“Emsheimer has shown that the dreams or ecstasies that accompany he initiation of the future shamans include a mystical journey to the Cosmic Tree at the top of which is found the Lord of the World. … Thus, whether he is climbing up the seven or nine notches of the ceremonial birch-tree or is at work on his drum, the shaman is on a journey to heaven. …
“Now we know that in the mythic time of Paradise, a Mountain, a Pillar, or a Tree connected Earth with heaven, so that primordial man could easily go up into heaven by climbing it. … The Koryaks remember the mythical era of their hero Great Raven, when men could go up to heaven without any difficulty: in our day, hey add, it is only the shamans who are still capable of this.” ~Mircea Eliade
The Shamanic tree or pole is another version of the stairway to heaven found in primitive societies. It is worth taking the time to look at the Shamanic version to get a better idea of what this tree really is and how any of us can climb it.
The Need for Steps
In the Shamanic rights, the pole or tree that the Shaman climbs to reach heaven has notches or steps cut into it. The Shaman climbs one step at a time. This is much like the Christian ladder or stairway to heaven with many steps. The usual interpretation of the Shamanic steps is that each step represents a level of heaven until finally the Shaman reaches the highest level where he High God can be met and communicated with.
The Shaman cannot just jump from the ground all the way to heaven. He must take a series of steps to get there. If he tries to speed things up by jumping several steps at a time, we can assume it won’t work. Each step is important. Each step must be taken. And he must take the steps that are on the tree itself, not some other random steps.
The same is true of the Christian stairway. It must be a specific stairway that is followed, a specific path or Way. A different stairway will lead somewhere, but not heaven.
But the Shamanic tree doesn’t truly lead him to heaven. This physical tree is a symbol of another tree. Just as the popular Christmas Tree is a symbol.
It suddenly came to me when reading the quoted section of Eliade’s book that these ladders, trees, poles, and stairways may be a representation of the human spine. In Kundalini Yoga, the primary object is to raise energy from the bottom of the spine up to the brain to energize dormant spiritual faculties. It would follow, then, that the “steps” on this ladder or tree are the energy centers. The eight energy centers of the physical body and the four centers of the spiritual one. Thus the shaman or mystic can climb to heaven by fully energizing all of his chakras and awakening the pineal gland and other dormant spiritual faculties. This is also the Christian mystic climbing the stairway to heaven.
But mystical symbolism can be complicated, and that may only be part of the meaning. Another is that of the many dimensions of reality. We climb to Heaven by going from our low material dimension (the 3rd), successively up to the 4th, 5th, 6th and on until we reach the ninth and highest dimension called the Godhead. The eight is what most people consider to be Heaven.
On an even third level, these steps represent the many levels of consciousness. As we climb to, or achieve, higher states of consciousness we are climbing the tree to heaven. Eventually we reach the highest level where we are one with the All Consciousness of God.