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Myers Briggs and the 4 spiritual paths

Discussion in 'Resources' started by lilithu, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    I mentioned in another thread that I had taken a workshop last weekend on Myers Briggs Personality Types and how they relate to spirituality. Specifically, the premise was that depending on your type, you might approach spirituality differently and even have different needs.

    standing_alone asked me to start separate thread on this, so here it is. :)

    For anyone unfamiliar with Myers Briggs, see this thread:

    Also, for a little bit of background, the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory was created by two women, a mother-daughter team, Myers and Briggs. They were followers of Jungian psychology and sought to put theory into use by coming up with this inventory (it's been drilled into me not to call it a "test" because there is no right or wrong).

    Myers Briggs assesses your personality along four different dimensions:

    1. Introvert v. Extrovert - and this has nothing to do with whether or not you're shy. It has to do with where your attention lies - internal or external.

    2. iNtuitive v. Sensory - this is how you process information - do you think in concrete terms or do you think abstractly? Another way to put it is that S's tend to deal with "what is" while N's tend to think of "what could be."

    3. Thinking v. Feeling - this is how you make decisions - for T's it's rational, analytical, objective and for F's it's relational, personal, subjective. Let me stress that both T's and F's are interested in fairness, they just approach it differently. T's think we attain fairness by treating everyone equally, whereas F's think we attain fairness by relating to each person as a person.

    4. Judging v. Perceiving - judging has nothing to do with moral judgments, it's more about wanting things to be well defined. Whereas P's want to hold off on committing to something for as long as possible. It's how you orient to the outer world.

    So... given four dimensions with two possibilities each, there are 16 possible Myers Briggs types. And these different dimensions interact with each other, so that two Feelers may express themselves very differently because one is intuitive and one is sensory.

    Out of the four dimensions, it has been long noted that the two middle dimensions, N-S and T-F are what drive one's personality the most. So that collapses the 16 possible combinations into four: NT, NF, ST, and SF. It's these four types that we're going to be talking about in terms of spirituality.

    ST (sensing-thinking) characteristics:
    in touch with the facts
    linear reasoning
    practical and concrete
    careful and accurate
    service to organizations

    SF (sensing-feeling) characteristics:
    sensitive, loyal, caring
    devoted service to others
    interpersonal considerations
    attention to details
    focus on task at hand

    NT (intuiting-thinking) characteristics:
    vision/the big picture
    analysis/problem solving
    engaging the mind
    intellectual clarity
    organizing principles

    NF (intuiting-feeling) characteristics:

    focus on possibilities
    ways to make life better
    ongoing personal becoming
    inspire others to grow
    meaning and values

    So what can we say about these four types with respect to spirituality?

    Let's start with the S's. S's prefer the concrete and tangible. They tend to stick to the present moment.
    T's like rules or guiding principles whereas F's like interpersonal relationships, so... spiritually speaking...

    An ST would be more interested in doctrine, identity, righteousness. Someone who spends his time defining who is or is not included, and what is or is not considered orthodox, right or wrong.

    An SF would be more interested in personal experience of the divine (or whatever has meaning to you), spiritual practice, devotion. (I'm thinking Gracie. :) Tho she reports as an NF, which also makes sense.)

    On to the N's. N's prefer the conceptual and big picture/patterns. They tend to dream up what could be.
    T's like rules or guiding principles whereas F's like interpersonal relationships, so... spiritually speaking...

    An NT would be more interested in understanding underlying principles, truth, justice. Someone who tries to pull together seemingly disparate concepts and reconcile them.

    An NF would be more interested in harmony, process, healing, gratitude, a quest for self-realization.

    As our workshop facilitator was describing these four types, I remarked to him that they reminded me of the three or four (depending on who you ask) spiritual paths in Hinduism: karma marga, bhakti marga, jnana marga, and sometimes a fourth one that I never quite understood, raja marga.

    In Hinduism, there is the recognition that people are different, and that what works as a spiritual path for one person might not work for the next. So there are the 3-4 recognized valid paths: jnana marga (the path of wisdom), bhakti marga (the path of devotion), and karma marga (the path of action). (I have spoken about them before in an article about the Powerpuff Girls. I compared Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup to Head, Heart, and Hands, or Jnana, Bhakti, and Karma respectively.)

