Temperaments in Jungian Psychology

Temperaments in Jungian Psychology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The assessment of an individual’s underlying type—his or her “complexion or temperament,” as noted in William Lilly’s Christian Astrology Modestly Treated of in Three Books—according to a fourfold division, has long been an important feature of astrological work.

This system of analysis has its roots in the four elements—fire, earth, air, and water—introduced to philosophy by Empedocles in the fifth century b.c.e. and applied to the human organism as an analytical and explanatory tool in the form of the four humors—choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic—by Hippocrates, also in the fifth century b.c.e. Hippocrates’s use of the four humors focused on their use for medical diagnosis. Claudius Galen, in the second century b.c.e., developed and preserved Hippocrates’s work, and over the centuries a knowledge of the four humors came to be the accepted frame of reference in the West for understanding a human being. This understanding was not only for use in making a medical diagnosis, but also for the description of character in everyday parlance. For example, such writers as Chaucer and Shakespeare used references to the humors as a convenient shorthand for conveying an individual’s character or mood.

The relationship between the four elements and the four humors is shown in this table:

Element Quality Humor
Fiery Triplicity Hot and dry Choleric
Earthy Triplicity Cold and dry Melancholic
Airy Triplicity Hot and moist Sanguine
Watery Triplicity Cold and moist Phlegmatic

The technique for assessing the fundamental temperament from a natal chart is discussed in many standard works of what, as noted in Nicholas Culpeper’s Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick, is now known as traditional astrology. There is general agreement on the importance of four factors: The element of the ascendant sign, the phase of the Moon, the season of the Sun, and the element of the sign of the lord of the geniture (the planet that is strongest by essential dignity while not being accidentally weakened). Additional factors are sometimes added to this list, and different ways of analyzing the information are given. It should also be noted that methods are sometimes given for judging temperament without reference to the natal chart—for instance, as noted by Culpeper, the appearance of an individual or by their behavior or their dreams, according to John Gadbury’s Genethlialogia, or The Doctrine of Nativities Together with the Doctrine of Horarie Questions.

The advent of modern science saw the humors go out of favor as a tool of medical analysis, and astrologers—with their craft also under attack from the new Zeitgeist—gradually stopped using them. In Raphael’s Guide to Astrology from 1877 there is a short section on temperament, in which the four elements are described as giving more or less heat to the nature; this is a clear throwback to the humors, though they are not mentioned by name. By the time Charles E. O. Carter published his Encyclopaedia of Psychological Astrology in 1924, the section on humor was concerned only with what makes people laugh. Astrology’s connection with the humors was forgotten.

Though by this point the humors were dead and buried so far as astrology was concerned, the psychologist Carl Jung was already working on a study that would lead to their rebirth.

Jung’s Quaternal Heritage

It is fairly well known that Jung had some interest in astrology. Indeed, in a letter to B. V. Raman in September 1947, he wrote:

I am particularly interested in the particular light the horoscope sheds on certain complications in the character. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually get a horoscope …. I have very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand.

Though this probably gives an exaggerated impression of the extent to which Jung used astrology, it is beyond dispute that he read widely among ancient astrological and alchemical literature, and absorbed a good deal of the underlying philosophy that those disciplines shared.

An example of this influence in his work is Jung’s emphasis on the quaternity as being archetypal; a mythological motif that was “always collective” and “common to all times and all races,” as noted in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. As Jung explicitly states:

The quaternity is one of the most widespread archetypes and has also proved to be one of the most useful schemata for representing the arrangement of the functions by which the conscious mind takes its bearings.

This opens the way for the consideration of the link between the four elements (as found in astrological and alchemical literature) and the four psychological types that Jung propounded. The following quotation provides the clearest evidence of a direct connection between the two. Jung refers to the last chapter of De vita longa (1562) in which:

Paracelsus makes almost untranslatable allusions to the four Scaiolae, and it is not at all clear what could be meant. Ruland, who had a wide knowledge of the contemporary Paracelsist literature, defines them as “spiritual powers of the mind” (spirituales mentis vires), qualities and faculties which are fourfold, to correspond with the four elements …. The Scaiolae, he says, originate in the mind of man, “from whom they depart and to whom they are turned back…. “Like the four seasons and the four quarters of heaven, the four elements are a quaternary system of orientation which always expresses a totality. In this case it is obviously the totality of the mind (animus), which here would be better translated as “consciousness” (including its contents). The orienting system of consciousness has four aspects, which correspond to four empirical functions: thinking, feeling, sensation (sense-perception), intuition. This quaternity is an archetypal arrangement.

