Drumming over the Rainbow: Westerners Ascend to the Upper World

Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality - Michael Harner 2013

Drumming over the Rainbow: Westerners Ascend to the Upper World

I have [risen] from the earth to the sky.

I am walking over the rainbow.

—Sacred song of a sky shaman in Tuva1

Between two worlds I travel

And I understand more clearly those who have gone.

—Bayar Dugarov, Buryat shaman poet2

“Sky shamans” in Tuva and some other parts of Siberia specialize in working with the Upper World. Among the Tuvans they are considered to be the highest of shamans, literally and metaphorically. They use no mind-altering substances, relying solely on drumming.3 In contemporary western Canada, the Beaver River Athapaskan people likewise use only drums to ascend “the trail to heaven,”4 as do Mapuche shamans in Chile when ascending thier ladders.5


After receiving ascension instructions, including descriptions of the kinds of departure sites used by indigenous shamans, the Westerners chose their own ways of starting their ascents. Incidentally, a rainbow was one of the several most popular ways to start, both for them and for indigenous sky shamans.

As a first assignment, many were given the mission to explore and then report what they found. Having a mission or purpose in advance is one of the defining differences between shamanic journeys and “trips.”

No information was given about what to expect in the Upper World, other than that it had layers or levels. No verbal guidance was given during the ascensions (it could not have been heard anyway over the sound of drumming). Participants were told simply how to get there, not what to find.

Although students often expressed curiosity concerning the nature of the Upper World, they were advised that they would have to find out about it for themselves. The methods used were essentially the same as those described in Appendix A, “Ascending to the Upper World to Compare Experiences.”

Consistent with the principles and practices of core shamanism, ascension preparation was kept to an essential minimum so that students, “the Westerners,” would not be conditioned regarding what to expect. For example, the words “heaven,” “heavens,” or “heavenly” were never mentioned nor even implied in the information given beforehand, with only the term “Upper World” being employed. Likewise, a possible encounter with deities was never mentioned.

The journeys were not “guided meditations,” and the only ordinary-reality sound the students could hear was monotonous drumming. The intention was that the students should have their own autonomous experiences.

The drumbeat was similar to that used by indigenous shamans to start their own ascensions and other journeys. However, shamans usually change the drumbeat as they merge with particular spirits who then “take over” the beating of the drum in a more irregular fashion. This was not possible in drumming for a group or making a recording of such drumming for journeying. The drumming was either live or, in a minority of these cases, recorded shamanic journey drumming was used. Both work well.6

As with the Tuvan sky shamans of southern Siberia, the Westerners ascended completely without the use of mind-altering substances. In addition, most of them had never ascended to the Upper World before. They were Americans, Australians, and Canadians, almost all of European descent, along with some Europeans visiting the United States.


Although indigenous shamans consider their journeys quite real, it is often difficult at first for many Westerners to accept that these ascensions are more than just their imagination. Experienced journeyers usually do not have this problem, having learned, through extensively practicing the technique, the existence of another reality. Most of the ascension reports in this chapter are those of first-timers.

Are such experiences only imaginary? This is a question that readers ultimately will have to answer for themselves. To do that successfully, I recommend reading the information in Appendices A and C.

For evidence that shamanic ascensions are more than imagination, I have already shared with you in Chapter 2 a few of the “miracles” of the reality of spirits. Here is another case, one that involved an eminent anthropologist, Edith Turner, who attended one of my workshops. About her first experience she wrote:

 … it happened that in July 1987, before I went to Alaska … I attended Michael Harner’s shaman workshop in Virginia. He was teaching workshop participants how to make a shaman journey while lying down in darkness. We were to visualize a climb upward, up a tree, or mountain, or building, or the like. After a first stage of visualization, the experience itself was liable to take over, and we would meet a “teacher” of some kind. We lay down and Michael beat his drum steadily. I visualized my ascent and found myself out on a bank of cloud. “How corny,” I said. A figure appeared on my left, a monk in a cowl, and again I thought, “How corny, like a cartoon.” … I went up a little more and came to an entire wall of electronic appliances, VCRs, CD sets, stereos, radios, and a large TV screen toward the right. Pictured in the screen was something dark red, filling the whole rectangle. It looked like a maze of internal organs sideways on, elongated, and definitely unlike human internal organs. Why were they there? What was that all about? … When the drumming changed I went down the way I had come and eventually remembered that I was lying on the floor. The other participants were sitting up around me. We told our experiences to Harner; he accepted them but did not analyze them psychologically. Four months later in November, when I was settled in among the Eskimos at Point Hope, Alaska, sitting in Ernest Frankson’s house, Ernest pulled into the room the body of a ringed seal. His wife laid the seal on some cardboard and proceeded to take off the skin. She allowed me to help cut off the blubber. Then she made a slit down the stomach and displayed the internal organs. Wondering, I contemplated them carefully. It was striking to see the dark red parts, liver, spleen, intestines, lungs, heart, and so on, settled together, sliding together with such orderliness and easy movement. Two days later I caught on, as my diary records. Those internal organs were the same organs that I had seen on the shaman TV screen in July.7

Following is the experience of another anthropologist, an Australian, taking a workshop. He ascended to the Upper World for the first time.

I enter the fireplace and quickly shoot up the chimney into a lightish grey whirling cloud tunnel. Soon I am aware of my guardian—a pelican with a pink beak.