    It seemed to me from the descriptions of the types that NT's would be drawn to the path of wisdom, SF's would be drawn to the path of devotion, and STs would be drawn to the path of action. The only one that I couldn't easily place was NF. But since the only marga left is raja marga, we decide that would be it. :D Raja marga would be translated as the journey of harmony. And I don't really understand it except as a combination of the other three. An attempt to harmonize all three? Not that the others don't try to do that. I certainly do. It's just that we have our tendencies.

    Anyway, standing_alone. I'm not sure how much this would help someone who is atheist. Not because it doesn't apply. I believe it still does. But it would need to be "translated" into non-religious language, if that makes sense. I am open to discussing it. :)
  2. Feathers in Hair

    Feathers in Hair World's Tallest Hobbit

    This was a wonderful way of approaching the subject- I found it very helpful! Thank you for posting it!
  3. Quagmire

    Quagmire Imaginary talking monkey Staff Member Premium Member

    Interesting Lilithu.

    Was wonderring what catagory(s) you would expect some of the traditional/historical religious figures--the Buddha, Jesus, Mohamad---to fall into?
  4. Aqualung

    Aqualung Tasty

    Your description puts me as an NT or a ST. Which is good, since I'm an NT.
  5. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate


    Well, the Buddha looked for underlying principles and was rather objective, so I would say he was an NT (wisdom).

    Jesus, imo, was all about the interpersonal relationships - relationships with Abba (Father), relationships with his followers - so definitely an F. My guess would be NF (harmony).

    And Mohammed was a by the rules, righteousness-oriented, kind of person, so I would say ST (action/works).

    That said, it's fun to guess on these things but that's all it is. :p
    Sunstone likes this.
  6. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora Staff Member Premium Member

    Erotic Dance
    The inventory is absolutely ridiculous, Lilithu! Everyone knows there is only one spiritual path. Just as there is only one kind of shoe. Or one shape of nose. Or one eye color. I'm shocked at the liberal fantasy of diversity in human nature that you are trying to promulgate here! Shocked!
  7. standing_alone

    standing_alone New Member

    Wow, that was quite interesting. :) Quite a bit to digest this early in the morning, too. :D

    I wonder, when approaching nontheism, if personality-type has anything to do with favoring either strong atheism, weak atheism, agnosticism, etc.? Like maybe secular humanism has an appeal to me (an NF) because it has some "idealistic tendencies" (for lack of a better way of putting it), in my opinion. *shrugs*

    Regardless, quite interesting. :)
  8. eudaimonia

    eudaimonia Fellowship of Reason

    I've had somewhat similar ideas regarding Myers-Briggs and spiritual paths. (Though I never attempted to relate them to the various yogas.)

    The Fellowship of Reason is definitely weighted to NT personality types, which should be no surprise with its focus on philosophy. Though I hope that it will broaden to encompass the other personality types with time. I'm a strong NT, myself.


  9. Ðanisty

    Ðanisty New Member

    I'm an NT and I think your description fits perfectly.
  10. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    Hmm... I don't know. :) What the workshop focused on was how your MB type might influence how you approach the tradition that you are in. So for example, you may find all four types within Christianity but STs may be more interested in arguing doctrinal differences and NTs might be more interested in exploring theology and STs might be more interested in the worship services and NFs might be more interested in being the minister, lol. (There are a huge number of NFs within clergy.)

    But it may very well be that MB type also influences what tradition you are attracted to. We didn't go into that. But I can tell you that I've done the Myers Briggs with a group of UUs twice now. The first time there were 17 of us and 16 out of 17 were N's. The second time there were 20 of us and 17 out of 20 were N's. UU definitely attracts N types (not that we don't have S's). It would be interesting to see how other traditions break down on this. I wonder if we could get such info looking that the respondents to the poll and categorizing them by religion (or lack thereof)?
  11. Ðanisty

    Ðanisty New Member

    I would wager to say that Luciferianism draws more NTs than any other type.
  12. Aqualung

    Aqualung Tasty

    I would be more general and say that non-mainstream religions, and especially those that are seen as opposed to mainstream religions, draw more. That's just me, though.
  13. standing_alone

    standing_alone New Member

    Ah, yeah. That makes sense. :)

    I remember reading that NFs tend to be drawn to being in the clergy. Maybe because NFs like service-oriented jobs and activities--that there is feeling of having a significant purpose in what they are doing. Makes sense. I haven't done much reading on the other personality types, though. I know I should, but I've been biased in reading about my type over others. :eek:

