by Sonia de Pascalis

Once, among some of the Doors admirers, a question rose on what exactly the 'crystal ship' ’s poetic figure represents.
I came up to some considerations, which I would like to share on this honored magazine.

The image itself represents a man's soul seen like a solid, fragile, sensitive, perceptively pure and transparent body,
but also a mystic vehicle, both individual and collective, for reaching the world of total experience of reality.
This ship, to me, seems to be able to travel through both sea and air, like in a nightly shrouded great ocean of darkness.

And here the story begins....

It is made of crystal which, be it natural or handmade, is a mystic material connected to vision and associated
to the power of purifying, empowering and filtering spiritual energies and vital forces.

The purified senses stand in the transparent and lucid crystal which also usually shines in glimpses.

On one level, the ship is a symbol of the poet's soul, sailing away successfully, although through suffering,
from a sentimental world of defeat, after the breaking up of a loving relationship, despite whatever will
become of his lost partner.

But there is more than this, another level of meaning, philosophical and empirical.

In this other dimension, on one hand, the crystal ship is still the metaphor for the soul itself, but seen outside of the
sentimental realm: it is a person's spirit, sailing pure through an experience travel and towards the paradise world
of total vision of reality.

Somewhere it has been said that this ship has the capacity of reading in its helmsman's mind...

On the other hand the ship is a collective vehicle: it is a medium that calls the soul, leading to the vision, like during the
journey, like at the end of it. This paradise, the final destination world, can be opened by collecting every experience made
during the journey and at the same time it is built gathering together the results of many experiences, levels and states
of consciousness from a single person and from a group of people: the ship is made for and from getting together such
individual states of mind and perception.

As a vehicle for the spirit, it is the pure and transparent means allowing the vision of the world outside,
and to filter and store on board things that a passenger relinquishes along the travel.

On board you find people and other ways of experiencing, feeling and having emotions.

But these things are, at the same time, belonging to three different levels: first, things you get by the ship itself, second,
experiences stored inside it, from the outside world along the trip. Finally, they are also adventures that happen in life on
board with other travel mates.

Jim Morrison directly revealed that the image of the crystal ship was taken from a figure named in 'Connla' 's tale,
a legend contained in the ancient Irish 'Lebour na hUidre' (in English: 'the Book of the Dun Cow'), and from there it takes its
basic meaning of a sacred and mystic vehicle to a paradise world of blessed experience, populated, among the rest, by
thousands of women. The most that is renown about this, is reported by Chuck Crisafulli in his 'Moonlight Drive: the stories
behind every Doors song'. He says Jim talked with Patricia Kennealy-Morrison about the celtic derivation of 'the Crystal Ship'
theme, that he knew Connla's legend and that it came from 'Lebour na hUidre'. I can't say if he actually read the original
story, called 'Etchra Condla Chaim meic Cuind Chetchathaig', included in 'The Book of the Dun Cow', or just some report of it,
which anyway are rare and precise. From the clues, Jim at least got it from from a very faithful version, probably 'Connla of
the Golden Hair and the Fairy Maiden'
by Patrick Weston Joyce, who in his book 'Old Celtic Romances' revealed the legend's
origin and gave its reference. Morrison grabbed the original to some extent, or really read it too. One of the reasons is that
Connla's story comes from two ancient manuscripts, but in Morrison's case, just 'the Book of the Dun Cow' is always
reported. I only doubt the availability of its readable copies outside Ireland. Anyway, he knew enough of it, and so I'll name
the tale Jim meant as 'Etchra Condla' 's.


Morrison sees in that crystal vessel a means of perception and knowledge, that also enshrines in itself a world of
perfected experience, which there isn't in the original tale. He sees it as the paradise of cleansed experience, in
William Blake' s and Aldous Huxley's perspective.

Speaking strictly about the Crystal Ship's figure, analogies with Blake’s poems are limited to the theoretical aspect,
and just to a superficial direct reference: it is highly presumable that Morrison slightly made the superimposition
between this author's world and the tale of Connla, before he wrote the text which would become the lyrics for the
Doors song ‘The Crystal Ship’.

