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The Tao of Elvis: How the King of Rock'n'roll Was Really Taoist at Heart Paperback – 25 Jul 2002

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"- "I'm a soul, a spirit, a force. I have no interest in anything of this world." -Elvis Presley

About the Author

Dr. David H. Rosen is a physician, psychiatrist, and Jungian analyst. The vast array of his interests include finding meaning in suffering; spirituality as it relates to healing; dreams; all kinds of creativity, especially visual art and haiku; and practicing what he preaches. Rosen is the author of eight books, including The Tao of Jung: The Way of Integrity; The Healing Spirit of Haiku with co-author Joel Weishaus; Transforming Depression: Healing the Soul through Creativity (now in its third edition) written after interviewing survivors of jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge, and treating many suicidally depressed patients; Medicine as Human Experience with co-author Dr David Reiser, a classic in the field. Rosen's books have been translated into many languages. The initial holder of the McMillan Professorship in Analytical Psychology at Texas A&M University, Rosen hosts the Fay Lectures and edits the Fay Books in Analytical (Jungian) Psychology. Though retired, he is Affiliate Professor in Psychiatry at the Oregon Health & Science University. Through Rosenberry Books, Ms Katz's work has been seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Chicago Institute of Art, Washington National Cathedral, etc. and recognized by Design Observer of the Winterhouse Institute. Diane is the author of On All My Holy Mountain: A Modern Fraktur and Apples Dipped in Honey: A Jewish ABC. She has illustrated numerous books including Purple: A Parable, The Stone House, Garden Snippets, and Pieces of History: Quilt Patterns from the North Carolina Museum of History. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Elvis Lives!! 29 July 2002
By Terri P. - Published on
Format: Paperback
David Rosen's book reads like a meditation. He begins with two questions: "Why does Elvis' popularity persist?" and "What does that say about our culture?" He then tries to address these questions through a series of devotions centered around Taoist concepts. There are 42 devotions, one for each year of Elvis' life.
Dr. Rosen is clear that his objective is not to diagnose Elvis - as trying to define such a mythic figure would be like (in Lao Tzu's words) trying to "pin a butterfly: the husk is captured, but the flying is lost" (p. 145). Like the Tao, Elvis is a mystery full of contradiction. He is elusive. And Rosen tells us that the contradictory images of Elvis are not only what keep him alive for us - they have the potential to be the source of our own healing. The book is a compassionate work that seeks to restore this cultural icon - not through revision (e.g., trying to show that Elvis was on some path of enlightenment and made it) but rather through understanding that in the archetypal Elvis lies our own struggle with our dual nature. (Rosen focuses mainly on the double-edged quality of the King archetype - how it can function either as a channel to the divine or a destructive mechanism for the one who tries to live it out in human form.) What I like about this approach is that it emanates from a belief in the possibility of redemption - for Elvis and for us. For while "wholeness" (a Jungian ideal) may not have been achieved by Elvis in his lifetime, we can, in a sense, make him whole by finding meaning in his suffering (something he was not able to do himself) and by living according to what we learn.
Rosen uses technical terms derived from depth psychology (particularly Jung and Winnicott), e.g., archetypes, true self, false self, creative soul, shadow, and persona, but doesn't provide much explanation (although the uninitiated reader should be able to understand the concepts generally on the basis of context). As this is not a scholarly work but a meditation I think his approach makes sense. However, as a psychotherapist, I would like to have seen more text devoted to the process of individuation which Elvis, according to Rosen, was not able to complete. (Personally, I think Elvis' individuation is a failure only if we think of individuation as a completely linear process. As Rosen writes, Elvis vacillated between positions of insight and self-destruction - and this is likely what accounts for our ambivalence toward him: he is both the talented hero/rebel deserving of admiration and an obnoxious caricature who evokes disdain or pity. Perhaps there is wholeness in that.) For example, toward the end of the book, he writes "... Elvis felt there was little he could do to change. Of course, he could have done something, if he'd only been willing. He could have channeled his rage into killing his false self, then undergone a symbolic death of his self-destructive self and rebirth of his creative true self ..." (p. 145). But this is the first mention of Elvis' rage and it isn't altogether clear how this process could have transformed Elvis. Such a quick treatment may give the reader the false impression that Dr. Rosen thinks this is an easy achievement (perhaps owing to his modesty, he does not mention that he has written extensively on this process in another book, Transforming Depression: Healing the Soul through Creativity, although it is in his bibliography). And if we focus too much on Elvis' failed transformation, it is easy for us to miss one of Rosen's main points: that our awareness of our own weakness and vulnerability is the fountainhead of empathy. Elvis had this awareness (at least some of the time) along with a great capacity to care for others.
The quotes are interesting and fun, from myriad cultural sources - including Elvis himself - ranging from the popular (John Lennon, Bono, Bruce Springsteen) to the religious (Lao Tzu, Thomas Merton, and Martin Buber); however, my favorite passages were those in which Dr. Rosen speaks from his own experience.
Overall, The Tao of Elvis is a loving tribute to a cherished cultural figure who was, like all of us, a flawed human being.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Readable Taoist Meditation and Warholian Perspective on the Nature of Cultural Iconicity 10 Jan. 2007
By Sir Charles Panther - Published on
Format: Paperback
The King said it: "You've got to have rain in order to have a rainbow," (p. 99).

