by E. Alan Meece
(note how the MBTI logo resembles the quadrants of the philosophy wheel)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most well-known psychological typing system in the world today. Almost as many people know their MBTI type as know their astrology sign. It is amazing that a typing method that has no pictures or symbols, but consists entirely of 4 letters, could now be so popular and appealing, or so widely used. Among those who use this test today are school counselors, in order to help steer students into college courses that fit their interests, temperament and desires. Students take a test of about 90 to 120 questions, and then discover which occupations and lifestyles correspond to their type. Many people don't know, however, that these types are based on the work of the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and his famous system of psychological types. Many might not recognise how much his ideas have shaped the way we see ourselves and our lives today. Many people also don't know that Jung was familiar with many of the esoteric systems we have been discussing (see my other pages at my index).
When my philosophy professor saw the philosophy wheel, she quickly recognized that it lined up with Jungian types. Other friends have also seen this connection (such as Janet Germane). When I created the philosophy wheel, I had no intention of correlating it to Jungian types, and I knew nothing about the MBTI test, or even that it existed at all. But I had already discovered the links between the Philosopher's Wheel and other "wheels" used for rituals by shamanic and esoteric traditions (the Medicine Wheel and the Magick Circle). I also knew that these wheels have some of the same symbols used in astrology and tarot readings, like the four elements. The connection to Jung that my professor pointed out was yet another indication that the Philosopher's Wheel taps into a larger universal pattern.
Are the MBTI and Jungian types connected to the Philosopher's Wheel? If so, then MBTI can further explain your philosophy score, and your place on the wheel. Your score may correspond to an MBTI type. If you already know your MBTI type, and what it means, you will know a lot more about what your philosophy score means too.
Your score on the philosophy test may match your dominant Jungian function. If you score R/S (essentialist) on the philosophy questionnaire, this placement on the wheel corresponds to N or INtuition. If you score E/S (existentialist), that corresponds to F for Feeling. If you score E/M (empiricist), that corresponds to S for Sensation. If you score R/M (rationalist), that corresponds to T or Thinking.
If you don't know your MBTI type, or what it means, then the questionnaire in this chapter can tell you. This will add to the self-knowledge you got from the Philosopher's Wheel. The specific questions on an MBTI questionnaire, or the one in this chapter, are different from the ones on the philosophy test, however, and that alone might lead to different results. It might depend on how you interpret the questions on each test. And the purpose of the MBTI is not quite the same as a philosophy test. Each time we explore one of these other fields, whether it be MBTI and Jungian psychology, or alchemy, or the chakras, etc., a new territory is opened up. But each one helps to explain the others.
The Philosopher's Wheel and its questionnaire aks for your opinion on the great questions of life: who am I, where did I come from, what is real, what is valuable, how I should behave, etc. These questions help us decide our direction and purpose in life. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has a slightly different, more psychological focus. It asks you what your preferences are, not what your opinions about life are. It elicits your temperament and personality. Counselors and others use it to determine what activities you want to pursue and what fields to study. It looks "under your skin" a bit to determine what your comfort level is with various situations you may encounter.
This means you might have one set of beliefs or opinions you consciously hold, but you might hold them in spite of your personality or temperament. For example, perhaps you are what's known as a "nerd" or "geek;" maybe you're some kind of technical or mental wizard (and thus you might score "T" for "thinker" on the MBTI), but now you want to become different; perhaps more physically active, or emotionally sensitive. In that case your philosophy might now reflect the greater value which physical awareness or feelings hold for you now, because you want to develop in that direction. Maybe you believe your habitual approach of "thinking" gets in your way. Or perhaps it's the other way around; you are highly emotionally unstable, and this leads you now to place a high value on reason and ethical self-control that could counter-act your sensitive disposition. On the other hand, it might be that your philosophy reflects your temperament and your preferences in life to a "t." In any case, both tests, and your scores on each one, will tell you a lot more than just one of them can tell you. With MBTI you can look more deeply into why you hold the philosophy that you do.
What makes MBTI so compatible with the Philosopher's Wheel, and what makes MBTI a "map of the mind" far more relevant to our philosophy map than any so-called map drawn by the philosophers themselves, is how similar its testing method is to our own (the philosophy questionnaire). The MBTI test (also called an "instrument") is based on polarities (opposites). That, as we have seen, is the very foundation of our philosophy wheel, which assumes that philosophers are arrayed along two great polarities. MBTI assumes much the same thing, with three interesting differences. First, there are no neutral answers on the MBTI test; it forces you to indicate a single preference for one or the other polarity on almost every question. Second, though MBTI defines the polarities in a similar way, some of the questions used by the MBTI to elicit them are quite different. Third, and most important, MBTI has four polarities instead of two. In order to place MBTI types into the wheel, thus further showing what your philosophy score means to you, we need to show how the four polarities of MBTI relate to the two polarities of the philosophy wheel.
These differences (especially the second and third) involve some interesting issues. As usual, I will show to what extent the MBTI and Jungian types correspond to the philosophy wheel, and how the systems are different. We also come closer in our quest for our "theory of everything," or the universal elixir of life and holy grail, by showing which aspects of MBTI can be included in our synthesis. I will describe differences I have with the MBTI system's view of reality, and how it might be changed to bring it more into line with my quest. Conversely, MBTI has insights to offer the philosophy wheel, and it adds deeper layers of psychological meaning to it.
Neither MBTI nor the Philosophy Wheel claim that your questionnaire results are infallible, or explain everything about you. Your results can shift on both tests, and so do you. There is a lot of variation possible within an MBTI type. And no type is better than another.
Or take one of these online tests
These descriptions of the 8 functions are not an MBTI questionnaire, but are based directly on its questions. I also used descriptions by Isabel Briggs Myers, Robert Winer, Reginald Johnson, Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane Kise, among others, as well as my own words and thoughts. These descriptions have not themselves been tested. When I describe these types, and ask people to choose the ones that fit, most people can do it pretty easily.
First letter: E or I
E = Extravert, I = Introvert
This is the most famous of Jung's polarities. Many people don't know that Jung invented these terms. But their popular meanings are not quite the same as their original meanings on the MBTI test or among the Jungian types. In our society, extraversion is more valued than introversion. If someone is called an introvert, that usually means (s)he is shy and afraid of other people. That may be true in many cases, but the type has other meanings too. It is mostly a question of whether you rely on yourself or others to find your energy and motivation for life. Since the introvert is more self-reliant in this way, that gives us something to admire in them too, according to our society's standards.
