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Shamanic Reality


Photo Credit: istock

Shamanic reality begins with the cave. It is an image that I believe is built into our DNA. At least that is the explanation I gave myself when I broke a leg and began having visions of a cave. When I followed why intuition, and went in, my pain went away. It was my introduction to shamanism. 


Shamanic reality is complex. it includes the Middle World that we inhabit as well as the Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds The Lower and Upper realities are the places of are alternate reality and we use to journey. "Journey" is the term we use to explain our entrance and experience in alternate reality. 

The Lower World

This benevolent reality is where spirit guides—or spirit helpers, live. The widespread belief among shamanic cultures is that everyone has a spirit helper. One cannot become a fully functional adult without them. To empower yourself and do any healing work for yourself or others, you must journey and find your power helper or spirit guide. 

Spirit guides can take on many appearances. They can look like familiar animals—such as lions and tigers—or mythological creatures—such as dragons and unicorns. Spirit plants and minerals may also assist us. Geographically, the Lower World resembles our natural world. It facilitates healing, empowerment, or bonding with your spirit guides. 

The Middle World


The everyday reality we live in is known as the Middle World. Seen through the lenses of shamanic reality, it looks and feels like everyday reality.  Understanding the Middle World requires a paradigm shift. When journeying in this world, one should be careful.


Technically, it is not an area non-ordinary reality.  Your spirit helpers are not as powerful or reliable there;  nature spirits rule over it, and it lacks human morality. Only very skilled practitioners should journey there. 

The Upper World 

While some find that the difference between the Lower and Upper Worlds are small, in my experience they are very different. The Upper World is where you will find spiritual teachers, especially those who have passed on You journey to this level for spiritual information and guidance. This reality is also benevolent.

The Upper World is full of light. Here you will find ascended teachers, gods, goddesses, angels, and other celestial beings. Having been there often, I am sure that it is the place Christians call Heaven, Muslims Paradise, and Jews the Afterlife. 

The Axis Mundi

There is abounding mythology and spiritual-religious symbols connected with the axis mundi. In the Judeo Christian Bible we see the tree of wisdom in the garden, the tower of Babel, Moses’ column of fire. The Greeks had Mount Olympus, the Japanese Mt. Fuji and the Egyptians built pyramids to go to the upper world. [1 ]

The open highway connecting the Lower, Middle, and Upper World is known as the Axis Mundi, the World Tree, the World Pillar, or the Center of the World. A natural object, a tree, a vine, a mountain, or a column of smoke represents it. Observe the image of the World, its trunk spans the Middle World, and its branches reach high up into the Upper World.

Tree of Life.png

Graphic credit: Unknown

The way to enter the lower world is pretty standard. Find a dark hole or tunnel—real or imaginary—that leads down into the ground. Once inside, if you are successful, you will reach a  natural landscape, a forest, a desert, a field, the ocean, a river, or a mountain.  Once there, you can find your spirit helper. 

Don't try entering this world alone without guidance. It can be confusing and disorienting The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner, offers some excellent courses. Contact them for assistance finding a workshop near you. 

The shaman or practitioner enters an alternate reality to heal the spiritual cause of illness and to do so uses one of two techniques, extraction or retrieval.

Once a person enters shamanic reality and has a power animal, they can journey to the upper and lower world. Our teachers and helpers reside in those worlds. Regular meditation in those realities can help us know ourselves better. 

The upper and lower world are very different. The lower world is made of natural landscape. I’ve often wondered if it was the original “garden,” from which the biblical God cast us. It is peopled by real and magical animals that can assist us and be our spirit guides. 

The upper world is ethereal and filled with light. It is peopled by ascended teachers, gods, goddesses, angels and other celestial beings. Very likely, the concept of the Christian heaven is based on this reality.  

One goes to the upper world primarily for philosophical and spiritual understanding. The beings are teachers, rather than helpers. Their assistance is beseeched, which is rather impressive and miraculous. 

Avoid the Middle World

The middle world is our actual world seen through glasses of shamanic reality. Often this is an urban world, because that is our reality now. This reality one can as easily go backwards into the past as forward into the future. 

It takes skill, experience and wisdom to maneuver that reality world. Societal indoctrination about time being fixed has to be overcome to be successful in negotiating journeying through the middle world. Only experts do this type of work. 

Regardless of cultural and terminological differences, shamanic work is conducted in an alternate state of reality. That is the key factor that makes it shamanism, as opposed to another type of healing work. And it all begins with smudging.

[1] New Word

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