Another passage in Jung’s work where the relationship between the “empirical functions of consciousness” and the elements is made explicit comes in his discussion of Plato’s Timaeus. He analyzes Plato’s character, suggesting that although he possessed a preponderance of fiery “spirit” and “airy thought” he was relatively lacking when it came to connection with sensational reality and concrete action (“earth”). As Jung put it, Plato “had to content himself with the harmony of airy thought-structure that lacked weight, and with a paper surface that lacked depth.” Jung’s equating of the earth element with “concrete reality,” of air with “thought” and fire with “spirit” in this analysis allows for the inference of the following relationships between the Jungian functions of consciousness and the astrological elements: thinking-air, intuition-fire, feeling-water, sensation-earth. This is the same alignment of Jungian function to astrological element as was arrived at by the astrologer and Jungian analyst Liz Greene.

Jung’s Psychological Types

Jung’s work on Psychological Types, first published in 1921, is a work of considerable complexity and the following summary of his typology—the two “attitude-types” and four “function-types” is inevitably cursory.

The attitude-types … are distinguished by their attitude to the object. The introvert’s attitude is an abstracting one; at bottom, he is always intent on withdrawing libido from the object, as though he had to prevent the object from gaining power over him. The extravert, on the contrary, has a positive relation to the object. He affirms its importance to such an extent that his subjective attitude is constantly related to and oriented by the object.

The conscious psyche is an apparatus for adaptation and orientation, and consists of a number of different psychic functions. Among these we can distinguish four basic ones: sensation, thinking, feeling, intuition. Thus there are many people who restrict themselves to the simple perception of concrete reality, without thinking about it or taking feeling values into account. They bother just as little about the possibilities hidden in a situation. I describe such people as sensation types. Others are exclusively oriented by what they think, and simply cannot adapt to a situation which they are unable to understand intellectually. I call such people thinking types. Others, again, are guided in everything entirely by feeling. They merely ask themselves whether a thing is pleasant or unpleasant, and orient themselves by their feeling impressions. These are the feeling types. Finally, the intuitives concern themselves neither with ideas nor with feeling reactions, nor yet with the reality of things, but surrender themselves wholly to the lure of possibilities, and abandon every situation in which no further possibilities can be scented.

Each of these four function-types is mediated by an attitude-type of extraversion or introversion thus giving, in Jung’s scheme, a minimum of eight types (although he suggests that this is a relatively crude matrix and that each of the four functions may be subdivided into more refined categories.

Jung’s System in Contemporary Psychological Science—An Introduction to the MBTI

Jung’s character typology informs one of the most widely used psychometric tests, namely, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). According to Isabel B. Myers’s Introduction to Type, proponents of the MBTI claim it to be the most widely used psychometric test in the world. An estimated 3.5 million MBTI tests are administered each year in the United States alone; it has been translated into two dozen languages and is routinely used in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Korea, and many other countries. As noted in Otto Kroeger’s Type Talk at Work, the popularity of the MBTI owes much to the fact that business communities across the globe have found it of practical value, in part because of empirical evidence correlating “psychological type” (as defined by the MBTI) with occupational role.

The MBTI is commonly deployed to assist decision-making in a variety of management training and personnel areas, including: recruitment and selection; career counseling; team building; organizational change; individual and leadership development. It is also frequently used in post-experience and post-graduate management educational contexts, with students in masters of business administration courses often being exposed to the test at some point in their studies.

The MBTI developed out of the interests of Katherine Cook Briggs (1875–1968) and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers (1897–1980) in human personality difference. They both read Jung’s Psychological Types shortly after its initial publication in English in 1923 and were prompted, at the outset of World War II, to try to “opera-tionalize” the typology that he set out. They thought that the construction of a psychometric indicator might, among other things, prove useful in addressing certain pressing military personnel decisions faced at that time in the United States. Early forms of the MBTI testing procedure were thus developed in the period 1942–44, but it was after the war and in the years leading up to 1956 that more systematic research involving medical students, nursing students, and other samples was conducted using the MBTI. Neither Briggs nor Myers had any formal training in psychology or statistics, so Myers’s encounter with a young psychology research student named David Saunders in the early 1950s was significant in terms of the statistical enhancement and subsequent development of the instrument.

