Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Importance of Being Wrong

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Jung's Psychological Types and the Astrological Elements

Jung’s Psychological Types can be a good way of understanding people. He divides consciousness into 4 functions: Thinking and Feeling, Intuition and Sensation. The first pair are evaluating functions, the second are perceiving functions. Our weakest faculty will tend to be paired with the strongest. I have several friends who never seem to get things done, are always losing things, always late etc. It can sometimes drive me to distraction, and then yesterday it occurred to me that they all have a strong Intuition function, that is part of what draws me to them, so of course they are going to be weak on Sensation. Now I can forgive them! And my Sensation function being stronger is probably part of what they (secretly) like about me. That doesn’t, however, make me hopelessly unintuitive, for I think I am reasonably balanced among the functions: a bit more inclined towards thinking over feeling, and probably fairly balanced between intuition and sensation. The system is a bit more complex than this, and you can also add in extravert and introvert. I think on balance I am an introvert who has spent much of his life trying to be an extravert! But if you’re going to write a blog, it helps to be an introverted thinking type!

Incidentally, Jung classified himself as an Intuitive-Thinking type (there is usually a 2nd function from the other pair that we are also strong in, though not quite so much.) He freely acknowledged that when younger, he wasn’t very aware of the reality around him (Sensation)!

Jung’s functions correspond to the elements in astrology: Fire-Intuition; Earth-Sensation; Air-Thinking; and Water-Feeling. But you can’t just read off the psychological type from the birth chart. I know someone with Sun conjunct Saturn in Capricorn who is weak on Sensation, which isn’t what you’d expect. And I know someone else with Sun conjunct Saturn in Capricorn who is over-identified with his Sensation function. In both cases you could read it as Saturn, inhibiting in the first case, and making the person over-identified with material things in the second. So we know that Earth/Sensation is important from the Sun-Sat-Cap, but Saturn also tells us that there is likely to be an issue there.

In astrology we find the elements in the sequence Fire-Earth-Air-Water, which then repeat twice, corresponding to Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer etc, as well as the Houses in their numerical order. So the journey of development through the signs from Aries to Pisces is also a journey through the elements.

Fire is Intuition because it has a vision, it can see what is possible, it knows what is possible beyond what the senses are telling us. The other elements are more obvious.

So we begin with Aries, the vision of something new, with birth, with a sense of ‘me’. Then with Taurus we have a sense of the material world we have landed in and a sense of ‘mine’, ‘my body’. Then with the Air function of Gemini we are able to separate ourselves out, to get a sense of ‘me’ as discrete from what is other. With Cancer, we develop a feeling relationship, a sense of belonging with others around us.

The first cycle is now complete, and there is a complete individual present who has something unique about him/her, and which is given expression to through play/creativity. This seed of something unique brings us back to Fire and to Leo. This creative spark is then grounded, given form, it becomes part of our everyday life, through Earthy Virgo.

In recognising our own uniqueness and putting it ‘out there’ we come up against other people, and we recognise that like us, they have their own individuality. This is a standing back and looking quality, an Air quality, and it is about relating, so it is Libra. We have moved from self development and self expression to realising that there are others out there to be taken into account. And we engage with them, we get to know them, we get a feel for them – watery Scorpio.

So there is a pattern here, in that the fullness of each stage is water: once our vision (Fire), our manifestation (Earth) and our Insight (Air) have reached down into the watery depths, then there is completion, we have fully embodied the process.

Then there is the final round of the elements, as we move from Sagittarius/9th House to Pisces/12th House. Again, the spark happens with Fire, the move into something essentially new. This time, out of firstly the fullness of self-knowledge (Cancer) and then knowledge of others (Scorpio) there is a push towards more universal knowledge, towards understanding our place in the wider scheme of things; and also the beginnings of a desire to give back what we have learnt, to contribute to the wider society. This spark is Sagittarius/9th House. And then we take our place in that wider society (Capricorn/Earth).

But to take that place of responsibility, thought is needed, an awareness of all the different sections of society, some of which may be quite alien to us, is needed, and this is Aquarius/Air. Again, this awareness has to be taken from the head to the heart, from Air to Water, if it is to be real, and so we arrive at Pisces, the place of Empathy and Compassion for all, and where engagement with wider concerns have changed us into a vehicle for the transformation of the collective; the individuality that took us so much trouble to develop earlier in the journey has on the one hand given us the integrity to lead others, but it has also become a limitation, it has now been discarded as another, wider, difficult-to-describe consciousness emerges. It is difficult to describe because generally we are not it except in flashes. But because the self and its needs are temporarily put to one side, a lot more dimensions of consciousness are open to us, as the situation requires. A bit like if you are doing an astrology reading, and you’re right in it, right in the other person’s world, then insights flow, you go where did that come from? Anything that is done disinterestedly has this sort of possibility in it.

Going back to Jung and his psychic functions, what we see in the astrological elements is a process of Intuition (Fire), Sensation (Earth), Thinking (Air) then Feeling (Water). But Jung also made a distinction between perceptive and evaluative functions. So this suggests that the first 2 elements in each cycle of development, Fire and Earth, are sort of givens, they come to us, we perceive them – the vision (fire) and its possible relationship to the world around us (earth); whereas the second 2 elements are evaluative – through thought (air) and feeling (water) we then weigh up and process what life has put our way. And I think life is often like this. It sort of moves on of its own accord, new situations and possibilities present themselves, but then we have to work it through, we have to work out whether to go there and what the consequences are likely to be, and we also judge it on a feeling and ethical level.

I don’t think Jung intended his functions to be used this way, but in creating them he was clearly giving a new twist on the ancient idea of the elements. Returning to my starting point, I think both Jung’s types and astrology can give us a more sympathetic, genuinely understanding view of people. You can see what appear to you as people’s faults more as a natural consequence of the way those people are constructed; and you can also see the inherent strengths of that construction, that can be obscured by the judgements that we, and society, are liable to make.

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