The Otherworld is a parallel world to our reality and is located directly next to our world. The shaman travels to the other world to ask for help for himself or his client. This world has many names, as it is known in all cultures: Other World, Other Land, Valhalla, Heaven, and Hell…
The three Layers of the Otherworld
On a shamanic journey, you travel to the other world. This world consists of three layers or levels. You ALWAYS enter the middle world, and from there, you can reach the upper or lower world. The other world looks different for everyone. The photos which are shown here illustrate my impression of it. For you, the layers of the Otherworld may look completely different.
This level is subtle. Most people see the upper world as floating clouds, pure space, or white surfaces. It is mainly spiritual teachers who live here. They can move on all three levels, but somehow they feel most comfortable in this subtle energy. On shamanic journeys, you will only come to the upper world on rare occasions. Here you can look for your own spiritual teacher. In Christianity, the upper world is equated with heaven.
Middleworld is a reflection of our reality. It’s easy to travel there and explore the area because everything looks like what we already know. There is wonderful nature, cities, villages, deserts … just everything that we have on earth. But we must be careful. Different spirits live in the middle world. Some want to help us. Some want to have fun with us. Others want to trick us and lead us on the wrong path. In the shamanic middle world, we find confused souls of deceased people, mid-world spirits (fairies, elves, gnomes, goblins), our ancestors, and often our own soul parts. It is not always easy to distinguish the one from the other. Therefore I recommend my students to only work in the Middleworld when they are already experienced travellers and have built a close relationship with their power animal.
The underworld is not a negative thing! It is our elemental force, the feminine, the nurturing, and creative. In our culture, this negative image with hell is deeply rooted. It comes from our long history, which was shaped by the Catholic Church. The Church was very much aware of this elemental feminine power and wanted to suppress it. Therefore hell was introduced. In truth, this place is beautiful, healing, and inspiring. I see the underworld as a huge forest, sometimes also as a tropical jungle. Most of the animal spirits live here, and here you can find your power animal. If you start with shamanic journeying, it is best to stay here. The spirits are happy to help wherever they can. Nobody wants to harm you here.
An easy entry into the other world
There are days and circumstances when it is easier to travel to the other world. For example, the Celtic Samhain is considered the ideal day to break through the veil of the worlds. On the night before November 1st, all souls who have died this year also pass over into the hereafter. Even at a full moon and new moon, it seems to be easier for some to travel to the other world. Legends also tell of special places of power on our earth, which are entrance gates to the other world. A sign for such a gate is, for example, wild-growing ivy.
Problems when travelling to the other world
The pictures described here are only examples of how the other world can show itself. The Otherworld is not a physical world and therefore has no real appearance. It is energy. Our brain, our imagination transforms this energy into images. This is very important! So if you think ‘I imagine this’, you are absolutely right. It is our fantasy and imagination that makes shamanic journeys possible. Don’t fight against it, but let the images flow. Trust your intuition and let yourself drift away.
The Otherworld in Hinduism
The division into these three levels, layers, or worlds can be found in all traditions. I want to go deeper into the Indian tradition. The Sanskrit word ‘Triloka‘ describes three (tri) worlds (loka). The upper world consists of 7 levels, then comes the earth and the lower world consists of 7 levels as well.
- Patala / Bhurloka (physical world): The underworld with demons. Whereby in Hinduism, the negative is regarded as necessary. Without darkness, there is no light. This world is described as more beautiful than heaven—rich colours, music, sweet scent.
- Prithvi / Bhuvarloka (Astral world): The human world
- Svarga / Svarloka (causal world): The heavenly world with gods and angelic beings. According to Indian legend, this world is located on or above mountain Meru, which is the centre of the world. It is unclear whether this mountain physically exists. Some assume that Mount Kailash in the Tibetan Himalayan mountain range could be this mountain. It is also called the home of Shiva.
In the yogic tradition, there are accounts of people who became masters of all three worlds and were able to dwell in all levels: they acted confidently in bhurloka, learned to handle their minds (bhuvarloka) and understood that they were part of the primordial soul (svarloka).