Mounting the pelican’s back, I ride higher with it into the smoke tunnel. In the distance I see a golden mountain rising in the mist …

As we draw closer I see that, built on top of the mountain, is a magnificent palace made of golden crystal, radiating lime-yellow light. I am told that this is the palace of the phoenix, and I then see that golden bird surmounting the edifice. It seems to be connected to my own power-hawk.

I feel awed and amazed by the beauty of this place, but the regal bird bids me welcome. Then the hawk comes forward and places a piece of golden crystal on my chest. I hold my breath deeply as I receive it, for it is a special gift.

The drum is still sounding but soon Michael [beats the signal] to return. However, I am still high in the sky and find it very difficult to reenter the smoke tunnel. When I finally do begin to return, the heavens remain golden, and as I travel down into the tunnel I look up to see saintlike figures rimming the tunnel, farewelling me.8

He subsequently wrote: “This journey was a very awesome one for me. After returning to an awareness of the workshop location and the people around me, I found it very difficult to articulate my thoughts. I seemed lost for words but anxious, nevertheless, to communicate some of the importance that the journey had for me. I felt I had been in a very sacred space.”9


Following are examples of experiences of Western students of shamanism when they likewise were asked to visit and explore the Upper World. Some of these experiences have been grouped according to themes, recognizing that there are also many other themes to which I could have called attention. The first ones are grouped according the departure place they all employed, a rainbow.



One of the students was a Swedish woman who chose a rainbow as her route to the Upper World. When she arrived at the top of the arc, she was startled to discover an old wooden wagon that she could hear rumbling along it. Nothing was pulling the wagon, and no one was in it. She was puzzled, and when she returned from her journey, which continued beyond the rainbow, she asked me what the old wagon meant, since she had no idea.

I told her that I did not know for certain but asked if she had ever heard of Thor’s wagon. She had not. I explained that in ancient Nordic mythology the god Thor was said to go along the rainbow in a wooden wagon, the rumbling sound producing thunder. She was surprised and particularly excited because her own first name was Tora, the female equivalent in Swedish of the name for Thor.

As persons pursue this work they accumulate many such micro-miracles, and they come to understand how one can enter a world of gods and goddesses where everything that ever happened is still going on, and where lost sacred knowledge can be regained. The shamanic journeyer discovers that the gods are not dead.


This Westerner chose to climb a rainbow he remembered while listening to a recording of shamanic journey drumming. There was no “ordinary-reality” music of any kind being played in the room where he listened to the drumming. Using the simultaneous-narration method, he recorded his experiences as they happened. (For information on simultaneous narration, see this page.)

I’m climbing the rainbow. Below me it is smooth, like silk. I feel a power pulling me up. Below me I see the hills, and a road. I’m climbing up the rainbow. Above me I see clouds. They are white, gray, and fluffy.

I reach the top of the rainbow. I step onto a cloud. I’m surprised that it holds my weight. I walk along the clouds, among the clouds.

When he went through the cloud layer, he passed the transition zone or “barrier” to the Upper World. This barrier can also manifest in other forms, such as a permeable membrane (as mentioned earlier). The subsequent barriers he later mentions are those between the levels of the Upper World and are usually less substantial.

An eagle flies to me. I ask him, “Where am I?”

He says, “You are in the Upper World.”

I am now in the Upper World flying higher and higher … with great eagle wings.

I am soaring higher and higher. I see manbird deities, who fly higher still.

Flying on eagle wings, going up through another barrier, I encounter forests, and trees, and nature. It is not as austere. I keep flying higher, higher. I am flying higher and higher. Still flying. I feel I am searching for the sun.

I am passing up through another level. It is nighttime, a starry night sky. I can feel the presence of our sun. I am pretty far out. I feel I am being irradiated by cosmic forces as I fly: a shamanic empowerment thing, I guess. I feel very powerful and also gentle.

I am still flying higher and higher. There are all kinds of energies in space. Solar winds. There’s light and all kinds of energies. Just soaring higher and higher.…

Time seems to slow down. Everything just seems real relaxed. I am just floating around the clouds. Just floating around. I feel as though I can almost levitate.

Just flying. Higher and higher, through one barrier after another. I don’t know if there is any limit to the number of levels.

I feel the presence of a bright light. I am flying upwards to merge with the light. It is going to be tough to come back. I am having a really good time. I am flying, soaring, flying around. I feel the light. Flying higher and higher. I go through another barrier. A bright light. I feel the universe is basically good.…

I am in the upper Upper World. It is beautiful. It’s like a beautiful floating island. There is a very bright light all around it. A magical place.

I keep flying higher and higher. Great wings. I hear celestial music in the background. Music of the spheres. I thought there wasn’t supposed to be sound in space.

Time to return. It is a long way back. I am soaring back. In a whirlwind. In a cloud tunnel. Going down fast through worlds. I’m back.

It is kind of hard for me to talk right now. The message to me is: everything is interrelated. I am still kind of up in the air. Literally.10


As in the previous example, when Westerners ascend they often hear “unearthly” singing or music described in such terms as “heavenly choirs,” “celestial music,” or “music of the spheres.”

Similarly, I experienced “the most beautiful singing I have ever heard in my life” as I floated upward during my first drinking of ayahuasca in 1961 among the Conibo people of the Amazon (reported in The Way of the Shaman). We are experiencing here much more than just the effects of a consciousness-changing plant or repetitive drumming: we are entering another reality whose existence does not depend on the door we use.

