By Daniel Giamario
In developing the TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm™, I borrowed from “Shamanism 101”, the nearly universal motif found in animistic and shamanically oriented cultures, of three worlds: namely the Upper World (or Celestial World), the Middle World, and the Lower World (or Underworld).
In the initiatory understanding used by the TOTAMS astrological approach, I noticed over the now 52 years of my practice that outer planet symbolic meanings, and their cycles, correspond with these three worlds. Uranus and Neptune correspond with the Upper World. Saturn, Jupiter, and the Lunar Nodes correspond with the Middle World, and Pluto and Chiron (and likely Eris) correspond to the Lower or Underworld. The deeper understanding of the synodic cycles of Mercury, Venus, and Mars reveal that all three worlds can be found when looking at the entire synod of each. Those expressions are not part of this current exploration but can be found in our Synodic cycle online course.
Let’s now look at these three worlds.
Upper World (Celestial): Uranus and Neptune
Originally, in ancient animism and shamanism, this was the sky realm, above and free of the Earth. This would include the starry firmament, including the movements of the Moon and planets. In more modern times, including archetypal psychology and astrology, a number of different kinds of altered consciousness states, or non-ordinary reality can be seen as part of this “celestial realm”. In Shamanic Astrology, Uranus and Neptune symbolize two different kinds of upper world access and experience.
The Self is empty. The material world has no substantial basis. All is transitory, rising and falling in and out of manifest existence. Clarity and certainty are impediments. Seemingly infinite lines of probability arise. Narrowing any down and defining becomes impossible. The trick is to not mind this and relax around it; confusion and “not knowing” are to be embraced. All possibilities are allowed for, and there is nothing to prove or to accomplish.
This is very much an ultimate Buddhist perception. It also corresponds to philosophical “idealism”. At its best it’s the great truth that “all is well”, and “the universe is unfolding as it should”. At its worst, it is spiritual bypass and light polarization. Like all expressions of the Upper World, they exist outside of our ordinary experiences of linear time.
Unpredictable, unknowable, and unexpected events happen that we are usually at the effect of. Generally, always these are beyond our control. It’s always freedom from the “known”. The best approach is to roll with the “punches”, trust that you are going in the direction your soul intended to go, and be not attached. Be at the front of the wave. At its best it’s like “being hit by lightning in a good way”. Change is good, and is not a referendum on some kind of deficiency or failure.
Synchronicity abounds and expects that we pay attention. In Shamanism, this indicates an “assemblage point” shift. The ultimate purpose of Uranian initiations is to propel us to “other worlds” (not the underworld). At its best, it is extreme novelty and high adventure. At its worst, it’s a massive unwelcome disrupter of our well-laid plans. Like Neptune, Uranian experience lies outside of ordinary linear time.
Middle World: Jupiter, Saturn, and the Lunar Nodes
This realm of experience is our ordinary, material 3D experience, apparently linear, logical, and rational, and generally experienced that way. It is the realm of philosophical “materialism”. It has been variously called the “real world” and objective reality. We develop a functioning personal identity, ego, and persona to be able to function here. This is not a shabby achievement! Three planetary processes describe this middle world.
Phases of life that provide optimism and enthusiasm towards our life purpose. Experiences that value and validate our genuine gifts, and greatest joys about being alive. Often it’s a time and a means of expanding our lives to a higher octave. It generally will describe and inspire our connection to our life’s dharma and true genius. At its best, it’s a great high point in the story of our lives. The downside can be too much expansion, and at its worst, megalomania and narcissism.
This is an organic 3D symbol of how to grow, change and evolve via limitations and boundaries. This need not be thought of as negative or depressing, though it can sometimes feel that way. It’s best to think of it as a process of maturation, or like a snake shedding its skin, a totally natural process. Often it’s an indicator of stages of life and of time, often quite literal. It’s really the key to NOT view it as a judge or critic, but as a reality check, saying “get real”. It’s one of our best guides as how to survive and thrive here in 3D “reality”.