As I describe the two types, consider which one describes yourself, and which you prefer.
If you are an Extravert, you want to be involved in the outer world of people and things. You get a "charge" from being around other people and being active socially. You are outspoken, enthusiastic and expressive. If you are in trouble or need help, you rely on others for support. If you are lost, you are quite willing to stop and ask for directions. If you need an answer, you prefer to get it from someone else or discuss it in a group, rather than research it yourself. You may know many people well rather than a few close friends, and you enjoy meeting new folks. You like parties and want to stay as long as possible. You are easy to get to know because you are so outgoing. You are eager to follow the latest trends of fashion, and you look to society to help direct your activities and interests. You are eager to please, and quick to adopt the group spirit. If you are alone too long you get restless, bored or lonely and need to get out and see people. You like to do things more than reflect on them, and are stimulated by what other people have to offer. You are more interested in understanding the world around you than looking within yourself, and you are better at working with people and things than with ideas.
If you are an Introvert, you prefer being involved in the inner world of ideas, insights, dreams, visions, memories, reflections, or self-awareness. If you are around people for too long, you might feel drained and need to get away by yourself in order to "recharge." You tend to be rather calm, quiet and reserved, and you have a few intimate friends rather than many acquaintances. You are not too excitable, but consider carefully before speaking and acting, and afterward you might think about what you could have said. You may not enjoy parties very much, or you prefer to be in anonymous settings. You are somewhat inscrutible, and only a few people really get to know and understand you. If you are in trouble, you rely on yourself first. You analyze or "feel out" the situation, relating it to your past experiences and knowledge. If you have a question, you seek your own counsel and do your own research. You probably don't place much stock in what society says, or in what the latest trends are. You prefer to follow your own interests, rather than what others want you to do. You rely on your own inner feelings and wisdom, and you like to work alone without distractions. Ideas may interest you more than people or things.
If you identify with one of these "energy styles" more than the other, then you are either type E or type I. You might note this on a piece of paper.
Second letter: S or N
S = Sensing, N = INtuitive (N is often capitalized to distinguish it from I for Introvert)
Again, these terms are familiar, but the Jungian meaning is a little different, especially when it comes to INtuition. Intuition has become popular in today's countercultures, taking on meanings given in Eastern philosophy; but in Jung's time this trend had not yet taken hold, and the term still had a more Western or European classical meaning. Intuition means direct knowledge, "gut feelings" or "hunches" not based on senses or logic, but this includes knowing principles and abstract ideas and developing theories. It also includes imagination.
If you are a Sensing type, you know about the world primarily from what the 5 senses tell you. You prefer to use your common sense awareness of ordinary reality as it appears to be. You don't look for hidden meanings beneath the surface of things; seeing is believing. You enjoy the world as it is, and revel in its pleasures. You are realistic, practical and attuned to "the way things are." You don't get lost too much in thoughts or dreams, but attend carefully to what's around you. You are quick to point out the realities of a situation, and how it differs from peoples' wishes. You are interested in facts as they are, more than in imagining how they can be improved upon. You want things explained clearly, not in fanciful allusions or metaphors, and you like experiencing actual things, people and events, more than studying concepts and abstract ideas. You value ideas only to the extent they can be made useful. You focus on the details of things more than their associations; you see the trees more clearly than the forest. You trust what is proven by experience, not hunches or untested theories. You follow accepted practices and traditions rather than inventing new ones, and you prefer sensible or conventional approaches to life over novel or eccentric ones. You like to build and produce things more than to design them.
If you are an INtuitive, you know about the world primarily through awareness of what lies beneath the surface of things. You follow your hunches and intimations that there is "more here than meets the eye." As John and Robert Kennedy said (quoting George Bernard Shaw), "some people see things as they are and say why; others see things that never were and say, why not?" Intuitives are the latter. You enjoy dreaming and imagining what might be, but isn't realized yet. Sometimes you are restless and dissatisfied; always looking over the next horizon or building castles in the air. You can imagine the possibilities inherent in any situation and where it might lead, and are interested in how it can be made better. You love to explore abstract concepts and learn or develop theories about how things are connected, even if these connections are not visible; and you notice how things relate to the larger pattern. You see the forest more clearly than the trees. You are ingenious, inspired and creative; always coming up with new ideas and insights. You like to dream up and design things, letting others (especially the sensing types) worry about building or applying them or determining if they actually work. You may invent new ways of living, and you admire people who are original and unconventional.
Note whether the description of Sensing or INtuitive applies best to you, and write S or N on your sheet.
Third letter: T or F
T = Thinking, F = Feeling
These terms are the most familiar of all, but we still have much to learn about exactly what they are, and how or when they are (or are not) useful to us. This pair and the next one are closely related to left and right brain, and left and right on the philosophy wheel. Although "feeling" is supposed to be mostly about our relationships with people, we also experience feeling in our response to nature and art, and in mystical apprehensions. Although feeling is often described in Jungian circles as having to do with "values," the MBTI test itself makes it very clear that feeling is primarily about being gentle and warm-hearted.
If you are a Thinking type, you rely on logic, facts and principles to understand and make sense of reality. You look for the causes of events, and the sequence of how one thing follows from another, which helps you to plan, engineer, design or imagine things or events. You compare, contrast and sort out differences, understanding the component parts of things and putting them in logical order. You take an impersonal and impartial approach, relying on measurable criteria so that your actions and decisions are fair and objective and rarely swayed by passing sentiments. You are business-like, brief and well-organized, so much so that others may see you as cold and unfriendly at times, even though you don't intend to be. Once you know the truth, you are consistent and dedicated to it, regardless of what you or others might feel at the moment. You are cool and dispassionate; while others about you might lose their heads, you are the "voice of reason" and remain "heads up" to doing what's right or practical. Some people are quick to agree in order to preserve social harmony and good feeling, but you are willing to analyze the situation and criticize what's wrong so it can be corrected. You are primarily interested in solving problems and expanding human knowledge.