Although isolated researchers and clinicians showed some interest in the MBTI as it continued to evolve during the 1960s, it was not until Consulting Psychologists Press showed interest in 1975 that the approach became widely available and major commercial success ensued. Work on the development of the MBTI continues to this day, with scales within the test being constantly reevaluated and refined. There are several psychologists associated with the approach: Naomi Quenk, Otto Kroeger, and Linda Kirby are three notable figures, but the most significant contemporary advocate is Mary McCaulley, who, since meeting Isabel Myers and striking up a close working relationship with her in the late sixties, has been a vocal proponent of the MBTI. A membership organization, the Association for Psychological Type, was formed in 1979 and a research publication, the Journal of Psychological Types, was established for those working primarily (although not exclusively) with the MBTI.

Development of Jung’s Method in the MBTI

In their interpretation of Jung, Briggs and Myers emphasized the distinction he drew between the rational functions of thinking and feeling—the way in which experience of the world is judged—and the irrational functions of sensation and intuition; that is, the purely perceptive or phenomenological apprehension of the world. Briggs and Myers refer to these two auxiliary functions as judging and perceiving, respectively. In addition to the dominant orientation of consciousness to its environment—the superior function in Jung’s scheme—there is a secondary or inferior function.

This means that in the MBTI system there are 16 psychological types resulting from possible combinations of:(1) attitude-type: extraversion (E) or introversion (I); (2) superior function-type: sensing (S), thinking (T), feeling (F), or intuition (I); (3) inferior function-type: S, T, F, or I; and (4)judging (J) or perceiving (P). Hence someone responding to the MBTI questionnaire or engaging in a process of guided self-assessment will arrive at a type for him or herself that can be coded using combinations of four letters: ISTJ, ESTP, ENFP, INTJ, and so on.

Impact of Jungian and Neo-Jungian Systems on Astrology

In the 20 th century, astrology began to reemerge as a subject for serious study, after two centuries of obscurity and neglect. A major issue for astrologers of this period was to try and reclaim the intellectual respectability that the subject had been stripped of by the scientific revolution. The most popular strategy was to link it with the new science of psychology, and in particular with the psychology of Jung. Dane Rudhyar, in his book The Astrology of Personality, wrote in 1936: “We are above all stressing values and using a terminology which are found in C. G. Jung’s works, because we are deeply convinced of their inherent validity, and also because they dovetail so remarkably with the general set-up of astrological symbolism.”

Three other astrologers who have been particularly prominent in promoting the discipline that would become known as psychological astrology have been Stephen Arroyo, Liz Greene, and Howard Sasportas. In addition to her astrological training, Greene holds a doctorate in psychology and is a qualified Jungian analyst. She cofounded, with Sasportas, the Centre for Psychological Astrology in 1983, an organization that defines the main aims and objectives of its professional training course as follows:

  1. To provide students with a solid and broad base of knowledge, within the realms of both traditional astrological symbolism and psychological theory and technique, so that the astrological chart can be sensitively understood and interpreted in the light of modern psychological thought.
  2. To make available to students psychologically qualified case supervision, along with background seminars in counselling skills and techniques which can raise the standard and effectiveness of astrological consultation. Please note that no formal training as a counsellor or therapist is provided by the course.
  3. To encourage investigation and research into the links between astrology, psychological models, and therapeutic techniques, thereby contributing to and advancing the existing body of astrological and psychological knowledge.

Typology in Astrology—An Evaluation

As already noted, the way in which Jung’s psychology should be applied to astrology has been an object of some controversy among astrologers. It seems safe to conclude that, although it may have been born from astrological ideas, Jung’s psychological typology has developed a character of its own, so that it is safer not to try and establish one-for-one correspondences between the elements and the “four functions.” This case is argued eloquently by Robert Hand in his book Horoscope Symbols:

Astrology understood as a system of psychology in its own right has a symbolic framework much more powerful than any in orthodox psychology. It would be unrealistic to expect that one man in one lifetime could develop an understanding of symbols as profound as that of astrology, which has been developing for thousands of years.

—Garry Phillipson and Peter Case


Centre for Psychological Astrology. http://www.cpalondon.com/index.html.
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