Antaskarana is the name of that imaginary bridge, the path which lies between the divine and the human Egos, for they are Egos, during human life, to rebecome one Ego in Devachan or Nirvana. This may seem difficult to understand, but in reality, with the help of a familiar, though fanciful, illustration, it becomes quite simple. Let us figure to ourselves a bright lamp in the middle of a room, casting its light upon the wall. Let the lamp represent the divine Ego, and the light thrown on the wall the lower Manas, and let the wall stand for the body. That portion of the atmosphere which transmits the ray from the lamp to the wall, will then represent the Antaskarana. We must further suppose that the light thus cast is endowed with reason and intelligence, and possesses, moreover, the faculty of dissipating all the evil shadows which pass across the wall, and of attracting all brightnesses to itself, receiving their indelible impressions. Now, it is in the power of the human Ego to chase away the shadows, or sins, and multiply the brightnesses, or good deeds, which make these impressions, and thus, through Antaskarana, ensure its own permanent connection, and its final reunion with the divine Ego. Remember that the latter cannot take place while there remains a single taint of the terrestrial, or of matter, in the purity of that light. On the other hand, the connection cannot be entirely ruptured, and final reunion prevented, so long as there remains one spiritual deed, or potentiality, to serve as a thread of union; but the moment this last spark is extinguished, and the last potentiality exhausted, then comes the severance. -- H.P.B.'s E.S. Instructions, III
In studying H.P.B.'s writings we must remember that she often had to invent words and phrases which would express with fair approximation the highly mystical terms of the Secret Language and of other ancient Oriental tongues in which the doctrines of the esoteric philosophy were imbodied. She herself explains the difficulties of teaching the individuals of her day, who had not the remotest conception of the sevenfold nature of man nor of the after-death conditions. There were then no words or terms in which to describe what had been for thousands of years typically doctrines of the Sanctuary.
For example, the two quite distinct types of entities, 'lost souls' and 'soulless men,' were more or less fused together in H.P.B.'s descriptions of the different destinies that ensued to men who follow the left-hand path; and very frequently she referred to both categories under the inclusive phrases 'soulless person' and 'second death.'
Lost souls are those human entities who, through a series of lives of almost uninterrupted evil living, and because of lack of aspiration towards their god within, have become so heavily involved in the lower quaternary, with its intense and unceasing attractions to absolute matter, that the 'link' or antahkarana connecting the personal man with the spiritual man has been snapped, thus freeing the spiritual monad, and leaving the personal ego relatively completely involved in the energies and substances of matter. Hence lost souls are human beings divorced from their higher natures.
Soulless men, on the contrary, are still septenary human beings, in whom the spiritual nature is but feebly or only occasionally active; they are not ensouled by the spiritual life flowing forth from the spiritual soul. Soulless people are exceedingly common, for they comprise all who pass their lives almost entirely absorbed in the emotions and thoughts of the mere personality, in its whimsies and wants and its restricted outlooks and selfish egoisms. Obviously this does not mean that they have no soul, but merely that the spiritual soul is not functioning within them accurately and continuously, due to their own lack of inner yearning.
A continued series of lifetimes of such 'soulless' living could and very probably would result in the dread destiny of the loss of the soul. For when the spiritual soul finds no fit habitat in its series of personalities, and the personalities have no attractions spiritwards, there will result a breaking of the antahkarana, thus producing a lost soul. From this we see why there is the utmost need of cultivating the higher nature by aspiring towards it and by living the life in accordance with the mandates received from within, and by letting no single day pass without some inner spiritual yearning. The daily aspiration to live an ever better and increasingly higher life is true yoga and will finally result in making one more fully ensouled. Indeed, chelaship is just this and nothing more. Chelas are more ensouled than average men, mahatmas more ensouled than are their chelas, and the buddhas still more so than the mahatmas. When a man is fully ensouled, he is then an incarnate god.
Now the destiny of those human beings who have become lost souls is dreadful almost beyond description. Quite outside of the awful inner agony that they suffer, the mental torture and psychic pain and horror which overwhelm them, they can become veritable human devils wreaking evil upon their fellowmen and, because of their own despair, joying in it. Meanwhile, they themselves are rushing downwards with increasing velocity with each new reimbodiment and finally are drawn to the Pit or Planet of Death and, dropping therein, pass out of the earth's sphere of attraction and are heard and seen no more. In the Pit their destiny is, because they are failures, to be broken up as human remnants and to be ground over and over in this one of nature's laboratories.
The statement has been made elsewhere that the astral monad can become so degenerate, humanly speaking, that it is attracted to the lower kingdoms. And as we have just said that the lost soul enters the current of fate which carries it to the Pit, it may be asked, what is it then that goes to the Planet of Death if the astral monad disappears first in the bodies of the beast kingdom, then in the plant world, and finally in the mineral kingdom?
