In 1920, Carl Jung, the father of Analytic Psychology, was invited to Britain to give seminars. In his leisure time he visited Tintagel Castle, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur, and mystical Glastonbury, where St. Joseph of Arimathea is reputed to have brought the Holy Grail for safekeeping. Jung’s intuitive mind had been open to the paranormal from a very early age. In Britain, he was in a land steeped in history—and in ghosts.
Jung disliked hotels, so he asked a friend to help him rent a cheap country cottage where he could stay on weekends. However, when he was at the cottage, he got little rest. On the first weekend, he woke to find a sickly smell pervading the bedroom. The next weekend, the smell was accompanied by a rustling noise of something brushing along the walls. It seemed to Jung that a large animal must be in the room. On the third weekend, there were knocking sounds. By now, most people would have given up and decided to spend their weekends elsewhere, but not Jung. On the fifth weekend, he woke up to find a hideous apparition beside him on the pillow. It was an old woman, part of whose face was missing.
Jung questioned the cleaners, who confirmed that the cottage was indeed haunted. This explained the suspiciously low rent and the cleaners’ reluctance to be there after dark. Not all of Jung’s colleagues were inclined to believe in ghosts. The colleague who had rented the cottage on Jung’s behalf was unimpressed with what Jung told him, so Jung challenged him to spend the night there. He tried, but was so terrified he did not even remain in the bedroom. He took his bed into the garden and slept outside with his shotgun beside him. Shortly afterward, the cottage’s owner had it demolished—it was impossible for anyone to live there.
One of Jung’s aims during his British seminars in 1920 was to refine his ideas about personality. In 1921, he published what is now the sixth volume of his Collected Works, entitled Psychological Types. In addition to two attitudes to the world, extroversion and introversion, Jung identified four personality types or functions: “sensation,” “intuition,” “thinking,” and “feeling.” Of these psychological types or functions, Jung wrote (Psychological Types 518):
For complete orientation all four functions should contribute equally: thinking should facilitate cognition and judgment, feeling should tell us how and to what extent a thing is important for us, sensation should convey concrete reality to us through seeing, hearing, tasting, etc., and intuition should enable us to divine the hidden possibilities in the background, since these too belong to the complete picture of a given situation.
The idea that there are four basic personality types is found in many cultures and is at the heart of astrology. The ancient Greeks believed that the whole of creation was made up of four elements—Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Personality was seen as influenced by these four elements—people were a mixture of the elements, but in each of us one element predominates, affecting our personality and body type. The personality types relate to the four elements: sensation to Earth, thinking to Air, intuition to Fire, and feeling to Water. The idea that intuition is fiery may seem strange, but if you consider Jung’s idea of intuition as akin to creative inspiration, then it begins to make sense.
The personality types also relate to the astrological signs through the four elements. In astrology, the Air signs are Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra; the Fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius; the Water signs are Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio; and the Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. If a patient was particularly difficult to understand, Jung would send him or her to an expert astrologer to have a natal chart prepared, which Jung would then interpret psychologically. There is no simple relationship between sun sign and dominant personality type, but a skilled astrologer can predict the dominant personality type from the overall dynamics of the chart.
In order to function in the world, we need to receive information and then make judgments about how to act on it. Sensation and intuition are different ways of perceiving and receiving information. Thinking and feeling are judging functions. They are two different measuring instruments that help us to process the information we receive.
We cannot use two perceptual functions or two judging functions at the same time. The different modes of perceiving—sensation and intuition—are like looking at the world through different pairs of glasses with different lenses. We can only use one pair at a time. We call on the other when we need to, but it is less familiar to us and therefore we use it less skillfully. Similarly, we cannot use two judgment functions as measuring instruments at the same time. We use either thinking or feeling first to evaluate the data we receive, and then call on the other for extra information.
Jung’s ideas on personality types are clearly illustrated by four characters in the original Star Trek series: Mr. Spock, the thinker; Dr. McCoy or Bones, the feeler; Scotty, the sensate engineer; and Captain Kirk, the intuitive leader. Captain Kirk’s impulsiveness was always getting them into trouble, but his leaps of lateral imagination got them out again. When the team worked well together, they solved most of their problems.
Thinking and Feeling
Thinking tells us whether something is logical and rational, correct or incorrect. Thinking types enjoy analyzing information and making logical decisions. They tend to be good at science, mathematics, or business. Introverted thinking people like computers and classification systems. They can be good at playing the stock market and gambling. Extroverted thinkers love to organize others. They are born administrators.
Feeling tells us whether something is pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, helpful or harmful. We need our feeling function when dealing with people and making relationships. Feeling people make good social workers who will move heaven and earth to help a deserving client. Feeling people build relationships of trust and are excellent parents, teachers, and ministers.
Sensation and Intuition
Sensation operates through the physical senses, and we use it to discover facts. Sensation types are usually practical people who spot physical clues that others miss. As doctors, they make good diagnosticians. As mechanics, they will often recognize the annoying engine noise that electronic faultfinding devices failed to identify. As fashion experts, they match color with an unerring eye. Sensation is reality-oriented, focused in the here and now. Sensate people remember names and dates and make great collectors, whether of stamps or antiques.
Intuition shows us meanings and implications. It tells us how situations are likely to develop in the future. Intuitives have hunches and “know” things, but do not know how they know. Intuition is the function of the imagination. People with extroverted intuition have an idea where society is going and will be at the leading edge of new technologies, businesses, fashions, and creeds. They love new ideas and new projects. Introverted intuition is the function of the creative writer and of the daydreamer. Intuitives can be content to dream their lives away without ever bringing their brilliant imaginings to fruition—they start more than they finish.
Dominant and Secondary Functions
Our dominant and secondary functions are the perceptual and judgmental functions that we use most in everyday life. These functions impact on our outer personality, affecting how people see us and react to us.
Relating to a person whose first and second functions are opposite to ours can create problems. Sensate thinkers are interested in practical matters, business, and politics. They will be easily bored by discussions about people’s feelings. Intuitive feelers are romantic. They like being told that their partner loves them. “Of course I love you,” the sensate thinker replies, “I bought you that new CD player, didn’t I?” Intuitive thinkers talk about abstract ideas and find sensate feelers materialistic. A sensate feeling parent may feel hurt by an intuitive thinking child’s apparent coldness. When she or he is in the middle of doing something complex on the computer, an intuitive thinker may find it irritating to feel obliged to respond to a sensate feeling person’s need for hugs. This does not make these relationships impossible, but it does make them more challenging.
Vivianne Crowley is a Jungian psychologist and the author of Jung, a Journey of Transformation: Exploring His Life and Experiencing His Ideas (Quest Books, 1999), from which this article has been edited.