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Antahkarana: The Bridge to the Sacred


~ The Bridge to the Sacred ~

The search for the sacred is present in many forms. We see it in our attraction to the wonders of nature and the marvels of the universe. It is seen in our fascination with ancient historical sites, such as the Oracle of Delphi, the pyramids of Egypt, and the stone circles that pepper the quilted landscape of the British countryside. We witness it in the beauty created by the great artisans of history, and in the awe experienced when gazing at the cathedrals and temples humanity has created in honor of the divine. Indeed, there are countless examples of humanity’s search for the sacred. Yet in a deeper sense, the path to the sacred is an inner rather than outer quest. It is the path that leads to the soul deep within the recesses of consciousness. In truth, it is the soul that is the rightful recipient of the title, “the sacred.” For that which is sacred is also eternal. This is true whether we are talking about the soul of a human being, that of a nation, or the soul of humanity as a whole. When traveling upon this inner path there is a bridge that must be crossed, and it is called the antahkarana.

The antahkarana is a Sanskrit term. In Eastern philosophy it is the name given to the bridge that connects the lower mind with the higher mind (mind of the soul). Through it, an individual is able to realize the soul’s profound love and wisdom. In this way the antahkarana is a communication conduit. It makes possible the realization of wisdom and guidance that transcends the rational thinking processes of the lower-self (personality). The antahkarana gives inspirational insight into things that the personality cannot fathom on its own. As such, it is the medium used by the soul to communicate its love and purpose into the human mind. However, this rainbow bridge (colloquial term for the antahkarana) does not exist naturally within the human psyche. Instead it must be built over time. Through various spiritual disciplines, its construction is made possible.

It has been said that to find the path one must become the path. This is a profound notion, and directly relates to the subject at hand. Often people believe that the spiritual path is related to the things we do and the directional choices we make in life. Yet from the esoteric perspective, this is a misunderstanding of sorts. The path is not a journey based upon doing, but rather upon being. It is not governed by personality driven activity, but by an urge to be the authentic-self, filled with love and guided by wisdom and higher purpose. In truth, the path is an inner journey leading to the soul, while outer activity is simply a demonstration of the wisdom that the journey reveals. The outer life of doing is therefore arepresentation of one’s state of consciousness. As a person spiritually evolves, it becomes increasingly evident that the outer path is merely an effect. It is the product of consciousness, not the cause of it.

The antahkarana is a fascinating subject to study. Unfortunately, an exhaustive examination of it is not possible within the context of this writing. Even so, a basic understanding of it is quite useful to anyone who has chosen to consciously develop the spiritual dimension of his/her life. There are three fundamental parts (substructures) to the antahkarana to be noted. Sometimes called threads, each are used by the soul to influence a person’s life in a particular way. They are:

The Life Thread

This strand of the antahkarana extends from the soul (and even beyond the soul) to the personality. It anchors itself in the heart chakra, and is responsible for the downflow of the life force into the physical body. It is the spiritual energy that gives animation to the many biological systems that sustain the outer physical form. The beating of the heart and the lungs are ultimately governed by this subtle force coming from the soul via the life thread. Given its essential nature, this thread can be considered primary. It is the only substructure of the antahkarana that is not in need of construction, for it naturally exists as a function of physical life and survival.

The Consciousness Thread

This thread extends from the soul to the mind of the personality. It enters through the crown chakra and is seated within the brain cavity in the region of the pineal gland. Through it, an individual begins to register the wisdom of the soul as it subtly shapes thoughts within the mind. Unlike the life thread, this substructure of the antahkarana does not exist naturally. Instead, it must be built. This is done through a variety of processes (to be later discussed). When the first tenuous strands of this thread are in place, it indicates that an individual has stepped onto the Path and can now consciously take his/her spiritual development in tow.

The Creative Thread

Essentially, the creative impulses of the soul travel along this thread. It eventually seats itself in the throat center, which is the chakra that facilitates creative thought and expression. This thread begins to form after the consciousness thread has been partially built. However, its utilization (by the soul) is tenuous until the procreative passions of the lower-self have been tamed. This suggests that much of the creative energy of the sacral chakra has been lifted to the throat center. When the soul is able to utilize this thread, it inspires the mind with innovative ideas that have the power to uplift.

There are three disciplines that facilitate the building and refinement of the antahkarana, all of which are needed for its full construction. The first is the adoption of a meditative practice. Though the benefits of meditation are many, its contribution to the building of the antahkarana is often tragically overlooked. The function of meditation is to draw the self from its personality encasement. It involves detachment from the physical, emotional and mental aspects of the personality in order to sense the soul residing behind it. This means that an individual has transcended the personality, and by so doing, experiences the soul directly (even if for just a few moments). When the meditation ends, a strand of subtle substance is carried from the soul to the personality. This strand becomes a part of the bridge. Therefore, each meditation has the power to strengthen the antahkarana by adding filaments to it. In this way the antahkarana is built.