Following are sample reports by Westerners who heard heavenly or celestial choirs and music as they ascended on the sound of monotonous drumming. As always, the words “heaven,” “heavens,” “music,” and “singing” were not mentioned or implied beforehand, and journeyers were given no mission other than to ascend to the Upper World to see what they might find. This next account is from a professional psychologist.


To my surprise, I began to hear music when I was amidst the stars. I honestly believed that one of Professor Harner’s colleagues had turned on a tape of heavenly music. I wanted to open my eyes to see if this had happened but did not do so. “What if,” I wondered, “the music was not from a tape but was a gift from spirit?” I focused completely on the music, first hearing flutes and deep-sounding horns. I was startled by its beauty and clarity. The horns became an ensemble of French horns and were accompanied by a lush section of cello and strings. It was so absolutely divine that I wished I could remember every note or have some means of recording it. I am a musician and knew I was not imagining inner music, but hearing a live performance of instruments that felt fully present in the room.

Though absorbed in the music, I noticed I was still traveling. In the distance was a large circular stadium, a coliseum with rays of bright white light shining out of it, upwards into the universe. The music was coming from inside this place. As I moved closer to the stadium, it began to turn, first slowly and then with great velocity. The structure became thin like a disk, enabling sacred signals to be discerned in the center of the disk, one after another. The music became louder and the structure spun itself into invisibility.

There was nothing to see anymore except for the galaxy. And the ever-present music, the most heavenly music imaginable. I indulged in its beauty until I heard the [drummed] signal that it was time to return. [The drumming] opened the door to an experience that expanded my heart and soul. I was also very surprised that this simple technique could deliver such a profound experience. I want to hear that music again. I look forward to seeing and hearing where the drum takes me.…11

Again, this ascension and those of other participants were not “guided meditations,” for the journeyers were given only the barest methodological instruction beforehand and were not told what to expect. Similarly, no “voice-over” or other instructions were provided during their journeys. The intention was for the participants to have their own autonomous experiences to the highest degree possible.


Here is the report of another person ascending for the first time to the Upper World who also heard beautiful music.

Initially I had difficulty feeling comfortable about a take-off point. I was torn between going up the chimney of my childhood home, or going up from Mt. Tamalpais. I finally felt called most strongly to Mt. Tamalpais, and I discovered it to be relatively easy. I spent a few moments above San Francisco looking down on all the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area. Soon I felt myself floating upward in a prone position on my back. I went through a layer of clouds or fog and entered a totally nondescript place that was just dull gray everywhere. The most interesting thing about this place was that I heard music. It sounded like a single violin, playing a very beautiful yet haunting melody. This music was the most dramatic part of this journey. It was clear enough that it was difficult for me to believe that there was not someone actually playing an instrument in the room where we were holding the workshop. I felt myself wanting to ask other participants if they heard it too. Yet few shared that they heard music, and those who did heard different sounds.12


The following journeyer experienced singing, as well as the commonly reported feeling of being expected by persons waiting there in the Upper World.

I found myself in an environment of cubes and angles, geometric forms made of crystal, diamonds, and marble, and it was hard and cold. I sort of felt my way in and around the cracks, forms, and crevices. Suddenly I was in a courtyard, or open patio-like affair. There was an expanse of white marble, with a shallow round pool in the center, perhaps three feet in diameter. There were curved benches arranged around and facing the pool. At the center of the pool was a golden goblet or chalice with jewels encrusted on its surface, and perhaps there were jewels within it. I heard chanting in male voices ahead of me, like Gregorian chants, and an answering chorus of female voices responded from behind me. My attention was diverted to my left and I saw another area a few steps down toward another expanse of marble, at which center was a round bowl, or pit, which was blazing with fire. I passed through the fire and felt buoyant but not consumed.

I then became aware of people, and I knew them as the elders, or grandfathers. They were expecting me. I asked if certain persons (from my ordinary-reality self) were there, like Jesus or one of the Indian gurus, Paramahansa Yogananda. I was told that they were at a higher level. All the exchanges were like mental telepathy.

I then observed myself. I was brown-skinned and wearing a ceremonial white garment with a red sash, which somehow seemed important. The elders had encircled me, and suddenly I looked to my right, up a flight of stairs—wide at the bottom but narrowing at the top, sort of like a flattened pyramid. I saw an altar at the top.…13


I was picked up by a big bird, who flew me far, far away to my spiritual home. There I became a light being living with other light beings around me. I asked the question, “Where did I come from before my birth?” These light beings then took me on another journey to a very green place. Beautiful, incredible green that is unlike any green in ordinary reality. It is a beautiful forest, like nothing I have even imagined. It was so incredibly beautiful and green; it smelled heavenly and the trees hummed music. I was taken into the heart of the forest, where there was a room. I sat and looked all around this forest room, feeling the love of the forest washing over me, nurturing and loving me. Then I was taken up, up, up, up through the green where I was shown circles around circles around circles, all circles of love and how we are all love. I’ve never seen or felt that kind of love and it was so green. I was shown that my love of trees in ordinary reality came from this place, and that trees in ordinary reality are that loving all the time. Trees are here to show us that love; they carry that love on the planet for us. [The fast drumming call-back sounds.]

