In shamanism, the axis mundi (center of the world, or world axis) – often symbolized by a pole, tree (the world tree), rope, or ladder – was considered to be the point where three worlds converged: Heaven, Earth, and the netherworld. Laura Knight-Jadczyk describes it as such in The Secret History of the World:
One of the very ancient aspects of the idea of Celestial Archetypes was the concept of the "Axis Mundi," or "Center of the World". This was a point where Heaven, Earth and Hell met and where Time was abolished and passage to one region or another was possible. At any point where there was a convergence of the three realms, a "temple" was considered to exist whether one was constructed there or not. This center was the zone of the sacred - of absolute reality - and was symbolized by trees, fountains, ladders, ropes, and so forth. Interaction with these symbols was considered initiatory and took place in a timeless state. Thus, it has been theorized that religious rituals were developed in an attempt to "connect" to this divine Model or archetype. In this way, a sacrifice was not only an imitation of the original sacrifice of the god, it somehow was seen to be an alignment of the three realms, the creating of a "passage" of some sort along the Axis Mundi.
So, for a moment, during the ritual or sacrifice, the supplicant was identifying him or her self with the primordial gesture and thereby abolishing time, the burden of the Terror of History, and regenerating him or herself and all the related participants. There are endless examples of scapegoats and dying gods and sacrificed kings as well as a host of "substitutes" in terms of a variety of animals and other products offered to the gods. We are going to suggest that it is, indeed, through "sacrifice" that man "identifies with the gods," and "aligns himself with the Axis Mundi," but it is in a sacrifice of a very different sort - one that sacrifices our "animal nature," and that this has been corrupted to mean that an "external" sacrifice or ritual is required. We are going to suggest that this "ladder" or "tree" image is a reflection of our very own DNA, and that it is through the DNA that man regains his "Timeless State."
One might also compare the axis mundi to what Boris Mouravieff describes as the magnetic center. The magnetic center is "fused" by slowly climbing the staircase in an effort to unite and balance the three centers – our three personal "worlds" – the emotional, intellectual, and moving centers.