The World Tree, Axis Mundi, and Astral Projection

The axis mundi is the central line between the celestial poles, the World Pillar, but also the tunnel or tree trunk through which shamans journey into other realms. The word šaman (shaman) comes from Siberian Tungusic languages and means “the one who knows” because a shaman is well aware that this reality is just a tiny branch of an ever-growing World Tree, Tree of Life, or simply World Tree of Life. 

    Ever since ancient times, trees – especially hollow ones – have been known to hide secret entrances into otherworldly dimensions. Shamans describe the journey through the axis mundi as traveling through a channel or climbing a tree, a pole, or a ladder that takes their light body into the other dimensions while their physical body grounds them in local time and space. Shamans ascend or descend the axis mundi depending on their intention, and which place they resonate with at a given moment. The branches usually lead to the future or the celestial realms while the roots meander into the past or the inner earth realms. The axis mundi is the trunk of the tree, the central pole that connects the above and below and the within and without. Shamans journey into the other realms mainly to receive healing, wisdom, and guidance on their spiritual path.

    The portals may be not only in trees but also in the ground, caves, wells, or springs; however, these are usually located next to sacred trees. In his book, The Way of the Shaman, author Michael Harner mentions that when the Conibo Indians journey, they follow the roots of a giant catahua tree. The roots eventually turn into serpents that guide them through a myriad of realities.

   Serpents accompany the World Tree of Life in many mythologies, along with birds, winged creatures, and various primordial deities; more on that in the following chapters. Serpents were seen as magical animals, the guardians of life and wisdom. They were powerful allies, guides, and protectors of humans on the path to enlightenment. Many mystics believe that they are also symbolic of spiraling energy, which represents the creative powers of nature as well as our spiritual force that is waiting to be awakened: the kundalini.

   Although our modern societies now tend to be out of balance and not as strongly bound to trees and forests as they were in the times of our distant ancestors, the World Tree of Life is still alive and vibrant. In many ways, we could compare the World Tree of Life to the electromagnetic field that protects and preserves the planet and all the living organisms on it. This electromagnetic field arises from the center and creates a flow of opposing yet unifying forces that result in a living energy field. Therefore, the flow from above connects to the flow from below through the within in the central vortex and embraces the wholeWe could say that it encapsulates the hermetic “as above, so below” or “as within, so without.”

   The field has a toroidal shape, and the torus is the most harmonious geometric shape with a perpetual self-sustaining, self-organizing, self-renewing, ever-flowing quality. The torus could be seen as the World Tree of Life where the vortex is the trunk and the constant flow of two opposing energies creates the unity of the branches and roots. It may not be a coincidence that the Celtic Tree of Life, where the branches and roots entwine, bears a resemblance to the torus (see chart).

    The physicist and expert on electromagnetic fields, James Clerk Maxwell, considered the fifth element – the ether – to be the transmission medium for the electromagnetic field. We could therefore say that the electromagnetic field of the planet, or its life source, is a reflection of this most mysterious element that encompasses and permeates the other basic elements.

  The electromagnetic field of humans and animals emanates from the heart and follows the same self-organizing energy flux as that of the planet. It’s probably also the source of a self-revitalizing, self-sustaining ability we all inherently have. I like to call this field our Tree of Life. Our Tree of Life and the electromagnetic field is the key to understanding our life force and our light body, also known as the Merkaba, which allows us to shift between dimensions in the World Tree of Life.  

    But back now to the axis mundi. In a philosophical sense, the axis mundi is the central trunk of the World Tree of Life and the channel between its multidimensional realms and timelines. In a cosmic sense, the axis mundi is the central pole of the earth and, together with its electromagnetic field, it resembles a torus. In a geometric sense, it’s the central vortex of the torus, a whirling and spiraling double cone, which also resembles the figure-of-eight symbol of eternity (see chart).

When shamans pass through the axis mundi, they often find themselves surrounded by a stream of light. Sometimes this stream has two directions, one leading to the north and the other to the south, which clearly links to the vortex of the earth’s electromagnetic field that connects the South and North Poles.

