Michael Harner Founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies
Over tens of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors all over the world discovered how to maximize human abilities of mind and spirit for healing and problem-solving. The remarkable system of methods they developed is today known as shamanism. Shamans are especially distinguished by the use of journeys to hidden worlds otherwise mainly known through myth, dream, and near-death experiences. A core feature of shamanism is that the Universe is divisible into three worlds: the Upper, Middle, and Lower. The Middle World, in which we live, has both its ordinary and non-ordinary (or non-spiritual and spiritual) aspects, and belongs only to this immediate moment in time. The Upper and Lower Worlds, in contrast, are purely spiritual and are found only in nonordinary reality, where they exist outside of time. The trained shaman can make “out of body” journeys to these worlds, moving back and forth with discipline and purpose in order to help and heal others. In these journeys, the shaman transcends time, going back to look at the past or traveling into the future to seek assistance on behalf of others from compassionate beings found there. In these worlds, there is no separation between the shaman and everything else. He or she knows, as ancient Siberian shamans knew that, “Everything that is, is alive.” The Universe is experienced as a unified whole, and the shaman partakes of the love and the ecstasy of this transcendent reality.
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