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A working model of ‘Agni-Soma' construct for application in the fields of psychology, leadership and management

------- © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary

Simple as it sounds the conceptual model of ‘Agni-Soma' provides a very effective framework for understanding and managing human behavior. While many are aware of ‘Agni-Soma' from the Rig Vedic hymn to the ‘Agni-Soma' duo, very few people are aware of the full-fledged status that this concept seems to have been accorded in the ancient times. There is nothing more practical than a good theoretical concept. After more than a decade of multidisciplinary studies and research this author believes that the ‘Agni-Soma' model can be fleshed out from its scattered rudiments into a practical working model that can be applied across many fields, ranging from psychology to healing and spirituality to management. While a full-fledged working model of ‘Agni-Soma' has been evolved from the large body of Vedic/Yogic systems of knowledge by this author, for the purposes of this article we will cover only the essentials, especially as applicable to human behavior (refer the author's article “ Agni-Someeyam- an ancient systems view of the individual and the cosmos” for a more in-depth introduction to this concept).

There are four levels of ‘Agni-Soma'- the intrapersonal, the interpersonal, the social and the transpersonal levels. For each of these four levels, there are corresponding levels of functioning of both Agni and Soma as each one presupposes the other (much like the Chinese yin and yang ) . Thus there are eight functions of consciousness (four levels of Agni and four levels of Soma). Apart from these eight functions, there is an additional function that bridges both Agni and Soma functions. This additional ‘ biune ' function is both Agni and Soma simultaneously and is of great significance in spiritual alchemy. It is represented by mercury in yogic alchemy (siddha yoga).

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  Level   Agni   Soma    
 

Level1

Level2

Level3

Level4

Joint Level

 

Intrapersonal Agni

Interpersonal Agni

Social Agni

Transpersonal Agni

 

Intrapersonal Soma

Intrapersonal Soma

Social Soma

Transpersonal Soma

 
Biune ' Agni-Soma

Thus there are nine functions of Consciousness in the ‘Agni-Soma' model.

  1. Intrapersonal Agni
  2. Intrapersonal Soma
  3. Interpersonal Agni
  4. Interpersonal Soma
  5. Social Agni
  6. Social Soma
  7. Transpersonal Agni
  8. Transpersonal Soma
  9. Bi-une ‘ Agni-Soma '

Note: It should be borne in mind that the ‘interpersonal', ‘social' and ‘transpersonal' levels of functioning too have a common ‘intrapersonal' component at their core as all interaction involves the ‘self' and thereby the ‘intrapersonal'. Experientially speaking the ‘intrapersonal' is the foundational level on which the other levels of functioning rest

Summary of the nine levels of ‘Agni-Soma' functioning

 

Agni

 

Soma

 

Agni level 1-intrapersonal

Soma level 1-intrapersonal

 

Agni level 2-interpersonal

 

Soma level 2-interpersonal

 

Agni-Soma ‘Biune' level

 

Agni level 3-social

 

Soma level 3-social

 

Agni level 4-transpersonal

 

Soma level 4-transpersonal

For most practical purposes the transpersonal level of ‘Agni-Soma' is not called into play unless one is seriously dealing with transcendental issues in spiritual life. The day to day applications of the ‘Agni-Soma' model for the fields of psychology, leadership and management fall within the following seven levels only. Hence only these levels of functioning will be elaborated here.

  1. Intrapersonal Agni

  2. Intrapersonal Soma

  3. Interpersonal Agni

  4. Interpersonal Soma

  5. Biune ‘ Agni-Soma '

  6. Social Agni

  7. Social Soma

These levels of functioning are never static in life. Life is a continuous process of balancing these complementary processes. At all levels the gradual refinement of various levels of corresponding agni-soma functions is an ongoing process throughout life. Generally speaking optimally we complete one basic cycle by the time we reach adulthood or by the time we leave our family of origin and start our own family. For some people this happens earlier than others. We recycle through the associated developmental tasks throughout life unraveling more subtler levels of functioning with each cycle or revisiting tasks of the relevant level that we had not integrated properly in an earlier cycle. Parents usually cycle in parallel with children. For instance if one has not learnt to handle boundary issues properly while growing up in one's own family of origin, invariably he/she will face boundaries issues when his/her own children start growing up. As stated earlier At all levels the gradual refinement of various levels of corresponding agni-soma functions is an ongoing process throughout life, whether one is a child or an adult, whether one is in love or at work, whether one is married or not. As long as one is alive the counterbalancing forces of ‘Agni-Soma' are ever at play.