   It can’t be a coincidence that people who have had an out-of-body experience describe their crossing into the afterlife as a journey through a tunnel of light. Could it be that the vortex of the electromagnetic field of the earth is, at a different level of existence, the channel that connects the earthly dimension with the more ethereal ones? This tunnel could also be the great pillar of the Finno-Urgic peoples or the Irminsul of the Saxons that were also channels between the heavenly and earthly realms. In Christian mysticism, this was the ladder or stairway to heaven, which bears a striking similarity to how shamans describe their journeying into the otherworldly realms.

   Other sacred channels that lead into the afterlife have been described as rivers, streams, or bridges; perhaps for that reason, trees were often depicted on boats. In the Norse World Tree, the connection between the earthly and ethereal spheres is the rainbow bridge called Bifröst. A similar interdimensional bridge, sometimes regarded as a ladder, appears in Irish and Scottish legends as well. It was either called the Drochet Bethad – the Bridge of Life – or the Drochaid na Flaitheanas – the Bridge of Heaven.

   The shamanic entrance into the interdimensional channel of the axis mundi is described as a whirl of concentric circles, suggesting that it could be the vortex of the electromagnetic field. But there’s an interesting connection to trees here. When a living tree is cut diagonally in half, we notice concentric circles that grow around the original sapling. This sapling becomes the strongest part of the tree: its spine, so to speak. The last ring of the trunk, which is just below the bark is the cambium layer, the most vital layer responsible for new growth and regeneration. That’s why when foresters “ring” trees they condemn them to a slow death as the tree can’t feed itself anymore. Logging and felling for profit, and all the unnecessary interference with bioprocesses in woodlands, show us how far people have distanced themselves from nature and trees. As Vojtěch Jasný, a visionary Czech filmmaker and mystic, once said: “It’s possible to lose the Tree of Life. A felled tree is a stereotype of destruction – cutting down a sapling in its growth…”

   In some trees, the original sapling decays and the tree becomes hollow, similar to the torus, the geometric shape of the electromagnetic field. Yew is one of these trees, and since it’s a long-living and constantly regenerating tree, it demonstrates just how powerful the hollowed toroidal energy is. Maybe for this reason, the yew has been regarded as the World Tree in Germanic and Norse mythologies.

   The Tibetan mandalas, which inspire deep meditation or trance, also consist of concentric circles. These mandalas can be seen as two-dimensional depictions of a torus. Concentric circles and their derived shapes such as spirals can be found in many shamanic artworks and are often depicted on ceremonial drums used during interdimensional journeying. The Alaskan shamans even wear masks with concentric circles that arise from a central void.

   The electromagnetic field and its geometric depiction, the torus, follow a circular, spiraling motion during which energy flows from and returns to the center. In a two-dimensional form, this would be best depicted as concentric circles or spirals. The vortex of the torus, however, could be compared to a sand clock, a figure of eight, or a spindle, which links to the three archetypal females, the Norns, Fates, or Sudicky, who spin the destiny of the World Tree of Life. All these geometric shapes and symbols are known as representing eternity, which also pertains to the flow of the electromagnetic field.

   A curious connection can be found in the “Myth of Er” from Plato’s Republic. In the story, the hero, Er, sees the souls of the dead traveling through a channel of rainbow-colored light, which is described as “the great spindle of eight concentric spheres rotating under the supervision of sirens and three Fates,” the daughters of the goddess Necessity. It is by this celestial spindle that the souls decide where to incarnate next. Er even witnesses how some humans choose to be born as animals and vice versa. Each soul is also provided with a guardian for that specific lifetime and then passes over to the realms of oblivion and forgetfulness before proceeding to the new incarnation.     

    Although most history books don’t mention the ancient Greeks’ belief in reincarnation, this legend states it quite clearly. This curious celestial spindle of eight spheres could be the interdimensional channel or the vortex of the earth’s electromagnetic field. After all, in the Norse World Tree, eight different worlds can be reached from the ninth one where humans live…