Shamanic cosmology says that our world consists of three inner planes of consciousness: These are also known as the the upper, middle and lower worlds.
Each of these worlds has its own vibrational quality and can be accessed to attain wisdom, knowledge, healing and guidance. In symbology, they are depicted as the world tree; the roots represent the lower world, the trunk represents the middle world and the branches represent the upper world.
Altered states of consciousness are used to access the three worlds. One example of this would be some form ecstatic trance, brought about through playing musical instruments such as rattles and drums, or chanting. Another possibility is the imbibing of a plant medicine, such as medicinal mushrooms.
The trance comes about through a shift in our brainwaves. We enter what is known as the theta state, which is the same state we are in during REM sleep, or when deeply relaxed. Theta brain waves induce a light trance state similar to that experienced during a lucid dream. Some refer to them as the subconscious aspect of our minds.
During a shamanic drum journey, the beat of the drum carries us into the theta state and our own imagination, which is the door to the worlds we wish to explore.
The three worlds
The lower world
The lower world has a reputation as being one of the less desirable places to go; we imagine it to be full of dark energies. This is merely conditioning, however; the lower world is the home of nature spirits, such as plants and animals, or even what we perceive as land masses and rocks. It’s one of guidance and unconditional love, where we can find information about our natural world.
In Peru, the spirits of the mountains are called the Apus. The Apus are called upon during ceremony and Temascal (sweat lodge) for guidance; they are also given much appreciation. When we travel to the lower worlds, we meet our spirit guides, our power animals, the spirits of ancestors and plant totems. It is common for people to connect with their power animal here in order to recover previously lost power.
What we call the middle world is actually our everyday world. Our ‘normal’ reality. As we all know, in this world we face challenges, many of which appear to be spiritual tests. We also experience great blessings, which brings balance to our lives. The middle world is a place of exploration and mystery. There are many possibilities here, and so many opportunities for connection, and creation.
When we travel to the Upper, it is in order to receive healing, spiritual guidance, wisdom, or some kind of help with our problems. This is the world that we interact with to experience the vast depths of our nature; we can learn profound lessons and find purpose, and equilibrium on our paths. We reconnect with our own souls, or higher selves, in this world.
It is also common to connect with other beings, such as angels, alien, celestial spirit guides and archetypes. Spiritual teachers may be waiting for you in this realm, knowing that you they have an opportunity to talk with you and show you that they’ve always been there, helping you with your life.
Soul retrieval is another shamanic practice that requires travel to the upper world, in order that the shaman may locate and bring back together the fragmented parts of their patients’ souls.
When people first embark on a shamanic journey, it is advised that the rational mind be put to one side while the imagination is given free reign. It often the case that people are surprised at the clarity and vividness of their journeys. It really is possible to receive profound healing in this way, gaining confirmation of other realms and valuable wisdom which can be used in practical ways here in the middle world.