Soul Types: Matching Your Personality and Spiritual Path
by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane A. G. Kise
Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Books, 2006
Reviewed by Seung Hee Kang
In this dazzling and insightful guidebook, Sandra K. Hirsh and Jane A. G. Kise invite the reader to enter into another form of soulwork for deeper spiritual growth incorporating the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is rooted in Jungian psychology. The invitation is neither esoteric nor strange even to a newcomer.
The book outlines sixteen different personality types in detail, allowing the types to grow into spiritual wholeness and meaning, by balancing the dominant, the auxiliary, and the third and the fourth, or inferior functions of a personality type. The data supporting the work was obtained through interviews conducted with people in various stages of life, from different careers, and from diverse religious traditions. Furthermore, the stories for each personality type come from different parts of the world and this in turn helps the book speak to a broad audience throughout the world.
At the outset, the book offers instructions for the reader to explore and understand his or her personality type. This invitation arises from the authors’ intention to assist people in discovering their natural-born path for self exploration prior to undertaking the suggestions for the growth into meaning and wholeness that is required for the development of a person’s relationship with God. More importantly, according to the authors, “it is because our personality type profoundly influences each person’s spiritual experiences” (p. 16). Additionally, Soul Types offers to the reader effective spiritual practices in the areas of study, service, and prayer to “find comfort and strength in his or her life struggles so that he or she can embark on a continuous spiritual journey by cultivating his or her spiritual life on a daily basis” (p. 19). The book touches all areas of our life, in such a way that we are called to engage in an intimate relationship with God. Being authentically human is an ongoing journey of interior reflection and freedom, and outward expression and action. We are called to this journey, and indeed, the journey expresses our participation in God’s continuous creation of love. As part of this journey, a helping relationship between spiritual director and directee is illuminated in various parts of Soul Types. Ultimately, the book provides a tool to nourish the spirituality of our soul, thereby inviting individuals from every culture into his or her spiritual wholeness. Indeed, “the discovery of our personal path is an avenue to spiritual enrichment” (p. 242). In addition, the reader will find helpful extra resources for a group study and a further reading list, which are brought from the authors’ long-standing practice and research in this area.
I am inspired by a call to re-think “what it means to be spiritual” (p. 241). I am touched by the invitation of the journey offered in this book which “begins with a discovery of our natural spiritual path” (p. 22). The discovery then leads to “an open door, recognizing many manifestations of spirituality and many forms of soulwork” (p. 18-9).Soul Types speaks cross-culturally to a broad audience. Most deeply moving for me were the sections highlighting “when life is difficult” and how these times offer an opportunity to bring out the goodness of our inferior functions moving closer to spiritual wholeness and fulfillment. I would definitely like to keep this book on my shelf as a handbook, looking forward to appropriating it for my own spiritual growth and within spiritual direction sessions. Soul Types is easy to read and inclusive: “Everyone—people from all faiths, nonbelievers and skeptics” (p. 8) are invited to use the book as a tool for exploring their natural spiritual paths and establishing the guidelines towards spiritual growth, as our creator God invites all of us to unfold the goodness planted in our soul.
Seung Hee Kang, MPhil, MDiv, is a chaplain, researcher, spiritual director, poet, artist and ThD candidate in pastoral theology at Faculty of Theology at University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She received spiritual direction training at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre with the Haden Institute in Canada.