If you are a Feeling type, you rely on your sensitivity and caring to connect with reality. You are compassionate, able to put yourself in another's shoes. You get in touch with how you and others feel, responding to them with warmth and concern. You are keenly aware of how you really feel about things, which gives you inner guidance. You take a more personal approach to people and situations, as if each one is uniquely special and valuable. You love to appreciate and show affection toward people and things, more than to categorize or organize them. Building social harmony is more important to you than holding to logic or pet theories, or in sticking to plans that might disturb people. You believe in bending the rules when necessary to be kind to those in need. To deal with life, you feel out situations as a whole rather than researching how things are put together. Warm and passionate, you are more interested in loving relationships than in things or ideas, and your thoughts may be vague and disorganized. Easily swayed by touching sentiments, you might be deaf to reason and facts. You are so sociable and friendly that you get involved in interactions with people instead of sticking to business. You are interested in expanding the community of concern among people and the world around us, and in unfolding the depth of your feelings and passionate devotion to what you hold dear.
Note whether the description of Thinking or Feeling applies best to you, and write T or F on your sheet.
Fourth letter: J or P
J = Judging, P = Perception
These terms are the most confusing, mostly because judging has become a pejorative term. In MBTI, Judging doesn't necessarily mean that a person is judgemental, still less prejudiced, but whether they prefer to make a decision and stick to a task. Similarly, Perceiving not only means how well someone perceives, but how open they are to change and uncertainty. If Introvert-Extravert is about your main sources of energy, Judging-Perceiving is about how you apply that energy, whether in a decisive or spontaneous way.
If you are a Judging type, you like to stick to the plans which you or others have made for you. You are conscientious and not easily distracted from important tasks. You respect standards, rules, ideals and customs, and you uphold them regardless of the trends or situation of the moment. Rather than adapting to the situation at hand, you want the situation to conform to your plans. You like to be settled and well-organized, so you are disturbed by too much change, disorder and uncertainty. You like to put your affairs in order, stick to a schedule and accomplish set goals. You obey the boy scout motto, "be prepared!" You are skilled at making decisions, and you follow through with them because you are disciplined and regimented. You are also demanding of others, want standards observed, and think you know how what is the best behavior (in this way you sometimes can indeed be too "judgemental"). You like to have a decision settled, even if getting more information about it could have allowed you to make a better one. Getting things finished and out of the way appeals to you, and unfinished business annoys you. You look upon perceptive types as being aimless wanderers, but you are less willing than they are to respond to the unexpected or to explore new possibilities. You rely on reasoned judgements and an orderly approach to life to protect you from undesirable experiences.
If you are a Perceiving type, then you like to adapt to life as it unfolds. You enjoy watching things happen, and are eager to see how things turn out in the lives of your friends. You prefer to "go with the flow" and do what you feel like doing at the moment. You like to be as open as possible to opportunities, rather than stick to a routine, planned schedule, and you enjoy the company of lively, spontaneous people. You are skilled at responding to the unexpected, and you adapt quickly because you are so perceptive and attuned to the situation. But because you see so many options, you might not be able to set your compass to reach a higher star. You may be easily distracted and not accomplish your goals, perhaps preferring instead to be a carefree, shiftless drifter or dilletante. You enjoy gathering lots of information, and never feel you have enough to make a definite decision. Because you are so open, tolerant, curious and flexible, you are blessed with a constant flow of new experience, but may not be able to digest and use it all. You don't want to miss out on new things that are happening. You are eager to learn the latest discoveries, including those you make yourself. Your life is more like play than work. You trust things will turn out right, if you don't close yourself off from life's uncertainties. You are comfortable with the random and chaotic, and you may be bored with or even rebel against too much order or too many rules and standards. You like your freedom above all.
Note whether the description of Judging or Perceiving applies best to you, and write J or P on your sheet. The four letters you have written may be your MBTI type. Of course, to get a more complete idea you should take the full MBTI questionnaire; see links below.
As is true with the Enneagram and perhaps some of the other traditions that interact with the Philosophy Wheel, such as tarot and the kabbalah, the Myers-Briggs types correspond to the wheel in some ways, but not in others. It's important to note the differences, so that you know to what extent your MBTI type can help you understand and use your philosophy score. I am proposing that the Philosophy Wheel is a "theory of everything," a kind of universal symbol or archetype. It conceives philosophy as a whole, and since philosophy is about life in general, it is a synthesis or model of life. I am asserting that where other traditions coincide with the wheel, they are a part of this universal model or synthesis. The aspects of other systems that fit within our system are what mythologists such Joseph Campbell call universal ideas, at least with respect to our system. Where they don't, they are what mythologists call folk ideas, which exist and may work within their own tradition only but don't apply outside of it. Or they may form parts of someone else's universal model instead of ours.
The Myers-Briggs and Jungian type system is beautiful. I think it works well in describing people's type, but that is only my own experience. Though I know of some data which support it, I have not researched extensively or systematically whether or not it can be verified scientifically. I do not criticize the system because I think it is not supported by enough scientific data, as some people do. Nor do I base my thoughts about MBTI on empirical, experimental testing of its theories, or of my own. (Do I need to admit it? Yes, I am N, not S).
But the MBTI, though it is the best and most widely-used personality questionnaire, is more different from the Philosophy Wheel than some of the other traditions I have studied. As I mentioned, however, many have noticed the striking similarities, so something is there. Not only is the MBTI similar to the Wheel, but it is useful to compare them to each other, because MBTI is such a valuable and powerful indicator of some of the same personal preferences that the philosophy test also refers to. So it is necessary to compare them. More research is necessary, of course. Making these comparisons to philosophy affords me the chance to look at the MBTI philosophically, and to see it from a wider context. From this perspective, I have noticed some possible erroneous assumptions made in MBTI that those who are used to it may not see. Where the MBTI differs from the Philosophy Wheel, does that make it wrong? Or vice-versa? Not necessarily, but I think some valid questions arise.