‘Agni-Soma' , Personality and Behavioral change

Historically the meaning of the term ‘personality' has shifted from external illusion to surface reality and finally to opaque or veiled inner traits. In contemporary use the term ‘personality' is used in a sense that delves beneath surface impression to turn the spotlight on the inner, less often revealed, and hidden psychological qualities of the individual. “Today, personality is seen as a complex pattern of deeply embedded psychological characteristics that are expressed automatically in almost every area of psychological functioning” (Millon, 2004, p.2).

Personality is often confused with two related terms, character and temperament, which are not differentiated in casual usage. ‘C haracter' refers to characteristics acquired during our upbringing and connotes a degree of conformity to desirable social standards. On the other hand ‘t emperament' refers to a basic biological disposition toward certain behaviors. Thus character “represents the crystallized influence of nurture, and temperament represents the physically coded influence of nature” (Millon, 2004, p.3).

Where does ‘personality' fit in the ‘ Agni-Soma' model? Personality types can be regarded as ‘fixations' upon one of the seven or nine levels of ‘ Agni-Soma' functioning. These ‘fixations' then becomes the core of a self-image around which their psychological personality develops. In other words generally speaking while we complete one basic cycle by the time we reach adulthood, most of us get stuck developmentally at one of the seven levels that has not been integrated at least reasonably. Generally this takes us back to our family of origin and childhood (there is some internal evidence in the Vedic literature that the developmental milestones were believed to be four, eight and twelve years of age, by which time the personality type or prototype is formed). Getting stuck at one of these levels means getting stuck emotionally (soma), cognitively (agni) and behaviourally (‘agni-soma'), for emotion, cognition and behavior go hand in hand. Wherever we are stuck, we lack conscious awareness. So the consequent behaviour is repeated habitually. Over a period of time this results in a pattern of deeply embedded psychological characteristics that are expressed automatically in almost every area of functioning. The particular pattern can be regarded as a personality type if one wishes to approach it that way. From a typological point of view, there are two general types- Agni and Soma . Then there are the seven or nine specific types if one wishes to use them as types. It is possible to draw remarkable correspondences between the nine levels of agni-soma and the nine enneagram types at many levels.

While there may be nothing wrong in having a particular level of functioning as a type as long as it is well integrated, the problem quite often is that people generally get stuck with the un-integrated aspects of the type. Most often it is possible to identify the un-integrated level of functioning since the behavioural pattern is reasonably obvious to some extent. The lesser obvious pattern however, is that if one is developmentally stuck with a particular level of agni functioning, the corresponding level of soma functioning also gets stuck to a considerable extent, and vice versa. Thus the dominant aspect of ‘ agni-soma' for that level is more obvious while the other is less obvious. It takes more insight to bring the lesser obvious side of the agni-soma level at which one is stuck. It is also possible to share the weaknesses of the other levels of functioning within the general type. Thus un-integrated intrapersonal agni and un-integrated interpersonal agni will both share some similarities though careful exploration will reveal the exact level of agni where the problem is.

While admitting that the ‘agni-soma' model can lend itself to a typological approach, sufficient emphasis has to be laid that yoga is more process oriented than trait or type oriented. Except for psychologically or emotionally disordered people, for the vast majority it is useful to approach the seven levels as competencies or skills that one needs to develop for a more fulfilling life. One of the awareness building exercises can include inventories of the seven areas of competencies that can be useful in assessing oneself (this author has developed two versions of ‘agni-soma' inventories, one for leadership and management purposes and another for general use).

Yoga shares common ground with cognitive-behavioural approaches. Most schools of yoga (especially Vedantic, Buddhist and Patanjali yoga) favour the view that individuals can change over a period of time. Change in one's predominant schema, and the consequent behavior is possible though not easy. Insight, awareness, repeated efforts and continuous practice ( abhyasa ) can achieve the desired behavioural change. After repeated efforts the desired behavioural change comes effortlessly. Yet to reach such a state of effortless awareness requires lot of practice. Abhyasa is the continuous practice of coaching the self towards the desired goal, whether spiritual or mundane. While acknowledging certain practical limitations imposed by nature, genetics etc the ‘ Agni-Soma ' model of behavioural change as evolved by this author affirms that change is possible up to a reasonable extent. Beyond that behavioural change is still possible though it requires committed efforts and in-depth work.

Note: As already stated t he working model of ‘Agni-Soma' has been evolved from the large body of Vedic/Yogic systems of knowledge by this author. The author has additionally drawn from his multi-disciplinary expertise in behavioural sciences, medical sciences, management and ancient wisdom in fleshing out a full-fledged working model of ‘Agni-Soma'. The foundations of this model are however largely from the vedic/yogic systems of knowledge. To know more about the approach used in interpreting Vedic/Yogic literature click here .

 
 
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