This book is really two books in one, and where they meet is literally in the mind of the reader. The first is the highly refined, imminently informed Taoist meditation, with some truly stunning quotations and through them, editorial injection on the part of author David Rosen. I'm no Taoist scholar, but you can sure tell that Rosen is, a highly accomplished and traveled one at that, and his take on this book is not that of a snarky intellectual art-flack winking at you as he cleverly links the pure and sublime with its apparent earthly incarnation in the form of Elvis. Rosen is serious here, and it comes through immediately.

The preface and introduction are quite good--my kudos to the editor and Rosen--providing a great view of author Rosen, where he's coming from with this book, and his qualifications to write it. These two pieces up front really set the tone of the book, and do it very well.

The structure of the rest of the book is very straightforward, a series of short chapters with thematic titles such as "Opposites," Giving and Generosity," "Alone and Loneliness," and "Spirit, Soul, and Religion." Each chapter begins with a single quote on the theme of the chapter, from someone, anyone, who spoke well upon it, such as Kahlil Gibran saying, "You [Elvis] have walked among us as a spirit," on the theme of "Sprit, Soul, and Religion." There then follows a few choice Taoist quotes on the theme, from those so qualified to do it, such as Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Ho-Shang Kung, etc. Mirroring these Taoist quotes are quotes and observations from The King himself, as well as those who knew him, including James Brown, Larry Geller, Ann-Margret, Bono, Linda Thompson, K. D. Lang, Natalie Wood, Bruce Springsteen, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter, etc. The chapter then concludes with a short Rosen narrative elaborating upon and contextualizing the theme and quotes.

I found this structure to read very well and quickly, which made it quite enjoyable. The themes change quickly, and you can move through the book quickly if you choose, or you may choose to pause and contemplate. It took me a couple of chapters to see it, and then it hit: the book's narrative structure is Taoist in itself. Outstanding.

The book concludes with two truly wonderful additions. First, there are detailed endnotes, more than enough for you to pursue your curiosity in any of the issues, themes, and respondents in this book. Immediately following is a comprehensive bibliography providing full information to support the notes.

Given the depth of the scholarly attention to detail here, I'm surprised Rosen and his editorial crew did not provide an index. This would have been a simple and very helpful addition to the book, especially given the depth and number of individual names offered throughout the book.

For me, the most enjoyable part of this book was reading the thematically-grouped quotes and observations from Elvis and those close to him. Of course, there was some over-deification, the glorification of Elvis, making the somewhat predictable hyperbolic comparisons and delivering spot-on hindsight views of how he lived his life and how it would all turn out, but thankfully these were few and far between. I loved the snippets from The Gospel of Elvis, the views on his love of music, his voice, his innate rhythm, and his ability to influence others.

