Thursday, January 21, 2016

Personality Types (8)

Yesterday, we saw how the Enneagram has a built-in dynamic quality, portraying for each personality type (designated by one of the numbers from 1 - 9) the paths for integration and disintegration respectively.

However one significant weakness here (which also indeed applies to the Myers-Briggs typology) is that it remains neutral as to the various levels of development (on the full spectrum).

For example in Western Psychology, adult development is largely confined to - what I designate as - the first two Bands on the Spectrum with adult development predominantly based on the second.

And this band relates to the specialisation of (linear) analytic type understanding of a merely conscious nature.
In particular this understanding completely dominates the present mathematical and scientific worldviews which in many ways serve as the new religion for the present age!

However a crucial weakness of this worldview - despite its admitted great triumphs - is that it is greatly lacking a true holistic dimension (which directly relates to unconscious development).

In like manner the very capacity for true integration with respect to the personality entails significant growth with respect to the unconscious.

Therefore one can seriously question the extent to which true integration for the various personality types (with respect to any preferred system) can take place without dealing with the vertical - as well as horizontal - profiles for the various types.


As always, my initial interest in this area of development sprung directly from personal experience.

Through most of my 20's, I found myself completely immersed in a profound darkness that seemingly bore no relationship to the normal experience of others (as I then imagined).

For one day in the week some calm would reign with respect to the inner storms and travails prevailing and I would pursue some quiet spiritual reading in a Dublin library. There I discovered the "The Dark Night" by St. John of the Cross which resonated to a remarkable degree with my own experience.

Some years later, when this stage had passed I began to realise that St. John's account itself reflected a particular personality type (that we both shared).

So using The Enneagram, I would classify him as a 4 (with a strong 5 wing). In Enneagram terms every primary number type, is linked to a secondary number (as wing) on either side. So a 5 for example will therefore have either a 4 or a 6 wing!
Therefore while undergoing the most intense inner subjective experience, he could still view it in a detached objective manner.

Then in somewhat complementary manner I had come to see my own personality as a 5 (with a strong 4 wing).

Now when one looks at the diagram for the Enneagram there is one unusual feature.


Whereas all the other numbers are approached through criss-crossing lines (in the close vicinity of the numbers) this is not the case between 4 and 5.
Therefore this would tend to signify that for this personality mix (in particular) that an especially important gap in the personality must be bridged to achieve true integration.

In fact, Jung - though not a spiritual contemplative in the accepted sense -  writes about a similar type crisis or "night sea journey".
And again I was to realise that my later resonance with the writings of Jung again reflected a very similar personality profile!

However it took me some time to properly accept that other personality types could pursue a very different path to integration.

Therefore the "dark night" crisis - as portrayed by St. John - that I long accepted as the gold standard for authentic spiritual integration - in fact reflects but one extreme version that especially applies to people with a particular personality mix.


At the same time, I made another interesting discovery.

I was reading a book "the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas and attempting to find a modern explanation as to why Angelology was seen as such an important part of the medieval theological system.

Then the following sentence triggered the crucial insight that I was looking for!

"The angels are creatures whose existence can be proved and in exceptional cases observed; their suppression would render the universe as a whole unintelligible."

I had been just been reflecting on the holistic significance of transcendental numbers (such as π) when in immediately struck me that by replacing angels with transcendental numbers we get the following equivalent statement:

"The transcendental are numbers whose existence can be proved and in exceptional cases observed; their suppression would render the system of numbers as a whole unintelligible."

So in fact Cantor (who proved the unique existence of transcendental numbers without reference to any actual examples) and St. Thomas could therefore be seen to have been pursuing the same intellectual issues regarding the nature of the infinite under the separate veils of Mathematics and Theology respectively. 

Now the significance of transcendental numbers in a holistic context is that they relate to a highly refined spiritual intuitive type of understanding, where both conscious and unconscious aspects of understanding are closely linked.

This then led me to a modern psychological way of looking at Angelology as a somewhat mythical attempt of exploring the higher powers of the unconscious mind (which especially find development through authentic spiritual contemplation).

In other words, from this perspective, Angelology points to the hidden unconscious potential of the human personality.


In this sense it is remarkable that the Thomistic  system - derived from the Pseudo-Dyonysius - in fact represent a (vertical) Enneagram. Here three hierarchical ranks of angels are distinguished  (with three degrees in each hierarchy) which ascend from initial contact with the material world to their most purely spiritual manifestation (as Seraphim and Cherubim).

In like manner spiritual contemplation starts from the a dualistic base where spirit intermingles with (gross) phenomena  before eventually - all going well - culminating in pure union with God.

It is also interesting in this regard that the same Pseudo-Dyonysius equally had an important influence on developing the doctrine of the via negativa with respect to mystical development (which ultimately culminated with "The Dark Night" exposition of St. John of the Cross).

So we have two Enneagrams, the standard (horizontal) version which implicitly assumes the same level of development for all types and a (vertical) Ennegram, which in a somewhat mythical manner portrays the various stages that all types must pass through to achieve full spiritual union.

However a severe dichotomy still exists as between both types!
My own considerations on this issue initially centred on consideration of the - extended - 24 personality types classification.
Again these are divided into 3 main groups (of 8 types).

The first group comprising  “real” types are most firmly rooted in the actual world of form.
Therefore personality integration for these personalities is unlikely to require substantial exploration of the “higher” vertical levels.
In fact the centaur - which would be the highest of the middle levels - represents a good model of what is required here for successful integration.
Therefore with sufficient centaur type development, such personalities would be freed to engage with the (actual) world in a flexible and creative manner. However this involvement would not require specialised development with respect to the unconscious.

The second group are made up of “imaginary” types that gravitate naturally to the creation of a potential reality (expressive literally of the imagination).

Integration is likely to be more problematic for these types, who can experience considerable difficulty in integrating their unconscious instincts with the demands of actual living.

For successful integration, such personalities may require a much greater degree of “higher” contemplative development to cleanse their creative desires of excessive ego involvement. They may also require greater sustained involvement with the conventional middle levels.

In practice however, as we see so with creative writers, actors etc. successful integration is rarely achieved, with substantial personality difficulties often preventing satisfactory adaptation to every day life.

The third group are made up of the “complex” types (paradoxically also intrinsically the most simple) where the desire for authentic being chiefly defines the personality.
The secret for integration here lies in the innate capacity of the will to navigate the perilous route to true being.

When successful this offers the greatest opportunities for substantial exploration of the more advanced levels on the spectrum.

However even then life is more likely to resemble a continual journey, where one’s final destination can be approached but never quite fully attained.


I did then - combining the insights of the two Enneagram models - attempt to express both aspects as a Septagram (with both horizontal and vertical developmental dimensions).
The first grouping (based on the 4 personality types) related to the number 1463 (in base 8, which again is a cyclic prime).

So all personality types - allowing for the dynamic interaction of positive and negative directions in a real and imaginary manner - can be derived from these 4 fundamental modes.

The second group based on 3 levels relates to the number 275 (again in base 8).  This now relates to the possibility of vertical growth between levels. Depending on type, 1, 2 or 3 hierarchical levels will here in general be required for successful integration.

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