It would appear that I came from a nonordinary-reality forest where I lived as a light being in green grace and love. How incredibly beautiful!14


My first journey was to the Upper World. Climbing up my ancient Oak Tree at the top of a mountain, I find Hawk descending to pick me up and carry me to my destination. I ride her as a small child up into the air currents. She encourages me to step off and fly on my own, experiencing the freedom and weightlessness of being out of a material body. Higher and higher I soar to the outer universe. Sailing effortlessly, I am picked up by Dragon and flown to a parallel portal, to an antechamber of golden hues. There is a domed glass top, like a planetary observatory. I find myself floating up into the center, surrounded by a library of books of knowledge, all around me. This is a place where I experience a new sense of “body.” I am making a transition: letting go of old sensations, learning to metamorphose into new ones.

I am then lowered to the floor and move out of a door into a tunnel. When I reach the end of this portal, I exit by parting veils and emerge into a beautiful ethereal landscape of hills, clouds, and a sky of vibrant colors. I come to a fountain made of the same luminescent hues and hear voices and then see faces of a man and a woman, who appear telling me to disrobe and step into the waters of the fountain for cleansing, a necessary cleansing, of all that I have brought with me. I then touch my body. It still has the image of the earthly body, but it is now transparent and radiating with energy. My hand passes right through my new body. I step into the fountain to experience rainbow water pouring out of me in all directions. I become the fountain. All is rearranged and I feel a complete sense of freedom from dis-ease. I hear voices singing.

I step out of the fountain and find that I am circled by hooded beings robed in luminescent light. I hear a sound vortex and am invited to merge with it. I go into it without hesitation to be restructured in preparation for my journey upwards.15


In the following example, the person used light rays from above to help his ascension. This first-time visitor to the Upper World was unaware that rising on rays of light (as are seen shining down between clouds) was a favorite technique of indigenous shamans in Siberia and Australia.16 This person subsequently encountered a crystal column and crystal staircase, and was unaware that Australian aboriginals often found quartz crystal manifestations in the Upper World.

For example, the Australian deity-teacher Baiame was encountered on journeys to the Upper World. Sitting on a giant crystal, he initiated his visitors by sprinkling liquefied quartz or “solidified light” to connect them to the sky or Upper World.17 Quartz crystals are commonly venerated and used by indigenous shamans in many parts of the world.18

I used a chimney to go up. When I got through the barrier, it was like walking on clouds.… Then suddenly I saw a light source above me with rays coming down. I used them to go higher and came to an opening above me. I passed up through it and saw something like angels dancing very gently around a crystal column made of rods. The column was very bright and transparent and was constructed similarly to an ancient Roman fasces [a symbol of authority made of a bundle of rods with a protruding axe blade]. I stayed there a while.

Then a crystal spiral staircase appeared. I climbed it and arrived at the steps of a castle, like kings used to have in old Europe.… Then it disappeared. I returned on the carpet to the previous level and then came back here.19

A note: In the above adventure, the Westerner at one point found himself using a flying carpet. This is a technique I have actually experimented with considerably, creating a device involving auditory driving that may resemble a similar ancient shamanistic use in the Near East.20


This person had made previous ascensions to the Upper World but did not follow the training instructions to depart from a place in the Middle World. Instead she departed from a place in the Upper World (apparently the first level). Ascending, she encountered a crystal city, asked to go higher, had to climb a golden ladder, and then was told that she had “seen enough for now” and needed to return to learn more before she could “go any farther.” I am not surprised. That more needs to be learned is indicated by the fact that she did not depart from the Middle World as she was told to do in the ascension instructions. Her experience reminds one of Jacob’s ladder in the Old Testament and how he could not go farther. It would be interesting to know if she knew the story.

I went with my power animal to the place I always start in the Upper World. This is a beautiful grotto, with jagged white walls and a healing pool. To the left of this grotto, as I enter it, is a path that leads up to a very high peak … a place from which I can see the whole universe, and from where I get “launched” into the void. I went to this peak and asked to be shown more. From this peak I went through another membrane and found myself on the second level of the Upper World. There I met a man who had come to me in my dreams on the day I was notified that I had been accepted into the workshop. He told me, at that time, that he was my father from another life and that I would find out more about him [later].

He took me to a Crystal City, where he seemed to play some guide/guardian role. This city was located in a large valley, surrounded by alabaster cliffs. The city was made up entirely of crystal structures. Each structure was a different color (clear, pink, purple, blue, green, gold, etc.). Some had water flowing through them, some had wind blowing, some were warm, some cool, but each was perfectly designed to evoke the vibration of that type of crystal. Each structure was like a cathedral and had its own spirits that were humming to that crystal’s vibration.

I walked to the end of this valley and went around the alabaster cliffs to the right. Here was a vast slope, the edge of which dropped off to infinity. On the slope, in beautiful light, was a celestial herb garden.

I asked to go one level higher. To get there I had to climb a golden ladder by myself. When I broke through the membrane at the top of the ladder, I found myself standing on an enormous white lotus flower. There were numerous beings at the center of the flower but I could not see who they were. All I discovered was that to move in this landscape I had to do a combination of swimming, walking, and dancing. The surface moved under my feet and distinctions were blurred between what was material and what was nonmaterial.

Then I was suddenly told I had seen enough for now, that I needed to return to the first level and learn more there before I could go any farther.21


In this next group of reports, each of the following workshop or seminar participants had the same mission—to explore the levels of the Upper World—but they all returned with quite different information about the levels and their content. This is an important aspect of nonordinary reality in the Upper World. As I noted earlier, everyone has a different personal background, so in order to have spiritually the same experience (i.e., a perfect experience), it must be perfect for that individual. This is one of the differences between nonordinary and ordinary reality; the latter is not tailored by the spirits to be perfect.