The second technique that supports the construction of the antahkarana is selfless service. When a person begins to feel compelled to make an uplifting contribution toward others, it indicates that the individual is thinking beyond his/her own needs. Such a person begins to resonate to a higher form of love—a love that is widely inclusive yet impersonal. It indicates (to the soul) that the personality is beginning to demonstrate a willingness to let go of its independent tendencies in order to be guided by altruistic motive. This demonstration begins to create a magnetic rapport between the soul and personality. When strong enough, it causes the soul to downwardly gaze, and by so doing, the antahkarana is further built. The compassion of the soul’s loving stare adds a needed ingredient to this bridge of light.

The third process needed to complete the antahkarana is the development of the abstract mind. The reason this is important is that the soul is found on the abstract mental plane. As such, to think abstractly is to be in the neighborhood of the soul, so to speak. Abstract thought makes it possible to see the broader (and wiser) truths underlying outer events. The deeper principles that govern life and circumstance are seen anew, and with a spiritual understanding not realized before. Most importantly, the abstract mind is the rightful recipient of intuitional insight. To develop the abstract mind requires that one study abstract ideas. For most people, it is a muscle of consciousness that needs to be developed and exercised. Yet when it becomes a part of one’s day-to-day perceptions, a new understanding of life emerges. Wisdom then takes the place of knowledge as the governing force of one’s life, for wisdom is rooted in abstract understanding.

It may be asked, how does one know if the antahkarana has already been built? To answer this question it must first be stated that a fully constructed antahkarana is only found in someone who has reached enlightenment. However, for those who are consciously working at their own spiritual development, it can be safely stated that the antahkarana is partially constructed. When this is the case, there will always be recognizable signposts. Evidence of the antahkarana is revealed through an examination of our perceptions of life and circumstance. A good example of this has to do with a person’s perceptions of unity and diversity. When the antahkarana is beginning to function, an individual will start to see that underlying the diversity of life is a field of unity. This perception will have relevance when considering the diversities of people, culture, religion and social ideologies. To understand this, is important to realize that the soul is governed by the principle of unity, while the personality (on its own) is governed by the principle of separateness. The soul seeks to condition the mind of the personality with the realization that beneath the apparent separateness of things is a profound oneness. The antahkarana is the conduit through which this communication is conveyed. When at least one filament of the antahkarana is present, the perception of underlying unity will emerge, if only for a moment.

The antahkarana, and its relationship to the sacred, can be examined in the context of humanity as a whole. From the esoteric perspective, humanity is considered a single living entity. Just like with an individual, humanity has a personality and a soul, and even a budding antahkarana. When we consider humanity’s quest for the sacred we are really talking about its struggle to realize its higher potential. Gradually humanity is awakening to this potential, though it does so through crisis and conflict. Our species is coming to realize the interconnectedness of all things. Given the suffering we are witnessing in our world today, it may be difficult to fathom that humanity is awakening to its own sacredness. Yet, to recognize this truth we must look with a longer view (another attribute conveyed through the antahkarana). When we consider humanity’s evolution over the course of many centuries we can see how far we have come. The environmental movement, economic interdependence, the worldwide spread of educational opportunities, and unprecedented humanitarian relief efforts all speak to the possibility that humanity is awakening to its soul. Gradually (though painfully) we are realizing our oneness. This is indication that humanity’s antahkarana is being built. Tenuous as it may be, continued construction of this bridge of light is assured. In this regard, and with the longer view in mind, the future looks promising.

The search for the sacred is a sojourn unlike any other. Though it may manifest in many external ways, it is fundamentally an inner journey leading to the discovery of the soul deep within. Yet, there is a gap in consciousness which prevents us from accurately sensing the guidance and wisdom of the soul. Gradually an individual begins to construct a bridge to span this gap. This bridge is called antahkarana, and when it is fully developed, enlightenment is then sure. Meditation, loving service, and the development of abstract thought provide the materials needed in its construction. When largely built, the antahkarana provides direct communications between the soul and personality, and this, without encumberment or distortion. Humanity, too, has its antahkarana under construction, though it is only in its infant stage. Even so, when an individual further develops his/her inner bridge, humanity’s antahkarana is likewise enhanced. The part contributes to the evolution of the whole. Such is the law of existence.

© 2005 William Meader

Special Note:

If you would like to learn more about the Antahkarana and its relationship to the Path,
you may enjoy viewing the video series entitled The Art of Becoming the Soul.