Darwin Gross is a large and troublesome skeleton in Eckankar's closet. Appointed to the top position of Mahanta, Living Eck Master by Twitchell's widow, Gross ran Eckankar for 10 years. He and the widow Twitchell married shortly after his appointment. Under Gross's reign, membership grew nicely. The new Mrs. Gross launched a line of special vitamins (Sunasu) to sell to the members. It was a lucrative time!
Alas, all good times must end. In circa 1980, Gross was thoroughly enjoying the corporate CEO life and apparently didn't want to be bothered with ministering to a flock of chelas. So, he selected a seemingly meek fellow named Harold Klemp to be his co-God-on-earth, so to speak. Darwin would remain president of the corporation, complete with very handsome perks, while Klemp would be the minister to the sheeplings. It was an arrangment fraught with trouble for Gross, and he learned to his everlasting chagrin that Klemp's handshake was completely unreliable.
In 1981 or so, amid a suffocating atmosphere of scheming, deception and backstabbing, Klemp and a contingent of other insiders toppled Gross, accusing him of a variety of charges (many say trumped up), took him to court and wrested control of the organization from him. One of their more serious charges was that he had embezzled $2 million. In the end, when the dust and smoke settled, Harold Klemp was the new head honcho and Darwin a bum in the street. They were ruthless in their treatment of him and nearly left him penniless and destitute. Keep in mind, both of these men were/are claiming to be God on earth.
The swan song of Darwin sent shock waves throughout the Eckankar community and members deserted in droves. It all smacked too much of a heartless corporate takeover and its vaunted spirituality was glaringly absent. Undoubtedly, with many millions of dollars in the kitty, this is exactly what it was - a hostile corporate takeover. The membership muddled along, quite confused and the commonest question heard at any gathering was "Who is the real master? Who do we follow?"
In time, most of the dust settled and the remaining members, still partly dazed and confused, accepted Klemp as God on earth - based entirely on his sayso (the same way Twitchell pulled it off). Darwin disappeared overnight, mainly because he was refused access to the membership database, and he had no way of getting his side of the story told. It's quite a drama, being God on earth one day and the next day being tarred and feathered and booted out of town.
Only recently, with the benefit of the internet, has Gross began speaking up about this sleazy chapter in their history. He denies their charges of embezzlement, high living, skirt chasing and other assorted un-god-like behaviors. In fact, he countercharges that he was toppled by a group of black magicians, his description of Klemp and the others who grabbed the reins of power. To this day the battle rages and it's seldom a safe bet to raise the issue of Darwin Gross in any Eckankar gathering. Darwin insists he's still the rightful Mahanta/Living Eck Master and Klemp the ursurper.
This presents the serious student of Eckankar with a somewhat shakey future to ponder. If Darwin, the Mahanta, Living Eck Master (God on earth), could fall from grace, what chance does anyone else have? And even if a student were to attain this much touted God realization of Eckankar's, how stable is it? Not very, if Darwin's experience is any indication.