Books this post is based on:
- Introducing Jungian Psychology – Robin Robertson
- 1992, part of the Newleaf Popular Psychology series
- The Saga of the Exiles series by Julian May
- Titles include The Many-Coloured Land, The Golden Torc, The Non-Born King and The Adversary. Published between 1981 and 1984 by Houghton Mifflin in the United States and Pan in the UK.
A year or so ago, I read and greatly enjoyed The Saga of the Exiles, on the recommendation of someone who had first come across them in childhood. Much more recently I became interested in Jungian psychology as one of the very few areas where science meets mysticism on terms that are not complete and utter nonsense. I read Robin Robertson’s Introducing Jungian Psychology which proved to be an excellent overview of a very complex subject. I was aware that May had reportedly written her series with reference to Jungian archetypes and I read the Robertson book with that in mind.
A basic summary of Jung’s ideas on personality types
Robertson says that Jung identified four basic components to the personality – the functions of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. His contention was that these exist in opposed pairs, so thinking is the opposite of feeling and sensation the opposite of intuition. Each of us has one function that is our primary way of relating to the world, but is forever incapable of properly developing its opposite. So, if you are primarily a thinker you will be weak at feeling and vice versa. Secondary functions can be developed, but the inferior function never can. However, most excitingly, Jung saw what he called the “inferior function” as the gateway to the collective unconscious.
In addition each of us is either an introvert or an extravert, something which adds an extra dimension of complexity to the above system. Extraverts relate to the world through external factors such as people and situations while introverts like to have a good think about things in order to understand before acting. So, taking this into account, if you are an introverted sensate your inferior function will be extraverted intuition.
For more information on Jungian personality types click here.
This was later extrapolated into the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. Learn more here.
Jung and May’s characters
It occurred to me that it would be very interesting to see how the eight characters in Group Green fitted into this system. And they fitted well enough that I thought it worthwhile to write this blog post. Now, some of the group matched up very obviously, examples being Elizabeth, Claude, Aiken and Bryan. Others, such as Amerie and Stein, seemed a lot less obvious and required considerable thought. I’m not claiming to be an expert on Jung – just someone who read a few books and saw some similarities. I’m also not claiming that the attempt to match up May’s characters with the personality types is perfect or definitive in any way. But I found some of the similarities striking and interesting (thinker that I am) and I hope you will too. I also dealt with the characters as they are at the beginning of the series, especially using the descriptions of each which is used to introduce them, as they undergo considerable development in the course of four books.
If you have not read the books, you might find that one or two plot details are given away in the following, so avoid reading further if you wish to remain in complete ignorance.
With those provisos, here it is:
- Extravert thinker – Elizabeth Orme
- According to Robertson, the extravert thinker is a character who like rational conclusions, tidiness, order and rules by which to organise their lives. They often seek roles in life such as executives or government officials. Elizabeth, the star redactor who was in goverment service before her journey into exile, and whose arc through the series involves her coming to terms with her inferior function of feeling, is a classic extravert thinker.
- Extravert feeler – Aiken Drum
- Robertson seals the comparison on this one with the use of just one word: “flamboyant.” He also says that the extravert feeler is a “people person,” comfortable in any social situation and rather prone to tell people what they want to hear rather than presenting them with uncomfortable reality. They only feel fully alive when surrounded by other people and will acquire philosophies and belief systems wholesale rather than doing the hard work of sorting them out for themselves. Aiken’s arc through the book is a journey from complete irresponsibility to ultimate responsibility – something that forces him to engage with his inferior function and become more thoughtful.
- Extravert intuitive – Felice Landry
- Intuitives are never interested in the past or present, always what is coming next over the horizon, a characteristic personified by Felice’s pursuit of the golden torc. Felice is another person who never feels truly alive unless surrounded by others and has the extravert intuitive characteristic of picking out similarities where most would only see differences – most notably between herself and Amerie. Among many other very, very damaging aspects to Felice’s personality she is poor at dealing with life’s practicalities and, indeed, at some points during Group Green’s journey expects these things to be taken care of for her by the others while she keeps her eyes fixed on the (to her) far more interesting possibilities of the future.
- Extravert sensate – Claude Majewski
- The typical career for an extravert sensate is in science where these people can put their talent from drawing physical data from the world around them to its best use. Robertson also says that extravert sensates are the ultimate realists, who accept the world as it is and deal with it – as Claude accepts the death of his wife and the decision of Amerie to go into exile.
- Introvert thinker – Bryan Grenfell
- Introverted thinkers are far more interested with the ideas and concepts that occupy their minds than the reality of facts and people around them. And if there’s a conflict, guess which wins! A better description of Bryan’s ill-fated obsession with an idealised Mercy, one that bore little resemblance to the actual woman, is hard to imagine. With feeling as an inferior function, he also struggled to articulate his emotions. And, when presenting his thesis on the consequences of human-Tanu hybridisation, he had no concept of its practical consequences for him, only of the importance of his ideas.
- Introvert feeler – Stein Olesen
- This is one of the more unlikely-sounding of the psychological types, since Robertson suggests that it is almost invariably female, and a more masculine figure than Stein is hard to imagine. But, even so, the similarities are striking. Introvert feelers judge the present by comparison with the past, something Stein does constantly in his yearning for former days. They cannot articulate their feelings or easily express them – Stein experiences many humiliations and frustrations which are revealed to the reader through his internal monologue, but never expressed to those around him. Such people often appear outwardly banal or childish while possessing a profound internal depth. Robertson describes them as “the consciences of the world,” a role Stein plays in particular when trying to dissuade Felice from genocide. Perhaps most importantly, Stein’s arc through the book leads him to find a soulmate who teaches him to articulate his feelings.
- Introvert intuitive – Richard Voorhees
- Richard’s complete failure to live in the present is his downfall when, with his eyes fixed on the prize of a huge bonus for delivering a cargo on time, he ignores the distress calls of another ship. Before his exile his whole life has been lived in this way, a study in perpetual motion, always going forward, always seeking whatever is over the horizon. His assumption of the guise of the Flying Dutchman could not be more apposite. And that Richard is an introvert is not in dispute – until he arrives in the Pliocene his idea of fulfilling contact is the functions on his spaceship that are programmed to have human voices.
- Introvert sensate – Sister Amerie Roccaro
- Robertson characterises the introverted sensate as like a photographic plate soaking up information with the senses. One of our first proper views of Amerie is of her sitting silent and immobile on a hillside with Claude shortly after the death of his wife, doing exactly this to the exclusion of all else including Claude’s words to her. I struggled at first to place Amerie as an introvert, as I did Stein, since her vocation is one of the ultimate ‘people’ roles. But then I realised that part of her journey through the book is to the realisation that her vocation was misplaced and an attempt to compensate for highly traumatic events early in her life. The key is the internal processes of the character rather than the face they present to the world.
So there it is. Comments, feedback and politely-expressed contrary views are, of course, very welcome.