Break on Through

“I found an island in your arms 
Country in your eyes 
Arms that chain 
Eyes that lie 
Break on through to the other side” Jim Morrison

Oftentimes it is said that ideas are less important and that action is better; what counts then is what is done or made manifest. The favored status of action, an idea itself, has always struck me as a half-truth, which of course it is. An idea is as much an action as the mind is the body. I say this not to blur the lines or resolve that ideas and actions are somehow the same, but more to reveal a hidden relationship and unity between seeming opposites that reflect in many ways our condition. A condition which is itself unified in ways that we perhaps might not be accustomed to seeing or sensing. Separation then, is both a blessing and a curse. “Idea” from idein” is akin to archetype, model or seeing and is very much related to bodily sense. All seeing comes from the body.

The constructs of our mind are also constructs of our bodies; psyche and soma, and in this world anyway, happen together. That we are capable of mentally splitting off body from mind and mind from body is an amazing human quality, but points to a deficiency of perception. A blind spot in our senses. We can think in ways that carve the world up into fragments that don’t exist apart from our mental constructs. Mental constructs can be useful, and even necessary, but when division and separation are not seen as constructs for the sake of convenience, the pain of separation, the threat of loss and death become spectral enemies that haunt us, tempting us to destroy them, either through literal murder or mentally by splitting them off from awareness. Here the past seems more real than the present, others become “not us,” foreigners, enemies, and nature removed to some place “out there.”


If it is in the realm of ideas and sense perception that the splitting occurs, that will also be the place where reunification happens. We cannot and do not live without ideas, without thought, without mind or psyche (or soma). Broadening our ideas dissolves the hardened sense and boundary of self and other. The place of wounding (splitting) is then the place of healing (unifying, or at least relating to the split). In alchemy there is first the separation of the substances, then a reuniting. But if wholeness is the background, or underlying nature of reality, seeing and sensing it may not come from ignoring the illusions of separation and parts but more from multiplying them, or seeing the many in the one. That is what metaphor, fairy tale, mythology or a good poem does for us. Instead of a literal account of reality, a metaphor intentionally takes us beyond the literal, singleness of meaning, opening up and expanding meaning by “a carrying over.”

Each chapter of Norman O. Brown’s book, Love’s Body, uses the rich history of ideas, mythology, Freud’s psychology, religion and mystical insights to define and resolve the splitting off of pieces of the world into what is mine, not mine, real, unreal, us, them, history, mythology, life and death. Do we suffer duality because language divides the world into things that we come to identify within the separateness of our bodies? Was it primitive of man to experience a “participation mystique?” Do animals experience a more unified world? …and what does love got to do with it? Everything of course – because we love what is perceived to become ours, we incorporate others and all that is “out there” into our subjective sense of self when we love. Love is communion, death where hate calls for an excommunication, a disowning in which we separate out all that we don’t, won’t or can’t commune with. A mirror darkened.

File:Herz aus Muschelschalen.JPGPerhaps our sense of being a separate self, along with the nature of time – our one-at-a-time perception, powerfully convinces us that the nature of the world is really not unified, but separate pieces and parts. Even language is structured sequentially; one word following another in which we grasp meaning by putting the words together as if something whole had been torn asunder.

Many of us sense both the split and the underlying unity of the world to some degree or another. But what is it that moves a sense of unity into the heart, to permeate our daily experience and slowly dissolve the need to take the boundaries literally? And, what does a sense and awareness of unity do for us? Does our sense of “I” as the unique owner and operator of “me” disappear, merging forever into the oneness? That, I believe is a false perception perhaps held by those whose mental constructs, mistaken for “reality,” are still too near, and far too dear, to part with. Or, as Brown suggests, become the “Fall” into division. He reminds us that “the erection of a boundary does not alter the fact that there is, in reality, no boundary.”

Borrowing largely from Christianity, Brown uses the analogies of rebirth, resurrection, and apocalypse to get at the problem of separation and reunification. Not following any creed or practice – every major western thinker, poet, mystic or philosopher is included in the conversation – and rightly so, as wisdom can never be “owned,” or the exclusive property of any one of us, because wisdom’s nature is to free us from our literal sense of separateness; the possessions, boundaries, framings, and identities used to divide what is by nature whole.