This is a brief “black and white” report on what one person encountered after ascending through the first level of the Upper World.

Level 2: This seemed similar to level 1, but more refined and rarefied. Here were some figures from history, such as George Washington, Socrates, Plato, and others.

Level 3: I reached this level by ascending a cone-like mountain, like Mt. Fuji. More rarefied. I found it harder to see what was there, but I was aware of the presence of people.

Level 4: Here again was more light. “Matter” was more refined. I heard “music,” which took the form of long chords, which were sounded and held for a long time. There was the sound of voices singing like a large chorus.

Levels 5 & 6: These were similar. The music changed but continued, but I could not see or easily make out forms.

Level 7: Here I became aware of an enormous globe, the sun. However, the sun was not hot. I felt myself being pulled toward the sun. As I was pulled into the sun, the last vestiges of my body seemed to evaporate. I felt no body awareness. However, I still felt an individual consciousness. That last bit of individuality was all that separated me from pure bliss and peace.22


I … went up through fifteen transitions (or levels) of darkness and colored light energies. I first encountered darkness and a webbing (across the darkness). I went through that layer into more darkness, with a few purple lights, and then to the next layer, which was more darkness with green lights. I continued up and out through darkness with a purple swirling energy and up again through darkness with a yellow-green energy.

At about this point, I heard a chorus that was exquisite, with a harmonic, resonant quality having two different tones. I went up further and encountered more darkness with a purple-light energy that kept sweeping across my view. The next layer brought more darkness and gray fog, and the next was again darkness and purple energy.

At this point I decided to turn around and look back toward where I had come from [Earth]. I saw this incredible mixture of all the light—power forms that I had passed through. It was very, very beautiful and multidimensional. I could not see Earth … but I felt its presence in the great expansiveness of universal life energy. Among this dark background (that I was viewing), I just saw colored energies floating by and through … green … yellow … purple. I had no feeling of need to return (to Earth). I just felt love … an overwhelming, all encompassing … love. After soaking that in for a while, I turned around to continue on my journey and I followed the chorus up, up … into the blotchy, dotted, gray fog. At that point we were called back. So I returned back to Earth through the darkness and all the swirling, colored energies.23



I made a really rapid ascent. I went through a whole series of levels in ascending brightness. From gray to beige, to tan, gold, yellow, back to white—one after the other, very rapidly, in a kind of rotating cylinder. Finally I got to beyond white, to a kind of crystal color. A crystal color space.

I asked, “Is this as far as I can go?”

A side of the crystal color space opened and showed me the stars. They weren’t familiar constellations at all, but spread around in a way I couldn’t recognize. One of the stars seemed to beckon, so I went off toward it very quickly and arrived in quite a different world. The inhabitants appeared to be sapphire exclamation points, if you could imagine that. They were floating around about a quarter of their height above the ground, and there was architecture to match. I was just starting to be able to converse with them when the drumming signal sounded for my return.24

In this journey, as in many near-death experiences, the person ascended a tunnel (in this case, a rotating cylinder) associated with increasing brightness of light. After passing through seven different-hued levels and entering a world of sapphire people, the journeyer started to converse with them. These conversations probably could be pursued in future visits.


I was met by a man in a blue cloak with gold trim and a gold headdress with an eagle on his shoulder. I walked with him to a grand palace-like place where there were many, many people in a long hall in a circle and a wolf lying on the floor. They offered me mead—the nectar of the gods—in a beautiful goblet.

The man said he was Odin. On one side of him was Sigrun and on the other side two women whose names were Lara and Kristin. They were in white. I asked him who all the people were and he said they were my family and that I had met many of them before.

Then a long table was laid and I sat at the head of the table with the man—I kept telling him he couldn’t be Odin. I asked him to introduce me to the people. There was food placed on the table in big bowls and there was cheese and bread.

Then I was out walking on the grounds. The castle was above a beautiful lake, and there were huge grounds with apartment-like places on a hill. He (Odin, or someone I was walking with) told me I was always welcome here and that I could stay here whenever I wanted. I saw Dad there as a young man. I saw Amma and Sigrun.

It was a bright and open and very beautiful place, with what seemed like lots of people. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all. When the call-back came I was still exploring the grounds with someone.

I found it quite emotional when I was leaving and then quite bewildering when I was there. It seemed to be too much. I wanted to know who people were and I felt confused. I felt welcomed at the same time as I felt kind of taken for granted.25


In this experience the person discovers that she belongs to a spiritual family and that “all forms have been used as expressions of this spiritual family.” In shamanic cultures and myth, accepting food in other worlds is usually considered an important event.

I went up into the night sky, passing stars and animal forms. These forms were interchangeable, morphing from one to another as I went past them. I was told this: “All forms have been used as expressions of this spiritual family. You belong to a very large and powerful spiritual family.”

I kept flying up and saw animal forms morphing through the Milky Way and beyond. Finally I arrived at a large pearly-white, luminescent, and cloudlike cylindrical place. And then I discovered a large Roman-style circular hall nearby. In it I saw a fountain with a turning wheel. [A spirit] said, “The wheel is the symbol of this spiritual family.” There were many beings in this hall, dressed in all styles of costumes from different earth cultures—Egyptian, Mayan, Tibetan, Japanese, Chinese, and others.

