a man writes a book,
---Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This NHNE Special Report focuses on James F. Twyman, his book, "Emissary of Light", his recent activities, including The Great Experiment, and issues related to the spiritual path in general. It consists of three parts: a section on Twyman, his activities, and related archetypes; a section of letters, messages, faxes, and interview; and a section on my personal issues and agendas (which have strongly motivated and influenced the coverage of this story). Taken together, there is a lot of thought-provoking information here which I hope all of you will take the time to read, and ponder.
Of all the special reports I have worked on, this has been the most challenging. Along with triggering personal issues for me (which I discuss in the last section of this report), both Twyman and his story has been particularly slippery. As far as we have been able to determine, there are kernels of truth in everything Twyman claims. At the same time, virtually every aspect of his story has also been misrepresented, embellished, and spun in dubious ways. Similarly, while Twyman's main contention that he physically met 13 spiritual masters in Bosnia is almost certainly not true, he seems sincere, and genuinely committed to personal and planetary transformation. Indeed, a part from his megalomaniac claims, he seems like a regular guy -- warm, personable, friendly.
I have spent weeks trying to figure out how to present this report in a way that is fair, accurate, objective, AND GENTLE, but haven't been able to find one. Twyman's claims are so extraordinary, and the issues he brings up are so important, that a watered-down report is not possible -- at least for me.
That said, it is my sincere hope that this report will help everyone involved -- myself, James Twyman, his editor, publisher and associates, his readers and fans, and the NHNE staff and readership -- take a closer look at ourselves, our beliefs, and the spiritual ideas and practices that dominate so much of the personal growth/planetary transformation movement today.
To encourage all of us to actively participate in this exploration, this special report will be followed by another one consisting of your comments. If after reading this report you have something you would like to share with everyone on the NHNE Mailing List, you can email your comments to "firstname.lastname@example.org". I will assume I have permission to include your thoughts in the followup report unless you specifically ask that they be withheld. Also, please be sure and read ALL OF THIS REPORT before emailing us your thoughts.
If you have something to say that can't wait or you would like to begin discussing the information contained in this report now, you can swing by the bulletin board on the NHNE website and post your comments there. Whereas the letters you send us will be included in the followup report and be archived in the NHNE database, the comments posted in our bulletin board will be removed after 60 days:
Love & Best Wishes,
(Special thanks to NHNE SwiftWing Reporter Sherry Stultz for help researching this report, James Gregory, D. Patrick Miller, Robert Perry, Adam Furst and Val Scott for providing valuable contacts, information and feedback, Hagit Raanan for serving as a bridge between Twyman and myself while Twyman was in Israel, and to Twyman's editor, Colleen Kapklein, for managing to get all my/our letters to Twyman, who does not yet have direct personal access to the Internet. The perspectives presented in this special report are my own and may or may not be shared by the people listed above.)
Emissary of Light, a book by James F. Twyman, arrived in our mailbox in November of 1997. A letter from Colleen Kapklein, Twyman's editor, introduced the book. According to Kapklein, "of all the books I've edited, none has had a more profound impact on me personally." Kapklein mentioned that the author of the book had faced harrowing adventures in the war zone of Bosnia and Croatia and that the book itself contained a message "that the world desperately needs to hear."
The jacket of the book was more direct, "James Twyman, a traveling troubadour, would risk his life to sing prayers of peace. But with the violence of Bosnia raging all around him, he made a journey to a secluded mountainous area. There he met a mystical community known as the Emissaries of Light, a secret society said to have existed for thousands of years, dedicated to the eternal flame of peace and the banishment of fear and mistrust from the world."
