WEIRDLAND: Unravelling Jim Morrison's Poetic Wilderness

Monday, January 27, 2020

Unravelling Jim Morrison's Poetic Wilderness

Rock star iconicity aside, Jim Morrison wanted to be remembered for the written word, favouring morality prose by the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Cocteau and William Blake. He actually plucked The Doors’ name from a William Blake text: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” One of his poems is ‘Power’: Jim Morrison openly strove for empowerment, using his voice to promote the power of possibility and the power of the individual. The guarantee of a golden outcome isn't really the point; it's about realising the merit that comes with your simple act of striving. Another interesting poem is ‘The Opening Of The Trunk’: The “trunk” in this title is a lot heavier than you think. Morrison lifts the lid on life here and its contents spill out all over the floor. The mind opens, the soul starts to wander in search of freedom, it brands America with a dystopian stamp, it ascends upon a stage in front of society, claims that he's an unordinary human and then suggests that he can guide a girl with dreams towards the Labyrinth. Morrison may have written this piece in a very metaphorical sense but, by the end, we're naturally picturing him in the middle of a maze. Will anyone ever get to the centre? Source:

Jac Holzman said that Danny Sugerman was not friends with Jim as he had people believe. Sugerman was a close friend of Ray Manzarek but fell out with him before his death. Ray fired Danny as his manager since Danny was going to go public with the darker side of Ray Manzarek before he died which caused the rift. Luckily for Ray, Danny died. Most acquaintances of Morrison used their lucky break as a meal ticket. Andy Morrison has disavowed Patricia Kennealy. As for Sugerman, nothing could be screaming out louder "daddy issues" than his worship for Morrison but Sugerman actually needed a psychiatrist spelling it out for him. When Jim Morrison is the voice of reason and moderation in your life, oh boy! Throughout the mayhem of many years, Sugerman's interest in music always seemed superficial, even if he acted as Ray Manzarek's manager for a while. Actually, it is hard to believe that Manzarek trusted such an irresponsible dopehead to manage his career, but these are facts. And the narcissism is over the top with Sugerman. The problem with Jim Morrison was that he was thrown under the bus in the worst possible way by his own camp. Danny Sugerman's book offended those who knew Morrison best, according to Frank Lisciandro: "Many of Jim's closest friends find that book very objectionable. I call it 'Nothing Here But Lots Of Lies,' because it's full of bullshit. You have to realize that despite what he says, Danny Sugerman did not know Jim Morrison. If you think that a fourteen-year-old can go in a bar and drink with someone, you're crazy. That never happened. I know for a fact that Jim did not like Danny. Jim told me on numerous occasions that Danny was a nuisance. But because Jim was a nice guy, he was kind enough to give Danny a few minutes of his time. Danny was always pestering Jim. So those stories of Danny having dinner or doing his homework at Jim and Pamela's apartment are hilariously ridiculous. That never happened." Source:

Judy Huddleston on Jim Morrison: "I was in love with Jim as if he was God, whether that is personified as Adonis, Dionysius, or Jesus… I believed his love could save me but I didn’t believe I could save him. Jim definitely wasn’t as one dimensionally dark as the Stone characterization. But he was an alcoholic and probably borderline. Like everyone, he had moments of happiness or joy, but clearly he was not happy. On balance, he was more tortured than most--genetics, karma, childhood, alcoholism--whatever the reason. It was like a switch got flipped, far beyond a regular mood swing." A new peer-reviewed paper (published in the January 2018 issue of Science Direct) has shown that possessing a high intellect could be directly linked to several psychological disorders including Depression, Anxiety, ADHD and Autism. The highly intelligent individual has a remarkable capacity for seeing and internalizing vast uncertainties, possibilities, and problems. This gift can either be a catalyst for empowerment and self-actualization or it can be a predictor of dysregulation and debilitation. The study found that high intelligence could also potentially be linked to almost double the risk associated with autoimmune disease. The study also suggests that an above average IQ could also have a large impact on physical health. *Mood Disorders - National average 9.5% High Intelligence 26.8% *Depressive disorders - National average 6.7% High Intelligence 25.8% Source:

"I was born to sail away to touch the land of my dreams but evil winds filled my sails and finally I lost my way. The ship run aground of my life and now, I lie here broken, helpless... The Lords have secret entrances, and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance. The Lords appease us with images. They give us books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent." —The Lords of The City poem by Jim Morrison

Up to this day, Jim Morrison's poetry remains a subject generally unappreciated within academic circles, which often consider it to be vain and trivial due to the combination of Morrison's image as a rock star and the often obscure nature of his poetry—many of his poems fail to coherently put the images and ideas present into comprehensive meaning. The notion of the Lords is a philosophical construct and a poetic device used to distinguish society as hierarchical, invented by Morrison to unveil and demystify the mechanism of mass deception through art and idolatry. These mechanisms are unerringly present in every sliver of society and they go, more often than not, unnoticed by those outside of the centre of the circle of our society, which Morrison often compares to a "labyrinth," to which these Lords "have secret entrances." The Lords are in control of society's "events," meaning its entire structure and organization, which all take place "beyond our knowledge." In other words, they transformed democratic society into a mediacracy, where a state of ignorance is installed and maintained through mass media, used to "keep us silent and diverted and indifferent."  In that line of thought, the Lords are also those who have, whether consciously or not, accepted their masks as their faces out of "sloth & cowardice" and who now prod others in line. Morrison argues that all the social institutions create doctrines and systems that force people to live in a specific manner. The minute people accept those structures that others have imposed upon them, the perception of their proper identity and reality are inevitably controlled by those structures. This line of thought is a direct development of Nietzsche's acrid critique of the "herd mentality," which he defines as "the lower species, the sum of zeroes (herd, mass, society)." Due to the herd instinct, Nietzsche claims, "the whole of existence is vulgarized: in so far as the mass is dominant it bullies the exceptions."