Then I saw a large atrium surrounded by multiple floors that glowed in a pearly and golden light. It seemed to me that there were many rooms on each of the floors. I did not visit these rooms; instead I went back to the area connected to the circular Roman-style hall. I realized that I was in a huge castle-like compound. Across the grounds was another building. I went inside and saw a majestic hall. A huge circular table in the shape of a wheel (donut shape) filled up this hall.

I sat down at the table and food was served to me. There were no servers waiting on me; instead the food just appeared on the table. The surface of the table worked like a conveyer belt. Dish after dish came from my right-hand side and passed in front of me. First, I was served a snow-topped mountain, then a forest, a mountain stream, all kinds of vegetables, and other food we found in OR [ordinary reality]. I noticed that I had tears coming down my cheek … because I felt so deeply touched. I ingested the food offered to me, and at the same time images of my OR house kept coming up. I understood that my OR life was sustained by all the spiritual food I’ve been given. The contents of my OR life corresponded to the possibilities and reality in my spiritual home.

I saw also many morphing images of animals and buildings. Finally a platter of religious symbols and icons was served to me. It was like a three-dimensional collage of religious symbols and sacred places from all ages and civilizations on Earth. I was delighted and “ate” this special offering. It was as though the essence and wisdom of all religions known by the human race was now given to me.

Next I went to a throne room. I was given a crown and a floor-length cape; both were made out of fresh pink roses. I felt like the whole universe was in me. It was such an honor.

Then I was shown a circle of roses floating in the night sky. It looked like a chain of rose buds. My spirit family was one of the roses, connected to many other spiritual families in one big cosmic circle. As we were all connected, I felt a sense of love from the other spiritual families. I felt that they would welcome my visit.

I returned from the journey knowing that all the forms/manifestations were all connected to me and in me. It was a profound journey.26

In the above report, the Westerner is welcomed with a feast and, through eating a special dish, absorbed “the essence and wisdom of all religions.” The feast and the message are consistent with the sense of welcome and spiritual unity in accounts of the Upper World, overwhelming differences in details of individual experiences.


Indigenous shamans ascending to the Upper World are reported to receive help there from powerful spirits in human form whom they recognize as gods, goddesses, demi-gods, and sacred ancestors. Such spirits can include deities generally known in their cultures, as well as ones revealed specifically to the individual shaman, such as deceased shamans of the person’s family. Although the spirits may be deities, shamans’ relationships with them are highly personal, as illustrated by Salish shamans, who commonly call them “partners,” as they do animal and other spirits who work in tandem with the shaman.

In other words, indigenous shamans are on intimate terms with such entities. They do not believe in the existence of Upper World deities but rather know them personally, much as they know their families in ordinary reality. For them, such beings are not a matter of belief but of firsthand individual knowledge. In contrast, the indigenous nonshaman may only have belief in their existence and thus could be considered an animist.

What happens when contemporary Westerners undertake shamanic ascension without any hint that they might encounter deity-like forms?


The Westerners, with some astonishment, often encountered deities in the Upper World. The following example describes an ascent by a German classical pianist who had been a proclaimed atheist and Communist.

I started my journey up through a fireplace and chimney that I know, and went up with the smoke … and rose up to a flying carpet of clouds [the barrier] where I saw a small golden statue of Buddha. With the smoke I went up again to another white flying carpet of clouds. There I saw figures in white garments with laurel on their heads in a procession. At first they seemed not to notice my presence. Then they came together and talked over what to do with me.

One man separated from the others, came over to me, and indicated the way up to another level, where there was a bearded old man who was dressed in a white cotton sheet. He sat in front of a dark forest and waved me into it.

The woods were very dark and I was a bit afraid. Then the scene changed into a fairytale forest where I met Rumpelstiltskin in a red outfit, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. I was dressed in a pink gown. A young prince, dressed in blue, came and took my hand. He led me through the woods to a castle that resembled one of the French chateaus in the Loire, with a water moat around it. The prince led me over a bridge and up some wide steps to the open entrance where Bach received me.

Bach led me inside to a huge dining hall where many people were feasting. There was a lot of conversation that seemed to be very interesting. Hegel came over to say hello, and we sat down where Mozart was sitting. Mozart and I talked about the hazards of family life. After a while he rose, and we went to a piano and played some notes together. Then he played alone, and on the tones I flew up to the sun, which had an invincible force of attraction.

I became afraid of the heat and light, and looked for an escape, something like a cool moon. But there was no possibility of running away. After a short, searing flight, I landed in the lap of a woman who seemed to be Mary, the Queen of the Sky. Beside her sat her husband, the Father of All Gods. The sun was there in the form of a large golden ball, suspended in space. I felt very cozy, although just a little bit afraid of the unusual situation. The way back down was quick and very easy.27

Following her return, this participant said that because Hegel’s dialectic philosophy was important to Marxism, she found it easy to accept encountering him in the Upper World. Likewise, since she was a classical pianist, she accepted meeting Bach and Mozart there. However, as an avowed atheist, she was amazed to meet “Mary, Queen of the Sky,” wife of “the Father of All Gods.” She was also surprised that she had found the experience of sitting on Mary’s lap “cozy.” (She later identified this figure as the Virgin Mary.)

