The Shamanic Middle World:
Spirits of Nature, Ignorance, and Lost Souls
The nonordinary middle world is what the practitioner enters immediately after leaving their body during a shamanic journey. They are in that nonordinary middle world until they push through a portal to the upper or lower nonordinary realms, for there is always a kind of 'membrane' that has some substance, between them. This middle world non-ordinary reality is the non-ordinary ‘counterpart’ to our ‘ordinary’ reality, and truly grasping its nature takes a leap in conceptualization. From different perspectives, the nonordinary middle world can be seen as a mirror of ordinary reality, as superimposed on ordinary reality, or as completely integrated with ordinary reality.
The nonordinary middle world is not guided by benevolence or human ethics. Nature spirits, for instance, are common in the shamanic middle-world. Such spirits are simply nature, and can be anything from a typhoon to a gentle breeze. Nature is not guided by benevolence. This does not, obviously, make nature 'bad'. Nature is just nature. Thus, in the case of a typhoon, it simply blows and that is its nature. A typhoon does not consider how it affects the world, what the ramifications of a particular storm might be such as that something might be injured or that crops might be destroyed... it just blows.
Moreover, what is common to middle world non-ordinary reality is that moral frameworks, upon which ethically driven decisions are made, simply do not exist and that the non-ordinary middle world does not include human morality. Whereas upper and lower world spirits are entirely benevolent, those that inhabit the nonordinary middle world do not have that unswerving benevolent core. This does not make middle world spirits 'bad' but rather simply that they are not unremittingly guided by benevolence. They can have personal interest, such as an ancestral spirit that is there to watch out for a particular population or guild. Or, as a spirit of a deceased person who has not 'crossed over', they require the life force of living beings in order to sustain their shadow of an existence. This is something that should be studied in depth as practitioners move through their training, as there can be a lot of confusion and ‘personal interest’ in the non-ordinary middle world, just as this is common in our everyday ordinary reality. And, because neither the middle world nor its nonordinary spirits provide the empowerment, wisdom and healing of those in the upper or lower worlds, there is no initial purpose in working with them.
The middle world – both in ordinary and non-ordinary realities – is a place of potential suffering, suffering that is a consequence of ignorance. Just to be clear, there is no ‘evil’ in ordinary or non-ordinary middle world. That is a misunderstanding of how the world is put together which is common to monotheistic religions which divide the world up into good and evil. It is actually ignorance in thought and behavior that does not fathom the full nature of a situation, or the ultimate consequences of actions. A 'good/evil' framing has become commonplace in many contemporary cultures, actively encouraged by those religions that see a threat when people have spiritualities other than their own.
Suffice it to say, that middle world work in nonordinary reality is tricky. Whereas the upper and lower world spirits are completely safe and either extremely beneficial or at ‘worse’ an uneventful part of the landscape, middle world spirits – just like middle world ordinary reality people and events – carry the potential for lending confusion, disruption, or on other ways confounding our lives and work, from a degree that ranges from minor to potentially toxic. The only exceptions to this are when one works with their own ancestor spirits and has been properly educated in how to do so (as in many shamanic cultures where ancestor spirits are part of the regular practice), and when one listens to the teachings from the nature spirits, such as trees, streams, animals etc. For a more complete discussion of the nature of some of the middle world spirit types, I encourage you to read the following: http://www.shamanism-101.com/Middle_World_Spirits.html