Review of ‘The Question of Psychological Types’

Carl Gustav Jung & Hans Schmid-Guisan
The Question of Psychological Types
Princeton University Press 2013

It has long been known that some years prior to the publication of Psychological Types, Jung carried on a correspondence with his colleague and former analysand, Hans Schmid-Guisan, dealing exactly with the question of psychological types. Already around the time of the publication of Jung’s Psychological Types there was talk of publishing this correspondence, and such considerations naturally emerged again during the years where Jung’s Collected Words were being collected with the aim of committing them to print.

k9835On both occasions, however, Jung and his associates vetoed the publication of these letters, stating that they were of “a highly technical nature” and that they would only “cause more confusion” than they would create clarity. Nonetheless, history tends to have little mercy for the posthumous wishes of writers and, as a rule, what has not been committed to the flames will tend to see publication sooner or later. As such, the letters in question now lie before us and already from the first pages of the correspondence, one suspects that Jung may have had ulterior motives for denying their publication as well.

The Elusiveness of Psychological Types

In Psychological Types proper there is much that, stated plainly, simply does not make sense or seems to come out of nowhere. Sensible people like J.H. van der Hoop and Henry A. Murray, each of whom did much to develop Jung’s notion of psychological types, have both stated that, amid the gems, there is also much that is vague, general and imprecise in Jung’s writings. And yet the Jungians, too willing to excuse Jung, have said: “If Psychological Types does not make sense, you must let Jung grow on you, meditate, reflect deeply and then you will understand.”

On that note, the release of The Question of Psychological Types comes as rather much of an embarrassment for anyone who has ever defended Jung’s literary style with statements such as the ones above: For in reading Jung’s correspondence with Schmid-Guisan it soon becomes plain that many of the concepts that Jung had thrown into Psychological Types without much of an explanation are really concepts that are discussed in a much more logical and accessible form in the correspondence with Schmid-Guisan! As such, the people who felt that Psychological Types was not lacking in clarity and accessibility were either not paying attention or worse – they have allowed themselves to fall prey to charlatanism.

If one really believes that a work becomes “better” or “more sublime” by omitting the foundational axioms of it, well, then such people could instantly start discovering “sublime” works everywhere: All they need to do is simply to tear out the first 50 pages of any book they read, before they read it. No; it was clearly a deficiency in the reading public’s background knowledge that it did not have access to these letters until now. For when reading the correspondence, some (but not all) of Jung’s unexplained terminology from Psychological Types proper begin to make sense.  Not necessarily a sense that enriches the precision or application of modern typology beyond what the field had become today – but sense in terms of genealogy; for rather than being confronted with an oracular declaration one can now be confronted with thoughts.

Thoughts that can be gauged like any others. It is interesting to speculate why Jung would deliberately choose to present his thoughts in a format that made it hard to the reader to determine the value of his message. But in any case, it reflects badly on Jung’s judgment that he chose to withhold these letters from publication. Especially so, when he did not offer more lucid explanations when he finally published Psychological Types. Thus, we regard it as a matter of the utmost historical importance that the correspondence has now been published and is accessible to the public.

Intermezzo: A Word of Warning

Here it is important for us to state to the potential reader that even if she reads The Question of Psychological Types then there will still be much in Psychological Types that stands without sufficient explanation. It is also necessary to state that Jung was right in so far as the things that are cleared up by reading the correspondence are of a highly technical and miscellaneous nature.

An example of one of the concepts that become clearer once the correspondence has been read is Jung’s designation of Feeling as a rational function. This is an epithet whose meaning has been much debated and about which much has been written (again, due to the lack of definite formulations set forth in Psychological Types). Well, from the correspondence it becomes clear that Feeling was always identified with the extroverted types and Thinking was always identified with the introverted types at this stage of the typology. And furthermore, since the extrovert adapts to outside reality by sensing the object and the introvert relates to outside reality by representing the object, then it is simply “rational” for the extrovert to adopt a Feeling stance, just as it is rational for the introvert to adopt a Thinking stance!

To name as few other things that start to make new sense in Psychological Types proper once this correspondence has been read, one could always wonder why Jung, who was much fascinated with, indeed identified with, Goethe, would concede him to be an E-F type in Psychological Types. Well, reading the correspondence it soon becomes apparent that Schmid-Guisan jumps the gun and “claims” Goethe as an E-F type from the very first letter of the correspondence (whereas Jung remains silent on this point).

One can also wonder why Plato, an obvious Ni dominant type, as van der Hoop could readily see, is cautiously considered by Jung in Psychological Types to be untypable, or perhaps even an extrovert, stating: “If someone were to furnish evidence that Plato belonged to the extraverted type, it would not surprise me.” Again the answer is that Schmid-Guisan jumps the gun and springs the claim on Jung multiple times and with great intensity of feeling.