Her experience exemplifies the intimate encounters that visitors to the Upper World commonly have with legendary heroes and gods. The fact that she felt some fear was a good sign, for any experience of emotion, whether fear or love, indicates that one has really entered nonordinary reality. Not surprisingly, this journeyer soon abandoned atheism, and she went to India to spend many years at a Hindu ashram.


Ascending to the Upper World, this journeyer reached a level that:

 … looked like a cross between a Maxfield Parrish and Alma Tadema landscape but was far more beautiful. There was a great lake, and at one end was a lovely bright-blue jeweled waterfall. There were white marble-like columns and domed structures where one could sit and muse. The hues of gold, sienna—very autumnal colors—seeped into the landscape. There were broad, quiet lawns and trees of many kinds. It felt like I was stepping into a painting. The strains and colors of light were extraordinary—yellow, rose, peach, orange, red, umber.

The greatest humanitarians and thinkers were there in small groups chatting, or sitting alone and writing, or musing by the lake, including Einstein, Copernicus, Christ, Dante, Shakespeare, Jung, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, da Vinci, and others. It was very quiet, but you could feel that great discussions and decisions were being made here by these spirits in human form.

I was drawn to the waterfall, and when I got there, I discovered that when I drank the water, all truth was revealed to me. I bathed in it and was shown my essence. It was the truth of my essence almost.28


I travel away, fast, upwards I go. I am nothing but a speck of consciousness in a vast Universe. Like a particle of stellar dust, I travel through infinity. I see a dark tunnel that leads to great silver light. I hear music. I am music. I continue traveling through many layers, levels and layers of these levels. I witness much light as I see new souls being embraced at various levels by beings of light. I see Jesus embracing new souls with great love. I travel through a cloudlike layer and visit a level of staggering, almost overwhelming luminosity. There are many Buddhas in this level. I am compelled to continue traveling. I am nothingness. Yet I am within my own conscious perceptions.

I see Earth and the Solar System. I visit a “ring” of Energy, luminous and powerful energy vibrating around the planet.

I feel love for Earth, much love. I am compelled to share this love, joining in the great white band of light around our planet. As I become part of this light, I experience even more love and immense compassion. Beings of Light are constantly working with higher vibrations and light towards humankind.

But I must travel, as infinity is forever. I sense that perhaps I can stay in the “nothingness” or return to near Earth and assist with the great white ring of light. But no, I must go through an opening in the vastness in which I encounter myself. This opening is like a gigantic mouth of a jar made of pure light. I enter and, once again, I become Light. Incredible warmth and peacefulness fulfill my senses, my body, and my mind. Now I experience pure joy! I see a Buddha. Earth is the first chakra within Buddha. There are other Buddhas within the first Buddha, just like a babushka doll. The joy and laughter of the Buddha within a thousand Buddhas fills eternity. The echo of their laughter creates an array of colorful geometric vibrations in the Universe. I feel immense joy. I need to laugh as if laughter is me.

We are in Buddha’s body and Buddha is within us. Buddha’s consciousness is self-realized after the unveiling of many layers of illusions, just as a metaphor of Buddhas inside the Buddha is infinitely perpetuating, while remaining the essential “Omniscience and Nothingness.” I sense tears of joy and laughter running down my cheeks. I send my laughter into the Universe. The drum calls me back.29


Running, flying down. Climbing up the mountain. The big lizard is carrying me onto the volcano. The darkness that is nothingness. A kind of grayness, a new layer? An opening. Some shadows. Suddenly I am sitting on the edge of the new moon, out in the sky. A new opening—I am continuing into the third layer. Very far away, I can see a gray mountain. I am climbing up the mountain. The crystal … a cave? I am sitting down on some kind of a table. It’s very light, like a sun, just an enormous brightness. A cave, a teacher? I continue through openings, holes, doors … more grayness, too. I am stopping for a while. Clouds. Up one more layer. I am meeting Jesus, the picture-book Jesus in blue and pink. He is saying, “You shall continue. The old Asian teacher is somewhere near: Buddha.” Up again, now I cannot continue. I become a part of the drum, of everything. Somewhere I can hear “silver music,” the music of the stars. It disappears and only the drum is there, the light, the total energy is there.

I feel pain in my body. Surprised by how can I feel pain once I became a part of melting into the totalness/nothingness. There in the room, I can see the others back in the brightness, the air, the sound. The call-back sound. I am trying to get back the same way. Jesus, the teacher, the gray mountains, the black volcano. The vulture birds. Down the mountain, through the woods. Here in the room, totally displaced. I am here, my body is here, my mind is only partly here.…30

A fine journey, with the usual deities, music, and union with “totalness/nothingness.” What might appear unusual is her feeling of pain toward the end of her journey, as this has consistently been absent in the Upper and Lower Worlds. When it has occurred in such journeying, it is when the person is starting to reenter ordinary reality. Similarly, in this case she was already aware of the room and the other students before she had completely returned from the journey. It is no accident that I often call the Middle World the “pain reality.”


I am standing before a tunnel, which is guarded by dogs. I see a light in the tunnel. I see silhouettes of dark figures moving through the light. I am very confused. I want to know who the figures are. I am told that it is not my business. I walk back to the beginning of the tunnel several times.

Finally I remember that my intention is to go as far as I can. I leave the tunnel and I enter a misty place. There is a very beautiful red-haired woman with a catlike face and Eastern Indian costume, dancing. I feel like she wants my complete attention. It doesn’t feel right to stay there. I see a stairway going up, and I run up the stairs. At the top of the stairs is a green field. At the end of the field is a structure, which I walk toward and arrive at all at once. There are many beings in Greek/Roman dress. I think the structure is a temple and that they are deities. A woman approaches and invites me to sit on a throne placed between giant pillars. As soon as I sit on the throne a blinding white cocoon of light envelops me. When I emerge from the light I have eight arms, like a Shiva statue.