On the Philosophy Wheel, however, there are many intermediate polarities between the main two, distributed all around the wheel. Many questions are scored with 2 numbers, to indicate these intermediate positions. On the MBTI, however, only two of the polarities (the functions) are usually ever shown in relation to each other in a wheel or cross. But this I think is what the MBTI logo represents. Here is Robert Place's diagram of the four functions on a cross, adapted from p.174 of his book The Tarot:
The 16 types are often displayed in a table, but only Keirsey's diagram from Portraits of Temperament matches the philosophy wheel:
Here we see that the materialists M are the ST types (called here Monitors and Operators), the experiencers E are the SF types (Conservators and Players), the intellectuals R are the NT types (Engineers and Controllers), and the spiritualists S are the NF types (Disciples and Mentors). I don't agree with Keirsey's usual groupings of the types; but here in this table they match what Myers and Briggs called the "four kinds of people" early in their book Gifts Differing: enthusiastic and inspired (NF), logical and ingenious (NT), practical and matter-of-fact (ST) and sympathetic, people-oriented (SF). These four kinds of people also match esoteric groupings such as the four elements. They correspond to fire, air, earth and water respectively. On my tarot page I also line up the 16 types with the 16 court cards in the tarot deck.
I generally compare the 4 polarities of MBTI to the philosophy wheel this way:
Introvert-Extravert (I/E) relates to some extent to Spiritualist-Materialist (S/M) on the Wheel. This is because the spirit is found by turning within, which is what Introverts do. Introverts are supposed to be interested in ideas and dreams. Extraverts are more active in what Jung calls "the outer world," which is also the material or physical world. Spiritualists have an "unworldly attitude" while Materialists "seek their treasure in the things of this world." There is a difference between the two questionnaires, however. For MBTI the "outer world" consists mostly of other people, and the questions elicit your preference for spending time with people or alone. This is not quite the same as "materialism" or the reverse. Many scientists spend much time alone in research, but still have a materialist view of the world. Many spiritualists may find the spirit in other people as well as within themselves. So the correlation can only be approximate. There is a conceptual or archetypal connection between E/I and S/M, but it doesn't necessarily work in practice. So if you score as an introvert on MBTI, you MAY incline toward spiritualism, but the correlation rate between such scores may only be slightly above-average.
Sensing-INtuition (S/N) also relates to some extent to Spiritualist-Materialist, because spiritualists rely more on imagination and inspiration from within or "the spirit world," while materialists rely on "facts" verifiable by the senses or their instruments. But I also see a similarity between the S/N dichotomy and that between the essentialists (R/S) and the empiricists (E/M) in philosophy. Like intuitives, essentialists rely on abstract theories and general concepts, and conceive new ideas or esoteric revelations that may come vaguely from "the mind of God," as well as from principles of a given tradition. Empiricism means precisely the use of sense data to verify information, and this is identical to how the sensing function is defined on MBTI. On the other hand, the MBTI test also emphasizes that sensing is a preference for the traditional and established, while iNtuition prefers the new and original. To some extent this might be felt as a political or cultural preference for conservative (S) or liberal (N) (for example, the sentiment expressed by the "liberal" Robert Kennedy above). If so, this aspect of the dichotomy is not relevant to the non-political Philosophy Wheel. And in philosophy, essentialism sometimes means to rely more on fixed and given traditional principles, or on eternal and unchanging truths, rather than imagining new ones. What is mostly meant by this polarity, however, is whether you prefer the tangible and already-actual on the one hand, or concepts and discoveries not yet or not always actualized or visible on the other. This is not necessarily political, but it does emphasize the mental nature of iNtuition in MBTI. Contrary to popular belief, iNtuitives in MBTI are on the rational side of the wheel, not the experiential or "right-brained" side as popular parlance defines it. As mentioned before, the MBTI notion of iNtuition is more Western and old-fashioned, and this may also account for some of the apparent difference with common usage of the term.
I also suspect that some of the descriptions given of sensing types don't entirely match the questions on the MBTI test (certainly the shorter versions of it). The test elicits sensation as preference for hard and proven facts, not the pleasures and joys of the senses. The test is therefore an incomplete measuring stick for the sensing type. Yet despite this, such types as ISFP and ESFP are often described as people who use their senses to enjoy life, not so much to gather facts. This is partly because of their other F and P preferences. But it is also true that many people prefer the world of the senses over the conceptual or imaginary world because of the pleasure and closeness to nature it brings. ISFPs for example are sometimes compared with bohemian, bucolic nature-lovers and wanderers; even described as "flower children" like the hippies of the 1960s. But I suspect that the real flower children, though they may indeed have been ISFP types, might have scored as iNtuitives on the test, because they certainly were rebels and visionaries who preferred non-traditional and non-conformist lifestyles. One aspect of sensing vs. iNtuitive that should be remembered, is that sensing types like to build and produce things while iNtuitives like to design them. One reason sensing types like to build things is the pleasure they get from working with their hands and their sense of touch in general, as well as their preference for experiencing the "actual" and the useful rather than the merely possible or dreamlike world of the iNtuitive.
Thinking-Feeling (T-F) has an obvious connection with the R-E (rational vs. experiential and existential) poles on the philosophy wheel. More precisely, it relates to the Rationalist (R/M) and Existential (E/S) Quadrants of the Wheel. There may be some question whether existentialists as a group are as interested in social harmony as Feeling is supposed to be in MBTI. Perhaps not, but Heidegger, the leading existentialist, defined the essence of human reality, his fundamental principle, as "care." This to me seals the similarity between Feeling and the existentialists, since "caring" is what the Feeling type is all about, according to the questions on the MBTI test. Existentialism is about more than harmonious relationships, to be sure; it is about focusing attention on our inner experience so that it can be described. But Bergson defined his notion of the best way to understand things as "intellectual sympathy in which you place yourself within the object" you seek to know. He called it "intuition," but this is also empathy, and is clearly Feeling according to MBTI. Existential philosophy celebrates the "furies," according to William Barrett, author of Irrational Man (a study of existential philosophy), and is primarily concerned with such feelings as anxiety and our experience of ourselves as unique, actual human beings rather than as parts of a rational system.
Considering both the S/N and T/F polarities, I am more certain of their connection to the generally materialist functions (S and T) than to the more spiritual ones (N and F). But they appear strong on all sides.