The answer lies in the fact that man is composed of a group of monads, each one of which follows its own pathway through the ages; and therefore when karmic destiny falls heavily upon any one of these monadic centers, that center rises or falls to the sphere towards which its attractions draw it. Do not confuse the astral-vital monad of the man with the human monad. When we speak of a lost soul we mean a human soul, the human monad. After death the astral monad has one destiny for itself, the human monad has its devachanic interlude, the spiritual monad has its peregrinations through the spheres, the divine monad re-enters the bosom of the divine. That which goes to the Eighth Sphere or Planet of Death, sometimes called Mara, is the degenerate lost human soul. Thus abandoned not only by its spiritual part but also by its human soul part, the vital-astral soul enters the beast and the vegetable kingdoms. It has to do so. It cannot rise, the link with the above having been snapped. It is a derelict and drifts like a bit of flotsam in the astral light and naturally seeks the spheres which are most attractive to it.
Remember that a monad in the beginning of a world projects from itself a ray, and does so because of the karma of a past universe impelling it to manifest once more all the karmic seeds that it carries within itself. This ray passes through multiform and manifold experiences in matter, building up slowly through the ages an ego; and should this ego -- sprung forth from its monadic parent and therefore having its parent's qualities -- choose the left-hand path, it then begins to 'descend' towards the sphere of absolute matter and spiritual death, which means that when a black magician reaches the Eighth Sphere the remaining faint glimmering of the monadic ray has been withdrawn. There remains naught but a soul-shell, which falls apart into its component atoms, atoms that are withdrawn into the womb of nature with the rapidity of lightning once the last flickering gleam of the monadic ray has gone. This monadic ray is withdrawn into its monadic parent and remains there in its nirvana for aeons and aeons.
Meanwhile the monad sends forth another ray. What really once was is not destroyed. But the evolutionary work must be done all over again. A new ego must be built up. New peregrinations and transmigrations through the lower kingdoms of nature must follow before a new ego, a fit temple for the monadic divinity, is again evolved.
Yet even for the lost souls, although the antahkarana has been broken, there is yet a chance for reunion with the god within, at least in the beginning and before the distance between the inner god and the personality has become too great. Even a single desperate spiritual thought or yearning will be enough to draw together again the dissevered portions of the human constitution and thus, happily, enable the reunited upper triad and the lower quaternary to rebecome the full septenary entity. Should such reunion take place, it may become permanent, provided that thenceforwards, by intense upward striving, the personal man knits ever more closely the higher personal aspects into the webbing of his spiritual being. Should, however, the lower nature finally prove the stronger, then the rupture again takes place and with even less possibility of reunion than before.
All the archaic scriptures and philosophical schools have references to beings on spiritual planes who are centers and workers of evil. There are in the spiritual realms beings who are distinctly evil because falling or descending to lower regions through their attractions thither; and in certain cases they are of characteristically evil power, and even possibly possess such power in large measure. This somber and dread fact of nature was the basis of what became a superstitious legend in Christianity about "evil angels" or "beings of spiritual wickedness."
Many have found it difficult to reconcile the idea of an entity's being spiritual and at the same time evil. As said earlier, good and evil are not things in themselves, but are relative conditions or ways of life which entities create or follow and in which they consequently live. Hence a spiritual or quasi-spiritual entity who has reached a certain evolutionary stage in spiritual realms, but in whom the instinct for harmony, altruism, etc., gives place to the attractions of the nether pole of those realms, thus bringing about disharmony, egoism, and selfishness, may be considered as being spiritually evil. Any being or entity on whatever plane, whose tendencies are towards the nether pole, is 'evil' in its own surroundings, and therefore can be productive of similar 'evil' to others. Every plane or world of the universe has its upper and lower poles, the light side and the night side of nature.
Alluding more specifically to human beings, there are two kinds of evil-doing: one caused by ordinary weakness in character; and the other by deliberate choice, where evil seems a flowery path and the fruits of selfish victory are considered as of larger worth than to walk with the gods. This is the path of the Brothers of the Shadow. It is the direction of action of our choice and will, which determines whether we shall become a black or a white magician. It matters not what the stage of progress may be that we have reached: if our direction is to the 'left,' we belong to the dark forces; and if the choice is to the 'right,' we belong to the forces of the sun. The division line is this: when we work and live for self, we are on the left-hand path; when we work impersonally for all, we are on the right-hand path.
Now when a being has willfully chosen the path of the shadows, it means that he has chosen with each day that passes to try to cut off one more feeble gleam from the spirit within. It is a mania with him. It is spiritual suicide; just as in the case of some other maniacs, he knows what he is doing, and yet he wills to do it.