A rope of light falls from the sky. I pull myself up the rope of light and enter a beautiful garden. I am walking with another woman. We are wearing white garments that seem to be made of light. I’m approaching a teahouse where I know I will see the Beloved. I enter and the light is very dim. His face is in the shadow. I cherish the silhouette of his face.

He reaches across the table and I am suddenly dissolved into music that sounds like frogs or crickets or flutes and there is a haze of light. I stay with this light and music for a long time. It is very beautiful. There are no words to describe the beauty. While I am merged with this music and light I begin to see faces, of both men and women. I don’t know these people, but there is something familiar about them and I see them with profound clarity.

Suddenly I am walking across a misty hilltop. I see the back of a woman in a simple sari. I approach her and ask if I’m supposed to meet with her. She turns toward me and I sit down in front of her. She looks ordinary at first, but then she starts to change and she looks very rich and very real with a kind of beauty that older women have.

She sits on the ground before me and separates her legs and she starts to pull out food as if she were giving birth to it. Not ordinary food, beautifully prepared food. She keeps doing this till there are piles of food everywhere the eye looks, all around us. This stuns and delights me and finally I realize that she is the Creator, and when I realize this she embraces me and kisses my mouth.

I dissolve again in this kiss and I am taken to a bluff over a beach. It is twilight and there is a beautiful sunset. The sky is striped with colors. I notice that the water is dark and the waves are huge. I can see individuals on a ship out at sea with sails and oars and they are struggling in the surf. I think, “I am completely at peace and they are struggling.”

 … A man dressed in a biblical costume comes walking up the beach and then I realize it is Jesus. I am surprised at my reaction to him: aversion and anger. I realize that I blame Jesus for all the damage that the Christian churches have done. Jesus reaches out and puts something in my hand. I realize it is a key, and as soon as I recognize that, I find myself standing in front of a solid gold door and I know that it is the “door of choice.” I enter the door and notice that there are two exits from the chamber. One door is open and I can see many beings walking down a spiral ramp. I am beginning to feel stuck here because I don’t really know what choice to make. I ask if I can see behind the other closed door.

This door looks like a rabbit hole, and I realize it is the way to come back to life on Earth. Since this wasn’t my purpose, I ask if I can proceed. I enter the other door and see a spiral going down.

Many beings are walking on this path. It seems almost infinite and ends in a brilliant light. I jump off the ramp and float into the light like a dandelion seed. I wonder how long my consciousness might remain separate. “Your choice,” I am told immediately. I fly over a sea with a group of eagles. There is the sound of beautiful voices singing the word “home” over and over. Again I am confused and wonder if I am hearing the word “home” or “om.” We are dropped onto a beach. There are many animal beings on the beach where we land. The [drummed] call-back is given and I return.31


I was very upset and confused at first—unsettling, as it seems it wasn’t an entirely smooth passing … Two angels came for me and took me to a garden, to a bench in lovely grass under a beautiful tree.

First my father came to me. He waved his hand and a pond appeared before me with small lily pads and frogs hopping. One of them spit a pearl out of its mouth into my hand. I put it in my pocket. Then my father waved the pond away. Next my Aunt X appeared. She waved her hand and I was at the bottom of a tiny sand pit where I was visited by all the plants and animals, rocks and ocean, everything. She then waved this away. Then my mother appeared. She told me she was sorry for what she had done to me as a child. I told her I had forgiven her. She waved a pond into the scene as smooth as glass. I lay on it as a child and was filled with healing light. Soon, I as the child went back into my adult body.

Light was streaming down from above and reflecting up. The angels took me up into layer after layer. There was one with crystal cities, one rather flat with jewels. Each one got more and more simple. There were clouds, rainbows, and streams of light.

I heard flutes, other music, and singing. Light was streaming past. I lost my sense of self—was dispersed with what seemed to be the Life Force, heard hmmmm, thunder, and more hmmmmm. I was part of an incredible yellow light, feeling very blissful, alive, intense, at times almost a sexual feeling for want of a better description. I felt all-encompassing love.32


I began to feel like there was no more “me” in the sense I was accustomed to. How curious this was. I was then thrust forward and found myself in a purple place that was round. It sparkled with deep purple crystals. Then I was on deep purple dirt with deep green plants. Next I was into a ball of golden orange with oriental petals of movement. I was in a garden where I could hear the plants and the angels singing. I would hear babies crying, people talking, and I felt like I was part of everything. I felt like animals, plants, people, air, dirt, and God. I was everything. I was bubbling in and out of myself, bubbling from within myself out into myself. I felt like a huge ball on top of another ball. I said, “Where am I?” I heard in my mind, “The one mind, the one all.” Then I heard the flowers singing and I saw my grandfather, my father, my mother, my niece, and my great-grandmother. Since I had never met or even seen a picture of my great grandmother, I remember thinking, “So this is what you look like.”

Then I saw the Great One. I felt like a shining diamond. I felt illuminated and peaceful; I knew everything and knew I knew everything. I understood everything. I was at peace beyond belief. I was power, gentleness, unconditional love, light, hope, excitement, new life, everything.33