This research looked at the concept of the Holy Spirt among the religious sects of the Eckankar (ECK) and Brotherhood of cross and star (BCS). The English terms “Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” are complete synonyms: one derives from the Old English gast and the other from the Latin loanword spiritus.
Like pneuma, they both refer to the breath, to its animating power, and the soul. The term Holy Spirit appears at least 90 times in the New Testament, but only three times in the Old Testament. The sacredness of the Holy Spirit is affirmed in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:30–32, Mark 3:28–30, and Luke 12:8–10) which proclaims that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin.
The Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is the third person (hypostasis) of the Trinity: the Triune God manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each person itself being God. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the tripartite nature of conversion is apparent in Jesus’ final post-Resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19):
“make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit“. Since the first century, Christians have also called upon God with the name “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” in prayer, absolution, and benediction.
Concept Of the Holy Spirit in Eckankar
Eckankar is a religious and spiritual path, sometimes called the Religion of the Light and Sound of God. Its name can be translated as “co-worker with God”. Eckankar members are called ECKists or ECK chelas. (“Chelas” means “student”). According to Eck’s teachings, they believe they have ancient roots. Unfortunately, much knowledge was lost to history until Paul Twitchell (Paulji) “rediscovered it.” He founded Eckankar in 1965.
They believe that Sugmad is a sacred name of God; God is perceived as neither male nor female. They believe an ECK Current connects every person with the Heart of Sugmad. It flows from the Creator to the lower levels of existence and then returns to God. It is often called the Holy Spirit. ECK manifests itself in two forms:
- an “Inner Sound”, the “Voice of god calling us home”. The Sound may be present as a sound of nature or as music.
- an “Inner Light which is a beacon to light our way”. During spiritual exercises, the light sometimes materializes as “brightness or colors on your inner visual screen”.
Eckankar believes in the duality of the soul and body. The soul is the inner, most sacred part of an individual. It is eternal, without beginning or end. It lives only in the present. One’s soul can exist and travel separately from the body and even from the mind.
A person is capable of exploring other planes of existence, through Soul Travel. Unlike “Astral Projection” which is taught by other spiritual traditions, Soul Travel is not limited to the Astral Plane; it allows you to go further and explore any of the god worlds.
Eckankar has a concept of Karma which is somewhat similar to that found in Hinduism. Through attachment to the five passions (anger, greed, lust, undue attachment to the physical world, and vanity) one’s bad karma accumulates. This requires a person to be reincarnated at death, to have an opportunity to work off the debt of karma in their next life.
The goal of Eckists is to pay off all of this accumulated debt and achieve Self-Realization in their present life. Once this state is reached, at death one need not return and spend another lifetime on earth. One is freed from the endless cycles of reincarnation.
Eckankar is regarded by its followers as the best (but not the only) path to God-realization. Christianity is recognized as an alternate path that can aid a follower to achieve a degree of enlightenment. Christians, and others, may join Eckankar without renouncing their existing religion.
The Holy Spirit in Eckankar
Light and Sound as the Holy Spirit
According to ECK, Light and Sound are the twin aspects of the Holy Spirit, the divine life current that flows from God. This current, known as the ECK, sustains all life. Harold Klemp states that when you step onto the path to God and you begin looking for that secret path to heaven, the way will be opened for you. And the way lies through the Spiritual Exercises of ECK.
These spiritual exercises link you with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which is seen as Light and heard as Sound. The inner Sound is the Voice of God calling us home. The inner Light is a beacon to light our way. All the Spiritual Exercises of ECK are built on these two divine aspects of the Holy Spirit.
Light and Sound in Spiritual Tradition
Light and Sound have long been a part of religious rituals throughout the world. Chants and hymns are among the most well-known examples of sound in the Christian tradition. The singing of cantors plays an important role in Judaism. Om, sung in some Eastern religions, is often used in meditation. Likewise, the Light of God is symbolically represented in most religions.
Stained glass, precious stones, and skylights are common in religious structures. Native American celebrations, as well as those of certain other religions, use fire and drums, as well as chanting, all examples of light and sound. Each ceremony represents the effort of people to speak to God in their way.
The Light of God has appeared to many saints and mystics. Saul of Tarsus had a dramatic encounter with the Light of God on the road to Damascus. Moses saw It in the burning bush. Throughout history, light has been depicted around images of holy people and in illustrations of angels. Today, many refer to this light in popular books about near-death experiences.
The Spiritual Exercises of ECK (contemplation)
Beyond prayer is contemplation. Contemplation is a method that enables you to begin to go out and actively explore the inner worlds of your being. It is different than meditation, a passive state in which the practitioner goes within and just quietly waits for the light.
One contemplative technique is to read something inspirational—a biblical verse or a passage from the ECK writings—then shut your eyes and look inwardly, very gently, at the form of an ECK Master, Jesus, or any figure you feel is a spiritual traveler. Ask to be shown the truth. You can ask for love, wisdom, and understanding, but something greater than these three things, which are only attributes of God, is to ask for the realization of God.
