The Three Worlds Concept
Part Two of the Second Interview with Craig Berry on Modern Shamanism and it's Foundations
What is the Three World Concept?
The three worlds analogy is one which is common amongst most shamanic societies. Whilst the specific names given to the different levels may differ in both concept and visualization the foundational concepts remain consistent.
In industrialized society, the most common model is one of upper, middle, lower worlds. This construct is a comfortable one when based upon industrialized concepts. In the Amazon, the three strata are sometimes described as river, bush and jungle. In some Andean societies, mountain, valley and river are the descriptions given. Regardless of the names given, the concepts, function and significance remain consistent. I will stick to the three worlds concepts most common to industrialized society.
In overview: the middle world is analogous to our physical world; the lower world represents energy and potential; the upper world represents spirit, experience and wisdom.
Where shall we start?
The Lower World. This is the level at which energy enters our universe, full of potential and change. The energy is divided into genus and species in ever refining divisions until arriving at the individual. Along the way, there are forms for all things. In journeys to the lower world, one will find power animals, energetic shadows of the middle, corporeal world and deep understandings of the relationships of things.
The Middle World is next, as energy becomes formed into that which we see around us. Whilst journeys within the middle world can be metaphorical, I find them more often than not to be literal and non-metaphorical. Energy is being formed by experience into spirit at this level. This is a dynamic process happening at the speed of time and defining what we conceive of as, "now". I will see real people and real things, even if in energetic representation, when journeying within the middle world. The middle world is also the realm of totem animals – a discussion for much later on.
The Upper World is the world of spirit. Energy which has been through the forming of now, the moment of physical observation becomes spirit. The potential of energy has been distilled by action into probability. Observation has occurred and the energy is now experienced and contextualized – it is spirit. In journeys to the upper world, one finds spirit guides and spirit helpers. The process here is almost a mirror reverse of the lower world, where discreet individuals merge into ever widening pools of consciousness until forming the Great Spirit, or God.
What is the difference between a spirit guide and a power animal?
A power animal is of the lower world, more of energy with form but without the contextualization of experience and observation. A wolf is a powerful power animal, but as a power animal, it is useful in aiding my understanding of the nature of the wolf. The wolf that shares its spirit with me as a guide is the experience and wisdom of itself or even of all wolves, depending on that particular spirit and its level of integration within its species' and genus' spiritual being.
I can see confusion! Let me give a quick example. Say I am journeying to find and retrieve a soul fragment of a person; I would ask my spirit animal helper for assistance. The wolf is a great tracker and tireless in its understanding and curiosity of everything around it. This is a specific task requiring experience and direction. This is where the spirit guide will be of great assistance.
Contrast this with a journey into the nature of a person's family and friends, where we are looking at the pre-observation energy of the group as a whole, this would be where I would use the assistance of my power animal. One of my favorites for this is fox. The energy of the fox is quiet, cautious and watchful. A relentless investigator, fox will help me find that which I seek.
The difference is in the first example, I am seeking a specific spiritual goal, and in the second, an energetic understanding. Both power animals and spirit guides can help in the other worlds too, but are most comfortable in their own or the middle world where all meet.
Wow, it seems like we just left science way behind!
Yes. And no,.. well kind of. If you think of energy as potential, distilled by observation, now, into its highest expression of probability, we have just described what is also described in the standard model of physics. There is nothing in the maths about helpers and guides though. That is more the realm of experience and interpretation. The three states of being though, do have analogs in physics and science. Think of the lower to upper world as potential, observation and probability if you have a scientific mind and are struggling a bit.
Is this it then? Are there just the three worlds in shamanic practice?
Hmm (squirms a little). No, these three world make up the Middle of three Kingdoms.