From a spiritual perspective, this is our greatest teacher for escaping the wheel of Karma, otherwise known as the “matrix”. But that will require seeing through the hoax of Saturn, which involves believing its judgments, and inducing feelings of shame, guilt, the brainwash of “original sin”, and alleged deficiencies. This has been the “Saturn” of more recent times, the “superego” of Freud. At its best, Saturn is a great guide for accurate assessment of the reality of our life experience. At its worst, it traps us in a mechanistic and deterministic machine-like wheel of Karma, unfortunately, these days having morphed into a Christianized version of karma, based more on guilt and reward and punishment, now far removed from the original views from India.
The meaning of the nodal axis and its cycles is really paramount in one of the other foundational elements of the TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm™, the 144 storylines of lineage and current life intent. As a symbol and initiatory middle world initiatory process, it, like Jupiter and Saturn, indicates time-frames and storylines of current life purpose. The Nodal Return has a more Jupiterian flavor of re-aligning with original intent and entering a field of all possibilities, whilst the nodal reversal is more Saturnian, with a greater necessity to change course if one discovers that they are no longer aligned with their original.
Unlike Jupiter and Saturn, these Nodal initiations are more visionary, and often less actional. It’s a time to trust the transmissions, dreams, and intuitions that are coming into awareness. It’s like the “future self” reaching back to get our attention.
Lower World (Underworld): Pluto and Chiron (possibly Eris)
Originally, in animistic and shamanic culture, this was the “underworld”, meaning the deep undercurrents of the ocean, under the Earth, and especially the caves and the chthonic realms. In more recent times, within archetypal psychology and astrology, this domain of experience includes the deep unconscious, the “shadow” from the Jungian perspective, and the “Id”, from a Freudian perspective.
It is the realm where the ego and where the normal levels of awareness are not in control, or aware at all. With this feature, it resembles Uranus. Like the Upper World initiatory process, the underworld initiations are outside of linear time and our usual objective reality. But the intent is quite different, as we shall see.
Although the underworld process of initiation was well known to the ancients, the discovery of Pluto in 1930 brought a potent astrological symbol of this world to the modern age. Like Uranus, this kind of experience happens beyond our control. It is also typified by irrational and chaotic events, externally or internally. The intent is to introduce the conditions for surrender. There is no technique for surrender, otherwise it’s not surrender.
Challenges arise, and the three main ways of handling them are useless. You cannot use strength or will to power through; you cannot use your mind to figure it out and solve the challenge; and you cannot pretend it does not matter. Spiritual bypass or other forms of denial are useless. These kinds of initiatory experiences are not logical and are not to be taken personally, though it’s likely to bring up deep feelings and unknown and uncontrollable emotional experiences.
Unlike the Middle World that exists ostensibly in a linear and logical place, the Lower World is off the world stage, and, like the Upper World, outside of time. Although this kind of experience is utterly natural, the current modern age seldom teaches us about it. There are time periods when composting is necessary, and surrender can be near the final stage just before freedom and self-realization. At its most intense, this Pluto can symbolize a “dark night of the Soul”, an utter annihilation of self and any material ground.
However, the goal is transformation. Out of composting comes new life. A phoenix rises from the ashes. Also what arises is an organic connection to life force rising from the underworld and the revitalization of our energies and passion rising from the core and from the contents of our unconscious that had not been brought to light. Pluto also has an etymological connection to “wealth”. This does not mean money per se, but strength and aliveness.
Also well known to the ancients through the constellation Centaurus, knowledge of this initiatory process only came back into modern astrology with the discovery of Chiron in 1977, the first of a new category of planetary bodies, called Centaurs. Within this paradigm, Chiron is a teacher who assists in the digestion of our “wounding”, most of which are the usual human issues that we all have one or more of, such as: Separation from unity, violation, betrayal, abandonment, lack of self-love and others.
In some cases, he is especially helpful should you have a unique and very specific wounding. Importantly, it’s not allopathic healing, but rather a compassionate integration of these ‘sacred fractures” into our wholeness. This digestion of our experiences then can easily be part of our medicine for helping and healing others, but first with ourselves. Chiron is an in-between symbol: in-between Saturn and Uranus, part immortal and part human, and part human and part animal.
The mysteries of life and death are part of this medicine, both completely honoring our humanness and vulnerability, as well as our eternal divinity. He is allocated to the Lower World of initiation and experience also due to the irrationality of his actions, and the inducement to surrender, without taking it personally. Like Pluto, there is great emphasis on the feeling function, with a requirement to feel everything that you feel without judgment or bypass.
