In Part I of “Who Are We and Why Are We Here? Meet Your Personality” we examined a “secular” version of personality profiling – the Myers Briggs program. We concluded that it was flawed mainly because it omitted spiritual growth. We will now look at a sampling of “spiritually oriented” personality profiling programs. We will be saving the best program for last, by presenting it in depth in a future post. It is the one most suited to esoteric spirituality and meditation –the Enneagram.
Gary Smalley and the Four Temperaments
No, the above subtitle is not the name of a rock band. The Four Temperaments are an ancient personality profiling system developed by the Greeks in the time of Plato (340 BC). Recognize the familiar four elements in the illustration “Earth, Water, Fire, and Air” associated with each temperament. A detailed description of each temperament is provided at http://www.synergise.com/p4/tutorial/lesson4.htm,
This is a modernized British version and is attractive to novelists because it provides dynamics for interaction between the four temperaments. For instance, the tension between Air (Perfection, analytic) and Water (Popularity, fun-loving) is played out very humorously in the 1987 movie Dragnet between Dan Akroyd as Sergeant Friday (just the facts, mam) and his playful sidekick played by Tom Hanks.
The Christian fundamentalist community started to develop its own brand of a personality profiles based on the four temperaments in 1966 with Tim Lahaye’s “Spirit Controlled Temperament”. I think this was the fundamentalists’ paradoxical attempt to keep up with the world in order to “be not of it.” Lahaye’s book went viral in the Christian bookstores, but he made the mistake of assigning the names of the four temperaments to the original Greek medical terms used by Hippocrates. These are based on imbalances in the four bodily fluids “blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm” and believed to cause diseases. LeHaye’s Temperaments were named “Sanguine, Choleric. Melancholic, and Phlegmatic”. The concept that a melancholic personality was related to black vile and prone to depression was absolutely disgusting and depressing. The popularity of this model was understandably short-lived.
Then came the Christian family motivational speaker Dr. Gary Smalley to the rescue, renaming the Four Temperaments after loveable animals. Here is one description of how the Four Temperaments interact, from http://www.emfi.org/library/NOS/sec45.htm:
“Four animals set out to build a dam—an otter (phlegmatic), a golden retriever (sanguine), a beaver (melancholic), and a lion (choleric). The otter swam around in the pond and had such a wonderful time playing, that he forgot why they were there. The beaver got angry at the otter for being so lazy and playing all the time, while he was so busy cutting down the trees to build the dam. The lion took charge, saying he knew just how to solve their problems, while the golden retriever busied himself trying to keep the peace. These are the four temperaments—the four major differences in people.”
I know I would so much rather be accused of being a busy beaver than a hopeless melancholic any day of the year. Later versions of the Christian model borrowed the Introvert/Extrovert distinction from the successful secular models. Nevertheless, all the Four Temperament models suffered from inadequacies, including lack of understanding of nascent motivational drives, absence of verification by psychometrics (for all its worth), and most of all, encouragement for the personality to integrate with the mystery of the universe as it transcends the ego.
Still, if thou must, thou mayest partake of the free test to see where thou standeth with the Four Temperaments at http://smalley.cc/images/Personality-Test1.pdf, unless thou be burnest out with partaking.
WesternAstrology and the Chinese Zodiac
I confess I am a dilettante when it comes to astrology, so I will keep this section brief because I am embarrassed to expose my ignorance. I believe in astrological influence on personality and personal destiny, even global destiny. I do not understand it. I just know it is there. I watch Morgan Freeman’s “Beyond the Wormhole” without missing an episode. So I have some understanding that the so-called void of outer space is filled with mysterious stuff. I fast forward through the TV ads because I have a burning desire to know the deepest mysteries. I suspect that the problem with astrology is not that it is not deep or real, but that the popularized version of it does not do it justice.
In recent years I have gotten over my fundamentalist self and benefited from reading my daily horoscope and fortune cookies. I conceded that there was either something mysteriously real about these, or my subconscious was sucking meaning out it to get my attention.
But I must relate the following account of when I met my wife and we fell in love. Cupid had already struck when we realized while we were dating that we were both Scorpios with birthdays only five day apart, and that “theoretically” this was the most incompatible match in the Western Zodiac, In denial of the theoretical, I reverted to my fundamentalist self and blurted “Jesus is my sign, not Scorpio.” We were at a restaurant at the time, holding hands, and wouldn’t you know it, right after my denial I noticed the place mats contained the 12 animal characters of the Chinese Zodiac. They were all laid out according to the 12-year cycle. I suddenly realized we were born almost exactly six years apart on opposite ends of the cycle. I was a rat and she was a horse, once again “theoretically” the most incompatible match in the Chinese Zodiac. Instinctively, I turned over my mat and started doodling on it while humming underneath my breath the melody to the hymn “How Great Thou Art”.
Well, we ignored the theoretical and got married. We did not kill each other as theoretically expected during the first years, even though we sometimes wondered why not. Fortunately, as much as I hate to admit it, our fundamentalist dogma and formalized prayers kept us together. I think this worked because we believed it would. Besides, we remembered we were married at night, outdoors, during late September. We had no idea there would be a meteor shower that night. We could remember it and believe that the real Zodiac, not the tabloid version, was on our side.
Meditation and the Enneagram
Still it was like swimming against the stream until I turned esoteric and started meditating. I learned how to stay calm and not resist the friction, observing our interactions from a detached perspective, acting out of an intuitive desire for peace rather than a mental urgency to fix things. As I did this, I discovered the friction had no place to grab hold and would dissipate. To wit:
Whatever I did not resist, would not persist.
This is just like in meditation when you let your busy thoughts land on you and fly off on their own like butterflies. I learned this from a passing phrase here and there in Josh’s email as he inadvertently became my esoteric guide at the time. Many of us have acted in that capacity at times to one another. Funny, all I did was ask him how he meditated, and all this happened. Seek and ye shall find. Ask and it shall be given..
After I turned esoteric, I went to an Enneagram group at a new age church and discovered my own root personality and behavioral patterns, as well as my wife’s. I discovered she was a type 4 and I was a type 5. We will learn more about each type in a future post.
Naturally the first thing anyone is going to do when they begin to study the Enneagram, is jump into the books and not come out until they determine their own personality and that of the people closest to them. Doing that gave me a whole new game plan to guard and nurture my wife, without compromising my own needs, based on a deeper understanding of our differences. I began to feel her struggle in life as if I were her, and if I were about to make a wrong turn that might affect her, I was able to anticipated her pain and avoid the mistake. This was a cut above the usual narcissistic empathy I have experience on a lower plane, and new for me. I am delighted to announce that we have been swimming “with” the stream ever since.
It is also important for me to explain that I am now a year ahead of her in the esoteric path. She is well aware of the benefits of my path. This is what I refer to as “Spouses with Benefits”. But I have also learned by trial and error not to nudge her into my spiritual escapades. I simply let her own curiosity take its course. For instance, I was not successful in trying to teach her to meditate. When I finally stopped trying, she immediately learned it somewhere else. Whenever I have tried to lead her, it would flip her boat right over. This is an inherent problem between 5s and 4s. So I have learned the hard way that my role is to encourage her own spirituality, which can be challenging at times, because it means supporting her fundamentalist leanings with a sincere heart and not faking it. It keeps me humble and it is actually fun to be a spiritual chameleon. Now I truly understand Apostle Paul from the heart when he writes “I have become all things to all people”. There is another side to this. Her love of tradition keeps me from racing over the edge.
In a future post, I will elaborate on the Enneagram as I continue to study and live it.