    I wonder if there would ever be a way to look at Myers Briggs with nontheists. Probably not, since there's not really any traditions in the religious sense. Just makes me curious because apparantly, my personality type is supposed to be spiritual, but I'm not really (of course, I'm not as well understood in science and logic and such like other nontheists tend to be). I guess I'm just an anomaly. I just wonder how nontheists would break down by type and if there is any relationship in how they approach their nontheism (like, does their personality type make them more prone to being one of those really smart atheists or does it make them more prone to being one of them annoying atheists that we see on the forum relatively frequently?). But I don't know. Yeah, I'm rambling nonsense. :D

    Yeah, that is really interesting, too. It's really something that a significant majority of UUs both times were Ns.

    Yeah, me too.
  14. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

    LDS Christian
    I'm an SF. I'd be curious as to whether any other Latter-day Saints are, as well. I bet Joseph Smith was, too. :yes: As I recall, he personally experienced the divine. :)
  15. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    Well, fwiw, I don't think you have to be affiliated with a religion or believe in God(s) to be spiritual. I know some very spiritual atheists. To me, spirituality is about finding or making meaning in life. What makes life worth living? Theists usually do it within the framework of their faith traditions. Atheists might do it in some other framework, that's all. So you could ask how being an NF affects how you generally approach life. For example, a non-theist SF might really get into the experience of nature, or really into cooking for family and friends. I'm too tired at the moment to speculate on examples for the other types. Maybe more tomorrow. I might also look to see if I can do a little analysis on the responses to the poll. :)
  16. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

    Regarding the discussion between SA and lilithu about spirituality, one definition of spirituality that I like is that it is how we prioritize our loves and our lives. Everyone has a spirituality, intentional or not, recognized as such or not. So, a Christian might say that they center their lives around God, or Jesus. A non-theist might center their life around justice or truth, or family and friends, or personal integrity or quest for knowledge. I think this could fit into your four MB personality classes (as much as I resist such classifications). And of course there's a lot of cross-over...anyone might say that they prioritize around the principle of Love or Harmony, or Family, or Knowledge.

    You might find some correlation between things like Objectivism, Eudaimonism, Humanism, Taoism (for non-theist groups) and the MB types as well. Just a thought.
  17. Venice

    Venice New Member

    this is really nice. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.
  18. ManTimeForgot

    ManTimeForgot Temporally Challenged

    The SP is a consummate thrill seeker/gambler. They are grounded in reality and push the limits of expression, experience, and consequence (living life to the fullest and entirely in the present). Their religious beliefs tend to push them towards practical application of their religion.

    The SJ is a consummate preserver. They are grounded in reality and seek to preserve comfort, safety, and economy, usually of resources (living a life of conservation and almost entirely in the past; doing what they know to be "successful"). Their religious beliefs tend to push them towards traditionalism and ritualistic behaviors.

    The NT thinks for its own sake. Understanding of reality is the proximal goal of all NT's, but at their core (regardless of whether they fancy themselves a cynic or an idealist, though most NTs wax cynical) they all desire to live in a "Fantasy world" (usually of their own designing); look deep enough into an NT and they all wish they could be a Wizard with secret knowledge of the cosmos and the ability to wield it. Theirs is an ideal of logic and purpose; where all the connections between things could be explained: to the end of making the "fantasy world" a reality. Their religious preferences push them towards rational beliefs (things they can see the logic of) and those that they believe would be most conducive towards the creation of whatever ideal world they conceive.

    The NF feels for its own sake. Understanding emotion and relationships is the proximal goal of all NFs, but at their core (regardless of whether they fancy themselves a cynic or an idealist; though most NFs wax idealistic) they all desire to live in a "Fantasy world;" look deep enough into an NF and you will see someone who wishes to save/heal the world (hero). Theirs is an ideal of emotion and meaning; where harmony and understanding (between people) facillitate the creation of their ideal world. Their religious preferences push them towards beliefs that emphasize harmony, understanding (both self and others), and the creation of a utopia that is similar to the "Fantasy world" of their devising.

    No human I have ever met perfectly exemplifies any of the individual extremes of the 4 major types. I have always found that people are best described as existing on a spectrum amongst the two concrete or two abstract types; so you are either somewhere between SP and SJ in behavior or you are somewhere between NT and NF in behavior.

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