Concept Of the Holy Spirit in Brotherhood Of The Cross And Star
The Brotherhood of the Cross and Star is a Nigeria-based new religious movement, founded in Calabar, Nigeria in 1956. It differs from mainstream Christianity in that followers believe its founder, Olumba Olumba Obu, is the Holy Spirit personified, thus giving him the attributes of both God and Jesus Christ. BCS incorporates into Christian teaching ideas of reincarnation and traditional African religions. In the 1990s it was a millenarian religion.
Olumba Olumba Obu
Obu was born in 1918 in Biakpan, a village near Calabar in Cross River State, Eastern Nigeria. There are various stories about his early life told by the Brotherhood and claims for miracles for which he is meant to be responsible. The religion was officially founded by him in 1956. There have always been disagreements and schism within the Brotherhood (in 1977 there was violence and bethels destroyed in Calabar.) However, Obu appears to have held on to his position until 1999. Effective control since 2000 has rested with his son, also called Olumba Olumba Obu (although known previously as Rowland). Obu Sr. has not been seen in public for several years, leading to speculation that he died in December 2003, but the BCS denies this.
His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu (Rowland)
Obu’s son, previously known as Rowland, now teaches in the place of his father. Since his succession, there have been arguments and even court cases. BCS calls him “King of Kings”. There is now some confusion between the father and son as a result of the succession.
Teachings and beliefs of Brotherhood of Cross and Star
The BCS church believes in the existence of the Triune God (Trinity) and His goodness. He is pleased with all those who come near Him by faith. God is seen as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is holy and loving. He is the one who created the universe and all visible and invisible things. They believe in the worship of God alone and witness Him alone by faith
The church recognized God as the creator whose understanding is beyond human understanding. The church also acknowledges that God spoke and related to humanity in various ways. He has spoken above all through His only Son, the word who incarnated, dwell among men and revealed the Divine being and character that the sovereign power of God, His perfect mercy and might are without end.
The church as a community believes in the deity and the true humanity of Jesus Christ. “They believe all that the scripture teaches on His virgin birth, on His supernatural miracles, His victorious and substitutionary” Jesus Christ is believed to be the word of God, through His who came in the flesh as the savior of the world to deliver men from the sin and to reconcile them to God, through His death on the cross. He was then declared to be the Son of God with the power of resurrection from the dead. He is the head of the church and will come again to reign in glory.
The BCS holds on strongly that the Holy Spirit is “one who convicts men of their sin and leads them to saving faith in Christ the Lord. The Holy Spirit is an eternal spirit who dwelled in Jesus Christ and the church. The Holy Spirit is the source of life and is poured out on those who believe as a guarantee for redemption.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, scripture writers were inspired to follow God’s Law. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ was prepared as His baptism to proclaim the good news, healed the sick, dead, and rose again. According to BCS, on the day of Pentecost, God poured the Holy Spirit on all flesh.
And more also, the church became the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. “By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church comes to unity in doctrine and action. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the church preaches, teaches, testifies, heals, loves, and suffers, following the example of Jesus its Lord.
The Holy Spirit is frequently referred to by metaphor and symbol, both doctrinally and biblically. Theologically speaking these symbols are a key to understanding the Holy Spirit and his actions, and are not mere artistic representations.
Water – signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, such that in the manner that “by one Spirit [believers] were all baptized”, so they are “made to drink of one Spirit”. Fire – symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. In the form of tongues “as of fire”, the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost.
The dove – When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him.[Mt 3:16] Wind – The Spirit is likened to the “wind that blows where it will,”[Jn 3:8] and described as “a sound from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind.”
In Eckankar, The Light and Sound are the twin aspects of the Holy Spirit. Each person is Soul, a particle of God sent into the lower worlds (including earth) to gain spiritual experience. Purified by the spiritual exercises, he comes into contact with the Holy Spirit.
His goal is spiritual freedom in this lifetime, after which he becomes a Co-worker with God, both here and in the next world. Karma and reincarnation are primary beliefs.
In BCS, the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts men of their sin and leads them to saving faith in Christ the Lord.
Ellwood, Robert S., and Harry B. Partin. Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America, Second edition, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1988.
Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements, edited by Peter Clarke, p.81
Jikamupa, N. A. “Brief History of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star Church.” Unpublished paper on church history. Oyibi-Ghana, 2004.
Johnson, Julian. The Path of the Masters: The Science of Surat Shabd Yoga: The Yoga of the Audible Life Stream, France, 1993.
Klemp, Harold. The Secret Teachings, Crystal, Minnesota: IWP. Mentions Kirpal Singh. 1989.
Klemp, Sri Harold. “A Spiritual Exercise to Try.” Eckankar Journal. 1996.
Lane, David Christopher, The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, Del Mar, California: Del Mar Press, 1990.
Offiong, Essien A (1987). “Schism and Religious Independence in Nigeria: The Case of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star”. In Hackett, Rosalind I. J. New Religious Movements in Nigeria. New York: Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 179–190