There are certain human beings, although corrupt enough to desire to do evil in the world and to tempt others, and who love to see a fellow man fall and suffer, who yet feel an inner glow of gladness when the one so tempted refuses to succumb. This is one of the curious psychological paradoxes of human character. There are indeed beings who take a horrible delight in causing pain to others; yet even while they do it there may be remorse in the soul, a yearning for the one who is in torture and tempted, to turn and to stand up and to refuse. The Brothers of the Shadow are of many degrees, of many kinds, just as are the Brothers of Light. Indeed, there are human beings among us who are Brothers of the Shadow unconsciously to themselves! They have no noble permanent thoughts which fill their minds, and few unselfish impulses which touch their hearts. Hence they are said to live in the shadows. Then there are other Brothers of the Shadow by profession and by knowledge, who have chosen the path of evil-doing, of the dark wisdom of matter.
It should be remembered that, so far as the spiritual principles or faculties are concerned, the Brothers of the Shadow have no hold upon any human being, sane or insane. Their work is in seduction: a man falls from within. There is the secret. The hosts of Light govern and control the hosts of the Shadow, although the former never interfere with the destiny of the latter, strange as it sounds. The Brothers of the Shadow, contrariwise, have no hold on the Sons of Light, but actually receive from the hosts of Light their very life which they use and abuse.
The Brothers of the Shadows, who have deliberately chosen evil, are our worst foes. They are often men and women of charming personality, apparently loving and unselfish, sometimes seemingly devoted friends. Were they repulsive, their evil work of disintegration and of the bringing of misery upon the race, would kill itself. They succeed by wiles, by temptings; never by being repulsive and horrible, for evil succeeds at times only on account of its fictitious beauty.
Men do not fail through the works of others; they fail from within themselves. The Brothers of the Shadow work by temptation, by mental pictures, by suggestion, by quoting scripture, by appealing to their victims' vanity as if their plea were made to the high virtues, by playing upon their egoism, and by arousing ignoble passions. Innocence is no sufficient protection. Gain knowledge, seek for wisdom; strengthen the heart by love, and learn to forgive -- nothing acts to reduce evil so quickly as trusting and following these ancient rules. The methods of the black magicians vary, and these Brothers of the Shadows are of many grades and degrees; they range from high and evilly illuminated beings of "spiritual wickedness" down the scale which ends in their victims who have been ensnared in ignorance of the danger that they run.
The fate of the unfortunate Brothers of the Shadows is annihilation; for they have set their wills against the evolutionary current rising in nature's heart and flowing through every atom; and thus their structure of selfhood is ultimately worn away. But preceding this final stage of annihilation nature's currents sweep them into the eddies of dense matter which are the portals of Tartarus or avichi.
The ultimate fate of the Sons of the Sun, of the Brothers of Light, is divinity, self-consciously realized: an expansion of self into sublime impersonal selfhood, when the personal becomes the impersonal, when the rushlight becomes the splendor of the sun. Such is the destiny of the white magician: to become a cooperator with the ever-enduring laws of nature; and these laws are the actions on this plane of the working of the wills of the gods, reflecting cosmic consciousness.
In theosophical literature reference is often made to the "moment of choice," particularly to that one which will take place at the midpoint of the fifth round. A similar moment of choice applies to the middle of the fourth round, which took place ages ago at the midpoint of the fourth or Atlantean root-race.
In the fifth round manas will undergo its especial evolution, and there will come a time when the evolving races will reach a stage where they will be subjected to two contrary attractions both at their manasic maximum: the attraction towards the higher spiritual nature opposing the pull towards matter. This will occur, so far as this globe D is concerned, at the middle point of the fourth subrace of the fourth root-race of the fifth round. There and then will come the supreme choice of the evolving egos. If they find the attractions to the nether pole, towards absolute matter, to be too strong, they will be drawn to or towards the Pit in the worst cases; or if the pull is less strong, they will sink into utter intellectual oblivion and must wait their turn for future evolution until the new imbodiment of our chain. But if, on the contrary, spirit prevails over matter, the evolving egos will keep the link unbroken with the spiritual soul within them, and thus be able to go forwards to the succeeding sixth and seventh rounds. They will reach the culmination of the present chain-manvantara as dhyani-chohans, imbodied human buddhas, with the light of atman, of the inner god, shining in and through them.
This moment of choice is not something which will come upon us suddenly and unexpectedly when we are fifth rounders, but is a 'moment' which will have been in the making for aeons previously, even from the fourth round. We are right now making our characters to be fit or unfit to meet in safety that moment of choice when it comes upon us -- as it infallibly will.