On the EPE site we found a press release on the book 'The Impersonal Life'. We'll add a review soon.
Following is a press release from DeVorss Publications on of Elvis' Favorite Books:
Among the several things UNsuspected about the King of Rock ‘n Roll is not only the man’s deep spiritual yearnings but his surprisingly active role as a seeker—and as a sharer of what he found. Fans who know Elvis Presley for his truly classic rendition of several dozen spirituals will readily nod in assent. “Yes,” they’ll say, “we know he never lost his veneration for the Bible and for the Lord whose life and story he saw as its culmination.”
But there was even more to it than that.
In April 1964 a 24-year-old hairstylist called on Elvis at the house in Bel Air, California, that he was occupying while filming Roustabout. On the agenda were publicity stills to be shot on the Paramount lot the very next day, and for this Elvis needed a light trim.
The hairstylist, Larry Geller of the fashionable Jay Sebring salon, was close to Elvis in age. The two of them hit it off right from the start—and at the end of the session, Elvis was asking Larry what he was into.
As Peter Guralnick, author of the “definitive” 2-volume life of Presley, tells it in Careless Love, Larry replied, “Obviously, I do hair, but what I’m really more interested in than anything else is trying to discover things like where we come from, why we are here, and where we are going.” Elvis was electrified. “Man, just keep talking, just keep talking!” he told Geller.
Talk Geller did. It had to do with whether there was any purpose in existence and, if so, how one found out one’s own purpose in the big and little scheme of things. Elvis was more than ready for this. The subject, he said, was what he was thinking about all the time: “I’ve always felt an unseen hand behind me, guiding my life. I mean, there has to be a purpose…there’s got to be a reason.”
The upshot was four hours of intense conversation, ending with Geller’s quitting his job and coming round to the studio the next day with a handful of key texts for Elvis’ consumption and spiritual digestion. Thus began for Geller a kind of spiritual mentorship and, at the same time, a sharing between the two men over the next three years on a basis of personal equality and mutual respect.
Of the books to which Geller introduced Elvis, the one that had the greatest and most lasting impact was a small (4” X 5½”) volume first privately issued by its author in 1914 and thereafter requiring reprintings of, initially, 5000 copies, then 10,000copies, and after that 15,000—every other year. The book continues in this kind of demand even to this day.
We naturally wonder what Elvis found in this work, strangely titled The Impersonal Life and written by a man who preferred to be impersonal himself, so that where the author’s name (it was Joseph Benner) should occur on the book cover and title page, only “Anonymous” appears.
Guralnick tells us that the singer “devoured” The Impersonal Life and adds: “This was the book he had been looking for all his life” according to Elvis himself. In it he found the confirmation of his purpose. More than that, the book prescribed a route for him to follow, leading to higher and still higher perceptions of “the truth that lies within us all,” including the teaching that God Himself “is in fact ‘the divine I’.”
Needless to say, it is very difficult to summarize a text of this kind whose 250+ pages move crescendo-like to a completion that leaves many a reader—as its last chapter, “Union,” suggests—sensing an at-oneness with the Divine that has hitherto seemed elusive. So it was with Elvis. Thereafter he was indefatigable not only in his study and constant rereading of the book, but in his sincere effort to share it with just about everyone inside, and very often outside, his several circles.
He bought copies by the case; read from it to whoever would listen; induced others to read aloud from it to himself. The Impersonal Life was not the only spiritual reading he did, but all Elvis’ biographers relate that this book, after the Bible itself, was the second BIG such impact on his life. Psychologist Peter Whitmer, in The Inner Elvis, writes extensively on the importance of the book for a right understanding of Elvis—one that still comes as a total surprise to most people otherwise familiar with the singer’s life.
Whitmer also discusses the spiritual discipline the book offered Elvis and the opportunity for self-understanding it yielded a young meteoric star who still had a lot of “inner work” to do while caught up in a heady windstorm of phenomenal success that continually threatened to get out of control. He calls the book “ground zero for Elvis’ exploration of the beyond within.”
Today visitors to Graceland—and to many bookshops nationwide and even overseas—will find that, in a very real sense, The Impersonal Life has come “home” to where it flourished while Elvis Presley sought and found so much personal meaning in its pages. The Graceland Edition of The Impersonal Life now occupies pride of place in Graceland’s own shops.
Still small and compact, heralded by the publisher—DeVorss Publications of Marina del Rey, California—as “The Little Book in Which Elvis Found the Light,” the book’s cover carries a meditative study of the singer’s handsome profile that captures the side of Elvis that has so eluded history but that brings yet another gift from him to his friends and fans worldwide—a gift unsuspected but that comes with his firm admonition, “You have to read this!”