In fact, he had already done it while reading 'Etchra Condla' 's tale for the first time, in some moment before finding
himself involved in a particular happening, which triggered and produced the very intuition and composition of 'The
Crystal Ship'

But just in that very moment he kind of came to the real understanding of what, to him, the crystal ship of 'Etchra

The ship of visionary experience itself was taking shape in front of his eyes. Only now he experienced and understood
it fully. Many Doors admirers know that this image, and maybe the whole poem, was inspired by the lights of an oil
tanker or plant, which Jim saw offshore either of isla Vista, a littoral of Santa Barbara's (urban legend strongly says,
or wants to believe), or from one of the L.A. beaches (Santa Monica or even Venice itself).

He saw these lights floating in the deep darkness of the all-in-one abyss of the nightly ocean and sky, altogether
fused: in that very instant he must have done the match.

In fact, the scene could only immediately recall him the mystical ship of Connla, the curragh (which in the story is
actually called a boat, and more often a canoe: 'strong and swift', in Joyce, Noi Glano – Curragh of Pearl / Loing
Glano – Curragh of Crystal',
in 'Etchra Condla').

A 'Straight gliding, strong, crystal canoe' which can protect prince Connla 'from druids and the demons of the air',
since, like Crisafulli smartly described it, it is capable of flying, more than sailing, over sea or land, during his travel
towards a Fairyland (Mag Mell – the Plain of Delights). This land, in Celtic tradition, is an eternal realm after death,
accessible to the sacred kings, like Connla. Religiously, Connla represents the immortal part of the king's soul. It
was believed that if this part of the king's soul went to reside forever in that realm, it would allow the rest of his
spirit to be reborn into his kingly successor in the earthly world.

Jim had probably already made the match between this paradise, plus the crystal ship as a container, and William
Blake's concept of Belulah, the heavenly dimension attained by 'breaking through' (which is not a concept
namely belonging neither to Blake, nor to Aldous Huxley). Besides that, in their imagery these things are
represented with some precise objects, but there are no ships.

That night, Jim was on his way to make up his mind about his break up with Mary Werbelow.

Both the Irish tale and a particular poem of William Blake, the Crystal Cabinet, involve the sensual relationship with
a woman as the medium to access this paradise world, and the crystal object as the instrument in their pertinence,
to accomplish it. And so the match was made. But Blake talks about a partially betraying and false love intercourse,
and Morrison rewrote his own idea of the story told in the Crystal Cabinet in all the first part of his poem-song, the
only one where he actually talks about Mary and him.

Things change when the crystal ship's vision comes in: it suddenly tells another story from Blake's, and it follows
the only reference Jim willingly recognized, Etchra Condla.

Surely, from the very first time he met the Irish tale, he had been knowing that the crystalline dimension that Blake
does use in his imagery, to him, were more likely a ship, than anything else.

But until that very moment on the beach, he hadn't visualized it so clearly and definitely.

Suddenly ... it appeared the real presence of an enlightened structure in the floating black ... and Jim saw the whole
thing from a totally different aspect than Blake's imagery.

Just focusing the scene amidst the ocean, he understood that for him the purified senses and their perceptions
container where nothing but a ship, sailing exactly in that way, no matter how his literary mentors represented them.
And now it was just manifesting itself in front of his eyes, together with all his romantic struggling for the end of his
last long term love relationship.

In the same way, he was aware that where Condla's canoe differed from Blake's concept, it had all the characteristics
of Rimbaud's intoxicated boat.

The curragh is not just the sea godess Manonnan's boat / womb, but it knows and moves according to its passenger's
and conductor's mind.


Like the Irish legend, both Rimbaud and Morrison use a boat to symbolize a place of totally free experience and perception,
and at the same time the experimenting soul and senses of the poet.

In 'le Bateau Ivre' ('The Intoxicated Boat'), Rimbaud metaphorizes himself as the vessel, whose body dips in and directly
absorbs the effect of the sailing experience.

In Morrison's case, the self identification with the ship is also the natural consequence of the fact that it comes out in the middle
of him writing about his feelings for parting from Mary: it springs out by a subjective, first person and sentimental stream of
consciousness, and thus he visualized it in this particular way.

The ship is Jim's own reaction to the situation he was living, absolutely opposite to what Blake represents in The Crystal
. Jim's ship represents the world of imagination and experience, and not love anymore. It is a declaration of taking
possession of freedom from the restrictions of moral and of control, exactly like it is in the Intoxicated Boat. But the presence
of Rimbaud in this poem is so fused to Morrison's concept of the ship, that it is neither quoted, nor imitated.

