Monthly Archives: March 2015

Elvis Presley and “The Prophet,” Khalil Gibran

The Divine Mother and Elvis Presley

Elvis at Graceland

Elvis at Graceland

The Prophet was a popular book read by young people in the 1960’s in the United States. I remember reading it twice because it was short and simple to read. Now reading it fifty years later, I realize that I adopted some of the points of view in the book. Khalil’s popularity grew among what was termed the Counter Culture and the New Age movement in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Born into a Christian/Catholic family that followed a specific rite or ritual called Maronite in (Mount) Lebanon, yet also speaking and writing Arabic, Gibran became an artist and writer who never married. He died early, at the age of 48. He studied Islam, the Bahai’s,  and found comfort in the words of the mystical Sufis.

Many people in the middle of the twentieth century were drawn to Khalil’s work. Elvis, in looking for answers to his own struggles with Christianity, would have enjoyed reading this book. In a way, The Prophet, argues for the same type of morality that Elvis lived.  He was open, and honest, and did not subscribe to a rigid morality. For instance Gibran writes, “Love one another, but make not a bond of love.” (15) This describes Elvis’ life completely. He never wanted to capture anyone, nor did he want to be captured after Priscilla divorced him. In an explanation on giving, Gibran writes, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (19) Elvis gave of himself and his belongings until there was virtually nothing left.

Gibran’s The Prophet is a synthesis of several universalistic and pantheistic thoughts wrapped in

The Prophet

The Prophet

a monotheistic point of view. He offers a point of view of life that is for everyone, and discovers the Divine in everything. While he uses the word God, he also used the term God-Self (39). He deliberately and indirectly attempts to discredit formal or classical religions, which teach rigid dogma and ethical guidelines.

While The Prophet is not categorized as sacred literature, I think the writer intended it to be interpreted that way. Throughout the book Gibran’s goal is to pull people away from dualistic thinking; that there is only a left or right or a good or a bad in life. He pushes them to the middle of an argument, but does answer the questions for them. He speaks in riddles and reminds me of a Zen Master who offers Koans to his followers. Here is a cute one entitled, “Dreamland.”

 Our school master used to take a nap every afternoon, related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. We children asked him why he did it and he told us: I go to  dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did. When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them.

It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our school master scolded us. We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did, we explained. What was the message from those sages? our school master demanded. One of us replied: We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow. (Zen Koans.

Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran

The person who speaks/writes in The Prophet, is one who is alone, who is lonely most of the time, and lives in the forests or away from the people. He is about to leave on a ship and wants to bid farewell to the people and leave important messages for them. Did Khalil want to portray himself as an Ascended Master? Or was he portraying himself as a wise sannyasin found within Hinduism.  Similar to the way that the Law Code of Manu, an ancient Hindu sacred text, is written, villagers ask the prophet questions and he answers them.

Gibran offers an alternative to organized/rigid religion when he argues  that simply eating and drinking is an act of worship. (23-24)  Gibran speaks of a mansion in the sky, a mansion that is not attached to the earth. This is a home that has no roots. The writer/prophet has no roots.  And while Elvis did own property, he did not choose to stay in one place for very long. He liked Las Vegas, and spent the last nine years of his life on tour with brief stays at Graceland. So he was a nomad, sort of ….

“For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion in the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and silences of night.” (34)

There is a struggle within many religious traditions between people who think they have the Truth with a capital “T,” and those who understand that there are many truths.   The  TRUTH People believe that there is only one Truth, and many Christian traditions fall into this category. Elvis explored many truths, and I do not know whether he would label any of the religions he studied as Truth. Certainly he loved his musical heritage and experiences he had within many different types of Christian organizations, and those memories sustained him. I think he would have gravitated toward the following quotes,

“Say not, ‘I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”  Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.”‘ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path. For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a  lotus of countless petals.” (55)

And again he writes, “And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn. Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.”

When the prophet begins to leave the people he looks at the ship in which he will sail and says,

“I am ready. The stream has reached the sea, and once more the Great Mother holds her son against her breast.”

This last statement may have been written by Gibran as his own epitaph.

Elvis would have loved the above phrase because it would make him think of his mother who left him when he was so young. Throughout all of the book Gibran refers to the Divine as God, but here we have a reference to the Divine being a female. I think that reading The Prophet would have supported the kind of life, ethics, and lifestyle that Elvis had chosen. It differed with his past, but also in a way, it allowed his past to comfort him.

Complete copy of The Prophet.

Quotations are from:  Khalil Gibran, The Prophet. New York: Alfred A. Kopf, 1923.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Elvis Presley Studied Alice Bailey to Find Health

Mind over Matter is the Key to Health says Bailey!

From mid-career until the end of his life, Elvis read voraciously.  It was his link to the minds of people and religions he wanted to bring into his life.  Those books were his friends and companions.  The Memphis Mafia who surrounded him, did not understand his thirst for knowledge, and his need for a discussion on an intellectual level.  His wife actually made him burn his books. He read hundreds, perhaps, thousands of works, and this blog will highlight many of those works. One of those authors was Alice Bailey.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about her:

Alice Bailey

Alice Bailey

Alice Ann Bailey (June 16, 1880 – December 15, 1949) was a writer and theosophist in occult teachings, esoteric psychology and healing, astrological and other philosophic and religious themes. Bailey was born as Alice LaTrobe Bateman, in Manchester, England. She moved to the United States in 1907, where she spent most of her life as a writer and teacher.

