"The Worlds of the Shaman"
On this website, "Spirit" is a catch-all term that includes "God" (or other name of the Creator of all creation), Spirit Helpers, Power Animals, Archangels, Angels, Ascended Masters and all other invisible beings of the Highest Light.
According to Core Shamanism and many indigenous tribes still largely intact on the Earth, the Worlds of the Shaman are called Upper, Middle and Lower worlds. They are parallel dimensions, meaning that none is higher nor lower in importance from the others. However, the way in which is accessed is quite different from each other. The middle world is accessed just by thinking inwardly, whether you close your eyes or not. The upper and lower worlds also require an inward focus, but the pattern from that point forward is very different from each other as well as from the middle world. Generally, the term "shamanic journey" is usually used in reference to doing upper and lower world journeys. Some people, however, also use that term for middle world journeys.
The Middle World
“Ordinary Reality” of the middle world is considered the physical realm that is accessed by our physical senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, movement. “Non-ordinary Reality” of the middle world is accessed within our minds only. It uses a correspondence with the physical senses that is not experienced by anyone except ourselves: Clairvoyance appears as sight within the mind; Clairaudience is hearing within the mind; Clairsentience within the mind is like touch, feeling, movement… perhaps also taste and smell. In other words, Non-ordinary Reality is where we do our thinking, praying, meditation, creativity, psychic reception, trance work, etc.
Many people steeped in metaphysical and holistic studies tend to think that the words “upper” and “lower” mean “higher/better” versus “lower/worse”. That is understandable if you consider the astral realm, i.e., the emotional body in the aura that can be accessed through the emotions and non-spiritually-focussed psychic ability. In describing that realm, it’s often equated with an Olympic depth swimming pool: you can see a coin that appears to be sitting on the bottom of the pool, yet if you dive directly to that image you may discover it to be deeper or at a different angle than it actually is. In other words, seeing is deceiving. Astral realm psychism can be quite deceptive. There’s a strong tendency to interpret metaphors according to our own experience of them. For example, if you sense sorrow coming from someone you might think that person has lost a loved one in death. Upon talking with the person, you may discover that s/he has experienced inability to do as well in performing a song as s/he wanted to. The reason s/he felt sorrow was due to feeling inept expression because the moment did not live up to personally expected high aspirations in musicianship.
In other words, the Astral Realm is an expression of each person’s experience; each person on the planet is different from everyone else in this regard. To ascertain the Truth, one must reach UP as high as possible to God. In “Non-ordinary Reality” of the middle world, “higher” and “lower” are legitimate terms to be used to assure escaping deception, delusion, illusion. The highest must always be strived for.
Spirits in the astral realm likewise need to be tested in order to ascertain validity. Many deceivers are there, and they may fall into the category of earth-bound spirits, demons, other dark beings or merely tapping into human energy.
The Upper and Lower Worlds
In shamanism, the Upper World and Lower World do NOT play into “better than” nor “less than.” In fact they are both considered to be “heaven worlds” in many tribal cultures, and as such, they are equal. Some tribes' shamans journey only to the Upper World. Some tribes' shamans journey only to the Lower World. Yet each tribe receives the spiritual healing and learning benefits that all other tribes receive.
During a semester-long class in Native American Spirituality at The Naropa Institute, our instructor was Eagle Cruz, a full-blood Yaqui elder. In one class period he talked about the realm where his people would ask their shaman to take them when they die. Everything he described sounded exactly like the shamanic lower world! ..including the fact that that realm is not the death region itself. Instead, it is where the departed soul can be healed and rejuvenated from the life just left, before s/he is escorted safely to the true death region.
The Lower World
This realm is called “lower world” for two reasons: one is that usually we go downward in a very specific way, to a world that looks every bit like our natural world on Earth. That is, except that it is untainted by human creations such as cars, electronics, houses. Instead, it is filled with nature of all kinds: valleys, mountains, rivers, oceans, deserts…and of course lots of land animals, birds, water animals. The atmosphere is one of ecstasy and peace. When we meet our spirit helper who lives there, that being can fill us with peace, rest, rejuvenation, well-being, healing. There are spirit helpers there who also give us true guidance, i.e., guidance that works beautifully in our lives.
The Upper World
The Upper World is called “upper” because we go upwards to get there. It looks like our sky (day or night) with or without clouds or it can look like the emptiness of space. When we meet that great being called our “spirit teacher”, we feel a sense of peace and okay-ness that says we’re 90-95% ok. We merely need some “tweaking” to improve our spiritual and soul-filled circumstances. (: