Those who follow the alternative religion of Eckankar say that theirs is the religion of the Light and Sound of God. The Light of God is the ECK, known to many saints and mystics as the Holy Spirit. The Sound of God is the rushing wind that the disciples of Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.–c. 30 C.E.) heard on that first Pentecost.
Eckists believe that they follow ancient wisdom teachings that were revived in 1965 for modern men and women by the Living ECK Master Paul Twitchell (1910?–1971). According to Twitchell and such masters from higher planes as Rebazar Tarzs, whose teachings he relayed, the soul is on a journey of self-and god-realization. To assist the individual soul to achieve contact with the ECK, the Divine Spirit, the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master, provides spiritual exercises and guidance available to all sincere seekers.
Because the Mahantas emphasize that Eckankar is a living faith that changes constantly, Eckists must pay close attention to the teachings and revelations of the Living Master, who comes from a long line of masters from the Vairagi Order, whose spiritual essences reside in the Golden Temple of Wisdom on higher dimensions of being. The Living Master is never worshipped, but he is highly revered by all Eckists. According to official Eckankar records, there are approximately 50,000 members in more than 100 countries.
Shortly before Twitchell's death in 1971, critics accused him of fabricating the religious origins of Eckankar, borrowing concepts from other spiritual groups, and plagiarizing ideas from previously published works. A firm denial by Twitchell did little to quench the controversy, and Twitchell's successor, Darwin Gross, became involved in an internal struggle that resulted in his expulsion from Eckankar and his founding of the Ancient Teachings of the Masters, which he claimed perpetuated the true teachings of Twitchell.
The present Living ECK Master, Harold Klemp, who claims to be the 973rd initiated Mahanta, became the spiritual leader of Eckankar in 1981. At the present time, the spiritual home of Eckankar is the Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minnesota.