I've been reading the second volume of Peter Guralnick's terrific Elvis Presley biography, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley before going to bed the last few nights. And here's where I'm at: when Elvis was 29 he met this hairstylist named Larry Geller. Geller introduced him to books like The Impersonal Life, Autobiography of A Yogi, The Initiation for the World and Beyond the Himalayas. Elvis devoured them and asked for more. He'd study them, underlining passages that really resonated with him and then he and Geller would spend evenings in, Guralnick writes, "extended bouts of philosophical discussion." Eventually this spiritual nourishment, a diet that included everything from the autobiographies of gurus to books on cosmology, numerology and metaphysics, leads to this beautiful passage on page 200:
He felt a new serenity in his life. To the guys it seemed more like madness, and they felt increasingly alienated, resentful, bewildered, and angry all at once. Elvis appeared to be leaving them with his almost daily visions, his tales of going off in a spaceship, his delusions of being able to turn the sprinkler system of the Bel Air Country Club golf course behind the house on and off with his thoughts, his conviction that he could cure them of everything from the common cold to more serious aches and pains by his healing powers. To Marty he announced that a bird's song had turned into the voice of Christ, and under other circumstances they might have been tempted to commit him to a doctor's care, but reason told them that he would come out of this obsession, too, just as he had come out of all of his other momentary impulses and infatuations.
I'd love to believe Elvis really could control the sprinkler system.