“The real apocalypse comes, not with the vision of a city or kingdom, which would still be external, but with the identification of the city and kingdom with one’s own body.” Political kingdoms are only shadows – my kingdom is not of this world – because kingdoms of this world are non-bodily. Political freedom is only a prefiguration of true freedom: “The Bastille is really a symbol, that is, an image or form, of the two larger prisons of man’s body and the physical world.” Political and fleshly emancipation are finally one and the same; the god is Dionysus.”

The apocalypse, or unveiling, is Dionysian, a madness in which the god is torn apart, broken, in pieces, no boundaries, moving beyond ordinary meanings into the multiplicity of symbolism, but instead of a breakdown, as in schizophrenia, a breakthrough. “Break on through to the other side,” as Jim Morrison put it. There is a danger here, for sure, but as Brown notes:

“The soul that we can call our own is not a real one. The solution to the problem of identity is, get lost.”

With the unveiling, symbolic consciousness accepts the mystery and empty space creates room for the not-known, the new. No longer do we have to figure it out, but accommodate living through our animal sense in the unavoidable present where love might find us without a purpose beyond itself.

“Symbolic consciousness is between seeing and not seeing. It does not see self-evident truths of natural reason; or visible saints. It does not distinguish the wheat from the tares; and therefore must, as Roger Williams saw, practice toleration; or forgiveness, for we never know what we do. The basis of freedom is recognition of the unconscious; the invisible dimension;  the not yet realized; leaving a space for the new.”


37 thoughts on “Break on Through

  1. A thought-provoking and nurturing post. I loved this line that you quoted from Brown: “the erection of a boundary does not alter the fact that there is, in reality, no boundary.” This is perhaps the type of “separation” that allows for us to experience a return to unity without loss of the differentiated mode of consciousness-expressing– e.g. the “self” that we “know” ourselves to be.

    I also agree with the notion that it is in the realm of ideas where genuine healing occurs. There are aspects in this post of the mind-body relationship that I may be taking out of context, and which I am unsure about. The body strikes me as the tail that is wagged by the mind (dog). There is a certain inseparability at the level of the felt world, but I don’t, for instance, think that mind is a phenomenon riding upon the dendrites and peptides of the flesh alone. Not sure that Brown is saying that either, but somehow it strikes me that the healing reunion of mind, body, and spirit requires their appropriate placement in relation to one another, which enables right thinking and right perception.

    Ideas are profoundly powerful, and held in the mind as active ingredients, result in the world cake we encounter each day. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and delving, as always.



    1. Hi Michael,

      Mind, for us in this embodied state, is only experienced through a body and is a body, but I agree that whatever the nature of consciousness is, would not be beholden to our ideas about it. The nature of consciousness might be the greatest impenetrable mystery.

      Because we can think about the possibilities of the nature of things and especially with powerful concepts such as “reality,” it’s perhaps always beneficial to leave room for the mystery, even though, paradoxically, even wrong thinking is a necessary step to correcting or adjusting the lenses that we see through.

      To my understanding, Brown was no materialist, but sought to gather our awareness back into an embodied state, where we could better hone our animal senses thereby creating a subtle body through the expanse of metaphorical thinking that experiences the joy and beauty in a deeper and fuller way that. Instincts would then serve us and not destroy us, appetites would cease to divide us but allow love to see our actions toward others as actions towards ourselves.

      It so fascinates me that there are seemingly thousands of ways to understand a thing. But what is really touching in our conversations is that I can feel your reaching into my words and so, making it that much easier to reach back. Perhaps that is the recognition that the boundaries are arbitrary, imaginary and there to be breached.



      1. Debra,

        In the paragraph where you begin with the statement that Brown was not a materialist, it seems to me you are describing a way of being fully present, embodied in this realm, that is somehow at the same time not materialistic. Almost like, if you’re going to have this dream… have it! Be present for it. Be immersed in it perhaps, and know that it is not a finite, rote experience, but a mysterious experience, something imagined perhaps, something HAPPENING. If I’m not too far off-track, it sounds good to me!

