Alchemy and Astrology: The Occult Roots of the Myers-Briggs Test |

TBC Staff - EN

Astrology and alchemy -- the occult roots of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) [Excerpts]

In justifying his own 'astrological experiment', [Carl] Jung observes: "In no previous age, however 'superstitious,' was astrology so widespread and so highly esteemed as it is today". Although penned in the early 1950s, Jung's remark still holds true today. Interest in astrology, along with other forms of alternative knowledge and cosmology such as Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism and complementary medicine, has enjoyed a renaissance over the last 25 years. Many of these systems trace their origins to non-European and pre-modern roots.

This renewed interest reflects a search for meaning within systems of knowledge that approach the world in a less objective way than modernist, scientific approaches. As Ritzer (1998) says, while rationalisation and more accountability are being lauded in many institutions, a countervailing desire is emerging in certain segments of the population that are seeking to re-enchant their disenchanted world. Indeed, the West appears to be exporting the ideologies and technologies of global capitalism while simultaneously importing Middle Eastern and Oriental occultism.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Proponents of the MBTI claim it is the most widely used psychometric test in the world, with an estimated 3.5m tests administered each year in the US alone. It has been translated into two dozen languages and is used in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Korea and many other countries. Its popularity owes much to the fact that business communities across the globe have found it of practical value--not least because of empirical evidence correlating 'psychological type' (as defined by the MBTI) with occupational role.

The MBTI developed out of the interests of Katherine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1979) in human personality difference. They both read Jung's Psychological Types shortly after its initial publication in English in 1923 and were prompted, at the outset of World War II, to try to 'operationalise' his typology. Early forms of the MBTI testing procedure were thus developed in the period 1942-44, but it was after the war and in the years leading up to 1956 that more systematic research involving medical students, nursing students and other sample occupations was conducted using the MBTI. Neither Briggs nor Myers had any formal training in psychology or statistics, so Myers' work with David Saunders, a psychology student, in the early 1950s was significant in terms of the subsequent development of the instrument.

Although the MBTI is often presented as a form of 'scientific psychology' par excellence, its Jungian origins mean that it has unconsciously inherited and reproduced concepts of astrological and alchemical cosmology. As Jung's analysis of personality derives conscious inspiration from his active interest in alchemy and astrology, contemporary users of the MBTI are inadvertently conducting a form of astrological character analysis.

(Peter Case, Garry Phillipson, European Business Forum, Spring, 2004, CBS Interactive Business Network Resource Library)

[TBC: We have addressed the occult origin of psychology in past newsletter articles.]