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Assagioli presents how each of the four types lives in separate worlds and that an understanding of this diversity of experience can foster a deeper understanding.
By Roberto Assagioli. It was translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Original Italian title: I Quattro Tipi Fondamentali E I Loro Sottotipi. [Editors note (KS). This is unfinished notes from an early manuscript; Assagioli later developed his sevenfold typology called The Seven Types and presented them in his book Psychosynthesis Typology]
After the general introduction on the nature, value, purposes and development of individual psychology, made in past lessons, today we can begin the study of the various psychological types.
We will first examine the four fundamental types formed by the various prevalence of the four fundamental psychic functions: that is, perceiving, feeling, thinking and intuiting, and therefore of the corresponding spheres of life.
1. – The Perceptual or Practical sensory type
In this type, the predominant psychic function is that of perceiving by means of the sense organs. Experience, interest, and activity take place towards the outside world and towards the body. Practical problems, the domination of matter and external action, form the normal sphere of this type.
It generally includes workers (farmers, workers, etc.), housewives, businessmen, engineers, doctors, and particularly sculptors and architects. For them, the external world is the only real, solid and understandable one, while in the sphere of emotions, feelings and ideas in general, or subtle spiritual intuitions, they find themselves uncomfortable, as in a fantastic and unreal world, evanescent and elusive.
2. – The Emotional type
Those in whom this centre is predominant belong to the emotional type. Their consciousness lives in the world of emotions and feelings; for them, the most vivid and important reality is represented by their own and others’ moods, by emotional relationships. In them, attraction and repulsion predominate, sympathy and antipathy, joy and pain. It is a type in which the subjective aspect clearly prevails. It is found very often in women, whose constitution and function naturally inclines them towards it. Amongst men, it is usually artists who generally belong to it, and in whom emotional and affective exuberance and the richness and finesse of sentiment stimulate expressive imaginative activity.
3. – The Mental type
Here the world of ideas, of particular and universal concepts correspond; abstract and ideal relationships; perception of cause and effect links, etc.; formation of spatial and temporal associations, general laws, etc. In them, the abstract and impersonal aspect prevails.
Those who belong to this type consider life by framing it in rational Kantian categories. More than things and people, they are interested in the general laws that govern them and of which they are an example. They are scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. It is a predominantly male type.
4. – The Intuitive or Unitive type
They perceive by direct intuition, by intimate identification, by love with beings and with things. This type differs from the emotional type – with which it has some similarities – because it is not subjective and personal, but rather universal. In it subject and object merge into a higher unity. In them the centre indefinitely widens its circumference by including everything and everyone in itself and pouring itself out into everyone and everything.
To this intuitive unitive, or mystical unitive, type belong the true superior artists, the true mystics.
* * *
We must realize how different these types are from each other; how they represent radically opposite ways of relating to the cosmos; how the various types mentioned actually live in different worlds, and how they have vitually no psychic contact with each other.
To do this, let’s try to imagine four people, each of whom belong respectively to one of the four types mentioned, who are observing the same landscape from a height.
The man belonging to the practical type will turn his interest to the agricultural and commercial aspect of what he sees; he will try to calculate the area of the fields lying under his eyes, the profit they can give, and how much those lands can be worth.
The second person, a musician, in contemplating the play of lines and masses, the contrast of lights and shadows, the various shades of colors, will perceive the underlying rhythms, harmonies and dissonances; will perceive the soul of that landscape, and will be pervaded by a particular emotional tone. Thus, while the result of the observation of the former may be a purchase contract, the contemplation of the latter may give rise to a symphony.
The third observer will instead turn his attention to the natural factors that are present in that place: the climate, the geological constitution of the soil, the fauna and flora and the various scientific matters that derive from it. A geological and zoological monograph may therefore come from it.
The fourth, however, will be induced by the beauty of the landscape to turn his soul to God, to contemplate the glories of his visible creation. He will feel the unity of life, communion with God, and the effect will be ecstasy.
* * *
If each of these four people then wrote what they perceived and intuited, in their writings there would perhaps be few identical phrases, and those who read what they had written would find it hard to believe that they had been inspired by observing the same place.
This realization of the fact that men live next to each other, but actually live in different and almost separate worlds, has very great importance from a spiritual and moral point of view, and from an educational one.
This fact also reveals to us the real cause of many profound misunderstandings, of many unfair criticisms, of many antagonisms that complicate our life and that create an incalculable amount of unnecessary suffering.
The artist is often considered, both by practical men and by scientists, as a dreamer, as an eccentric and ridiculous type. When Ariosto presented his Orlando Furioso to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, he received the response: “Messer Ludovico, how could you put together such balderdash?…”.
And not a few consider the poet as Carducci put it so well:
“… a ne’er-do-well
who goes around
lording it in the cantons
and always with his nose in the air
off with the angels and swifts! “
For his part, the artist often shows an exaggerated contempt for the modest but often necessary bourgeois virtues, and does not consider the dignity and value of the assiduous search for truth accomplished by the scientist or the thinker.
* * *
To eliminate these barriers of misunderstanding that sadly separate men from each other, a serious study of individual psychology must be done as early as possible – when the person’s character is not yet fully formed and crystallized into rigid patterns.
This study helps us understand and appreciate the different types from those to which we belong, it reveals the necessary social and spiritual function, and shows us the gifts that they can bring us and continually bring us without us realizing it.
Thus the foundations of a deeper mutual evaluation, and of a true internal brotherliness among men are created.
This task of individual psychology is facilitated by the fact that fortunately not all humans belong exclusively to one distinctly differentiated and contrasting type – but many also possess characteristics belonging to other types.
Depending on the different intertwining of these various characters we can distinguish several mixed types:
I. Poorly characterized mixed types – amorphous and primitive, or highly developed and versatile.
1) Momentary state or for a given period: mental type during a love affair.
2) Physical age – broad and general correspondence.
Childhood – physical
Youth – emotional
Maturity – mental
old age – spiritual
3) Compensations and hyper-compensations
There is in our psyche, and in our body, an admirable compensatory self-regulating power, an innate and beneficial tendency towards balance, harmony and unity. This power always tends to correct deviations and excesses by provoking – by a kind of self-induction, similar to the electric one – the opposite and complementary elements to the prevailing and excessive ones. Sometimes it happens that we go to the opposite extreme, and then the compensation becomes hyper-compensation.
Example: 1. We are drawn to attend, with special interest, to enhancing what we lack. A typical case is that of Nietzsche: a weak person, a psychic who formulated the theory of the will to power.
Tolstoy, violent, impulsive, a lover of comforts, who formulated the theory of non-resistance and the simple life.
Weak persons who adopt the cult of Napoleon.
Example: 2. The inwardly shy, who through hyper-compensation behave arrogantly and violently externally.
Example: 3. A different case: people who outwardly seem shy, and who in fact are violent, and are afraid of their violence.
Example: 4. Internally emotional people who seem cold (through discipline).
II. Well characterized mixed types:
1) Practical-mental and mental-practical type. This is the generic type of man.
2) Emotional-intuitive and intuitive-emotional type. Religious people with a lot of devotional self-sacrifice, mystics, sentimentals, artists.
3) Practical-emotional and emotional-practical type. Businessmen with strong passions, ambitious politicians, some passionate criminals (the combination is accidental!).
4) Emotional-intellectual and intellectual-emotional type. The first subtype is one of the most dangerous: in fact, when emotion enslaves intelligence, it generates cunning and crimes of fraud.
5) Mental-intuitive and intuitive-mental type. Certain speculative philosophers and mystics: Plotinus and Meister Eckhart.
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