Judging-Perceiving (J/P) relates to the left-right axis of the wheel, the R/E pole, just as I/E relates to the S/M axis. Here the correlation is much stronger than with E/I. For example, the J type is described as "rational" and the P type as "irrational" or "empirical." Furthermore, looking at the wheel, even before considering MBTI, I decided that the R pole has the characteristics of "order" and the E pole of "randomness," and I used those and similar keywords to describe this part of the wheel. This map is still visible at the bottom of the questionnaire website I have since created. Clearly judging is about putting things in order, and perceiving is about tolerating disorder. Furthermore, the R pole on the philosophy wheel is assertive and decisive, since it uses reason to control events. I have seen it this way since the beginning. The E pole on the Wheel has the opposite traits of being more passive and open to experience, distrusting reason and relying instead on faculties variously described as openness, sensitivity, spontaneity, willingness to take risks, belief in relativity, or even feeling and emotion (which relates more to F on MBTI). I have also decided that J/P corresponds to what is generally known as "left-brain vs. right-brain," even though this may be more of a well-known way of speaking than a matter of science. But we all know what those terms mean: left-brain is sequential, rational and ordered, and right-brain is simultaneous, spontaneous, good at seeing wholes, etc. This notion of left brain and right brain corresponds almost exactly to the meanings of left and right on the philosophy wheel, as well as to J/P.
My disagreement is this: I don't see how the traits described by the MBTI test as judging and perceiving (J/P) can be confined to the "external world" or to "extraverted activities." The questions mainly have to do with whether you prefer to follow a planned schedule or not. This may indeed have a lot to do with how you plan your day's activities, or how you don't. But inner activities may also be "planned" or "unscheduled." I can think all by myself in a scheduled or disorganized way. I may have already decided what I think, or I may be open to new information. My feelings, sensations or intuitions may come to me unexpected, or I could follow a plan that may help me to receive or develop them. Most clearly, I can prefer to be either scheduled and structured, or unscheduled and unstructured, when I am alone, just as easily as when I am with others. Our answers to the J/P questions on MBTI are about our internal and solitary activities as much as our relationships to the world of other people; and people can interpret them both ways. Therefore, I disagree that J/P concerns only our extraverted behavior in the external world, as they claim.
This disagreement over J/P leads to even more differences with the wheel. I call them "folk ideas," peculiar to MBTI and unrelated to the universal symbol of the Wheel. Here we go! For starters, J/P was not even one of Jung's original polarities or scales, but was added by Myers-Briggs with the set purpose of determining which of your two functions is "dominant" and which one is only the "assistant" or "secondary" function. How in the world did they do this? The method indeed seems convoluted, and rather strange to me. It might work, and indeed it works well enough that most MBTI followers swear by it. The method does go back to Jung, who conceived both the feeling and thinking functions as "rational" and "judging," and the sensing and intuitive functions as "irrational" and "perceiving." This meant that we use the perceiving functions (sensing and intuition) to gather information, and the judging functions (thinking and feeling) to make decisions. Therefore, Myers-Briggs conceived the set of J/P questions to determine whether in your external world and extraverted activity, you prefer to be decisive and organized (J), or unscheduled and open to information (P).
Furthermore, if you are an Introvert, since your preferred style of J or P is to be applied only to extraverted activity, your dominant function may not be the one that scored highest on your test. If you are an Introvert, and you scored as a J (scheduled) type, then your dominant function will not be the J function in your type (T or F), but the P function in your type (S or N). So even though you are a J type, meaning that you much prefer to have things ordered, scheduled and decided, your dominant function will be a P function-- open, diffuse and random!
In MBTI circles it is explained this way: if you are an introvert, you are like the unseen general who keeps to himself when determining what to do, but sends out his trusted confidant and lieutenant to announce and carry out his orders. The secondary or assisting function is the one (s)he shows to the world, but since (s)he is an introvert, the dominant function is the one (s)he keeps hidden. The J/P scale determines which one (s)he shows to the world. If (s)he scores as a J-type, then the J-function (thinking or feeling) will be shown to the world, but that will not be his or her dominant function; instead that will be the P-function (sensing or intuition).
If you are an extravert, though, there is no problem. What you see is what you get. Your dominant function will be the one that corresponds to your J/P score. If you scored as a J type, your dominant function will be thinking or feeling (depending on which of those two scores is higher than the other). If you scored as a P type, your dominant function will be sensing or intuition.
MBTI goes on to develop a whole hierarchy of functions within each type, based on this method. If you are an introvert, your dominant function ("the general") is called an introverted function (whichever it is). If you are an extravert, your dominant function is called extraverted. Your secondary function ("the lieutenant") will be the reverse; extraverted if you are an introvert, and introverted if you are an extravert. The opposite function to your dominant one is "inferior," and throughout your life you may have a difficult time developing it. This hierarchy is fascinating; it may have some validity. As of now, I know of no way of correlating this hierarchy with the philosophy wheel. This is especially so since extraversion and introversion, on which the hierarchy depends, don't fit on the wheel very well. In any case I doubt that the 4 functions within us can be designated as extraverted or introverted in a cut and dried manner. I suspect that if I am introverted, I use all my functions in an introverted way, though sometimes extraverted in one or more of them. That is, if I am an introverted thinker, then I am also an introverted intuitive, senser and feeler; though sometimes extraverted in one or more of these; not an introverted thinker-- therefore an extraverted intuitive, an introverted senser, and an extraverted (but inferior) feeler. Like the enneagram's distinction of "directions of integration and disintegration," this is a "folk idea" in relation to the universal symbol of the wheel. It exists within the tradition of MBTI, but not in the larger universal pattern (at least not this one!).
But does that make it wrong? Perhaps not, but I have already shown that the J/P questions can describe introverted activities as well as extraverted ones. Myers-Briggs may have intended only for the J/P scale to determine whether your decision-making or perceptive functions were dominant. But in fact, the set of J/P questions describe a polarity that stands on its own, and is just as valid as a part of your MBTI type as any of the other polarities. As we have seen, it connects with right and left brain, and indeed with the whole debate in all spheres of knowledge between the orderly and the random. That is a huge issue! It evokes reason vs. experience, the battle between the Platonists and the existentialists (those who rely on experience vs. those who trust their reason), classic and romantic art, Apollo vs. Dionysus; whether God plays dice with the universe; even yin and yang, active and passive, male and female, solve et coagula; the whole shebang! It is far more than Myers-Briggs or Jung intended; it is a basic polarity of nature and the universe. So it can't be restricted to a convoluted and basically-unreasonable method of determining your dominant function! And if Judging and Perceiving are both just as introverted as they are extraverted, it can't be used to determine this anyway.
