Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
Many casual fans of Elvis Presley will be familiar with his Christian faith and affection for gospel music. Fewer are aware of his interest in Judaism, theosophy, yogic practices, and other New Age beliefs. The King’s hairstylist, Larry Geller, was the man who introduced him to the cosmos-spanning variety of the novel spiritualities finding adherents in the sick and psychedelic 1960s. Geller would bring him exotic books like Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, prompting Presley to seek consultation with Sri Daya Mata, spiritual leader of the Self-Realization Fellowship – Geller having facilitated a meeting. “Elvis loved the sylvan setting” of the SRF’s headquarters in the Mount Washington area of Los Angeles, “and he had an immediate rapport with Daya Mata,” relates Gary Tillery, author of The Seeker King: A Spiritual Biography of Elvis Presley.
The more she described the aims of the Fellowship, the more excited he became. He said he was ready to turn his back on his career and join a monastery or start a commune. She advised him to go slow – that his development must be evolutionary. They discussed a process of training and meditation, and she gave him her personal lesson books to study. He accepted them gladly, but he had the unbridled enthusiasm of the novice. “This higher level of spirituality is what I’ve been seeking my whole life,” he told her. “Now that I know where it is and how to achieve it, I want to teach it. I want to teach it to all my fans – to the whole world.” Over the coming months he returned to the site often for solace. He read and meditated, but like most seekers he hoped for a short path to his goal, and it did not come. The cosmos did not care that he was Elvis Presley. He kept coming back nevertheless, and he also liked to visit the Fellowship’s fourteen-acre retreat by the ocean in Pacific Palisades, where Yogananda had written most of his autobiography. (George Harrison, another admirer of Yogananda, also liked to visit the retreat when in Los Angeles.)1
“Daya Mata stressed that the goal of Yogananda’s teachings was to establish harmony between a person’s spirit, mind, and body,” and “Elvis made a sincere effort to meditate and transform himself according to her suggestions,” Tillery continues:
He kept looking for signs that he was developing special powers, and as time went on there was evidence that he was succeeding. […]
Priscilla was convinced that Elvis had a healing touch. “He was capable of spiritual healing, one touch of his hands to my temples and the most painful headaches disappeared.” […] Elvis’s grandmother Minnie Mae was also convinced, and she allowed Geller and her famous grandson to treat her arthritis and other ailments over the years.
[“Memphis Mafia” alumnus] Sonny West acknowledged Elvis’s belief in his capabilities, although he was dubious about the capabilities themselves: “Elvis announced that he possessed psychic healing powers and could cure the common cold or other ailments through his simple touch. He also thought he could make leaves move and turn the sprinkler system of the Bel Air Country Club on and off through telekinesis.”2
Geller also encouraged Elvis’s interest in flying saucers. “As part of his spiritual training, Elvis liked to go outside in the middle of the night and spend hours watching the movement of the planets,” Tillery reveals. “He felt that there were waves of energy moving the planets through the universe and that with proper attunement they could be seen. One night he saw a UFO.” This would not be the singer’s only encounter with the otherworldly.
Geller gave Elvis a book on the subject. A week later, just after he had finished reading it, Elvis and some of the group were driving through New Mexico on Route 66. They saw a bright disk streaking across the dark sky, descending. Suddenly it stopped and made a right-angle turn, accelerating until it disappeared from view. Elvis said, “That was definitely not a shooting star or a meteor. It was clearly something different.” [Elvis’s friend] Jerry Schilling commented, “We don’t make anything that moves like that.” Geller voiced what they were thinking, “That object maneuvered like a flying saucer.” Still later, Elvis witnessed a UFO one evening at Graceland while in the company of his father. The eerie experience prompted Vernon to reminisce about the blue light he had seen the night Elvis was born in Tupelo.3
Toward the middle of the sixties, “the quest for mind expansion generally led, sooner or later, to experimentation with drugs,” Tillery continues. “Priscilla recalled that she and Elvis tried marijuana several times, but neither cared for it.” After reading Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, the King dropped acid with Larry Geller while watching The Time Machine on television. “Elvis became fascinated by it” and ordered a pizza, but never tried LSD again4. Elvis and his persona were fairly stale commodities by mid-decade, and it may be that he was feeling some pressure to remain relevant by experimenting. It was also during this period that Brian Epstein “extended feelers to Colonel Parker about a meeting” between the Beatles and Elvis, which eventually happened at Elvis’s home in Bel Air, occasioning some awkward conversation and jamming to “Johnny B. Goode” and “I Feel Fine”. “George eventually wandered off and went outside to light up a joint. Larry Geller went to search for him, and they discussed Indian religion and philosophy.” At one point during the evening, admirers spotted the five stars together at the front gate, prompting “competing chants of ‘Elvis! Elvis!’ and ‘Beatles! Beatles!’”5
After Elvis had an accident, falling and hitting his head on a bathtub in his Bel Air home, Colonel Parker, “now driven to his limit, stepped in and took charge.” The impresario “attributed Elvis’s decline in popularity and his dissatisfaction with his career to his spiritual diversions with Larry Geller” and “insisted that Elvis stop spending so much of his time and mental commitment on the religious kick. The people around Elvis all welcomed this directive since, in their view, Elvis had turned from a fun-loving guy into a serious individual who found no fulfillment in what he was doing and spent most of his time reading boring tracts and trying to proselytize his new beliefs.” Colonel Parker “continued to cultivate the suspicion in Elvis that Larry had been manipulating him with mind-control techniques. In time, Elvis came to believe this was the case.”6 As far as the “Memphis Mafia” was concerned, “Geller was a West Coast Svengali determined to fill the head of their boss, and friend, with bunk.”7 Parker forbade Geller from discussing the far-out books with the King and did what he could to prevent Geller from being alone with the star. “That Parker had planted suspicions in Elvis […] became apparent in an offhand comment Elvis made one day to Geller: ‘Those masters of yours have hidden motives. They want to control others, and use them for their own damn purposes.’”8 According to Geller, Elvis had come “to believe that he was carrying out his role in the world under the guidance of these masters” – the theosophists’ “Great White Brotherhood” – “one of whom was Jesus.”9
The question of why Geller had been able to exercise such an influence on the clearly impressionable Presley may have something to do with a family revelation from Elvis’s mother.