In an interview with Lizzie James (published by Creem magazine in 1981), Jim Morrison clarifies about how the gradual repression and ultimate enslavement specifically takes place: "When others demand that we become the people they want us to be, they force us to destroy the person we really are. They demand that we show only the feelings they want and expect from us. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. It's true, we're locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image – they grow attached to their masks." When Tony Thomas (in May 1970) inquired Morrison about the role of women in art, Morrison replied: "Well, it's that masculine desire to dominate life, rather than just accepting it and flowing with it. And I think that is responsible for the creation of films and a lot of other things." After which Thomas asked the following question: "Men are dominant in the arts, as writers, composers. You think women are wise to keep out of it?" To which Morrison responded: "It's a contradiction, cause I'm totally hung up on the art game. But women have less need to re-establish a connection with life because they are life."

Morrison's philosophy is predominantly influenced by the ideas and writings of that other infamous European Idealist and great role model for Morrison: William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is often referred to as a prophetic work which provides a guide or 'manifesto' for the individual to forge a path to freedom from the constraints of the world “through the progression of contraries.” William Blake, just like Morrison after him, believed people didn't live up to the full potential of their reality, but lived a life dictated to them by oppressive powers. For Blake, these would be the power of the institutions from the dogmatic empirical ideology prevalent in 18th century Britain. These powers deceived and condemned people to live in a narrowed, limited reality, resulting in Blake's observation that "man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." The impact of a narrowed perception on mankind is, according to Blake, more alarming than it initially seems. Leading Blake scholar Saree Makdisi connects the limited reality to the biblical concept of the fall. Blake diagnoses the people around him as fallen, as "stripped of their capacity for imagination," as bound down, but immediately provides a cure for said disease, with that one most famous line: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite."

Compare this to Morrison's line: "When this disintegration into pure existence is at last achieved, the object is free to become endlessly anything." With both writers, the idea of purity and limitlessness is present after this particular "disintegration." Blake never proposed to reverse the religious morals (and certainly not for cheap upheaval, which certain slovenly readers dared to state); he suggests that "the real Good is not abandonment of all restraints but a marriage, or union of the contraries, of desire and restraint, energy and reason, the promptings of Hell and the denials of Heaven." So, the visionary act is a matter of attaining altered states of consciousness, which to Morrison means "to engage all the senses, the total organism, and achieve total response." Importantly, right at the core of his philosophy, Blake shapes his concept of God, connecting it to Man's imagination and transcendence. Blake believes Man is "evolving towards the eternal, a state in which thought and life, body and mind are unified, strengthening and reaffirming each other" and that at a given point in time, everyone will be infinite and it will be that, in Blake's words, "Man is all Imagination and God exists in us and we in him. The eternal body of Man is the Imagination and that is God Himself."

"Do you know how pale & wanton thrillful comes death on a strange hour unannounced, unplanned for like a scaring over-friendly guest you've brought to bed. Death makes angels of us all & gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven's claws." —The American Night poem by Jim Morrison. Throughout Morrison's poetry, the city symbolizes and embraces all of civilized society, where "we all live" concentrated in a large, insectoid circle, "a ring of death with sex at its center." Additionally, Morrison often describes large crowds of people as "swarming streets," slaving and toiling away for a purpose unknown or unbenefited by them. The other element, the camera or cinema, provides people with the illusion that they are the ones spying on others from a great distance, satisfying "our longing for omniscience," yet in reality, cinema moulds its spectators into the same swarm of "aquatic insects" they are observing from a great height. Exactly this mechanism of replacing real life with an artificial reality, projected on a mass scale, is the key element to the Lords' control over the city. Through the palliating, appeasing effect of cinema, citizens aren't even concerned about the control over their own lives anymore, and freely grant it to whoever is there waiting to pick it up.

Morrison compares the Lords to the most notorious and vicious despots of history, as their system of mass media saturation could very well be seen as a weapon of mass destruction: Cinema is the most totalitarian of the arts. All energy and sensation is sucked up into the skull, a cerebral erection, skull bloated with blood. Caligula wished a single neck for all his subjects that he could behead a kingdom with one blow. The Emperor, the father-god could ensure his permanent rule while the dangerous lure of the life impulse, threatening "the fragile order of power," would be perpetually disregarded. The cinema, Morrison argues, has done what Caligula could not do. Infinite perception, according to Blake, unbridled creativity, is only possible through a marriage, a union of opposites and contraries. Only then can a person break out of a narrowed and externally imposed reality towards a reality of boundless and eternal possibilities and thus participating in the concept of infinite Paradise. Evidently, the idea of uniting dualities for purifying ends is also very present in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. —"Unravelling Jim Morrison's Poetic Wilderness" by Koben Sprengers (2017)

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