In conclusion, this is not a deep, thick scholarly tome crammed tight with big words on dry subjects, not even close. Rosen is definitely in his element with this subject matter, but he keeps the flow fast and positive, and does not bog down the reader with philosophical jargon or analysis, rather letting the reader draw their own meaning(s) from the quotes and ideas offered. If you're a die-hard philosophy addict looking for deep examination of Taoist concepts in the context of Elvis, rock and roll, destructive stardom, and the nature of cultural icon creation and downfall, this isn't what you're after. This book also is not another low-budget Elvis exploitation rag. Its treatment of him is respectful and positive throughout, even while admitting The King's flaws and human failings. If you're an Elvis fan, you'll enjoy this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Spiritual insight into american royalty... 16 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a meditation. Rosen offers contempletive fragments of both Taoist philosophy and the words of and about Elvis that bring to the reader a compelling cache of connections between American myth and ancient understanding. It is material to be read and read again, both as a mediataive handbook for individual contemplation, and as a key step towards fulfilling a critical need for consciousness of a national psychology.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It is all about LOVE. 10 Aug. 2013
By jean navarre - Published on
Verified Purchase
The Tao of Elvis is a miracle! This book is beyond beautiful. It was created by a pure impulse. It was created by the impulse of the Tao and the desire to understand the mystery of eternal Chi of a man named Elvis. It is a rare honor to own such a beautiful, unique work of art. The book is rich in ancient wisdom, the wisdom of Tao, Each book is assembled by hand. All the art is original. The Tao of Elvis comes from a pure place, from the pure heart of those involved: Dr.Rosen, author, the publisher, Rosenberry Books and the artist, Diane Katz.

I was a teenager in the fifties when Elvis Presley "hit". His Chi, and joyful sexuality were a serious threat to my treasured virginity. I was totally turned on by Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender, but I still felt uncomfortable with the revolution that began with Elvis. It was a new day in American and I wasn't sure what that meant.

I survived the revolution. It was1972. I wasn't concerned about my virginity any more, so I dared to see Elvis perform live when he came to Detroit. One performance, was all it took. There were seven altogether. Forty years later Elvis is written in my DNA. Like Dr.Rosen, I still try to understand the miracle and mystery that is Elvis Presley. Elvis himself,said, "It never ceases to amaze me." Maybe the answer is simply: It's all about The Tao of Love and so is this amazing book, The Tao of Elvis .
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
AWESOME!!!!!!!! 31 Dec. 2012
By Splendid Books - Published on
Get this awesome new edition --- Don't Miss It!!!

It is so much better that the one with a funny picture of Elvis sitting crossed-legged in gold lamé from 2002.

This is a completely different book! People I show it to say it looks like a sacred text or something made by monks in the middle ages. All these handmade papers, some black and heavily textured reminiscent of Elvis' hair, some with gold, silk and silver embedded in it.

The new illustrations are inspired by Elvis' jumpsuits but the asthetic is so timeless -- like Chinese papercuts.

Then the artist who created the fantastic illustrations, tells about what she learned in the process directly from people like Larry Geller, Elvis' hairdresser/confidant, and the designers of the jumpsuits. Some of the info is downright "cosmic"!

But 2 of the best parts of the new edition are what NY Times bestselling authors, Thomas Moore and Clarissa Pinkola Estes have added. Long essays in the front and back of the book. Really Really interesting.....


This book is growing on me! It is sooo much easier to make sense of than the 2002 book. I use it like any sacred text and open it at random to be inspired.

I totally agree with Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees, who says of the new DELUXE edition:
"Magnificent ... truly a work of art.
It brings to mind the inspired illuminated manuscripts

...and now I just found that the new design, artwork (but black in white) and content is in paperback again. Published by Wipf and Stock.

The paperback The Tao of Elvis with the black octagon on the yellow cover (ISBN 9781625644398) is based on the awesome Deluxe hand bound edition (2012) from Rosenberry Books.

It is hard to find the right page for the 2013 paperback which is:
Tao Elvis David H Rosen

The listings are confusing. Even one with the correct picture is confused, giving the "Look Inside" to the terribly different 2002 paperback.

But I found pictures that are really of the inside the 2013 paperback on this page:
The Tao Elvis David Rosen

The deluxe RosenberryBooks edition is a work of art, but the paperback is a bargain.
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