Tag Archives: Understanding Religions

Ginger Alden Confirms Elvis’ Thirst for Knowledge

 Ginger finally tells her story about Elvis!

UnknownWho is Ginger Alden?  Ginger Alden was Elvis’ last love.  She spent the last nine months of his life with him.  You can read about the love affair in her new book, Elvis and Ginger   Elvis Presley’s Fiancee’ and Last Love Finally tells Her Story.

She, like all of the other Memphis Mafia (people around Elvis), was starry-eyed and overwhelmed by Elvis’ persona and “apparent” wealth.  Ginger was only twenty years old when Elvis came into her life.  He was in his forties.  According to Ginger, there was a great distance of years but it did not seem that way when they were together.  Elvis gave her jewels, automobiles, fur coats, and a credit card of her own.  He showered presents on the rest of her family, and promised to pay for her mother’s home. (Elvis died before this was accomplished.  When he died, he had little money in his estate.  Vernon (Elvis’ father) contested the promise and he won in court also.)

Unlike other books written by his entourage, Alden does not damage the image of Elvis. She writes about a tender and needy side of this bigger-than-life performer. From all of the stories written about him in the book, Ginger believed that Elvis was in search of a new family. His old associates and family were increasingly becoming dysfunctional. She and her mother and sisters, for a few months, provided a welcoming and appreciative place to go.

Throughout her recollection of her time with Elvis, she told stories of how they would read books together, almost every day.  They discussed all sorts of religions and religious books, talked about world news, and meditated together.  They were soul mates.  In her book she lists many of the books that Larry Geller also mentions as favorites of Elvis.

Here is an excerpt, “While I was packing, Larry Geller had flown in and given Elvis more religious books.  Elvis gave some copies to me when I returned to Graceland, and I was happy to be included.  I had begun to enjoy our ritual of reading together and talking about the various ideas that we found intriguing in these books.”  (p. 155)

Certainly, Elvis never wanted to reveal to the public that he was an intellectual.  That would go against all of the bump and grind and fabulous notes he hit on stage.  But, secretly, most of his spare time was spent in reading.  He did not like parties, did not drink alcohol, and did not like anyone to see him in a bathing suit.  He was shy!

New Book, "For the Love of Elvis"

New Book, “For the Love of Elvis”

Elvis was also very ill at this time.  Ginger does not seem to be fully aware of his problems, even today.  She did not know that he had “bone” cancer.  She knew that he would often gain water weight, and thought that his diet had something to do with it.  The truth was that Elvis had experienced a few heart attacks.  Along with the heart condition, he had high blood pressure, diabetes, a liver disease, and glaucoma.  At one point he almost went blind in one eye.  (Remember the cloudy sun-glasses he wore.) He had broken so many bones studying Karate, that it was difficult for him to perform without pain killers.  There is more, and I address these problems in my book, For the Love of Elvis.

While Ginger is now in her fifties, the book is written from the point of view of someone who is barely out of the teen years.  There is evidence that she kept a diary, or kept notes about her activities with Elvis.  Many of the stories have more detail in them than most people would remember.  And while she is telling her story, she does very little, if any, analysis of Elvis’ career.  She assumes that it is normal for a teenager to be swept off her feet by an entertainer.  From almost the first moment she met Elvis, she joined his tours and lived with him at Graceland.

When Elvis died, there were many rumors floating around about Ginger.  Some in Elvis’ entourage blamed her for his death.  Questions were asked, “Why did Ginger have her makeup on when she came downstairs to report that Elvis was lying on the floor in his bathroom?”  Some said that she had phone calls with publishers before she informed the staff that Elvis was sick.  No one knows the truth.  And Ginger does not answer these accusations head on.  What she does do, in the book, is to claim that Elvis wanted her to wear her make up to bed, so, she always had eye makeup on when she went to sleep.

We are not allowed to know much more about Alden.  She had great grief, but somehow she was offered parts in movies and modeling jobs.  She, like so many of the members of Elvis entourage, went on to garnish a living because they knew the “King.”  His legend helped feed her career.

This book is very important because it is another source that makes reference to books that Elvis loved to read.  Eventually, I will discuss many of those sources in a new book on Elvis.

Please forgive me if I am too critical.

When I was seventeen years old, I was dating a handsome and apparently wealthy sailor.  He drove a Cadillac like the one that was given to Ginger.  He wanted to marry me and even asked my father if he would give him permission to marry me.  I was only seventeen years old and had not seen the world.  I wanted to make my own way in life.  I did not want someone to take care of me.  The chances were that I was going to be very poor for the next few years in my life.  I had been accepted into several colleges and had no money.  My parents could not support me.

As Evita sings, “I chose freedom.”  Ginger chose the opposite.  She became the handmaiden of Elvis, with a gorgeous diamond ring and the promise of marriage some day.  Don’t Cry for me Argentina

 

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

 

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

Religions Become the Friends of Elvis

Why write a book about Elvis and Religions?

Statue of Elvis

Statue of Elvis in Memphis

This blog will begin the long journey of creating a book about Elvis and the relationship he had with many different types of religions.  It will not contain everything that will be in the book about his trek through many faiths, but it will open a window for readers to determine if they want to read the entire book.

Many people today are still captivated by Elvis. They place him squarely within their own religious faith. And it is true that Elvis was raised within the Pentecostal and Assembly of God traditions. He never stepped away from those roots. But he also began his own search for understanding found in other religions. He would never assert that his childhood faith was the only true faith. He discovered many and varied religious traditions. He questioned himself and the world and the purpose for his life. He wondered why such wealth and success came to him when he was so young. Could there have been a divine purpose in all that happened to him?

People do not know nor do they believe that Elvis investigated and read within many religious traditions. There are several lists cataloguing what he read. We cannot explore all of these books. But, in the following pages we will explore some of those books,  and give possible reasons as to why he would explore that religious tradition and what benefit he may have obtained by studying it.

Why study other religions?

Temple in Thailand

Temple in Thailand

Why do people study books about religions? Most of us do not have the time, money, or energy to travel to meet the founders or officials of religious traditions or the countries in which they reside. We must read if we are to understand the religious traditions. Books can become friends when no one around you thinks the way you do. Books can open the door to the past where you can find people with whom to talk. Yes, you cannot actually talk with them but you can discover a soul-mate (so to speak) in the past.

Books are Friends You have Not Met

May I give an example from my own life?  Early in my career, I was studying in an environment where females were debased and degraded. While I was accepted into an academic program (because a Federal Law demanded non-discrimination), the professors had no conception of equity, nor did they value the contribution of females. They had never thought of studying the history of females because females had no worth to them.

Selvidge's Dissertation

Selvidge’s Dissertation

As I began my research on religious topics, I discovered a group of men and women (in books) who thought the way I did about females, who were progressive in their interpretation of religious texts, and were also professors. Discovering these minds, these people, these writings, became a source of support for me as I walked through my studies toward a Ph.D. Their work actually gave me the courage to create and defend my own work.

I am sure that Elvis’ journey was similar. His questions were no doubt different. But the people and points of view and beliefs he discovered in those books were so important to him that he carried books with him wherever he traveled. The voices in those books became his friends and comforted him when most of those around him could not possibly understand how he felt, and certainly were not capable of discussing anything about religions with him.

Ireland Interview

Ireland Interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge, 2015