Another problem: what if your test scores are close between the function identified by this method as "dominant," and the opposite function identified as "inferior?" Then the next day or next month you may take the test again (or a different version of the test) and the scores might switch. Then suddenly your "dominant function" is the same one you identified yesterday as "inferior, and oh-so very difficult to develop!" For example, in my own case, I often score as INTP. Because I am a P, and an Introvert, my J function is dominant; in this case T=thinking. But my T/F scores are so close that on other occasions I take the test and come out as INFP. Suddenly Feeling, the opposite function, which was my inferior function yesterday, has become my dominant one today. This kind-of screws up the whole hierarchy for some of us.
In any case, I disagree with the assumption, inherent in their methods, that thinking and feeling are "decision-making" functions, and sensing and intuition are "information-gathering" functions. Let's start with feeling and thinking. I have a big problem with this, and always have! When I have a feeling about something, did I just make it up? Is it only what I feel, but has nothing to do with the object I perceived? I didn't get any "information" about it? So let me understand this, Mr. Jung, or Mrs. Myers: I could feel someone's pain or joy, but that has nothing to do with the other person? According to you, yes; I could feel the beauty of a sunrise, but "beauty is only in the eye of the beholder." Many might agree that beauty, or goodness, or joy and pain, are only in the eye of the beholder, or only my preferences; and many people say so. But the issue is very debatable; a questionable basis indeed for a hard-and-fast, intricate method of determining personality. In my opinion, feeling is a way of obtaining information, just as sensing or intuition is. I know myself and my most intimate needs and heart's desires by feeling, and what I feel inside is as real as what my senses tell me. And my feelings about another help me know that other being. If I can empathize with another, put myself in his or her shoes, I know a lot more about that person than if I don't. If I appreciate music or nature, I know more about the world than just the surface information that thinking or sensing gives me. I get psychic impressions or mystical inspirations by feeling them. You can't know these things any other way; you have to feel it.
I see more problems with the idea that feeling is judging. Feelings are "value judgements," according to Jung and MBTI. It is true that, among other things, our feelings indicate our preferences; when we feel good about something, we value it. But we may not call it a "value." We don't necessarily form a judgement, saying that it is "good or bad." Deciding whether something is good or bad, good or evil, beautiful or ugly, etc., is not just something you feel; your mind does this. A judgement makes a decision about it, or even pins a label on it. It is an intuition (meaning an abstract idea, like a Platonic archetype of good or bad), or it's a thought; and these intuitions and thoughts are not necessarily the same as the feelings they are based on. In any case, the actual test questions on the MBTI make it clear, if you examine them, that Feeling is not about making value judgements; it is about being warm-hearted, gentle and compassionate. Being personal and empathetic has nothing to do with making a decision or a value judgement. If we feel good, or if we feel hurt, we may not know why, or what to do about it. In feeling, we often just feel; we don't necessarily judge.
And the idea that Thinking is also something that we just add on to our experience, in order to "sort out" the data and make a decision, is also very debatable! Certainly it is debatable among philosophers. Many scientists would argue that thinking is, instead, a way of gaining information about the laws of nature and how the universe works. You discern order or a reliable pattern among events. What is perceived this way may be an inherent aspect of reality, not just a judgement about it. On the MBTI questionnaire itself, thinking is about being objective, impersonal, fair, or even tough-minded; not necessarily about making a decision. It can also be a general attitude we prefer, for its own sake. It helps us perceive things as they are, without getting wrapped up in our personal desires and emotions. On the other hand, our thoughts are usually anything but decisive and structured. We let our thoughts wander endlessly, and this makes our lives chaotic and disorganized. So where is the much-vaunted link between thinking and judging, then? Most of us really don't do very much of this wonderfully well-ordered and considered kind of thinking! We also "think" by stuffing ourselves or other people into rigid categories, labelling and "judging" them; but being judgemental in this way is not good decision-making, even according to MBTI.
On the other hand, sensing and intuition are used just as often as feeling and thinking to make decisions. We can decide simply on the basis of what we see, or from the data reported to us. We don't have to feel or think anything about it. If you are a P-type, you probably don't! Often we see the facts, and then we just decide on that basis. We get a report; then we act. For example, we read the weather report and decide whether to go outside that day or not. We get the statistics on whether a procedure is working or not, and then decide about it based on the facts. Or we sense something, and we decide. I am hungry, so I eat. I am tired, so I sleep. That's it. Or we have a hunch, and we decide. We are inspired; we dream or get a vision; and then we decide. We construct or conceive a theory, or we see an intuitive connection, and then based on this we decide.
The connection between J/P and the 4 functions is bogus. All four polarities are independent scales, and we get information from all 4 functions in order to make decisions. They can all be placed on the wheel as I suggested above. We have two predominant functions in our type, represented by its middle two letters; and which one of the four is dominant is most likely the one that scores highest on the test. We make decisions using our J function. That is how I see it now.
People are often confused about the functions and what they mean, however, because the test makes no distinction between healthy and unhealthy functions. Some interpreters have added explanations, saying that it is healthy to develop your inferior functions more fully as you get older, to bring more balance into your life. There is more to say, however, about just how our functions can be unhealthy. According to my philosophy, based on basic Buddhism in this respect, functions are unhealthy when they are addictive; that is, reactive, compulsive, and exercized without enough awareness. We become carried away with the functions, lost in attachment to them, etc. We become slaves to them; and we need to be free. Using the Jungian and MBTI terms, we can see the full range (or the whole circle, if you will) of how we can be addicted, and to what. So here is how I distinguish addictive functions from healthy ones, and how these distinctions clarify the actual meaning of the terms.
Addictive Thinking is perhaps the most common variety, especially for us more-educated and intellectual folks. We know what a runaway mind is, cluttering up our lives with endless chatter. Instead of thoughtfully looking for the logical connections and finding the causes of effects, and so on, we are caught up in rehearsing our next argument with someone. We think that unless we have got the words correct, we can't explain what they mean to others; therefore we will be in trouble. We want control and security, so by using words and symbols, we divide the world into separate things that we can easily manipulate (a thing is a think-- Alan Watts). Or we are so busy thinking about regrets about the past or plans for the future that we lose almost all awareness of ourselves and the world around us, robbing us of our other functions and abilities. We are so lost that, once this future we have thought about for so long actually comes, we aren't there to enjoy it, because we are still lost thinking about the next future. We are attached to thinking; we do it compulsively. We think we have no choice except to think.