Over the years, I have encountered numerous authors, spiritual teachers and supposed masters who presented tales similar to Twyman's. Typically, the person in question meets a highly-evolved group of spiritual masters, or a representative of such a group. It is a secret society/brotherhood that the public at large knows nothing about. The initial encounter is unexpected and there are usually no witnesses. After this first meeting, a process of initiation begins and the person is taught the secret teachings of the brotherhood, which the brotherhood has practiced and safeguarded for ages. To bolster its claim of spiritual mastership, the brotherhood often demonstrates various powers and passes at least some of these powers on to their new student. Often, the training takes place over weeks, months, years, at the group's home base which is located in a remote, inaccessible location that cannot be seen, detected, or located by non-group members. At some point during the initiation process, the new initiate is told that they have been chosen for a special mission: to learn the ways of the secret brotherhood and then share these great teachings with the world. Usually, these stories also include dire warnings: humanity is on the verge of annihilation and if we do not change our ways and learn to live as the secret brotherhood teaches, we are lost. Finally, after receiving his/her training and passing various tests, the newly-appointed initiate emerges. Having been handpicked out of all the other souls on the planet, the new initiate begins telling others about their adventure, coveted knowledge and special calling. A devout circle of believers/followers hears the initiate, and responds to his/her call. Empowered and emboldened by the support of others, the messenger and his group now begins a concerted effort to change the world by spreading and practicing the messenger's teaching.
To date, not one story like this I have ever heard has turned out to be true, nor have the champions of such stories been able to prove themselves authentic messengers of God. If the story itself is not proven false (which is often difficult to do since physical evidence is usually absent), then the prophetic messenger eventually succumbs to the kind of character flaws that spawned the story in the first place -- lies, abuse of power, sexual indiscretions, underhanded financial dealings, slight-of-hand with respect to supposed powers, plagiarism, and other moral failures. The darker aspects of these self-appointed prophets, in other words, eventually catch up with them -- even though it may take years, sometimes decades or even centuries for this information to become public knowledge. Character flaws, of course, are not limited to deluded seekers. But whereas authentic spiritual figures wrestle with these flaws in the open, admitting their weaknesses and striving to overcome them, their misguided counterparts go to great lengths to hide their flaws behind carefully crafted spiritual personas.
It is also important to note that NONE of humanity's authentic religious leaders ever claimed to be representatives of a secret society or brotherhood. The Jesus, Buddha, St. Francis, Joan of Arc, Dalai Lama's of history all lived their lives in the open, drawing their message and support from the religious traditions of their day and their inner connection with the divine, rather than claiming to be representatives of a secret brotherhood that none of their contemporaries knew anything about.
Twyman's story matches the bogus archetype outlined above: The Emissaries of Light he encounters are composed of six men, six women, and a central "Teacher" figure. They are unknown to the world at large and cannot be visited unless you have been mysteriously drawn to them. They are guardians of the race, who have a special message that the world is on the verge of a major awakening. That special message is passed on to Twyman, who has been hand-picked, out of all the people on planet Earth, to represent them and share their message with humanity. They have incredible powers, and not only demonstrate their powers in Twyman's book, but also teach Twyman how to access some of them (Twyman is able to effortlessly meditate 12 hours a day, see colors and energy fields, experience mystical states of consciousness, and read minds). The Emissaries of Light are so advanced, in fact, that all 13 of them are able to physically move in and out of this dimension, at will -- which they do in Twyman's story, after he has been anointed as their chosen messenger. This last talent, of course, is unparalleled in human history. Not even Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples were able to accomplish a similar feat -- Christ reportedly mastered this talent, but his disciples did not.
According to numerous passages in Twyman's book, his story is a true story. It is not an allegorical tale like the Celestine Prophecy, not a novel, not a fictional account. It is, as Twyman himself writes, "the true story of an incredible adventure." Indeed, the book repeatedly dwells on this point, discussing Twyman's fear and confusion at being chosen as the Emissaries messenger and reassuring the reader, through various comments, that Twyman wouldn't lie, or make up such a story.
Anyone who has studied human history knows that "true stories" have far more power to motivate people than fantasies. While people love and appreciate novels, fairy tales, and allegories, they don't believe fairy god mothers are going to turn mice into horses and pumpkins into coaches. They understand that not all aspects of a fictional story can be literally applied in the real world. But true stories are another matter. True stories, by definition, mean that the events, the philosophies, the practices that are presented have been applied in the real world. Because they have been applied in the world by the characters in the story, they can also be applied by us with similar results. And Twyman's story, presented as a true account, says that personal and planetary transformation can be achieved by adopting the philosophy and practicing the techniques taught by his high-powered society of adepts.
