Personality testing or ‘psychometrics’ can create a rather disturbing misunderstanding of self perpetuated through a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever heard the aphorism “believe you can or believe you can’t; either way you are right”? Well, the same applies to dreams and to intuition. Believe your dreams or intuitions are meaningless noise or believe that they are communications from your deepest self; either way you are right! That is, the belief itself, along with the commitments and attitudes this engenders will actually change the way your brain communicates with itself. This same dynamic can take place when people look to personality tests out of a misguided desire for divination, as they mistake persona for person and with this mistake pasted in view, make it a reality.
Most of us take a personality test not to understand our ego or persona more deeply, but instead, to understand our deepest self, our “person.” To be sure, this tool can be meaningfully employed to this end, but only by allowing you to see a visual representation of what your ego already knows about your self. This is only valuable because your self, which has just taken in the ego‘s caricature of it in one gestalt image, might produce a feeling-response regarding its accuracy. Think about it: a personality test is a set of questions directed at and answered by your conscious ego! How the hell could it tell you anything about your unconscious mind? If it does, then this only proves that your ego already knows your unconscious rather well, invalidating your need for such psychometrics! Pay attention and be disabused of one of the deepest and most pervasive confusions that I have encountered in the modern world:
persona is not person
personality is not true self
psyche is not Self
psyche-self is not somatic-self
spirituality is not spirit
will-power is not will
characteristics are not character
ego is not Eros
mind is not soul
Man is both!
People who are mired in this confusion desperately enact a fervent denial of the soul, perhaps out of a flight from religion. This confusion is made even more maddening by the fact that most of these psychometrics are based closely or loosely on the theories of Carl Jung, who is not just rolling in his grave at this point, but writhing in abject purgatory! Psychometrics fit neatly into a pattern that Morris Berman summarizes nicely:
In General, the mind/body split that we live with, and individually suffer from, today is a direct legacy of this two-step process, i.e., using an occult or somatic insight to dislodge an old system, and then reacting with fear to the very tool that made this possible, dropping it like a hot potato, and erecting a new (rigid) system in place of the old one, a system whose very existence depends on the mystical insight now being rejected.
If those obsessed with psychometrics were really honest with themselves they would admit that their obsession stems from precisely the same motives that drive people to consult a psychic, an “intuitive counselor,” an oracle, or the I Ching: a vague awareness that their conscious mind is only the lesser of two minds, that they are incomplete, that they are something deeper than “this;” and yet, “this” is precisely all that a personality profile can show you! They secretly agree with Robert Louis Stevenson:
I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two…I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either it was only because I was radically both…
Your ego is in many ways a pocket-map of your soul, but a psychometric test is a pocket-map of this pocket-map. Treating your personality profile as an oracle, using it for the purposes of divination, is a treacherous enterprise, for this map only points back to the territory of your ego, whereby you risk endlessly searching a 2-D map for the 3-D territory that it summarizes. This is as bad as an astronomer mistaking his telescope for the heavens, or, as Berman has it, “one gives up the trip to heaven and settles for the travelogue.” This mistake gets elevated into a cult of personality, an ideology. As Berman says, “an idea is something you have; an ideology, something that has you.” Earlier in the divine Coming To Our Senses, Berman discusses Giardano Bruno as a visionary heretic and informs us that “heliocentricity is important because it implies that the universe has more than one center, and by extension, so does the mind of the human being. In Hermetic practice and philosophy, the mind becomes what it contemplates; hence, by this mystical means, the ‘man-microcosm becomes universe-microcosm and as a result is brought closer to the Creator.'” There is so much truth in that statement, let alone Berman’s whole book. Dennett is fond of comparing the self to the “center of gravity” of an object, which would be correct if he were to see that there are two such centers of gravity on the human side of the analogy! But think about the rest of Berman’s quote, the part about “the mind becomes what it contemplates:” the ego-mind is a tool, made to grasp and build tools, and so if it mistakes itself for the only mind, it is highly likely to produce a picture of the universe as a tool or machine.
Berman rightly observes that “the world is now no longer seen as Descartes’ clock, but as von Neumann’s computer; but it is still, in the last analysis, a machine.” How ironic that our model for the universe is based on the second most complex thing known to exist in it; a thing built by the first most complex thing in existence! And yet people can still conjure up the picture of a clock-work universe that is fundamentally lacking any freedom. Really? How do you explain motion, change, and evolution? What is powering this computer if matter is so inert and all that exists is the “material” world? The laws of Nature? Nonsense. These are Nature; they don’t govern it. This view is just as supernatural–and oddly resembles–the view that this universe is a manifestation of god posing a question or having a daydream.
I really do wonder if we have for so long confused our most-advanced tool for the correct picture of the cosmos that our club-wielding ancestors might have concluded something like “Cosmos is blunt instrument for killing animals.” Or perhaps ancient man was wise enough not to confuse his tools for his self or his cosmos. Seriously, the only possible solution to this blinding myopia will come from the field of artificial intelligence actually building a Free Will Robot; only then will humanity wake up to the realization “holy shit, we just created a machine that thinks about its thinking…(blink, blink)…perhaps we too are free?” Only when Hal2000 shows up will we have created an instrument that we can contemplate that is as beautiful and mysterious as the beings that created this instrument. Oddly, these same deniers of human freedom are perfectly happy with Einstein’s equation of matter and energy, but they fail to connect the dots here: if matter is determined or unfree, then energy is unfree, a contradiction whose equal I can scarcely imagine. Believe you are free or believe you are unfree; either way you are right! But are humans not responsible for making sure not to lose responsibility for any protracted period of time? Our legal system surely thinks so and I am inclined to agree.
One must know the purpose and the limitations of his tools, this blog post included. This post was a personal intuition that needed to be voiced through my persona so that my whole Being could see and therefore feel it’s message completely, which was that I too confuse ego for self and in doing so demean both. I can again trust psychometrics and my motives for employing them, as the tool of writing has served its purpose and hopefully purposes not my own as well.