Jim Morrison? Ray Manzarek? Aldous Huxley? William Blake?
Dear Quote Investigator: One of the best rock groups in history is The Doors, and its legendary front man Jim Morrison was one of the greatest rock stars ever. That is my opinion. But I am sending you this message because I want your opinion concerning a quotation:
There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the Doors.
I was told that this sentence is the explanation that Jim Morrison gave when he was asked how the name of his band was chosen. But I have also been told that the major Romantic figure, poet, and painter William Blake came up with the saying. And somebody else claims that the writer, mystic, and experientialist Aldous Huxley was the creative intellect behind this insight. Could you disentangle this?
Quote Investigator: William Blake’s work “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” contained a quote that famously spoke of the “doors of perception”. Aldous Huxley wrote a book called “The Doors of Perception” that discussed his experiences with psychoactive agents, and its title was an allusion to Blake’s work. But QI has not located the quotation given above in the texts of Blake or Huxley.
QI believes that the quote was derived from the words of the musician Ray Manzarek who together with Jim Morrison co-founded The Doors. In 1967 Newsweek magazine profiled the rock group and quoted Manzarek saying the following [NRM]:
There are things you know about, and things you don’t, the known and the unknown, and in between are the doors—that’s us.
QI hypothesizes that this quotation was streamlined and then the words were reassigned to more prominent figures such as Jim Morrison, Aldous Huxley and William Blake.
Here are selected citations in chronological order. Scanned images of William Blake’s artwork and poems are available online. The modified fragment from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” given in the image above is from the Houghton Library at Harvard University. The composition is dated 1790, and the print is dated circa 1818 [BDP]:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
In 1954 Aldous Huxley published “The Doors of Perception” and his work did contain comments about doors. But it did not contain a quotation matching the phrase under investigation. In the following sample excerpt Huxley credits H.G. Wells with a metaphorical use of the term doors [DPH]:
Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory—all these have served, in H. G. Wells’s phrase, as Doors in the Wall. And for private, for everyday use there have always been chemical intoxicants.
In 1967 Newsweek published an article about the Doors titled “This Way to the Egress”. The magazine noted that the group’s first album had moved toward the top of the charts. Co-founder Ray Manzarek was quoted discussing the name of the band [NRM]:
“There are things you know about,” says 25-year-old Manzarek, whose specialty is playing the organ with one hand and the bass piano with the other, “and things you don’t, the known and the unknown, and in between are the doors–that’s us. We’re saying that you’re not only spirit, you’re also this very sensuous being. That’s not evil, that’s a really beautiful thing. Hell appears so much more fascinating and bizarre than heaven. You have to ‘break on through to the other side’ to become the whole being.”
Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith wrote a 2007 Master of Arts Thesis at Louisiana State University: Criticism Lighting His Fire: Perspectives on Jim Morrison from the Los Angeles Free Press, Down Beat, and the Miami Herald [MGD]. This thesis indicated that “Manzarek suggested the link between the name of the band and its purpose and function to Newsweek.” These words were followed by the Manzarek quotation and a footnote pointing to the Newsweek article. This valuable information was used by QI to locate and verify the quote on microfilm.
In 2010 the quotation website Thinkexist credited Jim Morrison with the following [TEJM]:
“There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.”
Jim Morrison quotes (American Poet and Singer. Member of the American band The Doors and one of rock music’s mythic figures. 1943-1971)
In conclusion, the saying under investigation was probably derived from the words of Ray Manzarek and not from those of Jim Morrison though it is possible that Morrison said something similar at a different time. It is also conceivable that the works of the prominent artists William Blake and/or Aldous Huxley influenced one or more band members, and hence influenced the name selection of the band. But QI believes that the quotation should be attributed to Ray Manzarek.
(Thanks to Fred R. Shapiro for inspiring this question, and thanks to Gregory McNamee for pointing to the Blake quote.)
[NRM] 1967 November 6, Newsweek, Music: This Way to the Egress, Page 101, Column 2, Newsweek, Inc. (Verified on microfilm)
[BDP] 1818 , The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake, c. 1818, (Houghton Library at Harvard University), copy G, object 13 (Bentley 14, Erdman 14, Keynes 14) [composition 1790] link
[DPH] 2009 reprint, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley, Page 62, HarperCollins, New York. (Google Books preview) link
[MGD] 2007, “Criticism Lighting His Fire: Perspectives on Jim Morrison from the Los Angeles Free Press, Down Beat, and the Miami Herald” by Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith, Master of Arts Thesis at Louisiana State University. link
[TEJM] ThinkExist website, Quote attributed to Jim Morrison, “There are things known and things unknown”, Accessed 2010 November 17. link