        I can understand the notion that while embodied, we can only experience the mind through the body and as the body, but I struggle to accept it. I think maybe the words or the context in which the sentiments are offered is different than the regions of thought I am accustomed to wandering. This type of thing is intriguing to me. Maybe this is why you feel me reaching into your words. I am loathe to dismiss obviously inspired ideas and seek to understand the insights which allow for translation between authentic states of loving expression.

        There is a good deal of discussion in A Course in Miracles about the notion that the body is essentially a neutral parameter in our experience, and that the real action, including healing, is in the mind (and heart). And the thought is that while the body is misperceived as being the cause of our experience, rather than a temporary vehicle through which experiences are had, the mind is inherently confused and unable to perceive correctly. But I hear echoes of this sentiment in your writing, in the notion that a return to the body will enable our instincts to work for us, etc. This is a similar notion, and this is why I think when you and Brown describe a return to the body, it is a return in such a way that identity is expanded, and the body an element of a vaster union?

        Just asking… 🙂



      2. Hi Michael,

        I think I am tracking with you here. It’s tricky because language can take an idea off course so easily.

        At some level, does it not make sense that mind and body are one, especially in terms of functionality? The mind, as will, active force, and mover certainly influences the body and other bodies and seemingly material “things.”

        Does not the quantum physics show us too that at a certain level of minutia, there is no hard stuff anymore but forms of energy that behave in a way that are sensed as matter?

        Perhaps here in lies the difficulty of separating out mind from body, as they happen, show up, together.

        Perhaps too, to be embodied is to more fully sense, or to use our senses more fully. Recently, my husband asked me what I meant by embodied because it seems obvious to him that of course we are embodied. After considering his question and yours, perhaps it is the ability and willingness to be not only a mind, but both a body and a mind and seeing mind in matter and matter in mind.

        Practically speaking, it is the ability to sit and be willing to take in the world without actively distracting the senses. Not that we need to meditate 24/7, but until we can willingly be with senses wide open, it feels like life is a game of dodge ball and in order to avoid getting hit, we need to keep on throwing our own ball.

        So yes, instincts, senses that feel and touch and can be touched, for how will we love and be loved if we cannot sense, feel and experience it?

        It’s sad, but perhaps we have all met people who seemed incapable of being loved, however much we reach out to them.

        Maybe too, because in my past I did not feel embodied, I am sensitive to what I perceive as a difference in the sense of being alive I used to have compared to now.

        At some point it seems that body and mind cease to be separate, or that each offers a set of metaphors for bridging the gap of our perception. When we say we feel sad or lonely, is it in the mind or in the body? I’d say that the deeper we feel, the harder it might be to locate sense and feeling.

        Thank you for asking! Your insights and questions inspire me to try to articulate what seems so hard to get at.



      3. Thanks for the discussion, Debra. I think part of my resistance to suggesting equality of mind and body is the notion of what is at cause. If the body is at cause, or on equal par with mind, then the effects and parameters of the physical world have lasting effects. If the physical world can truly-ultimately cause my annihilation, fear is valid. This is the logical “death”-spiral from which various forms of spiritual teachings would free us.

        If mind is ultimately at cause, communicating through the forms in which it is embodied, then events of this world may be forgiven, as they cannot ultimately cause harm to the permanent nature of mind. In other words- the body is temporary, and awareness in its fundamental aspect, is not.

        I love your description of the space/vacuum of the material, and I do agree that fundamentally the “material” of Creation is mind. So, in that sense, (Walter Russell wrote of this extensively in his work the Universal One, stipulating that all matter is standing waves of Light, and Light is Mind, and Mind is One, etc.), mind and body are truly unified, but there remains a right order, if you will. Formless knowing is cause. Form itself is effect. And in the union of mind and body we find cause and effect are somehow, perhaps miraculously, brought together as one.

