapt shabd yoga teachings to an American audience. Altogether, these virtual gurus (and others like them) partially contribute to the plurality of religion in North America and are in some ways the "grassroots" of shabdism here.