Larry Geller had known Elvis for more than a decade [by the mid-seventies], so it came as a surprise when Elvis one day confided to Larry that he had Jewish blood in his veins. It turned out that [his mother] Gladys’s maternal grandmother, Martha Tackett Mansell, was Jewish. Gladys had once taken Elvis aside and told him the fact secretly, with a warning that he should never tell his father or relatives. Elvis had always cherished the secret knowledge. The Bible said the Jews had a special bond with God, and it pleased him to be in the bloodline. At one point he considered studying Hebrew in order to read the biblical texts in their original language. Geller suddenly realized that his own Jewish ethnicity might have played some role in his initial appeal to Elvis. He now understood why, after he told Elvis about the chai symbol, he had started to wear one in combination with his cross pendant. And Larry recalled the day, very early in their relationship, when Elvis took him to meditate beside Gladys’s grave and mentioned in an odd aside that he planned to have a Star of David engraved on her memorial stone next to the cross already there.10
Presley “also became fascinated by esoteric meanings in his own name,” Tillery explains:
“Elvis” was such an exotic name – where did it come from? With Geller’s help, he found that “El” traced back to ancient times, a cross-cultural phoneme that conveyed the meaning of light, or shining, and was used in Hebrew, for instance, to connote God. (Think of Beth-El – “House of God,” and Elohim, the plural of God.) And “Vis” had the meaning of the power of God.
The discovery of a connection with Hebrew held deep significance for Elvis – for reasons he wouldn’t divulge to Geller (or anyone else) until the year of his death. He began to wear a chai pendant, the Jewish symbol for living and life, in addition to his customary cross. (When a reporter asked him about the strange juxtaposition, he quipped, “I don’t want to be kept out of heaven on a technicality.”) He donated $12,500 toward a fund to build a Jewish community center in Memphis.11
“Yes,” writes Debbie Schlussel, “Elvis was Jewish.” Presley “also donated lots of money to Jewish charities and carried a yarmulke,” in addition to being photographed wearing a Magen David pendant. Schlussel adds that Elvis “regularly hung out with his rabbi neighbor when he was growing up in Memphis.”12 As Elvis’s relationship with this rabbi indicates, however, Jews did not recognize the King as one of their own. The Presleys, who “didn’t know anything about the Jewish religion” according to “Memphis Mafia” member Billy Smith13, occupied the basement of a boardinghouse where the rabbi, Alfred Fruchter, lived in Memphis, and, as Elvis related to disc jockey George Klein, he used to serve as Fruchter’s Shabbos goy on Saturdays. When Rabbi Fruchter was transferred to a temple in San Francisco, he visited Elvis backstage at one of his shows, after which the star insisted that Fruchter accompany him to a press conference. “Let me tell you,” Klein recalls, “there were a lot of surprised faces among those reporters when Elvis announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet my rabbi.’”14 “George Klein […] says that when the Presleys first came to Memphis, they didn’t have any place to live and no money, and a rabbi let them live in his basement rent free. That’s supposedly why Elvis hired so many Jews,” scoffs “Memphis Mafia” man Marty Lacker. “That’s bull. The Presleys paid $50 a month rent, plus utilities, on Alabama Street.”15
Larry Geller was present on the occasion of a freakish 1965 incident that provides valuable insight into Presley’s self-image and spirituality – and possibly a further indication of the entertainer’s mixed impressions of the Jewish people. They were driving from Memphis to Hollywood, where Elvis was to shoot Harum Scarum:
Late that day they had reached northern Arizona and were driving on Route 66 in the vicinity of Flagstaff. A lull had settled over the vehicle, the result of many hours on the road. Suddenly Geller heard Elvis punctuate the stillness with a “Whoa!”
His eyes were focused on the sky ahead. Geller looked there too and saw a strange cloud.
“Do you see what I see?” Elvis asked.