Significantly, Twyman admits in his book that his success as a musician and author, as well as his appearances before large crowds, was very limited before Emissary of Light was written. But now, using his book and self-proclaimed status as a messenger of a secret society to bolster his status and spread his particular version of spiritual truth and enlightenment, all aspects of Twyman's work are in overdrive: concerts, interviews, workshops, prayer vigils, movie possibilities, even opportunities to play politics in the real world.
Twyman gives credit for his success to the Emissaries. "Humanity is ready for this message," Twyman is told by "Teacher", the leader of the Emissaries, who also happens to be his mentor. "They will believe you, I assure you. They want to believe in the Emissaries of Light."
And believe him they have. Not only was Twyman able to find an editor and publisher who believed his story enough to publish it, but Twyman also says thousands of people from all over the world have read his book and written appreciative letters. "The book helped them to identify what was resonating inside them already," reports Twyman. "My attempt with this has not been to present something that is new... but to bring out the truth that is already there."
But is any of this real?
As soon as Twyman's book arrived, I contacted a few well-connected people involved in A Course in Miracles. "The Course", as it is called, is a three-volume set of books that claims to have been authored by Jesus Christ through a Jewish psychologist named Helen Schucman. It is also the primary spiritual teaching which Twyman mentions in his book, and which The Emissary's philosophy is suspiciously similar to. I asked these people to pass on any information they might have concerning Twyman and his extraordinary claims. And then I put it all on the back burner. I hoped the book wouldn't catch on and Twyman wouldn't generate enough public interest to warrant any attention from us.
Then the US/Iraq crisis developed and Twyman emerged in the middle of it claiming that he had been personally invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein and that his efforts had helped end the crisis. A news release that was widely circulated on the Internet boldly declared:
In yet another press release, Twyman added:
Although Twyman's claims were becoming increasingly grand, I still hesitated to pursue this story. And then he launched The Great Experiment, which not only sought to change the world overnight through the power of collective prayer, but also wed his claims of being a hand-picked messenger of the Emissaries with his efforts to help shift human consciousness. Claiming to be in personal contact with the central figure of his story, "Teacher", Twyman issued the following press release:
Did the world "shift" on April 23rd as Twyman predicted; did humanity awaken in an instant? Unfortunately, no. But Twyman did manage to expose himself and his message to thousands of people all over the world through the power of the Internet. It also became obvious that Twyman wasn't going to fade away. Indeed, not only was he actively seeking to interject himself and his message into the real world, but a growing number of people were beginning to believe his Emissary of Light story and regard him as the divine messenger he claimed to be. Unable to ignore Twyman anymore, and receiving an increasing number of letters from people who wanted to know what we thought of him and why we hadn't been more supportive of his efforts, we launched an investigation.
We contacted the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Iraqi Mission at the United Nations, Twyman's editor, people who attended Twyman's UN-related Great Experiment Peace Concert/Meditation, more Course people, and people who knew Twyman personally, including an old acquaintance who had read an early version of Twyman's book. We also set things in motion to speak to Twyman himself. What emerges from all of these communications (many of which are included in the second part of this report) seriously challenges the most important aspects of Twyman's Emissary of Light story. It also calls into question Twyman's dramatic claims concerning global politics.
