Losing my religion (Part 1 of 2)
There’s just no end to the
ACKANKAR®: BEYOND THE LIGHT & SOUND
By Letta Spray
The modern form of Ackankar® was brought to a waiting world in the mid-60’s by a shy and gentle Southerner named Paul Twaddel. Twaddel had been raised as a fundamentalist Baptist but had always been somewhat of a quiet rebel. A long time student of world religions, Twaddel was intrigued by the notion that none of the existing religious traditions really provided a direct pathway to God. They all gave tantalizing glimpses of the Truth, but not the whole picture. And not one of them seemed to capture the true essence of Spirit.
Twaddel lived by his senses and sought a religion that would support him in this. "‘In the beginning was the Word’...and ‘let there be Light’...and so on, and so on," Twaddel wrote in his memoirs. "That’s what we were given in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and other religions are full of similar images. Analyzing these traditions, I came to the conclusion that for all practical purposes they seemed to be focused mainly on light and sound. Not one of them touched on the smell or taste of God. That seemed to me to be a pretty significant gap.’"
It was a gap that Twaddel was destined to fill. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Twaddel moved to Las Vegas. It was there that he first began to get the nightly visitations from a being who identified himself as the Ascended Tibetan Master Reelbizar Starzs. Starzs wore a tattered maroon robe and smelled faintly of pastrami and stale cigar smoke. Through a series of dialogues with Starzs that lasted for many months, Twaddel became schooled in the principles of the ancient but long-suppressed spiritual path known as Ackankar. Finally, by decree of Starzs and a group of exalted spiritual masters known as the Nine Reticent Ones, he received the High Initiation in a profoundly secret ceremony that took place on the Seventh Spiritual Plane. With this Initiation Paul Twaddel became the first Living ACK Master of modern times, and was given the spiritual name Peddar Ast.
A prolific writer, Twaddel authored many books and treatises on the principles of Ackankar. His status as a spiritual leader grew as he gained a reputation for being able to perform all sorts of feats generally believed to be impossible: miracle healings, bi-location, tri-location, controlling the weather, and, most importantly, soul-food travel, a technique whereby he sent his astral body out to various local southern-cuisine bistros for huge plates of chitlins and greens and fatback. (Subsequent Living ACK Masters have also possessed miraculous powers.) Twaddel was the subject of a best-selling book, In My Soul I Am Me, by Brad Tiger, another prolific author whose brain was later stolen and reconfigured by extraterrestrials. Twaddel soon had a respectable number of followers, mostly young people who were disillusioned with traditional religions. Today there are over five million Ackists worldwide, and the number continues to grow.
But just what is Ackankar? Like most incredibly simple yet eternally profound truths, Ackankar is difficult to explain in a few sentences, and misconceptions abound. And the terminology can be confusing: in the beginning, Ackankar was billed as "not a religion, but a way of life"; today, however, it is a religion. Who knows what it might be tomorrow or next year? "It all depends on the revelations our marketing department receives from a group of very wise but disembodied spiritual advisors known as the Vagary Masters," explains Sri Herman Klump, the present Living ACK Master. "For now, calling Ackankar a religion seems to work for us. It sets us apart from all those other paths that are calling themselves ‘a way of life’ these days. Plus, it got us tax-exempt, which freed up our resources to help spread our message."
While many people think of Ackankar as "the throwing-up religion," in reality it is not just about throwing up in the literal sense. Ackankar is the outward expression of the ACK, which in turn is the Universal Expression of Divinity. "The Big Bang was really a big ACK," explains Sri Herman. "And all of life throughout the Universe is one continuous ACK. Ackankar is simply the path by which we reach the source of the ACK."
What does this have to do with the smell and taste of God? Plenty, as it turns out. Twaddel was a big believer in sensual indulgence, for indeed, how else could one know the true essence of God, the smell and taste of the Divine, without use of one’s senses? According to Twaddel, the holiest means of indulging the senses, other than physical union with attractive ACK Initiates, was through food. And Twaddel ate plenty of food. He encouraged his followers to do likewise. It helped that the Ackankar home office was located in Las Vegas in those early days. Ackankar conferences were held at various hotels around the city, and the extravagant buffets were always the chief attraction. Extreme overeating was always encouraged, as was the inevitable and immediate result of same. (There was only one rule: no after-dinner cup of coffee, for caffeine was believed to stunt one’s spiritual growth.)
Early on, Ackists became known for public vomiting en masse. It was probably because of this that Ackankar gained an undeserved reputation for decadence. "Those who accuse us of being decadent," Twaddel often said, "do not understand the spiritual aspect of what we are doing. We are simply demonstrating a universal spiritual principle: what goes down must come up."