Geller did. The lone cloud had taken the form of a human face – and not just any face. Both of them instantly recognized the thick moustache and heavy eyebrows of the late leader of the Soviet Union – Joseph Stalin. […]
They watched the cloud in amazement. Elvis kept mumbling, “Why Stalin? Why Stalin?”
Finally the face changed. The cloud shifted and lost the likeness. Geller glanced over at Elvis, intending to comment. For some reason, Elvis was still transfixed. He had the look of Juan Diego at Guadalupe or Bernadette at Lourdes. Geller hesitated to interrupt.
Then Elvis jammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road. He jumped out of the vehicle, calling to Geller to follow to follow him, and went running into the desert. He hugged Geller when Geller caught up with him, and kept babbling about God being love. He kept telling Geller that he loved him. He kept saying that he felt filled with divine love. He kept repeating that God was love itself. As he became more coherent, he made clear what had been happening when Geller had seen him transfixed.
Elvis kept asking himself why the cloud had taken the form of Stalin. Was God trying to send him a message? Was God showing him a projection of his inner self? Elvis recoiled. In his mind he cried out to God – saying that if that face of evil was meant to represent him, then he wanted God to destroy him. He wanted only to be filled with God and love.
“And then it happened!” he told Geller. “The face of Stalin turned right into the face of Jesus, and he smiled at me, and every fiber of my being felt it. For the first time in my life, God and Christ are a living reality.”16
Only years later would Presley reveal to Geller the full import of this vision. “Late one night in 1974 in Palm Springs, Elvis and Larry Geller were sitting outside by themselves,” when the King “appeared to have something he wanted to confess.” Stammering, Elvis finally came out with it. “I didn’t only see Jesus’s picture in the clouds,” he revealed: “Jesus Christ literally exploded in me. Larry, it was me. I was Christ.”17
Was this pairing of Stalin and Jesus an allegorical rendering of the good and evil potentials of a cult of personality? Did the metamorphosis of Stalin’s face into Christ’s represent Elvis’s rejection of the former in favor of the latter – or had the singer’s subconscious mind conceived of a different parallel? Comrade Stalin and Jesus Christ, in addition to being world-famous figures of great symbolic and momentous historical significance, are both men against whom “the Jews” are alleged to have plotted. In 1952, a matter of months before his death, Stalin ordered the arrests of several physicians, most of whom were Jewish. This was the infamous affair of the “Doctors’ plot”, which – as Wikipedia bravely informs the public – “was an episode of antisemitism in the Soviet Union” in which “a group of prominent Moscow doctors (predominantly Jews) were accused of conspiring to assassinate Soviet leaders.”18 The Soviet newspaper Pravda is not remembered for its forthrightness; but its account of the Doctors’ plot in the January 13, 1953 issue is sufficiently interesting to warrant quotation:
The majority of the participants of the terrorist group […] were bought by American intelligence. They were recruited by a branch-office of American intelligence – the international Jewish bourgeois-nationalist organization called “Joint” [i.e., the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee]. The filthy face of this Zionist spy organization, covering up their vicious actions under the mask of charity, is now completely revealed.19
This episode was followed by the bombing of the Soviet embassy in Tel Aviv in February. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his history Two Hundred Years Together, insinuates the possibility that Jews – “internal forces” – then had Stalin murdered. “He did not understand how the thickening of the plot could threaten him personally, even within the secure quarters of his inaccessible political Olympus,” Solzhenitsyn writes. “The explosion of international anger coincided with the rapid action of internal forces, which could possibly have done away with Stalin.”20
Elvis would have his own dealings with a series of Jewish doctors – all of whom would play a part in the idol’s eventual demise. The man most commonly blamed for Elvis’s drug abuse is the singer’s personal physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos – called “Dr. Nick” for short. “Dr. Nick” was hardly the only professional who prescribed dangerous drugs to the King, however. “I mean, why not go after [Haifa-born Lebanese] Dr. [Elias] Ghanem?” poses Billy Smith. “He wrote a hell of a lot of prescriptions. I’d like to see Elvis’s bill from him. Or from Dr. [Max] Shapiro. How about Dr. [George] Kaplan?”21 Marty Lacker recalls that Elvis introduced him to drugs during the making of 1962’s Kid Galahad. Elvis used “uppers – Dexedrine,
Dexemyl, Desbutal. But he had downers, too” and “got them from everywhere.”22 Max Shapiro, one of multiple dope dispensers to be dubbed “Dr. Feelgood”, was a dentist and “sort of like one of the Three Stooges,” Jewish “Memphis Mafia” member Lamar Fike recalls23. Another “Dr. Feelgood” consulted by Elvis was Dr. Max Jacobson, famous for dosing everybody from Judy Garland to John F. Kennedy. A kosher butcher’s son who had studied psychoanalysis under Sigmund Freud himself, Jacobson “began to experiment with methamphetamine – speed in today’s terminology – a drug that enhanced moods and stimulated the emotions” and “took to mixing it with vitamins, enzymes, animal placentas, blood serum and hormones to produce elixirs that he tested out on himself and then prescribed to private patients.”24
Did Elvis really die a few feet from his toilet25 – or did the King just get lost in space – abducted, perhaps, by little green men?