Twyman was first introduced to A Course In Miracles through a controversial community called ENDEAVOR ACADEMY. He refers to this community in his book, but, significantly, does not mention it by name. Started by Chuck Anderson, a former real estate broker and recovered alcoholic, ENDEAVOR ACADEMY is widely regarded as a full-fledged cult in most Course circles. Among other things, ENDEAVOR ACADEMY, about 200 people strong at their headquarters in Wisconsin, regard Anderson as a fully-realized being. Referred to as "The Master Teacher" or "MT", Anderson exerts god-like powers over his followers, many of whom have given up everything they own to the community. Members are expected to obey MT without question and there are numerous reports of physical violence being perpetrated on members -- mostly by the Master Teacher himself. ENDEAVOR ACADEMY is also well-known for several other characteristics: a strong evangelical approach to spreading their message and drawing in new converts (which includes disrupting the workshops, gatherings and lectures of other Course organizations); a belief that MT will enlighten everyone who follows him; a belief that this enlightenment can take place instantly, now, without having to plod along overcoming personal imperfections and/or mastering various aspects of life; and all ENDEAVOR members, with the help of MT and his fully-realized inside circle, will "flash out" or ascend like Jesus did when the time is right. Indeed, The Master Teacher claims to have already ascended himself and has returned to help others do the same. 1,2
While Twyman himself is no longer a member of ENDEAVOR ACADEMY and publicly disavows many of their beliefs and practices, the following similarities between his book and work, and ENDEAVOR, are worth noting:
While many of the central elements of Twyman's story may have come from and/or been strongly influenced by ENDEAVOR, the name of the Emissaries themselves may have been lifted from another group. Twyman mentions this other group, "Emissaries of Divine Light," in his book, but acts as if he has just been introduced to them. What he fails to mention, and what former associates of his have told us, is that Twyman also spent some time with them, apparently while writing his book. If this is true, there is very little about Twyman's book that is original: It draws its philosophy from A Course in Miracles, it mission, enlightened-group metaphor, and evangelical approaches from ENDEAVOR, and its name from the Emissaries of Divine Light.
These are the behind-the-scenes connections we are aware of that helped shape Twyman's book. Twyman's claims and activities in the real world are equally disconcerting.
Twyman claimed he was personally invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein, but later admitted that he never met, spoke, or sang for Hussein in person and has no way of knowing whether, in fact, Hussein knew about him or extended a personal invitation. Instead, Twyman says that Iraqi officials in London that told him that his invitation to Iraq would not have been approved without Hussein's personal knowledge. Twyman also says that Iraqi officials told him that a personal meeting with Hussein had been arranged, even though none took place. While admitting that he simply doesn't know whether Hussein invited him personally or not, Twyman claims that he never would have gone to Iraq if he did not believe he had been personally invited by Hussein and that some kind of personal meeting was possible. Since Twyman knew all of this BEFORE his press releases went out to the world claiming that he had been personally invited by Hussein, why not say so? Why mislead others to believe that he had been personally invited by Hussein when, in fact, he wasn't sure if he had been and no personal meeting of any kind ever took place?
Twyman's Saddam Hussein invitation was followed by another high-level invitation. This one, according to press releases issued prior to The Great Experiment, came from the government of Northern Ireland. Wrote Twyman, "A week later, I was invited by the government of Northern Ireland to sing at Stormont Castle in Belfast in the building where the peace talks were being held." Did the government of Northern Ireland really extend a personal invitation to Twyman? It turns out that Twyman's appearance was handled by an official working with the peace talks who's name and official title Twyman couldn't recall. And how did Twyman make the leap from being invited by an official who's name and title he couldn't remember to being personally invited by the government of Northern Ireland? Says Twyman, "It is hard to imagine how I would have been permitted to stage a concert in a highly-secured area without official sanction."
After Iraq and Northern Ireland, Twyman made his way to New York where he reportedly received yet another remarkable invitation: this time to sing at the United Nations. "James Twyman," a Great Experiment press release declared, "has been invited to sing the peace prayers from the twelve major religions at the United Nations building in New York on April 23rd." In addition, the press release implied that the UN invitation had grown out of his successful appearances in Iraq and Northern Ireland. In fact, Twyman had been invited to play music at a UN-related event long before visiting Iraq and Northern Ireland. And the UN-related event he was invited to, which was held in a church across the street from the UN, not the UN itself, was a reception that had been scheduled to honor ambassadors, not promote Twyman or his Great Experiment. According to people who participated in this event, Twyman's decision to use the reception to promote The Great Experiment disrupted the gathering and caused problems for the group that organized the event. Along with being inundated with email queries about The Great Experiment -- which was something they knew nothing about and had nothing to do with -- the organizers were also placed in the uncomfortable position of having to diplomatically redirect the focus of the reception away from Twyman back to the UN ambassadors.