It is embedded and embodied in the ship's image itself, and replaced directly by the author's own original vision.

When he was inspired to write this poem song, anyway, Morrison figured it out as an expression of Blake's general concept:
there is a world of cleansed vision of things, accessible by man in certain states of mind or during certain life experiences such
as, also, love relationships, sexual intercourse and their effects (for Jim the ship in the Book of the Dun Cow automatically
meant this).

But Morrison's crystal ship has another original characteristic, both in front of the Irish tale and of Blake's: the protagonist
identifies his own spirit with the ship, but at the same time he sees himself as its passenger. A totally unprecedented
association of both these aspects together.

At the climax point, conditioned by the sight of an enlightened ship or plant offshore in the ocean, in reality outside, he
identifies himself with it, in this double sense.

Another original aspect of Morrison's ship: it is a collectively built medium, that picks up a group on board.

A shared medium of vision, of experiencing and storing knowledge together with one another, which he'll represent again in
The End’s ‘blue bus’ and other symbolical vehicles scattered throughout his lines.

John Densmore has suggested that the ship represented the Doors themselves: he totally grabbed its core meaning, though
I wouldn't namely identify it with the group itself.

It surely represents the music and the artistic project that they were building on: creating a conceptual and spiritual vehicle for
opening minds, as his personal example to indicate a universal collective medium for accessing the hidden realities which
lead to interior rebirth or resurrection during life course. The crystal ship is more than the music: it's the Doors songs, and
among the passengers, the musicians are the crew (again... The End: 'driver where you're taking us', meant like acid but also
and mainly like the drivers of the music bus calling the audience: them four). More, 'it is this song', forming the crystal ship in
people's minds, bringing people on the trip: it builds it up, fusing Jim's love loss feelings with the outbreaking world of all
experiences that he has had and that he is having. This way, he sails away from 'Mary's womb', with his soul untouched, nay,
forged by their own sad epilogue, though thru' the sea of sorrow and parting. This vehicle, created by the song, with the crystal
ship evocation at its core, makes of his experience with Mary too, one of those, although a main one, which and by which his
soul's ship, and the ship of collective experience, is being filled.

I would say it symbolizes the context and texture of their artistic progress, in which Jim saw himself and the others involved
and dipped (or 'drowned'...) in.

But Jim's intent went beyond it, over the material and subjective identification with the Doors, their music and their songs: they
are the practical example in Jim's life to indicate universally any collective spiritual means of ecstasy and mind intoxication that
people can build, and so it shall be seen.

This poem, anyway, says that the Doors embodied the context in which those ideas were taking shape, opposed to what Mary
and his relationship with her represented. On them and on those ideas he leverages to overcome altogether what was going on
with her and it all, ‘breaking on through’.

People uphold that it represents something fragile and apparently stately as only a troubled love can be, and that exactly this is
the central theme of the story Jim Morrison tells in the song.

I believe that the description of a troubled love with some fragility at the bottom, immortalized in its moment of trespassing, is
actually one if the leading meanings of the text. But love here is the only frangible thing: the ship is also this, and a lover's spirit.
In the figure, this feeling is visually represented as a force to set one free, in a forceful crystalline appearance; the ship is not
shattered, nor it appears easy to be crushed, though the poet's heart could be.

But in truth this love is characterized over all by some stateliness, a far from frangible lover's spirit, which is not just apparent,
although it leaves some permanent scars at its bottom. This moment of sentimental trespassing is a real break on through, to
use the proper words, which involves a concrete acquirement of strength and overcoming, still leaving those scars visible.

More, the surrounding lyrics and the story talk about this love theme, but the crystal ship's figure itself is apart from it, and it has
got nothing to do with the sentimental declarations about Mary and Jim.

More than ever, it is a picture of breaking through in the purest Doors sense, the symbol of the protagonist’s decision how to
conduct his own life, both in biographic sentimental life and emotional-active life.

But first of all, the crystal ship is the world of expanded perceptions, of the purified inner reality inside, the embodiment of the
strong and bright spirit of the poet and the figure of cleansed experience which brings this spirit to come to life and shine.