The Three Worlds Approach
With this understanding of the three worlds, what then is the approach? It is nothing less than to somehow hold all three words in awareness at the same time. This can be such a powerful way to make sense of the current times; without which the historical and astrological events now happening, that have not been seen for 12,900 years at least, are understandably overwhelming.
This is no easy task, as few persons are balanced in all three, or even aware of these three worlds, that were intimately known to the ancients. And also, even if known, human beings tend to have their preferences, either from their culture or from the archetypal uniqueness of their own charts.
All three worlds are real and true, within their world. But only there is it completely true. For example:
In the Upper World, the “all is well and the Universe is unfolding as it should” view is a reality. The Buddhist “self is empty” view is accurate, relative to the celestial. But not at all helpful if this results in fear or failure to look at the middle world or underworld. This is how spiritual bypass happens with an aversion to anything not idealistic, hopeful, or love and light. Too much of this actually causes an increase in the underworld’s energy, as well as rendering that individual incapable of facing middle world realities.
Only emphasizing the Middle World consigns a person to the presumed reality of linear logic, rationality, materialism, and often the “myth of progress”. Or the opposite: the End Times, the end of Kali Yuga, the end of the 26,000 year cycle etc. This ignores the miracles and the novel events outside of time from the Upper World. It also can ignore the irrational presence of Chaos, the need for surrender, and the inevitability of annihilation and death. But then it’s within this world that our 3D life unfolds within structures and laws, none that are eternal, without change.
With a lot of Saturn, we can perceive innumerable examples of end game scenarios. All have a measure of objective truth. A great amount of Jupiter provides an extremely optimistic view of all the practical ways to save the planet. All of these have a measure of objective reality also. The objective reality of global humanity in 3D is as important as the Celestial, as this is, after all, our school, in this world, in these times…otherwise, we would have remained angels, devas, or still in our lucid dreamtime.
It is less common to overemphasize the Underworld. But as global humanity itself is undergoing its own “Dark Night”, it is extremely important to give this equal standing to the other two. The sudden ending of ourselves, and in fact, the entire galaxy could wink out at any instant. And few can argue that so much about the current world does indeed deserve composting (and renewal).
The Underworld dimension has very little to do with what humans are or do. It’s all natural forces way beyond our power to control or have dominion over. The underworld is an ultimate antidote to hubris, that is, the over-weaning pride of humans believing they are god. My view is that Great Mystery, through the agency of our Primal Earth Mother, is ultimately the force and intelligence that is directing the show.
There are many who have become victims of what has been called the “new age highjack”, who believe that this approach is just too negative and just instills fear. To be conscious and aware of “worst-case scenarios” does not cause them, or magnetize them. In fact, it’s a courageous test of awareness. And can eliminate the scourge of denial. It is reminiscent of the Buddhist view that any day that goes by without you contemplating your own death is a wasted life.
So our goal is to hold all three at once.
There is one additional complication that may arise. Seldom is any individual in all three kinds of cycles at the same time. And as I mentioned, you can have your personal preferences. These can be exacerbated if your personal cycles are dominant in one or two of these three worlds, but not all three. Great awareness, courage, and focus is required. The greatest gift of all from working with this approach is developing a neutral center point, a place of peace and equanimity, without judgment that can begin to see all of these words together. This is a great use of Aquarius!
I hope this has been of assistance in the challenges of navigating these times. Now you can understand why this is such a foundational element of the TOTAMS Astrological Paradigm™. You shall certainly hear more of this in the coming years, with the bottoming out of the Kali Yuga being eminent, and the Pluto Return and the Fourth Turning of the United States, just in front of us. Find your purpose and be grateful to be alive at such a momentous and extra-ordinary time.
These three worlds are what are experienced within the context of a human lifetime with a body. All are experienced within the stages and seasons of the Shamanic Timeline, and with planetary transits. All are natural and will be experienced on multiple occasions. Thus these are not to be confused with the Netherworld (land of the dead), the Bardo Planes between lives, or the “Otherworld” of Celtic mythology. These are also not heaven or hell realms that may be encountered when we have no body.