        Magical! This is I think part of the teaching of various non-dual philosophies. Description breaks down, as I am quickly finding. 🙂 I guess it is a paradox of sorts. The body does not create ideas, or truly create, but it is not separate from that which does… I hope I haven’t gone too far off the deep end here. Ultimately, I think we are tracking with the idea of being present, here, through our senses and feelings, with the life in front of us, that we may experience the richness of giving and receiving Love, which at some level is what being embodied allows us to do/be.



      4. Yes, Michael, I believe we are tracking.

        I wouldn’t say that matter is the cause of mind, by no means. Without anyway to prove it, my intuition says that whatever we call it – consciousness, spirit, soul, etc., it is not caused by the brain.

        I do have a sense that mind/body may perhaps arise simultaneously, but only at the quantum, non-dual, particle/wave oneness level.

        The senses do much for us, for better or for worse, just as our romp through this fragile life that comes and goes. I’m not sure if I can ever conclude such things as reincarnation, or the exact nature of an afterlife or how the whole thing works, but I don’t think dying means being snuffed out without a trace.

        My reading on near-death experiences tells me that perhaps taking on the life of the body is like filtering light waves through a prism. If there was no filter, we wouldn’t have this sense of being separate and individual as we do. It is in this sense a Fall into division, but that’s how it must be for this style of sensation.

        Maybe we’re engaging in something much bigger than we know by taking on these forms of being and the big bang is some sort of cosmic copulation (pardon me).

        The thing about the body that I truly respect, is its intelligence, not only because of the awareness, which we call mind, but all that we are, from the moment the zygote begins its journey, so many amazing things happen that are just as much our intelligence as our awareness is. In this sense I see mind/body as one.

        Perhaps it is our amazing power of thought, because it’s freed from the mundane tasks of beating our hearts, or cleaning up the foreign invaders, also frees itself from being only the body. Okay, there’s my dip into the deep end.



      5. A delightful and refreshing dip indeed! I do like to sit quietly at times with the inner knowing that we are engaging in something creative and meaningful, even if we don’t always see the grand structure of it in ever moment. And the body as you have described it, like all of creation really, is so intricately beautiful in its workings as to raise the type of questions that linger warmly for an entire cup of tea. 🙂



  2. So many wonderful layers of information and meaning in the shares from you and this book (and one can never go wrong when they throw a bit of The Doors in, too! …I wouldn’t mind also going out in a claw foot tub in Paris one fine day…say in 2062?! 🙂 ). -x.M


  3. CosmicDrBii

    Great post. When I used to work with very action-oriented managers I used to tell them that behind their preference for action there were always ideas lurking. On the theme of language and the body, have you read David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous”? Its very good.


    1. Thank you CosmicDrBii!

      Yes, work places are full of the notion that “something must be done.”

      Thanks for the book suggestion! I have heard of Abram, but have not read him yet.



  4. Don

    Brilliant and fascinating Debra. So much to think about.

    “Many of us sense both the split and the underlying unity of the world to some degree or another. But what is it that moves a sense of unity into the heart, to permeate our daily experience and slowly dissolve the need to take the boundaries literally?”

    Herein lies the question of our age. The way we deal with it will equal the kind of new world we’ll create. It’s a question that plagues me daily Debra. Thank you for the light your post sheds on this.

    By the way, I was a big Jim Morrison fan. 🙂


    1. Hi Don,

      Thank you Don for your kind words!

      “Herein lies the question of our age. The way we deal with it will equal the kind of new world we’ll create. It’s a question that plagues me daily ”

      Me too Don! I’m inclined to think that freedom is mostly an inside job, but can’t deny that there are collective and political restraints that “imprison” us in many senses of the word.

      Jim was a pretty amazing guy.



  5. Huge fan of The Doors here. As a teenager I knew all their lyrics by heart, I mean all because I can be obsessive.
    Anyway, a brilliant post, Debra. Is this the sane guy who writes about psychoanalysis? I got sort of fixated on this quote: “The real apocalypse comes, not with the vision of a city or kingdom, which would still be external, but with the identification of the city and kingdom with one’s own body.” Political kingdoms are only shadows – my kingdom is not of this world – because kingdoms of this world are non-bodily. Political freedom is only a prefiguration of true freedom: “The Bastille is really a symbol, that is, an image or form, of the two larger prisons of man’s body and the physical world.” Political and fleshly emancipation are finally one and the same; the god is Dionysus.” I am not sure I totally understand. Does he say that the body is not of this world? That would be very interesting.