As the poet's spirit, it symbolizes the experimenting soul, although it involves also his sentimental side (but not directly his heart,
even if it remains as a secondary shade in background).

It represents the figure of a cleansed experience, general, absolute, but also an individual and collective one (first, the collective
archetype of experience itself, second, the individual world of experience).

It is a sort of transparent shrine including it, which leads to the polished world of perception and produces that subjective spirit
itself. Its shining and clear sides are already themselves that world and its purity, but at the same time they also embody the
cleansed senses and mind swallowing it.

In conclusion, this ship of experience is inspired by the vision of the oil tanker or plant in the ocean, all enlightened, transformed
into Jim Morrison's own specific existential-sentimental version of 'Etchra Condla' 's ship, and of the intoxicated boat.


A friend of mine, Alessandro Amoroso, took in a lot of the suggestions for 'the Crystal Cabinet''s involving, and
compared the crystal ship to Blake's metaphor, because both poems express a dream of freedom, the desire of
the other side, love like a way of setting oneself free, unbound and intact again, getting rid of reason, and a
way of changing.

But as I argued before, the figure mainly remains referring to 'the Intoxicated Boat', in its figurative concept,
because Rimbaud's poem already has all of these contents. Except for the one of love: but from this, Morrison
takes the flight.

To be precise: he takes the flight from this delusional love. Unlike Blake, and like, instead, Rimbaud. In the french
poet's case this happens not from love, but from the delusions of people and of the social state, who didn't
welcome the existential change and didn't permit to the material reality to take profit of the fruits produced by
total experience, and by the systematic derangement of all the senses.

It wouldn't allow the poet to live it in the world that he really wants to live in: the earthly one, and forces him in
the imagination paradise of poetry, which at length means death, and estrangement from any reality. William
Blake, in 'the Crystal Cabinet', loses the world of heaven, Belulah, just to end tossed out of the Earthly world,
Eternity, through a forced rebirth of him as a child, more in woes than crying out for a new life, and of his lover
as a blindly suffering woman after giving birth: they both find themselves in the hell of suffering, Ulro. On the
contrary, the trip to the Fairyland of Etchra Condla is a solemn promise and premise for the kings reincarnation,
although by another part of his spirit.

Rimbaud's travel as the intoxicated boat, has no full and happy return to the earthly world he misses: he remains
ideally into the ocean of his boat's adventurous travels, and at the same time he projects himself back at home
like a child playing in a water pool with a paper boat, resigned to keep his gained freedom of existence intact and
bring it in real life, in the restricted ways he can. Not the ideal one, but there is a way back. The poet himself wants
and forces it: the important thing, 'when everything else fails' is to keep a constant personal rebellion into his own

The same thing does Jim: he goes straight to achieve paradise and has all intentions to hold it, but: 'When we get
back, I'll drop a line'
. He's saying Mary that for no reason at all his fall in experience with her has precluded him the
earthly world and condemned him to hell.

We could say that, in the crystal ship figure, like in the second part of Morrison's poem, Blake is just an allusion,
just like 'crystal' is an adjective. The noun, 'ship', says of 'Etchra Condla' 's and 'the Intoxicated Boat' 's basis.

a deepest analysis of some lyrics, to complete the meaning of the ship. Jim, Mary, and
the pure world of perception:

What does the crystal ship mean to the rest of the text? To get this, we must go back to the verses in the
previous strophe.

'Oh, tell me where your freedom lies
the streets are fields that never die.'

In these lines Morrison takes the distance from his love pain and its implication with his loved one: he says that
the ways of experience and of life itself, which they had both chosen, but especially hers, are wearing and
impenitent places.

That is to say, intense but also tiring, above all when you are alone.

That question, 'where your freedom lies', is the way off the romantic sentimental world.

The ship is exactly that freedom he's talking about, the freedom to experience in general, freedom of experiencing,
freedom to emotion, freedom of emotions and towards other feelings too.

In this ship women and trips, or emotions (originally indicated as 'pills', then changed into 'thrills'), represent both
the actual passengers of the collective ship, and the content of any individual's inner boat.

We'll see further that the ship's passengers (girls and pills / thrills) are single elements of experience in general,
collective aims, which crowd the vessel, but at the same time other people who climb on board to take this sailing
trip, the others in this experience. The poet's spirit trip mates (still, girls and pills / thrills) are both other companions
and reasonable contents of the poet's mind and soul, elements of ‘knowledge’, another crucial word to Morrison.

