Many decades ago anthropologist Michael Harner developed and presented to the Western world the cosmology of Core Shamanism. As a result of his study and experience with shamanic cultures around the world, he determined that all have some things in common. One of those commonalities he described is the division of our experience of existence into Ordinary Reality (OR) and Nonordinary Reality (NOR). Ordinary Reality is this reality in which we find ourselves living; I call it the “consensus reality.” In this reality, we don’t perceive that trees sing, rocks move of their own volition, etc. Nonordinary Reality is the spiritual realm, which in the shamanic realm is the source of the reality we experience. In other words, Ordinary Reality is a reflection of Nonordinary Reality. And in Nonordinary Reality, trees sing beautifully, rocks move about freely, and we converse with spiritual beings to gain knowledge, help, healing and perspective. It is in Nonordinary Reality that the shamanic practitioner does the bulk of his or her work.

Another organizing principle Dr. Harner presented is that Nonordinary Reality contains (at least) three Worlds: the Upper World, the Lower World and, of course, the Middle World. And there are various “levels” or locations within each of those Worlds. The Lower World is a very dense and expansive version of our own reality, with landscapes and animals like those in our reality. These caves, rivers, oceans, meadows and these Bears, Owls, Eagles and all other Power Animals, are very much more intensely SO than in our reality; it is as if we are perceiving the essence of these things and forces in the Lower World.

The Upper World has, in my experience, opposite qualities from the Lower World; it is a place built of light and clouds, the place where we meet with higher beings, our ancestors, our inspirational teachers. Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman, in their excellent book Awakening to the Spirit World, write of the Upper World that it is “formed by the dreaming of the higher gods and goddesses, the ancestors, the ascended masters, and the compassionate angelic forces that are willing to be of service to us–most often as teachers and guides.”

The Middle World is this reality in which we live, encompassing both the Ordinary and Nonordinary versions. Shamanic practitioners become skilled in the work of allowing their consciousness’ to travel, or “journey,” back and forth between these two versions of our World, in order to do the work of shamanic healing. It is in this World that we encounter souls, both living and dead, find lost power, call lost soul parts to return during soul retrieval, extract intrusions, psychopomp the dead, depossess the lost dead and all of our other shamanic work.

These Worlds, these Worlds of wonder and beauty, are yours, if you are reading this, by the right of your birth. You came into this life of human form to experience being fully human. And the shamanic journey, the feat in which the consciousness is able to be both in this Ordinary Reality and in Nonordinary Reality simultaneously, is yours by right. If picking up this gift of yours is calling out to you now, consider remembering how to journey. You will meet your Power Animal(s), the Upper World teachers, and the compassionate beings that support your very existence.