The Shadowlands were originally intended to be a fully playable zone in World of Warcraft, designed for high-level play. The idea was that as deceased characters made their way back to their corpses, they'd see high-level players battling creeps in the area, which would inspire lower level players to increase their character level so they could experience the zone for themselves.
Sometimes enemies will drop Phantasma, a currency that is unique to Torghast. You may also find Phantasma from Anima Powers or breakable objects. Your Phantasma all disappears as soon as you leave Torghast. Occasionally, you may find a Broker, a Phantasma vendor within Torghast, who will allow you to spend your Phantasma to buy Anima Powers, along with other consumables that will aid you on your run.
The Shadowlands can be seen as a shadowy version of the physical world, and can be routinely visited as a spirit when player characters die. Governed by the Covenants, the four ruling realms of the Shadowlands are Bastion, Ardenweald, Revendreth and Maldraxxus (although countless others exist), which serve as the main setting of World of Warcraft's eighth expansion.