In the background of this all, the picture draws a natural sentimental fragility in experience and emotions and for a
shattered love feeling, but at the same time it contrasts it.

This is the feeling of a sentient animal with a fragile but forged and reborn sensitive soul.

From this point on, all over the second part of the song, the poem transforms into a taking of a position: Jim states
he has made up his mind both sentimentally and ‘ideologically’.

'Deliver me from reasons why
you'd rather cry
I'd rather fly.'

Before all, he seems deluded by her choices in life. She prefers to cry, leave him and chase certain ambitions, pursue
perspectives of mind & experience openings, material & artistic, different from his, more materialistic of those Jim
tried to dream of and plan with her (in another song, '… the end of our elaborate plans …'), be them sentimental or

        He wanted to walk some artistic path with her, but not in the direction she seemed to lead, not to be a valuable
partner for such an interest she demonstrated (the double sensed picture which emerges in 'Twentieth Century
may be well related to this). It feels like he saw himself as a partner that now seems an inconvenience and
even an obstacle for possible alternate relationships or sexual experiences. Like he felt her need for other
experiences as a pretense to leave him or take time. On the other hand he wouldn't think of them as an obstacle
for their staying together, or at least he was beginning to think about it that way. Now one that once seemed a
reasonable earnest need of hers, appears to be a shaded excuse or a hiding of the fact that she doesn't love him

Still, painfully, disarmingly sweet, he had whispered her: “the streets (in general, but in particular the ones of you
walk in your life) are fields that never die”. They are wearing, they offer no shelter. But then, 'deliver me from
reasons why...'

‘Why do you want to embrace the limited experience world?’

He seems to tell her: 'Your plans are all the result of this choice, not opening the doors of perception, and so you
prefer to suffer, make existential choices that are not needed, where no renounces would be requested'. 'Why
you'd rather cry'
means, ‘Why choosing the limited experience world?’.

'I'd rather fly': I prefer to fly in the expanded world of perceptions, of all inclusive love and love experiences, of
an artistic world of life and creation... with it the poem has already become an oniric declaration, and the oniric
detachment of Jim's from Mary’s.

It indicates the severing of his perception of experience from the need to consider her, as his lover, a means to
access it.

Looking back, in the second strophe of the text, 'enclose me in your gentle rain', he still aimed at it for a last time:
the poem had begun with the statement of wanting to have 'another kiss, another flashing chance at (that) bliss'
though just to let her 'slip into unconsciousness'.

He wants to forget her, or better, chop off his loving bound, in part, and Mary's role as a sensuous mean of
experience, in total. He doesn't recognize her as a muse anymore. I mean a muse in this very particular sense,
and not in the conventional one (a last chance of holding her as a way to sentimental and perceptive bliss – Jim
used this very line just to express, also, one of his ways to drinking, where every glass is a bet to access the
bliss of perception, one more moment of bliss, or to pass the line and get into emotional and intellectual hell,
confirming that 'another chance at bliss' alludes to the kiss, or anything else in its place, as a medium for
accessing that dimension).

But it seems impossible to have neither the kiss nor 'a last access to bliss', so right now, with 'Deliver me from
reasons why / you'd rather cry, I'd rather fly'
he makes up his mind to get rid of it. It is such a radical decision,
that he even moves away from his original desire and intentions of pursuing a last farewell moment, from his
need of it. He gives up the idea of accessing End of the Night's 'realms of bliss' by their tender bound, even for a
last time. 'I'd rather fly', then: the oniric leave-taking.

And so comes the crystal ship, which 'is being filled', originally, with 'a thousand pills', both in the sense that it
consists of them (there is no “of”), and in the sense that this “of” is implied: like people, like pills are gathering
on board, the ship is being loaded (the ship with people, people with experience. Filled by other people, and by
thrilling experiences), about to depart.

I think the change from 'pills' to 'thrills' wasn't just convenient for censorship reasons, but it also shows that 'pills'
indicated rather the effect they produce, and not the item itself. Like the ship, pills are a symbol for both any
means you can use to get the experience and for the experience itself (both drugs as ecstasy inducers and the
musicians- leaders of the ship) - thrills, instead, are double sense between emotions and intoxication: the effect
of pills, of the songs, of all the mediums built alike the latter.

