Navigating the Shaman’s Universe

Ceremony at an international gathering of shaman in Mongolia
Ceremony at an international gathering of shaman in Mongolia (Picture: Alexander Nikolsky)

Shamans journey into the cosmos where myriad realities emerge from infinite possibilities. Through altered states, shamans see through the eyes of the universe and come to know its endlessly creative impulse toward harmony. Working with spirit, shamans bring that harmonious flow into coherent physical form, healing and helping community. Through repeated experience, over tens of thousands of years, shamans have gained a practical working knowledge of the multidimensional fabric of the universe. Speaking in metaphor and symbol, the shaman has long described a  universe that scientists are just now explaining in the language of quantum physics.

The shaman through experience and the scientist in theory, each understand the universe to be pure energy – a continuous complex of interconnected vibration. For shamans, the cosmos has always embodied the whole of existence, “from matter to mind to God,” akin to the Pythagorean view of 6th century B.C.E. To scientists, the material world of time and space is an immeasurable expanse of connected energy particles moving continuously with potential. Spanning all of human history, both the oldest healers in the world and cutting-edge physicists have arrived in their own ways to an image of the universe pulsing in all directions, where a single vibrational change in any part affects every part.

 Unseen Vibrational Connections

Vibrational connection is everywhere in the shamanic experience. Through vibrations of sacred songs, chants, and rhythmic drumming, the shaman shifts his or her own vibrational state into deeper resonances with cosmic vibrational energies or spirits. In accord with spirit, the trained practitioner learns to discern from the vast vibrational patterns the countless alternate realities making up the universe. Like a conductor, the shaman directs coherent energies into the physical world and dissolves dissonance.

For physicists, the physical universe brims with vibrational movement down to the subatomic level. Every atom hums with possibility. The more stable the patterns of vibration, the more probable the atom’s manifestation in space and time. Scientists can observe energy waves of probability play out in the movements of light, sound, matter and space. But for both shaman and physicist, the ultimate origin of vibrational possibilities remains hidden and mysterious.

The Power of Observation

Quechuan despacho ceremony, Peru
Quechuan despacho ceremony, Peru

In a universe where every atom is in constant motion, the boundaries of reality elude the observer. The shaman has long been at home in a fluid universe where endless possibilities unfold into overlapping realities – where possibilities move to form coherent probabilities. Where the shaman experiences spirits, the scientist theorizes quantum waves. Each one in different ways apprehends invisible energies flowing through multidimensional realities – though both must bow to the quicksilver cosmos whose quintessence escapes the purely objective gaze.

Like the quantum physicist, a shaman understands the power of observation to affect energies which make possibilities evolve into probable realities. Quantum theory states that an atom in motion can only exist in a single location in space and time if observed; while the unobserved atom occupies infinite possible positions simultaneously. It is the observer’s perspective of an atom’s properties that is the catalyst for transforming possibility into probable and actual reality.

For shaman in altered states, energy is a direct experience. Heightened perceptions allow the shaman to grasp meanings and harmonies in the creative forces of the universe for directing possibilities into human realities. Working intentionally between hidden and physical realms, the practicing shaman masters energy through practical hands-on experience.

For the shaman navigating a sea of vibrations, reality is an endless journey of evolving creative consciousness. Through training and experience, the shaman learns to interpret coherent forms into real world healing.

Dance of Simultaneous Possibilities

The shaman journeys through an infinitely creative cosmos where parallel worlds converge and fly apart in one continuous movement of harmonic making. Over time, practitioners grow adept at discerning meaning out of the eternal void of possibility. The trained shaman moves effortlessly through realms of matter, mind, spirit, and life with the guidance of spirits. Shamans commonly work with traditional spirits long familiar to specific cultures or regions.

Training the Master

Irish shaman at the ancient sacred site of Lough Crew
Irish shaman at the ancient sacred site of Lough Crew

Through training, talent, and intuition, practicing shaman learn to transcend illusions of separation – to perceive the life force pulsing in every vibrational form. Working with traditional methods and the guidance of spirit, shaman penetrate hidden realms to bring back harmony to people and communities in the physical world. They translate meaning into everyday existence by speaking the language of spirit in metaphor.

Shamanic work is highly disciplined and requires detachment as much as sensitivity. A master shaman balances between the state of being immersed in vibrational oneness with the practical business of healing. With training, a shaman cultivates the power to diagnose energies accurately and affect those flows with intention and clarity.

Initiation into Shamanic Work

Initiation strips away the practitioner’s ego self and any preconceived beliefs. In many cultures, initiation is a metaphor for death. But death of the ego is real and necessary for freeing the shaman to experience the oneness of the universe with full awareness. No longer filtering through  fears, attachments, or expectations, the initiated shaman can interpret energies through the natural lens of a perpetually spontaneous cosmos.

The transformation of initiation instils the shaman with enhanced perception, lucid spontaneity, and deeper compassion. The initiate becomes a bridge between the hidden and physical worlds, poised to connect with spirit. Every human being has that capacity within their DNA to be awakened as a shaman to the harmonious flows of the cosmos.

The Art of Interpreting Hidden Worlds

Irish shamanic ceremony at New Grange
Irish shamanic ceremony at New Grange

The shaman’s experience in hidden worlds and the healing effects in the physical world are real, profound, and often more miraculous than language can convey. Shamans have been called poets since earliest recorded time, speaking in images and metaphor to say what everyday words cannot. From flowing possibilities to coherent probabilities, the healing shaman gives currency to healing manifestation through meaningful interpretation.

Shamans in cultures all over the world render the universe through some kind of map or symbol. These visual guides, though metaphoric in form, reflect real places experienced through travels in alternate realities. To some cultures, the universe is one continuous whole, made up of distinctly separate spiritual and physical realms irrevocably connected. To other peoples, the spirit and material realms directly mirror the cycles of day and night. Most cultures divide the universe into three realms reaching infinitely in all directions – the Upperworld, Middleworld, and Underworld – evoked in symbols like the Tree of Life, the Spiral, or the Circled Cross. Each rendering serves as an entryway into non-ordinary reality, grounding the shaman in the physical world while giving context for the whole nature of the cosmos.

Mapping the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life image is prevalent across cultures, representing the centre and whole of the shaman’s universe. Each section of the tree represents physical entry points into the realms of the hidden universe. The master shaman can travel instantaneously from one point to any corner of the cosmos. The branches reach into the Upperworld, as the roots reach down into the Lowerworld, while the centre of the tree represents the Middleworld. These same three realms are represented in other cultural symbols, such as the Circled Cross, the Mountain at the Center of the Earth, and the Pillar that Holds Up the Sky.

The 3 worlds of Yggdrasil
The 3 worlds of Yggdrasil (Norse system) (by Oluf Bagge – From Northern Antiquities, Public Domain)

Ways of accessing the three realms vary across cultures, as do the spirit connections within those realms. Prevalent pathways for entering the Upperworld include the branches of the Tree of Life, mountaintops of the Mountain, mist, and rainbows. From the Upperworld, a shaman can view the whole of the cosmos and draw upon inspiration and teaching from celestial bodies, gods, goddesses, the Divine, and all types of helping spirits.

Ways for accessing the Lowerworld include through the roots of the Great Tree, or by way of ground openings like caves and wells. From the Lowerworld, the shaman can enter the Land of the Dead or domains of ancestors, and connect with spirits of the earth and sea.

The Middleworld reaches out from the middle of the Tree of Life toward the eight cardinal directions – and infinitely in all directions as with the Mountain or Pillar images. The Middleworld contains everything associated with physical existence – animals, plants, human beings, air, water, weather, and all their multidimensional energies.

In many cultures, the three cosmic realms contain levels within them, as many as infinity. The practicing shaman learns to master the resonances of each level’s vibration until moving between levels becomes instantaneous. Though levels are not hierarchical, the shaman learns with each level a deeper resonance of the endless evolution of cosmic consciousness.

Sacred Space of Creation

A shaman creates a sacred space of healing ritual, within the greater space of physical creation – opening a portal into the hidden spiritual world of possibilities. Entering the world of Dream and Spirit, the shaman accesses possible new harmonic realities to bring back into the physical domain.

Time and Timing

Shamans in altered states of vibrational awareness exist outside of linear time. They have a relationship with the infinitely bending vibrations of cyclical time, which ebb and flow continuously in creative waves of harmony. Moving in the realms of possibility, outside of space and time, the shaman moves – in time – with the rhythms of multiple fluid realities. In synch with the timeless harmonics of the universe, the shaman is occupied with timing the movements of healing life-force energies from the spirit world into the physical world.

Numerous cultures view time cyclically, timing their rituals with phases of the moon, sun, and planets. To some cultures, like the Dagara of West Africa, time is but an illusion. Timing with the rhythms of nature is life force itself. The symbolic Spiral of Creation embodies the rhythmic nature of space and time, pushing and pulling where any point can touch another.

The Circle of Time

The circle is a universal symbol of infinite time. The Circled Cross – two criss-crossed lines within a circle – is an ancient symbol of the shaman’s universe found carved into stones, jewellery, and cave walls all over the world. It is found in lands as far removed as the Celts of the British Isles and the Mapuche of Chile, South America. The lines represent the four directions moving out into infinity – and the centre point from which the shaman moves.

The Eternal Ritual

At any point in time the shaman can move into cosmic connection with spirit. But what distinguishes the shaman’s universe from all others is the ability to partner with spirit consciously, taking action to diagnose and replace dissonances with the healing life force of hidden realms. Both powerful and humble, the shaman never stops learning to hold the universe sacred.