The Remarkable Dr. Schmid-Guisan

Back to the book. A pleasant surprise in reading the letters is the contribution of Jung’s collaborator, the historically unknown Hans Schmid-Guisan. If one comes to The Question of Psychological Types expecting Schmid-Guisan to be a mere stooge or sounding board on whom Jung simply tests his thoughts, one will be gravely mistaken. Not only does Schmid-Guisan hold up his end of the correspondence, he also introduces many themes which Jung would later pass on in Psychological Types proper without giving credit to Schmid-Guisan, such as the terminology of inferior processes of an individual being “archaic,” and also – quite importantly – Schmid-Guisan alerts Jung to the Fi function when Jung appeared to reject the presence of such a function. Schmid-Guisan describes the Fi function in remarkable detail when considering that the functions were not even remotely defined at this time, and in fact it must be said that it was Schmid-Guisan who discovered the Fi function, just as it was Maria Moltzer who discovered the Intuitive function.

Hans Schmid-Guisan also has some remarkable observations on the histrionic personality which eerily anticipate the findings of modern psychiatry. For example, Schmid-Guisan points out how the histrionic personality has an unconscious tendency to believe that if life is a sailboat, then the wind owes him a favorable current, whereas, for example, the compulsive personality knows that he must work to get results in life. Schmid-Guisan also shows remarkable acumen when he links the histrionic personality with the Fi function; a finding which Jung rejected when he chose to link the histrionic personality with Fe, rather than with Fi, in Psychological Types. This switch was, it turns out, an error. He should have listened to Schmid-Guisan.

The Contributions of Introverts and Extroverts

So Schmid-Guisan is no passive bystander but does 50 % of the work. The correspondence ends in tears, however, as Jung cuts him off rather abrasively and then withdraws into himself to craft Psychological Types. There is no doubt that Jung adds much that is new in Psychological Types which Schmid-Guisan is not responsible for conceiving at all, nor is there any doubt that Psychological Types, for all its flaws, is a great work. But the painful realization remains that Schmid-Guisan contributed much to Jung’s ideas on the schema of types, as it ended up in Psychological Types – and that he “only” got a short acknowledgement from Jung at the start of Psychological Types.  Such is the nature of book-writing, naturally, but when Jung would repeatedly deny the publication of these letters, even many years after the publication of Psychological Types, one begins to suspect that Jung did not want the public to know how much Schmid-Guisan actually contributed and that he wanted the production of Psychological Types to appear as a one-man effort.

As far as is known, at the end of their correspondence, Schmid-Guisan moved on to other projects, while Jung would dedicate himself to writing Psychological Types in solitude. If Schmid-Guisan is an ENFP, as suggested in the book, then this trajectory would certainly recall Jung’s later portrait of the Ne type as rendered in Psychological Types proper: “If only he could stay put, he would reap the fruits of his labors; but always he must be running after a new possibility, quitting his newly planted fields while others gather in the harvest.”

In other words, the contributions of the extroverts often go unsung throughout the history of ideas (the extroverted Adler, versus the introverted Freud and Jung; the extroverted van der Hoop versus the introverted Myers and Keirsey, for example). But it is also in part their own fault for spreading themselves too thin, and for generally not putting the same amount of tenacity into the promotion of a single project. In an ideal world, a person’s contributions should be judged on the basis of their ideas alone, but in the real world, all kinds of other considerations are unfortunately also at play.


The Question of Psychological Types is a welcome addition to anyone who would seek to understand the framework of psychological types better in its philosophical and historical context. The publishers have done a good job of putting the book into a good, clean format and have equipped the text with a generous, even lavish, amount of footnotes. Readers who will want to know more about the practical application of typology and the types will not find much to interest them here, but to readers who want to be acquainted with the historical process that spawned Psychological Types, this volume is quite simply a mandatory read.

The editors have also done a good job of presenting the correspondence in its proper historical context although we at CelebrityTypes have just one bone to pick with them: The correspondence between Jung and Schmid-Guisan ends badly with Jung, quite ungratefully, badgering Schmid-Guisan because he ostensibly disagrees with Jung’s thoughts. Jung does not come out of this correspondence looking good and yet the editors attempt to take Jung’s side: “Jung is not so much being abrasive, as he is showing Schmid-Guisan what the introvert is like,” they suggest, for the introvert is always closest to his own ideas. Well, if that is so, then going by the other stories of Jung’s exploitation as felt by those around him, then Jung must have had an urge to show an awful lot of people what the introverted type is really like.


  1. Joshua Keel says:

    Excellent review. I just ordered the book. I was excited to read that you will have a book of your own coming out soon. I’m anxious to hear more word on that and purchase a copy. :)

  2. admin says:

    Thanks The book is about 50% done, but we are these perfectionists, you know? :-)

  3. Amelie Bellard says:

    Thank you for this review. I am ordering the book now.

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