Plus, keeping 'pills' would have limited the variety of sources for them that Morrison intended (maybe he even
reflected better and more deeply, while recording and before publishing “The Doors”, their first album, which
would have meant reaching a larger base of listeners than the clubs public).

The oniric ship of experience and of the real full discovery of reality effects the emerging of a cleansed crystal
shining spirit and a transparent vision with which approaching the world.

'A million ways to spend your time' refers to all these things together, and even if the thousand girls aren't meant
to substitute his broken and lost relationship with Mary, there will probably be another one who will do, no way to
think that even if he will never completely overcome his sentimental delusion and loss of her (who does?), he'll
also still suffer for it, or won't access to a real true love and mate forever. Jim now has decided that hers has
become a “falsely true” love, from a certain point on... and he has been knowing her for a long time. Among that
million ways to spend your time, anyway, rest also the girl or girls of his future life who will substitute her.

'When we get back / I'll drop a line': the pronoun 'we' confirms that the ship is also filled with other people who
want to acknowledge this way of living.

The poet also states that at the end of this experience trip he's going to inform her that he's back: “I'll drop a line
is going to be the signal, and he will report her how it went, too.

It the end, in their relationship, they'll meet again, at least to reckon where their mutual choices had led them to.
But in his frame of mind it feels like he meant: 'you'll see that I was right!'. Maybe, when 'the insane time she ran'
will have passed, they'll even get together again, but he doesn't expect nor hopes for that. He doesn't even wish
for it anymore: he doesn't aim anymore at that other "flashing chance at bliss", neither as a last kiss of farewell.

When they'll meet again, possibly they'll put their friendship on another level. And it all happened...

With lots of love
to James Douglas Morrison.
Written on December 8, 2020.

Sources, quotes and notes:

'Copyright owner for 'The Crystal Ship' 's lyrics and for all the Doors songs lyrics above and hereby mentioned: 'The
Doors Music Company'. All rights reserved.
'The Crystal Ship' video frames published by Warner Brothers. All rights reserved.

'The Crystal Ship': The Doors, 'The Doors', Elektra Records 1967.

Other Doors lyrics quotes: 'The Crystal Ship', 'Twentieth Century Fox', 'End of the Night', 'The End' from the Doors, 'The
Elektra Records 1967;
'The Soft Parade' from the Doors, 'The Soft Parade', Elektra Records 1969.

For Jim Morrison's disclosing the crystal ship's origin from Lebour na hUidre.
Description of the crystal ship's magical powers and many other hints: Chuck Crisafulli, 'Moonlight Drive. The stories
behind every Doors song',
Carlton Books 1995, pages 28-29.

On Lebour na hUidre / The Book of the Dun Cow: 'Lebour na huidre : Book of the Dun Cow' Hodges, Figgis & Co. for the
Royal Irish Academy 1929; 'Lebour na huidre: Book of the Dun Cow' (Middle Irish and English), Royal Irish Academy 1992.

Quotes from the Connla's legend text: 'Connla of the Golden Hair and the Fairy Maiden' from Patrick Weston Joyce, 'Old
Celtic Romances
' CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 1920.

For the curragh and the Mag Mell's names: 'Lebour na hUidre' translation by O'Beirne Crowe 1974, information gathered
also on

On William Blake' s poetic and 'The Crystal Cabinet': William Blake 'Libri Profetici' Bompiani 2003.

About Aldous Huxley: Aldous Huxley, 'The Doors of Perception: And Heaven and Hell' Random UK 2006.

On Arthur Rimbaud and 'Le Bateau Ivre': Rimbaud, 'Tutte le poesie' Grandi Tascabili Economici Newton 1972.

Wallace Fowlie, 'Rimbaud, Complete Works, Selected Letters' University of Chicago Press; new edition 1966.

Wallace Fowlie ,'Rimbaud and Jim Morrison, the rebel as a poet. A memoir' Duke University Press 1994, pages 48-53.

John Densmore on the crystal ship's meaning, on Jim's question for the change of 'a thousand pills' into 'a thousand thrills',
and many other hints: John Densmore, 'Riders on the Storm. My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors', Deli Publishing 1990.

      Sonia De Pascalis for the Doors Quarterly Magazine Online - January 2021