But we don't have to think. The function does not have to be compulsive. It takes a lot of practice, for most of us, to learn to quiet our minds. But if we are present when we think, we might not get caught up in it. We won't think we have to have words for everything. The logical (or illogical) chain of thoughts can be broken. We can see that logic itself is limited, because stringing symbols together in long equations does not apply to the real world of experience, where no two things are equal. And yet we can still use thinking when it is useful to us. We still need to communicate our experience in language; we still need to understand cause and effect and put things in logical order, in order to clarify, plan and solve problems and engineer things to work, and even to discover natural laws of the universe and the psyche. We don't need to throw away thinking. We don't have to assume, like some spiritual gurus do, that it's better to shut off our thinking altogether; or that thinking is not a legitimate function, but is entirely neurotic and the source of all our illusions. We don't have to assume that there is no law and order in the world. When we take the time to recover our presence and awareness, we can go back to thinking, and not let it (or its exaggerated reputation in Western society and academia) lead us astray into assuming that we have to think all the time. We don't have to rely exclusively on thinking to tell us what is true and what isn't; hard as it might be to believe for some academic folks, we DO have 3 other functions! And as is often said, we don't have to believe everything we think. We can stop and consider more carefully and thoughtfully; less compulsively. Learning not to think compulsively is our first and greatest challenge as seekers on the path to enlightenment.
Addictive Feeling actually works hand-in-hand with its opposite. When we are lost in thinking, it's because we are afraid or anxious about what we're thinking about. And we are often afraid and anxious because our thoughts allow us to imagine something that hasn't happened yet, giving us something to be afraid of that doesn't actually exist. We might feel something that is actually based on false and negative thinking instead of on reality. When feelings are neurotic, addictive and compulsive, they take us over and run our lives. It also takes practice to quiet our feelings, and not to feel compulsively; not to react to situations by acting out our feelings.
Many MBTI commentators and experts point out that the Feeling function is not emotion. It is not acting out or affecting, they say. True feeling is inner knowing and empathy, as I described above. But we can't really totally separate emotion from feeling. What good is feeling, if it does not move us, motivate us, enliven us, get us involved? Most people think of emotions when they think of "feeling" anyway; the distinction means nothing to most folks. What the Jungians and MBTI folks are really pointing to, when they make this distinction, is the difference between addictive feelings and healthy ones. The "emotions" they refer to, and distinguish from feelings, are often what are called negative emotions; that is, the reactive, automatic, compulsive ones. They are all based on fear, the primal, automatic instinct of self-preservation. They differentiate into anxiety (fear of things that might happen), anger, dissappointment, sadness, despair, or even exaggerated joy based on false hopes, etc. But it is a false assumption that we have to feel all of our feelings. Our situation may be difficult or dangerous, and we don't need to deny these facts. But we can become aware that all of our reactive emotions are based on fear. We can turn off our fear, and we can also turn off all the other emotions which are based on it. Then we can act consciously and freely. We can be careful, without being afraid. Fear serves no purpose, other than to awaken us to danger. Animals needed fear, since they are less conscious than people. They needed that "panic button." But to the extent we have improved our awareness, to that extent we don't need our fears.
Some of what is called emotion might really be acting out our response to sensations. Many people confuse feeling with sensation. Things we "feel" that pertain to the condition of our bodies, are sensations. That means such sensations as when we are hot or cold, hungry or thirsty, tense or relaxed, in physical pain or having pleasure, etc. We might act out these sensations emotionally, but they are not the Feeling function per se.
Addictive Sensation is pretty easy to recognize. We get addicted to substances that stimulate our senses and give us pleasure. We then have to have more of them, we suppose, and then we get hooked. Again, it takes a lot of practice for many folks to overcome these addictions. We might have to go to rehab, or at least to a recovery group. We may be addicted to food, drink, sex, entertainment, sleep, being comfortable and lazy, or even to getting "high" on drugs. We also call this over-indulgence or excess. It is also called "temptation." But it is well-known, among therapists at least, that just as feelings are confused with sensations, so the reverse is often true. Many times, negative feelings motivate our addiction to substances. We seek an escape from or false solution to our feelings. We seek a substitute for what we feel we lack. So in recovery, people seek to regain full awareness of feelings as well as sensations, so they are not compulsive. Sensation does not have to be compulsive; we can enjoy its pleasures without getting hooked. The senses can be a source of deep knowledge and insight if we truly pay attention to them.
We are also addicted to sensation when we want the stability it supposedly provides, and cannot be open to new ideas and visions. We are addicted to what is comfortable and familiar. Addictive sensation cannot admit that there may be other ways of seeing things; it cannot ask how things might be changed or done differently in the future. It's just the way things are; meaning the way they've always been. Addicted sensation is blind to impermanence, and bereft of imagination; it also can't see that "facts" are not all there is to reality. Seeing is not believing; much does lie under the surface of things, invisible to our senses and all their instruments and experiments. It is easier and more comfortable to be addicted to the facts, than to be open to new information and new ideas; or willing to experience other realities like hidden connections and causes, universal ideas, feelings, or the soul and the spirit. Addicted sensation wants things to be reliable, tangible, isolated, graspable, verifiable, well-proven, and thus controllable. But in the "real world," they really aren't. Things change. Most of reality can't be verified; the more we prove, the more remains to be proved. You can't learn very much about the world, not to mention yourself, just by observing and collecting data about it, and using addictive thinking or intuition to label it just distorts it even more. These methods reveal little about the origin, purpose, nature or value of things. People are not things, for example; and you can't find a person by looking inside his or her brain. You are addicted to sensation if you can only look outside yourself at visible things, and cannot see you, the one who looks. You need to find out what's going on inside you, however disturbing, mysterious or hard to grasp it may be.
Addictive Intuition is harder to imagine. What could be addictive about imagining things, or having high ideals and visions? Well, first of all, we need to remember what the definition of iNtuition is in the Jungian and MBTI context. Much of what we call intuition today is really Feeling, and may be entirely healthy. But some aspects of iNtuition are quite unhealthy.