Some of the words in this short bio of Alice Bailey are power-charged.  Words such as “occult,” and “esoteric” can make our hearts beat very fast.  We are afraid of anything to do with works labeled in such a matter.  May I explain?  In every culture, there is a dominate religion.  That religion seeks to keep its “market share” of seekers and believers.  The way they keep those seekers in the “fold” is to demean and marginalize other religions.  If the dominate religion can put “the fear of God” into you regarding other religions, then they have successfully kept you for searching out other religions.

Example of Pentecostal Church

Example of Pentecostal Church

Elvis loved his Pentecostal roots.  He loved the music and the community it created, but it did not answer many of the questions that he had about his own life.  So, he crossed the fence, into territory that was labeled “occult or esoteric.”  Christianity itself had been given these labels early in its own existence.  In order to preserve a religion, sometimes people have to practice their religion in secret.  Esoteric, literally means, “secret or hidden.”  The word “occult” has also been given a bad “rap.”  If you find a definition of it, it includes magic and mystical beliefs.  These are beliefs that differ with a dominate or main religion of a culture. They are outside mainstream beliefs.

Throughout history people who differed with the power of the dominate religion often forfeited their lives.  It may have been a good thing to be labeled “occult or esoteric”  because it kept you from being destroyed by the dominate religion.  (People knew to keep everything to themselves because it was dangerous to differ with the main religion.) There is not enough time in this post to discuss violence and the monotheistic traditions.

Elvis risked his own career by studying these works.  He knew it, but he had to pursue questions that plagued him every day of his life.

Alice Bailey’s works, written between 1919 and 1949, describe a wide-ranging system of thought covering such topics as how spirituality relates to the solar system, meditation, healing, spiritual psychology, the destiny of nations, and prescriptions for society in general.

Elvis Presley Collection

Elvis Presley Collection

It is easy to speculate as to possible reasons as to why Elvis was drawn to Alice Bailey’s work. Elvis had many physical problems and diseases that he could not control or overcome. He was so young, why was his body breaking down? To discover the secrets of the origins of diseases, or to find a key to health, could change the course of his life. He was drowning in his work, and his body was failing him. And, as I have discussed in For the Love of Elvis, many suggest that he had some type of bone cancer. Elvis probably knew that he was dying, but no one around him understood his physical suffering.

As we will learn shortly, Bailey listened to an “Ascended Master,” a being who is ancient, has lived many lives, and knows more than most people. Elvis often wondered about his own life, and the riches and fame he gained. Was he a chosen one too? Could he have been an Ascended Master?

Alice Bailey’s work is reported to be a transcript from an Ascended Master, Djwhal Khal. Madame Blavatsky, one of the founders of Theosophy, conversed with her masters, and Alice Bailey, who once was a Theosophist, found her own Master that differed with mainline Theosophy. “Esoteric Healing. A Treatise on the Seven Rays,” draws upon many ancient religious traditions. I find traces of Buddhism, religions of India (Hinduism), and T(D)aoism in Bailey’s attempt to articulate reasons for diseases within people. She tried desperately to bring her readers out of what she called,  “rabid” Christianity,  into living more freely.

For Bailey, people needed to control their emotions, desires, and cravings. They needed to seek to free themselves, so that air can penetrate their bodies. The origins of disease begins with karma, or the body or life that we have inherited. Certain groups of people are born with certain types of diseases. Other diseases can be traced to living in a community with other people. Bailey believes in harmony and searching for it. Her basic view is that of a sannyasin (Hindu) who abandons everything to search for and experience with the Divine.   In both Buddhism and Hinduism, students practice control over matter.  Some sects within Buddhism advocate finding the “emptiness” or “the nothingness” or the “sunyata” as a way to find health.

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

If someone is ill, the disease will end in their death, and then they have a chance at rebirth and a new body, or reincarnation. “Death, if we could but realize it, is one of our most practical activities. We have died many times and shall die again and again, ”  says Bailey(437) “The last of the minor centers fade out in order to be resolved into the totality of the etheric substance.” (46)  The cause of disease is certainly not “sin.” The real culprit is disharmony inside and outside of the body, according to Bailey.

While Bailey’s astral vocabulary and view of disease is simplistic by modern standards, she did pass on the Asian belief that the mind can control the body.   (Check out Mary Baker Eddy on this concept also.) This  takes me to the Middle Path within Buddhism, and the seeker who meditates for days on end, in both Buddhism and Hindu practices. Her emphasis on balance also evokes both Confucian and Taoist belief in the Yin and Yang, the opposing and unifying aspects of the universe. Together they bring harmony to the universe.

And Elvis may have found some relief from his illnesses, as he read Bailey by disassociating his mind and body. Control may have been a way that allowed him to sing longer than most normal people who were ill. Perhaps it helped with his constant pain?  Maybe she helped him to understand his purpose in life?

Ultimately Bailey’s point of view is nihilistic. Nihilism teaches that there is really nothing out there.  The emptiness that the student seeks is really the death of the living creature. So Bailey looks at the end of life as a way to save it. Reincarnation will give you a new body. So to heal your body, you have to extinguish it.

One wonders if there could ever be another Elvis in any life?

Notes are from:  Alice Bailey, Esoteric Healing, New York: Lucis Publishing Company, (1953), 1977.

My apologies for the lengthy hiatus.  I decided to re-design the interior of my book Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge