Language can really complicate simple matters. A few years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to spend time with three long time students of Jungian ideology, and analysis. We went to meet a Jungian analyst specializing in Alchemy.
Sounds interesting, and it was… what was even more interesting to me was the fact that we spent a good deal of the two hours we had together trying to come up with a common language to understand each others experiences and thoughts. No simple task, but a very interesting one.
Language: When I first started to study shamanism there were few books published regarding the practices of shamans. I looked high and low for how-to books but they did not exist. The books that I did find are considerably different than the books I read today. The basic language of shamanism speaks of the three worlds, Upper, Lower and Middle. The Lower World is where you meet your Power Animal.
Your Power Animal, not to be confused with a Totem animal, in some cultures is a direct connection between your spirits and your physical and mental well-being. If you are sick, or if you have lost some of your power the shaman would journey (meaning enter an altered state to seek information and knowledge) to the Lower World to retrieve your lost Power Animal.
The Middle World is interestingly this world only removed from time and space. I remember first trying to grasp that concept and intellectually understood that, but not so much in a practical day to day language or experience. We simply do not say… oh yeah saw Jane yesterday, but I was removed from time and space. Trying to explain was difficult, I eventually gave up and started asking Spirit to send me more journeys that had to do with the Middle World. In shamanism, nothing beats experiential teaching.
The Middle World is the place to encounter plant spirits, discarnate spirits, helping animal spirits. The analogy I use is it is this world without the saran wrap over our eyes, we are able to peel it away and get into the content of our world, from a multi dimension perspective.
The Lower World had rules of engagement… avoid snakes showing teeth, no argument here. Avoid fish with large fangs… like a piranha… I think not really bad advice in either reality.
The Upper World is a different place without specific rules set out. The Upper World is where you find your teachers. I have found it to be more peaceful, reflective, a stepping stone outside of our own atmosphere and orbit. The concept of the World Tree, or axis mundi is a global image.
The roots are the Lower World, the trunk the Middle World and the branches the Upper World. The shaman finds simple ways to enter the Upper & Lower worlds. Natural openings. All pretty straight forward so far. So, a hollowed tree trunk was a great way to enter the Lower World. Climb the World Tree to gain entrance to the Upper World through reaching for the stars.
The drum is called the horse because it carried the shaman to the reaches of the other worlds. The drum was necessary to aid the shaman. Michael Harner wrote “The Way of the Shaman” in 1980. Non Ordinary Reality was a new term to the Western culture in 1980 as was the “shamanic state of consciousness”, or SCC. OSC then was Ordinary State of Consciousness. Complicated eh!
He introduced me to the concept of the “prelogical” mind. The Western mind, yours and mine, is simply put unsophisticated from a shamanic point of view. Unsophisticated… when was the last time your mind was called that. But unsophisticated we are… the Spirit World is broken down into simple enough terms for us to grasp the concept of a living breathing world beyond our three d reality. With the Jivaro Indians, for instance, no one had to explain which reality the shaman was talking about, everyone already knew what kind of experiences occur in SSC. They have a shamanic background and language, we don’t.
The ecstatic state is different from visualization because a visualization that comes naturally could be caused by various factors: daydreaming, wishful thinking, spiritual contact, psychic vision, to name a few. What each person experiences in those states is quite dependent on the that person. Quite often a person can stop the vision, or change the vision if they are uncomfortable or startled. In journeys however it is different.
The hallmark difference between an ecstatic trance state and a visualization is interaction. In an ecstatic trance state you are involved in the action, however you cannot magically, at will change, you can will it but whether or not it happens is not up to you. It is as real there as it is here. The qualifier for that is you can ask for help in the Spirit World and it CAN come more directly and quickly than if you ask for help in the 3D circus we are currently conscious in.
In the journey however you also have way more tools at your disposal than you have in this current 3D. Like shape-shifting, flight, spirit helpers. What we need to remember is that the spirit world operates INDEPENDENT of us, not because of us. We are interacting with something that is already present, we did not create it. Hence we therefore are merely participants, such as everything else we encounter.
So as we do our spiritual work lets pretend we have sophisticated shamanic minds. Lets enjoy our, as Carl Jung would call it, active imagination, put aside our critical self and enjoy the sophisticated journeys and experiences prepared for us by Spirit.