Jung on Goethe’s Type

When we opened CelebrityTypes in 2009, the standard online typing of Goethe was INFJ, whereas we thought him more of an ENFJ. Later still, we started digging into Jung, only to discover that he and his partner Hans Schmid-Guisan would consider Goethe more of an Fe type.

We will detail Jung’s claims on Goethe below.

Jung on Goethe’s Type in 1919: EN(P)

In a personal letter to Sabina Spielrein (of ‘A Dangerous Method’ fame) Jung writes:

“Goethe is intuitive and extrovert. Schiller is intuitive and introvert.” (Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis p. 58)

Okay. So Goethe is EN. However, given that Jung had not yet finished his work on Psychological Types and was simply jotting some types down, it would perhaps be unfair to call Jung out as saying that Goethe is an Ne dominant (ENP type) at this stage in his work. Hence we put the P in parentheses and move on to Psychological Types.

Psychological Types: Jung on Goethe’s Type in 1921: Both INFJ and ENFJ

In Psychological Types, Jung spends quite a bit of energy on Goethe’s type. Goethe’s type is mentioned several times, and with one exception, Jung’s unanimous verdict here is ENFJ:

§103: Jung: “From various characteristics I have come to the conclusion that Schiller belongs to the introverted type, whereas Goethe – if we disregard his overriding intuition – inclines more to the extraverted side.”

Commentary: This passage is very strange. First Jung says that Goethe had overriding intuition in his personality that must be disregarded if we are to consider Goethe an extrovert. Thus, Jung is saying that Goethe is an Ni dominant (INJ). This is exceedingly strange, as Jung continuously refers to Goethe as an extrovert for the rest of the book. But perhaps it is not unlike Jung’s typing of Nietzsche as both Ti and Ni dominant in the same book. Checking for errors in the English translation, we see that the German word is überragenden (“over-riding” / “over-reaching”). Thus there is no error in translation. Jung is indeed calling Goethe out as an Ni dominant in §103, which is in opposition to what he says for the rest of the book.

§104: Schiller is Ti dominant type in whom “intuition plays a great role.”

§142: Goethe had a “more extraverted nature” than Schiller.

§148(n47): Goethe is “the intuitive, extraverted feeling type.” Schiller is “the intuitive, introverted thinking type.”

Commentary: Since we know from §103 that Schiller is a Ti dominant type, Schiller is then identified as INTP. If we are to follow the same formula for Goethe, with regards to Jung’s ordering of the words, then Goethe must be an Fe dominant type with intuition, i.e. ENFJ.

§288: Goethe is extroverted.

§593: Goethe personified Te in the figure of Mephistopheles (from Faust.)

Jung on Goethe’s Type in 1939: ENF(J)

Jung, in a Letter to “Herr N.” 22 March 1939:

The connections you adduce with typology are interesting but difficult. Goethe himself was an intuitive feeling type. Faust first appears as Goethe’s shadow, namely as an introverted scientist and doctor (thinking and sensation). Now comes the first transformation: he discovers his countertype (“feeling is all”) and at the same time realizes the projection of the anima, as is invariably the case in the analytical process. Behind Gretchen stands the Gnostic sequence: Helen-Mary-Sophia. They represent a real Platonic world of ideas (thinking and sensation on the mystic level). Here Goethe divines the fact that unconscious, undifferentiated functions are contaminated with the collective unconscious, with the result that they can be realized only in part rationally but for the most part irrationally, i.e. as an inner experience. (Reference: C.G. Jung Letters, vol. 1, p. 265 / 1973 Princeton University Press  / Princeton, New Jersey)

So Goethe is an NF type whose countertype is an IST type. Goethe must therefore be an ENF-type, but is he a Feeling (ENFJ) or Intuitive (ENFP) dominant type? Both interpretations are open to us, but on the whole it would seem marginally more plausible to read the passage in favor of Goethe as a Feeling dominant type as Goethe’s shadow’s countertype gasps at the realization that “feeling is all.”

Conclusion

On the whole, then, though Jung was not above contradicting himself and typing the same persons as different types in his work, and while there are always pitfalls, trap doors, ambiguities, and double-meanings in Jung’s work, Jung would pretty consistently identify Goethe as ENFJ throughout his work.

4 Comments

  1. Hm, I’m a German native speaker, and while it’s true that literally, “überragen” would translate to “over-reach”, it’s usually used in the sense of “excel” or “outshine”. So “überragend”, as an adjective, means something like “outstanding” or “great”.

  2. Thank you. Yes – “towering,” “excelling,” or “outstanding” were other possibilities. We also checked another translation, which said “all-overshadowing.”

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