The Symbolic Meaning of the Hindu God Agni

The Ancients Understood The Ego Before Freud

Modern historians and archaeologists often refer to our ancient ancestors as ‘primitive.’ Yet when you interpret the earliest writings of mankind that are still in existence, we discover our ancient ancestors were thousands of years ahead of their time.

Hindu God, Agni

And modern man still hasn’t caught up. To call the ancients primitive is arrogance beyond recognition. Here is a case in point.

In the Rig Veda, the oldest surviving book of Hindu mythology, we are introduced to a character called Agni, the first born of the gods, said to be the protector of mankind. He is mostly associated with fire, thus is the vital spark of life.

By closely studying ancient symbolism it becomes apparent that Agni represents an aspect of the ego and is an indication ancient sages were way ahead of modern civilisation. Sigmund Freud didn’t publish his theory of the ego until 1923.

In Freud’s theory, the ego acts as mediator between the higher conscious mind (the gods) and the lower conscious mind (demons). It is our conscious mind that makes the final decision and compels us to act. Our actions are determined by our thoughts which come from either the higher self or the sub-conscious.

The sub-conscious mind is the habitual mind and sends messages based on past experiences. It is often the case that we act on auto-pilot and do what we have always done. We are also creatures of habit and often make decisions based on our emotions.

More often than not, the ego listens to the sub-conscious. But we also get messages from the higher-conscious and, according to Freud’s model, when the higher self is ignored it reprimands the ego with feelings of guilt.

In ancient Hindu mythology, Agni is seen as the mediator between god and man. Essentially he is the ego, along with his consort who we shall see later is a reflection of our ego, the alter-ego or shadow self.

The role of Agni in Hindu mythology

Despite being one of the principle gods of the Rig Vedas Agni lost importance in later myths. The Mahabharata explains his power diminished because he devoured too many oblations, symbolised by soma, or butter on the god’s face.

Symbolic Gods in ancient

What this means is, he took too many liberties and did not make enough sacrifices. He neglected to balance the polar opposites of nature.

Is this an indication the ancient sages that studied human consciousness came to understand that the ego cannot be trusted thus cannot be revered as a Supreme God? This would explain Agni’s fall from grace in later myths despite still be recognised as a purifier in the Mahabharata epic.

Here we see the two aspects of Agni within human nature, the positive and negative. As a fire God, Agni is associated with domestic fires, funeral pyres and the fire that burns within us all. Thus he has the power to either burn away or ignite desires. 

It depends on your actions whether you burn or ignite.

If you give up something you do not need, Agni is the sacrificial fire. Bear in mind here that sacrificing is associated with death and rebirth, both spiritually and physically. When you sacrifice desires, old beliefs or character traits, you make way to receive something better.

But when you give into your desires, or stay in your comfort zone of ignorance, Agni is the warmth of the home fire. This is why Agni is known for consuming large amounts of soma in Hindu mythology, an intoxicating drug that represents indulgence.

In the Upanishads, Agni is a reflection of Brahman, the cosmic energy of the Universe which is omnipotent and omnipresence. The Purana also classifies Agni as a Supreme God which is a our ability to create our own experiences.

What are the symbols of Agni?

In Hindu art, Agni is depicted with black skin and two heads reflecting his dual nature. The presence of either a goat or a ram symbolise he is half animal-half god (sub-conscious/higher conscious).

In ancient times, the goat and ram were used as sacrificial animals. This was a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that man has to make sacrifices. We also find Agni pictured wth a parrot which is a symbol of truth.

The lesson we learn here is that whatever actions you take, manifest into reality. Actions are cosmic energy, and the energy you put in transforms int the matter that you experience. E=mc2.

Agni is also pictured in motion riding a chariot with seven wheels representing the seven energy points, or chakras, in the human body. They reach from your butthole to the crown of your head.

Fire used in ancient rituals

A translation of Agni in the Rig Veda given by Professor Williams reads:

“Bright, seven-rayed god, how manifold thy shapes
Revealed to us thy votaries: now we see thee
With body all of gold; and radiant hair
Flaming from three terrific heads, and mouths,
Whose burning jaws and teeth devour all things.
Now with a thousand glowing horns, and now
Flashing thy lustre from a thousand eyes,
Thou’rt borne towards us in a golden chariot,
Impelled by winds, and drawn by ruddy steeds,
Marking thy car’s destructive course with blackness.”

The hymn to Agni in the Rig Veda

Hymn One of the Rig Veda describes Agni:

1 I Laud Agni, the High Priest, God, Minister of sacrifice,
the divine, the possessor of great wealth who presents to offering to the Gods.
2 Worthy is Agni to be praised by living and ancient seers.
He shall bring hitherward the Gods.
3 Through Agni, the worshipper obtains wealth, most rich in heroes, and the multiplier of mankind.
4 Agni, the perfect sacrifice which on every side, the protector reaches to the Gods.
5 May Agni, the attainer of knowledge, he who is true, renowned and divine,
The God, come hither with the Gods.
6 Whatever blessing Agni may bestow unto the worshipper,
That Aṅgiras, is indeed the truth.
7 We approach thee Agni, day by day with prayer
Bringing thee reverence,
8 Ruler of sacrifices, guard of Law eternal, radiant One,
Increasing in thine own abode.
9 Be to us easy of approach, even as a father to his son:
Agni, be with us for our wealth.

This early representation of Agni reveals how the Sun God has the power and the ability to “be with us for our wealth” – or alternatively for our well-being.

As the guard of Law eternal, he represents the death and rebirth of energy that is propelled from the chakras and manifests as our experience. This is the power that is innate within us – our body is merely a vehicle for our consciousness and the ego is the driver.

Are you going to listen to your higher self that will give you new and improved experiences, or your dark passenger that leads you along the path of destruction?

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