Magic and Psychological Type

I have been thinking about C. G. Jung’s typological work again, in part because I have been thinking about the opening of a personal magical practice, about what constitutes the healthy openign for a person. Reflection on such beginnings provide insight into the present situation they made possible, and they also provide possible insight for those who are at the beginning, so it seems like good blogging material.

Jung’s typology has been frequently misunderstood and you’ll hear some Jungians go to pains to differentiate between personality types and Jung’s psychological types. Unlike many forms of psychological typology, the core of Jung’s typological work is neither predictive nor objective. Jung’s typlogy attempts, rather, to describe forms of subjectivity; this means Jung is attempting to describe forms of time consciousness. The differences in temperament that develop can be rooted in different orientations to time.

Thinking in this way has the added benefit of breaking Jung’s insight out of their more uneven application in the field of vocational counseling and business management. If we are talking about an orientation in time, then the relationship with vocation is more indirect. The application of typology to personal relationships remains a vital application, but care must be taken to preserve the subjective orientation of the practice and not turn it too quickly into a vehicle for generating objective assessments. Appreciating subjectivity takes time, too.

Esoterically, since time is what we are working, with the psychological types Jung describes one of our earliest point of orientation within time itself and one possible gateway into magical work. This doesn’t mean that the type encompasses all of our possible relationships with time or magic. For one, as Jung’s typological descendents have helped make crystal clear, our type develops over the course of our life. We start with one orientation and supplement that orientation, partially in response to the circumstances of our life.

Beyond that, though, the depths of our life reach beyond that gate into more subtle relations with time that are not encompassed within the type. In the same way that we share a commone world even if our type shapes our experience and interaction with the world, we also share a common relationship to the objective structure of time. That common relationship is essential and cultivating the connection to it grounds us and enriches that world.

From this perspective, introversion and extroversion easily collapse into a focus on the subjective and objective respectively, in which both are finally understood to be rooted in a deeper unity, the division of which constitutes the foundation for awareness proper. It is for this reason that every function is qualified by operating either in an extroverted or introverted fashion.

The remaining dimensions of the type define an orientation within that. Sensation and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling flower within the field of Extroversion and Introversion. Within the logic of type and time, Sensation and Introversion follow from Extroversion and Intorversion while Thinking and Feeling follow from Sensation and Intuition.

Sensation and Intuition divide the world into past and future while Thinking and Feeling are forms of discernment applied within a world already broken into subjective and objective, past and future. Thinking and Feeling define an active present.

Notice that this logical relationship of functions is no necessarily replicated in the organic development of an individual. While Extroversion and Introversion are always the opening, the specific function that operates most strongly in an individual’s early life can be any of the four functions. What it does mean, though, is that when an individual develops a discerning function first, there is already an implied relationship to the orientation of Sensation and Intuition.

Okay, that’s all a bit theoretical and I want to get down closer to what it means to live and work with that coming into awareness that the types describe. To do that, I need to start talking about what that looks like. I am starting firmly from within my own experience, so keep that in mind.

The most basic relationship that develops between your primary extroverted and introverted functions. It is along that axis you are first able to pass your awareness from one register (e.g., subjective) into another (e.g., objective). That passing constitutes our first magical act and it can be the basis for others, though it is often so natural that we don’t see the magic of it. Moreover, the naturalness of it tends to mean that it manifests as the substance of our life, including the tensions and failures that often bring us to magical work in the first place.

We tend to experience magic as magic first where we are not. That ‘where we are not’ can be the ‘where we will be’ of our mature self, but it is often the inverse time image of where we are. We often first experience magic under the guise of what is most alien to us, hence the image of the devil and demons often associated with it. This can get us into trouble if we attempt to develop that magic within our own life, but as an experience that you do not seek to naturalize, as a jarring encounter that inspires you, this ‘meeting with the devil’ is often profoundly salutary.

That inverse magic will appear under the auspices of the function opposite your primary function. If you are Extroverted Thinker, then the devil will manifest in Extroverted Feeling (e.g., love magic). If you are an Introverted Intuitive, then devil will appear as Introverted Sensation (e.g., religious ritual). The I Ching has a hexagram that describes just this relationship, Hexagram 44, Coming to Meet, which describes a powerful experience that you must not ‘marry.’

In talking like this, it is important to distinguish between magical practices and magical traditions. While many magical traditions develop as subcultures catering to specific sorts of people (i.e., better serving specific psychological types), it is perfectly possible for a magical tradition to develop robustly enough to support multiple forms of practice, each of which are capable of supporting and integrating people with divergent psychological types. We ought not identify traditions as having a type, though we might observe how a predominance of a certain type has shaped a tradition.

The inverse image we encounter is a practice suited to activating a specific typological framework, though it can become all-to-easy to paint a whole tradition by the brush through which we first encounter it. If we take to developing this inverse practice, we get ourselves in all kinds of trouble because we are operating a portion of our lives out of a mode of being to which we do not have easy access, a point of being that we understand poorly and so work awkwardly.

Rather, what is ideal, is that this encounter with the alien leads us to seek out an encounter with what properly supplements us. That supplement is the twin of our devil. If our devil appears under Extroverted Feeling, our supplement appears under Introverted Feeling. If our devil wears Introverted Sensation, our supplement wears Extroverted Sensation. That supplement has ties to our devil, of course, but it operates in a domain through which we can acquire both awareness and mastery. It is by cultivating a relationship to practices that join this supplement with our primary type that we find our magical work flourish.

Which is to say: at least a portion of what we would call ‘demonic’ is demonic only relative to our constitution and the mode of our approach to it.  The same holds for angelic and so on. They are effects reflecting sympathies between our constitution and certain forms of temporal experience. I want to emphasize the “a portion of” language here. I still suspect that there are families of spirits (often painted with the ‘demonic’ brush) that excel at negotiating this terrain, excel at bringing us into our maturity by catalyzing this process.

There is a temptation to identify the psychological type first and tour your magical practices accordingly, but I suspect the reverse is more true: we come to a deeper awareness of our psychological type according to the responses we have toward practices. This is what it means to say that familiarity with psychological type requires time, in the sense that it is time that makes possible the experiences by which we may test our mettle. This doesn’t invalidate efforts to learn of our type beforehand, but what we learn by abstract testing can only proven or clarified in living.

Okay, this post is getting long and still has only descended a little ways from the realm of abstraction. I’m going to pause here and think about ways to come at the matter with a focus on the different sorts of practices that support different functions and some of what that might mean for developing a personal practice.

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