    1. Hi Monika,
      I can certainly relate to obsessiveness about music and anything that grabs my attention. 🙂

      Yes, this is the same guy who wrote Life Against Death. Love’s Body is a very explosive read, every chapter builds on his idea of bridging modern culture’s oppressive/repressive psyche into an accessible mystical sensibility in which consciousness shifts into a symbolic awareness of everything/everyone, continually renewing meaning by breaking apart existing meanings and expanding them ever-further.

      The subtle body is what is continually created through renewal. No static meaning, no static identity.

      Thanks for the question. The idea of human consciousness moving from an Apollonian nature toward a more Dionysian nature is interesting to me. I don’t think there’s anyway to direct such a thing, but I do wonder if modern technology is moving all in that direction.

      I think Brown’s idea of the body is very much a real physical body, although he also includes the making of a subtle body in his idea of body. I take him to have an awareness of the vertical/horizontal connection as Jung, Blake, the Sufi’s and many others speak of.

      I do take him to mean that are attempts at making manifest political structures, prisons, or much of what we build here on earth are static symbols trying to stand in for a greater, richer reality.

      I think we’re moving further toward an understanding of what it means to live in a more Dionysian fashion and yet lose all to Chaos, which is probably the underlying fear behind building up governments, prisons, churches and other collective structures.

      I wish he had written one more book taking these ideas one more step.


      1. 🙂 you too. You’re up late, although my sister who lives in Durham, NC, keeps west coast time now that she’s retired.

        Sometimes I am astonished at what rock music has given us, especially when I stop and read a favorite lyric. Humans are truly amazing and we live in a very unique time to have so much access to each other and so many gifts.


      2. Again, not to sound too biased, but some of the best music (so far) happened in the 60s and 70s. I am all about the lyrics and we had so many talented singer songwriters, true quality. Yet I also enjoy classical, jazz, bluegrass and world music and words are not part of the equation 🙂


      3. Same here. I do think those times had some magic going on. A lot of “firsts” in bothe the technology and the new found voices in the airways.

        Yep, I like a lot of different styles of music, thanks to my parents whose love of music filled the house, from my mom’s singing to my dad’s testing out the “best” speakers with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the cannons.

        Recently I have discovered Sufi music and Pandora even has a channel dedicated to it!

        Do you have any all-time favorite songs?


      4. We may have discussed before that I also grew up in a musical home. Both parents had major Taurus and Neptune placements which can signify musical talent and/or appreciation. I have the appreciation only lol!

        That is a really good question. My all time favs change over time but I still have a soft spot for osme of my favs from high school like Sugar Magnolia, Changes, Fire, Magic Man, Roundabout.

        Nowadays there are a few songs that stop me in my tracks like Home, Collide( Howie Day), Magic Carpet Ride, Just The Way You Are, One, No Woman No Cry, Something About You ( Boston) are some of those. How about you?


      5. Good list!

        My fave Billy Joel song is on Turnstiles, called Summer Highland Falls.

        I’ve Seen All Good People, Pink Floyd’s Comfortable Numb, Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven, Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes, Jethro Tull’s Skating Away, Harry Chapin’s Taxi.

        I have been revisiting Taxi recently, nust obsessing over the depth of the lyric that I had not previously noticed.

        And yes, my faves come and go too.


  6. fascinating Debra! Did you know that Jim Morrison experimented with shamanic rituals? I think that is the meaning behind this song. You would love the film The Doors with Val Kilmer.



    1. Hi Linda,
      I am a huge fan of the Doors. Yes, the movie with Val Kilmer is great. Yes, to his interest in Shamanic rituals. Have you read, “No One Here Gets Out Alive?”

      Jim was definitely a shooting star, but a beautiful one, hard to ignore.


      1. Seems like we have found some more common ground. i have not read the book but was quite taken with Jim. He was a Sag with Aquarius rising. His chart shows his genius as a writer and visionary with a wild side!


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