And finally, there is the matter of the Emissaries themselves: Are they real, or not?
In order to get to the bottom of this issue, and many of the other controversies mentioned above, we put together a list of questions for Twyman to answer and forwarded them to him through his editor, friends and online associates. After initially refusing to answer our questions, Twyman finally responded with a four-page fax, and later spent about 20 minutes on the phone with me answering questions. Twyman admits that his story is not completely true and regrets that it was written and published as if it were. He doesn't know how his publisher will decide to deal with future editions of his book, other than labeling it as "New Age". Colleen Kapklein, Twyman's editor, also failed to address this issue. Echoing Twyman, all she would say was this:
Obviously, listing a book as "New Age" that presents itself -- on its jacket, in its introduction, and numerous times in the body of the book itself -- as a true story does not deal with this concern. Kapklein also failed to answer concerns about why Warner would publish a book that made the kind of dramatic claims Twyman's did, without investigating them. She also refused to comment about whether Warner planned to offer a public apology for publishing a book that presented itself as a true story when, in fact, it was a mixture of fact and fantasy.
Twyman, meanwhile, continues to insist that the 13 Emissaries he says he met in Bosnia are real people, with fleshly bodies like the rest of us, and that they are no longer on this physical plane. Twyman also says that the people he mentions in the book who met the Emissaries with him are real people. He said one of these people, Snjezana, had agreed to be interviewed in the fall issue of HOLISTIC HEALTH JOURNAL, but refused to tell us how we might contact Snjezana or any of the other people in his story to verify his claims.
Where does all of this leave us?
We have an incredible story that perfectly fits a bogus archetype that has been perpetuated, repeatedly, by dubious spiritual seekers of the past. We can see striking similarities between Twyman's story and his familiarity with A Course In Miracles, and his associations with ENDEAVOR ACADEMY and The Emissaries of Divine Light. We have several events in the real world that Twyman embellished, misrepresented, and spin-doctored to serve his own interests. And we have Twyman, continuing to claim his emissaries are real, but providing no way to contact the other people who reportedly shared the experience with him.
Unless we are able to meet Twyman's Emissaries ourselves and/or track down Snjezana and some of the other people Twyman claims met the Emissaries with him, we may never be able to prove, one way or another, whether Twyman actually met 13 ascended masters (and continues to communicate with their central leader, Teacher). We can, however, say this: In order to believe Twyman's Emissaries are real, we must believe that they are a group of the most advanced human beings ever to walk the Earth and that he, as their chief spokesperson, is one of the greatest spiritual figures the world has ever known. Is this possible? Considering what has been presented here, the possibility seems slim indeed.
Which brings us to the most ironic part of this whole episode: Twyman has repeatedly said that he felt "the message" of his story was more important than the story itself. But by presenting Emissary of Light as a true story, Twyman has effectively shifted the focus of his story away from its message, to himself and his emissaries: Are they real? Is he as spiritually advanced as he presents himself to be? Wherever he goes, whatever he does, Twyman will be haunted by people wanting to know the truth -- and watching him to see if he can live up to the heavy spiritual mantel he has placed on his own shoulders. Worse, since the philosophy Twyman advocates in his book is the same philosophy that has allowed him to engage in the dubious activites itemized above, one must also question the validity of the spiritual philosophy he advocates.
In the end, this report isn't going to force Twyman to admit that his Emissaries aren't real. It isn't going to convince those who really want to believe Twyman's story to doubt it. Nor will it prevent others from producing and believing in similar stories in the future. What it will do, I hope, is provide those of us who are interested with a few more tools to discern what is true, and what isn't, in our search for the truth.
1 "Freedom Now",
by Val Scott (Second Draft, March 1995)
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