We all know people who are addicted to their ideals. They may be spinning sandcastles in the air. Their imagination may run wild, and they may live in their dreams. Maybe we all do, to some extent! When we are addicted to intuition, we confuse our ideals with reality. We may be blind to the actual facts, and thus unable to deal with them effectively. We may make wild associations or follow vague hunches or theories that are ungrounded in any research or logic, claiming them as eternal truths when they are only our fond hopes and opinions. This can lead to prejudice as well as impractical nonsense. We are restless, unable to be present here and now; addicted to our dreams of new possibilities and what lies over the next horizon. We may be lost in the abstract world and cut off from the concrete and tangible, and from our bodies too, which is detrimental to our health in a very physical sense. We also hang onto our ideals compulsively, making them into goals that must be realized; forced on ourselves or others.
We also turn ideals and theories into beliefs and dogmas that must be imposed on other people. That includes the possible abuse of the MBTI or the Philosophy Wheel, or any other theory or system. To be addicted to intuition, in this sense, is to be addicted to idols and false gods. We are hooked on intuition when we hold on to our ideals or even our inspired insights as fixed and rigid ideas that everybody must adher to. These may be political or social ideologies, like communism, free-market economics, or psychology theories that claim to explain all behavior. Often they are traditional religious beliefs supposed to be given by God in scripture. Sometimes they are used to dominate people, and have been for millennia. This is how intuition can be "conservative" after all. Religion becomes the opiate of the people. Sometimes they are called memes; mental viruses. Marshall Rosenberg has defined "violent communication" as based on false, over-generalized abstract concepts. We put people in categories and label them as this or that, as if they will never change; diagnosing what's wrong with them in order to punish them. He says this is the cause of wars. It is also a source of prejudice. We call this judgement or being "judgemental," although this is really addictive intuition, and not judging as MBTI defines it. We need to distinguish these "judgements" from real perceptions and feelings, Rosenberg says. When MBTI refers to feelings as creating value judgements, they may really be referring to intuition, in this sense.
We can see how intuition (usually called the knowledge of archetypes) is known as the first among the functions by esoteric tradition, and thus related to the fire element (see Case, The Tarot, p.4). It is the creative spark of the divine. It reveals the first principles from which all things are conceived; the ideal forms which things imitate, as Plato said. INtuition is the visionary, imaginative source of ideas from the infinite Mind of God within us that preceeds everything we create and everything we do. It reveals the general laws and eternal values that govern particular things. We can also see though, how when addictive it leads to violence, as Marshall Rosenberg described. When we hold our ideal or our vision as absolute truth, to which all must be subjected, or must live up to, and label people as this and that according to our general concepts, we also open another channel for our addictive feelings (the term I'm using here for "negative emotions"); and this leads to anger, violence and war. The other guys are labelled as bad or wrong, and this justifies our attacks on them.
In this and other ways we can be slaves to our ideals and abstract concepts; that is, to our intuition. Words like all, always, never, only, etc., can be indexes to addictive intuition, and to addictive abuse of Platonic-style thinking. Thus we see two reasons why intuition is colored red on the Tree of Life, as "severity," and corresponding to Mars, the red planet. Red is the first color; it initiates, like Mars. But also like Mars, red can also stand for blood and violence. See my table of esoteric correspondences here (but don't get addicted to it!).
The same addictions apply to philosophy. When the views of philosophers become unbalanced, rigid and self-righteous, they may be addicted to their place on the wheel, and the psychological function corresponding to it. Thus existentialists can be addicted to feeling, essentialists to intuition, rationalists to thinking, and empiricists to sensation. This is another way that MBTI informs the philosophy wheel. The philosophy questionnaire cannot tell you if your philosophy is wrong or addictive. Neither can MBTI tell you if your functions are addictive. You must become aware of this for yourself. We need to become aware of our addictions. Let's learn to realize that we don't have to let them rule us, and thereby free ourselves to use our functions in a healthy way.
E=1M, I=1.5S, N=3S/2R, F=3E/2S
J=4R, P=4E, S=3M/2E, T=3R/2M
I added additional points for the dominant functions, as determined by Myers-Briggs theory:
N +2S/1R, F +2E/1S, S +2M/1E, T +2R/1M
All scores were multiplied by about 4 to conform with points on the philosophy wheel. But I no longer use exact numbers; the positions are approximate.
If you know your score on the philosophy questionnaire, then find it on the wheel and see what types are nearest to it. Your philosophy is in accord with those MBTI temperaments; at least so goes our theory!
In addition, I have made correlations from most of the MBTI types to the Enneagram, but not all; and these may correspond to your astrology type too:
INTJ = 1 or 5 = Mercury (Virgo, Gemini) or Uranus (Aquarius)
ISTJ = 1 or 6 = Mercury or Saturn
both SFJ types = 2 = Moon (Cancer)
ENTJ = 3 or 8 = Sun or Mars (Leo, or Aries/Scorpio)
INFP = 4 = Neptune (Pisces)
INTP = 5 = Uranus (Aquarius)
ESTJ = 6 or 8 = Saturn (Capricorn, Aquarius), or Mars (Aries/Scorpio)
ESFP and maybe ENFP = 7 = Jupiter (Sagittarius, Pisces)
ESTP = 7 or 8 = Jupiter or Mars
ISFP = 9 = Venus (Libra,Taurus)
In this article at her website, Dr. Mary Bast posted research by John Richards that mostly validates the comparisons I had already made (shown above) between MBTI and the Enneagram (since seeing this research, I added the correlations of INTJ to 5 and ESTJ to 8, which already made sense within the philosophy wheel system).
Here is another table with the MBTI types placed on the philosophy wheel. On this one you can compare them with where philosophers and various approaches to thought are placed on the wheel. On this chart I used an older point system with precise placements.
Philosophy on a Circle
Bach, Chakras, Tarot
Neoplatonism and Alchemy
Tarot and its relationship to Jungian/MBTI types
The Enneagram is Astrology (my analysis of the Enneagram types)
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, by wikipedia
MBTI basics from the Myers-Briggs Foundation
The 16 MBTI types
Detailed description of the 16 types
Typelogic description of MBTI types
Putting the types on the wheel, by Jack Falt (directions are different)
Table of descriptive names for the types
Mary Bast on the Enneagram and MBTI
Personality Cafe, the Place to Discover Yourself, a forum on MBTI and other personality theories
Rosenberg video on NVC
Personality test for MBTI type
Human Metrics Jungian type indicator
World Personality MBTI test
Brief Jung personality test and other tests from personality 100/similar minds
Myers-Briggs test online (paid)
Myers-Briggs test online (paid)
Right-Left Brain test (questions resemble J/P)