It’s only a model

I frequently see the skeptical crowd on Twitter pointing out that the Myers-Briggs test is “astrology for business people”, or dismissing astrology as hokum. I suppose this was inevitable, given that there are people who won’t get out of bed when Mercury is retrograde (despite the fact that the apparent retrograde motion is an illusion caused by our geocentric perception that the Earth is the centre of the solar system and not the Sun (whereas everyone knows that Galileo was right — with the possible exception of flat-earthers).

But however inaccurate and unscientific these tools may be, they are symbolic maps of the psyche, ways to help us understand ourselves. No model will be 100% accurate, but all these tools provide ways of talking about the personality in a kind of symbolic shorthand.

Prague astrological clock [Public Domain. Photo by Rashida J]

So the people who dismiss these symbol systems as completely useless have missed the point just as much as the people who take them completely literally. I realize that we currently live in a polarized state where things have to be seen as either brilliant or rubbish, as one extreme or the other, but it’s frustrating.

Issues arise with these tools and their results when people start taking oversimplified versions of them as scientific truth that you can use as the basis for business or major life decisions.

The original goal of using Myers-Briggs in a business setting was to check that people didn’t just give jobs to people like themselves, but actually made an effort to build a diverse team, and to help people understand themselves and other people so that they didn’t just assume that their own perspective on the world was the only correct one. Unfortunately the use of Myers-Briggs in business settings has now gone way beyond that, into less healthy areas.

The goal of your astrological birth chart is to provide a sort of wiring diagram of your psyche. Most people know themselves well enough to figure out which bits of an astrological personality profile are accurate and which are not, and will select the points that are useful and pleasing to them and discard the rest.

The same applies to the Enneagram: it’s only a model. More of a sort of a guideline. In the Enneagram system, I’m a maverick. My reaction: I could have told you that. Naturally I ignored anything negative that it went on to say about mavericks, because I love the whole concept of mavericks. (I identify so hard with Mal Reynolds from Firefly.)

The good bit about using the results of these tools as a symbolic map of the psyche is that you can work with and manipulate the symbols to bring about desired changes.

This is why CS Lewis seems to have written the entire Narnia series as a symbolic exploration of the classical planets. And even if he didn’t do that on purpose, the books can certainly be interpreted that way. He wrote the classical planetary beings into his science fiction trilogy as well. He also wrote an academic book on the subject of astrological symbolism: The Discarded Image.

So, if you’re one of those people who is inclined to dismiss the Myers-Briggs test, astrology, or the Enneagram as irrational, consider that they might be useful as a symbolic toolset.

And if you’re one of those people who refers everything back to astrology, Myers-Briggs, or the Enneagram, remember that it is only a model, and that the map is not the territory.

Camelot (it’s only a model)