Thursday, August 13, 2009

Psychological types and multiple intelligences

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the intellectual level of Pagans and the intellectual level of the general public. We seem less appreciative in Britain of our public intellectuals than, say, France or Italy, or even America. Indeed, if you asked most people to name a public intellectual, they might name Dawkins - that in itself is a sad indictment of what passes for an intellectual in these islands.

Now, don't get me wrong: I am all for raising the intellectual standard of Paganism and of our cultural life in general. That's why I am involved in the MetaPagan blog aggregator, to showcase the best of Pagan blogging. It's one of the reasons why I founded Pagans for Archaeology, to show the world at large that there are hundreds of Pagans who support archaeology and museums. It's the reason why I started the Pagan theologies wiki, to get Pagans thinking about theology and discussing our values and ethics and beliefs (not to end up with a standardised orthodox view, but to discuss the issues properly). And it's why I support the idea of Pax's Pagan Collegium site, and why I urge people to read the books of Ronald Hutton.

But the need for thinking is not the only requirement for a religion (or a way of life, if you prefer) that actually works. Jung identified four psychological types, and we need to develop ourselves in all four areas, not just one. Jung's types (also used in the Myers-Briggs test) are:
  • Sensation (Earth)
  • Intuition (Fire)
  • Thinking (Air)
  • Emotion (Water)
Most people have one of these modes as a dominant function, and the rest as secondary, with a deficiency in one area. But, I would argue, just because someone has a deficiency in one of these areas, doesn't mean they can't work to correct it. That is what education is for, or should be. I have met some intellectuals with the emotional intelligence of a flea; and people who are primarily emotional types who could do with developing their thinking ability; and so on.

Similarly, Howard Gardner identified multiple modes of intelligence, which are also relevant here.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic
  • Interpersonal
  • Verbal-linguistic
  • Logical-mathematical
  • Naturalistic
  • Intrapersonal
  • Visual-spatial
  • Musical
They are probably not reducible to Jung's four types; though there are some interesting similarities. The one of particular interest to Pagans might be Naturalistic intelligence, broadly defined as the ability to survive in the wild.


Bo said...

Good stuff!! You might be unsurprised to know I have no water (= Jung's feeling function) in my chart..., but a lot of the other three!

Yewtree said...

Glad you like it. :)

I have no air in my chart, but I seem to manage by combining the other three. So my intelligence (primarily linguistically-oriented) is partly enthusiasm for knowledge, partly linguistic facility, partly having a good memory, and partly empathy (perhaps).

I think perhaps you make up for the lack of water by expressing the passion that is an aspect of fire?

I'd be interested to know your Myers-Briggs type (I would guess borderline I/E + NTJ). I'm an ENFP (but also borderline I/E).

NeoWayland said...

Gardner's theory leaves out some. Shortly after I read Frames of Mind when it first came out, I started adding what I called gnostic intelligence, that is, experience of the Divine. I should have written something at the time, I didn't, now others routinely talk about "spiritual intelligence" without tying it into Gardner's work

Anyway, my thinking was that just as there are people who are extraordinarily gifted in athletics or sciences, there are going to be those who are amazingly gifted in gnostic expression. The extraordinarily gifted are going to be few and far between, and there is no guarantee that they will "click" enough with the world to make a difference, but the theory explained much. If they are gifted enough, such a person won't need to go through religion to find Divine experience, anymore than a gifted musician would need someone to guide them through scales.

Most of us don't have that advantage however.

Yewtree said...

I am convinced that there are those who completely lack what you describe as "gnostic intelligence". Some, perhaps all, New Atheists, fall into that category, I would think.

Sannion said...

Good stuff. It's a shame that more people don't realize that there are these fundamentally different types of intelligence, being, and ways to relate to the world and others and instead to cram everyone into narrow boxes. I've always tried to work with people's strengths and cultivate a network of associates who have different skill-sets, which allows for far greater productivity since people aren't, then, tripping up over the same things.

The great sage Homer himself said as much:

“For no island is made for driving horses or has broad meadows, nor will one plot of land bear all fruit.”

“You will certainly not be able to take the lead in all things yourself, for to one man a God has given deeds of war, and to another the dance, to another the lyre and song, and in another loud-thundering Zeus puts a good mind.”

“Be mindful of every form of valor.”

Yewtree said...

He was indeed wise.

Diversity is essential for survival.

A tribe of humans trying to survive in the wild would need hunters, gatherers, tool-makers, tent-makers, clothes-makers, trackers, weather-diviners, healers, etc.

NeoWayland said...


I'd noticed the bit about people lacking gnostic intelligence as well.

How do you describe red to someone who is blind?

Living next to the Diné, I noticed something similar when it came to things like linear time and legal process. Not to mention distance. These are concepts that literally have no meaning to some older "Navajo."

Makarios said...

A Jungian analyst whom I know has told me that the Singer-Loomis Type Development Inventory is a better instrument than the Myers-Briggs.

A brief comparison of the two can be found at

Yewtree said...

Interesting, thanks - I'll look that up.

Strange Attractor said...

Here's to pagan intellectuals!

Since I am in my head so much (totally an air person), paganism is my way of exploring those other aspects. What paganism allows me to see that while reason is important, it is not the only standard by which humans can or should measure our experience.

My pagan practice is a very Jungian one. I'm afraid I might be one of those people who lack the "gnostic intelligence" described above. Interesting concept.