Even today food, and lots of it, plays a very important part in ACK gatherings of all sizes. And while it is true that throwing up in the literal sense does have a role in Ackankar, it is only in the context of a spiritual rite; equally significant is the chant that follows the mass regurgitation: a prolonged "PU" (pronounced as the "pu" in "puny"). "Life is a holy process of assimilation and release," Twaddel always said. And indeed, there is nothing more representative of this holy process than a mass ACK, and no more eloquent expression of the smell of the Divine than the sound of several hundred voices softly chanting PUUUUUU.
Paul Twaddel chose to transcend this plane of existence in the early 1970s, during the annual World Wide of ACK Conference. At the time of his transcendence he was in his hotel suite, giving an Initiation to a female Ackist. Apparently he completed the Initiation before he transcended, because the female Initiate came out of the room with a radiant smile on her face. Very soon after, the Nine Reticent Ones appointed Sri Derwood Goose the new Living ACK Master. Not only did Derwood inherit Twaddel’s title, he got his widow Gayle in the bargain. "I just got in the habit of marrying Living ACK Masters," Gayle explained. "I like a guy who can cause tornadoes to visit the homes of people who piss me off." A jazz musician from the midwest, Derwood was also the author of several books and numerous articles, though he never had Twaddel’s gift for language. His writing was described by some critics as the literary equivalent of a beached whale. It was true that he spoke most eloquently through his music. At any rate, Derwood was a warm and very popular Master and was particularly fond of female Initiates.
At some point in the 1980s, the Nine Reticent Ones decided that perhaps he was a bit too fond of his female followers, and they decided he was doing some other things that were not in the best interest of Ackankar, so Derwood was de-Mastered and fellow midwesterner Herman Klump was appointed to take his place. Klump was chosen for several reasons, not the least of which was the First Sacred Tradition of Ackankar: The Living ACK Master must have an extraordinarily dweeby name. (Klump’s spiritual name, Wah-Zoo, elevates this tradition to art.)
As Ackankar’s numbers and members continue to swell, it becomes more and more apparent that this is the wave of the future in spirito-sensual paths. "We call it a religion," says Sri Herman, or Hermji as his fond followers call him, "but it is much more than that. Besides getting people in touch with the taste and smell of the Divine, Ackankar provides a workable model of the Universe, a means of dividing all of creation into spiritual planes with names that sound even dweebier than the Living ACK Masters’ names." He adds, "To tell the truth, most people entering Ackankar are bewildered by all the names and terms. We’ve been accused of practicing buffet religion, that is, taking elements of Buddhism, Hinduism and a bunch of other traditions, piling them on our plate and claiming them as our own. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ackankar is the oldest religion in the world. Those other guys stole from us. Although I must admit that the buffet metaphor is an extraordinarily appealing one."
As the Living ACK Master, Hermji’s responsibilities are many. He travels most of the year, speaking at various regional ACK conferences as well as the national and international gatherings. Hermji is more than willing to answer questions about Ackankar, and his answers are always as forthright as they are concise. When asked, for example, why the Living ACK Master is always male, he answers very simply, "Because that’s the way it is." When pressed to elaborate, he says without hesitation, "Because the Nine Reticent Ones say so. Well, they don’t actually say it; after all, they don’t talk, but their hand gestures make it very clear...the Living ACK Master has gotta be a guy."
Is there any message about Ackankar that Hermji would like the world to know? "I suppose the main thing we want to express," he says, "is that we’re not just a bunch of overweight, wild-eyed misfits who sit around eating Ding-Dongs® and Twinkies®. Some of us prefer Little Debbie Products. But whatever our personal preferences, we’re all searching for basically the same things: a decent meal, the big ACK...and, frankly, a great bonk once in awhile doesn’t hurt either. Basically I think we should all try to live Paul Twaddel’s core philosophy. Paul always said, ‘Take time to stop, get down on your knees and smell the roses. And as long as you’re down there, why not scarf down a few petals? The pink ones taste the best.’"
As they say in Ackankar, "May the blessings be eaten – and ACKed."
Copyright © 1995. 2007 by Connie Louise Schmidt. All Rights Reserved.
from Cosmic Relief: Honoring and Celebrating the Global Paradigm Shaft
Well, now, Ackankar sure does sound like something that Mr. Creosote would have loved, doesn’t it? But seriously…I wish to apologize to the five or six people who may have previously read the above piece in my BLP (book-like-product) Cosmic Relief. There is a point to my using this recycled material, though. As is everything else in Cosmic Relief, this one was based on reality (well, in a manner of speaking), and in this case, it is "reality" with which I have some firsthand experience. More about that in Part 2.