In the Michael personality system, everything comes in sevens. There are seven life goals, seven soul types, and so on. This is because there are, universally, seven ways for consciousness to develop. Here I explain why this is and how it relates to human personality.
Action, Expression, Inspiration
First of all, all consciousness seeks to expand, to evolve. And according to the Michael teachings there are fundamentally four ways in which consciousness can do so. These are ACTION, EXPRESSION, INSPIRATION and ASSIMILATION. I will come to assimilation in a moment, but first let’s concentrate on the other three:
- Action is any activity of consciousness which seeks to alter, shape and control the world around it. Action is about cause and effect; it is an act of will.
- Expression is the process by which one consciousness connects to another. This involves putting thoughts and feelings into words, pictures or some other medium of communication.
- Inspiration is the process by which consciousness itself expands, such as by perceiving new potentials, being uplifted or regenerated. Inspiration is also the act of inspiring others by setting an example or showing the way.
Virtually the whole of human life revolves around these three activities of consciousness. We take action to effect the changes we desire in our outer life. All forms of deliberate physical exertion and interaction such as sport and military conflict involve action. We give expression to our thoughts and feelings in order to develop or modify our relationships with others. All forms of art, entertainment and social discourse involve expression. And to keep us on the path of evolution and out of the pit of despair, we experience inspiration through life’s ups and downs, so opening us up to new choices, better alternatives. All forms of healing, religion and spirituality involve inspiration.
Cardinal and Ordinal
Now each of these activities of consciousness can occur in two opposite-but-complementary ways. Specifically there is a CARDINAL form and an ORDINAL form.
- Cardinal means primary, absolute or fundamental. A cardinal movement is proactive, self-initiated, an end in itself. The overall focus of movement is outward: the creation of change in one’s life, or the world at large, expanding towards greater wholeness.
- Ordinal means secondary, relative or intermediary. An ordinal movement is responsive, receptive, the means to an end. The overall focus is inward: the preservation of integrity, resistance to external harm or interference.
Cardinal and ordinal are a duality, a polarity, very much like the duality of YIN and YANG, i.e. polar opposites whose actions are interdependent. With action, expression and inspiration we have three such dualities.
Cardinal and Ordinal Patterns in Personality
In terms of human personality, a trait that is described as cardinal has an active, assertive, “pushing forth” effect. Conversely, a trait that is described as ordinal acts in a reactive, responsive, inwardly regulating way.
For example, the cardinal action mode known as aggression provides maximum-power impact which helps ensure immediate success with one’s goals. This supports expansion, but being aggressive can also put tension on the quality of one’s health and relationships. Conversely, the ordinal action mode known as perseverance provides the single-minded concentration and stamina needed to endure and overcome long-term difficulty. Where aggression punches its way through, quickly achieving this or that target without letting anything stand in its way, perseverance holds on to whatever is needed for as long as it takes, come what may. Aggression is an irresistible force; perseverance is an immovable object. They are complementary opposites.
So we have three dualities—cardinal and ordinal action, cardinal and ordinal expression, cardinal and ordinal inspiration—making six types of movement, six directions for consciousness to take.
- Cardinal action is proactive, forceful, assertive
- Ordinal action is reactive, resilient, adaptive
- Cardinal expression is brash, confident, immediate
- Ordinal expression is careful, considered, discriminatory
- Cardinal inspiration is uplifting, transcendent, energising
- Ordinal inspiration is grounding, calming, pacifying
But in the middle of all this action, expression and inspiration, in the eye of the storm as it were, there is a seventh option, a motionless centre-point. This point represents the fundamental process of ASSIMILATION.
- Assimilation means the gradual absorption and integration of life’s experiences into the self.
There is no active expansion as such with assimilation, only the intake of knowledge and experience. In assimilation, what changes is not the relationship between self and life/others/world, but the internal structure of consciousness itself. All forms of study and contemplation involve assimilation.
The Neutral Zone
Unlike the dualities of action, expression and inspiration, the process of assimilation is neither cardinal nor ordinal. Instead, it is neutral.
Instead of having the opposite poles of yin and yang, assimilation is wuji, “that which has no pole”.
It might help to visualise each cardinal-ordinal pairing as a see-saw, with a neutral point in the middle (the fulcrum).
Except that in reality, if you can imagine this, we have three see-saws (the three dualities), all sharing the same mid-point. This is the neutral zone where all of the dualities intersect.
Assimilation is neutral, passive, detached. It represents a quality of consciousness in which life is simply observed or studied and lessons are assimilated:
The Seven Qualities in Human Personality
Evolution in consciousness proceeds through the dynamic interplay of these cardinal, ordinal and neutral qualities. In creating our personalities, we adopt cardinal qualities to expand into bigger and better states of being; we chose ordinal qualities to maintain integrity and avoid painful situations; and we choose neutral qualities to be able to step back and take a more flexible approach when needed.
Three cardinal-ordinal pairs plus one neutral point makes seven options in all. This seven-point framework gives us a complete spectrum for all personality traits, known in this system as overleaves. I will give a quick overview of the overleaves before going on with the seven types of each overleaf.
Overleaves are the character traits chosen by a soul for a specific life. They overlay the essential qualities of the soul, acting as filters which selectively amplify some qualities and suppress others. For example, a placid soul might choose cardinal overleaves which will give it more assertiveness for a particular life.
The main overleaves are a GOAL (the primary motivation in one’s life), a MODE (characteristic way of acting in life), an ATTITUDE (characteristic way of perceiving life) and a CHIEF FEATURE (primary character flaw).
Before we are born we choose the goal, mode and attitude that will hopefully best suit our purposes in the life to come. During life, as we become wrapped up in the illusions of ego and false personality, we also take on a “chief feature” as a defensive measure. (The chief feature is a negative trait that does nothing for us but protect our ego from its own fears.)
Each of these overleaves is available in seven forms (shown here as the seven colours of the spectrum), representing the three cardinal-ordinal dualities and the neutral mid-point.
The spectrum of seven qualities is shown here in order of extraversion-introversion, the highest number (type 7) representing the most extravert, the most powerful and outward-bound qualities, the lowest number (type 1) representing the most introvert, the most self-protective and inwardly-contained qualities.
Types 1-3 are ordinal, types 5-7 are cardinal, and type 4 is neutral.
Typically a person will have a mix of the different types/qualities across their different overleaves (see the table below).
In my case, for example, I am a SCHOLAR type soul (neutral, assimilative, type 4) soul and in this lifetime I was born with a goal of GROWTH (type 6: cardinal inspiration), a mode of PERSEVERANCE (type 3: ordinal action), and an attitude of IDEALISM (type 5: cadinal expression). Later in life I also developed the chief feature of IMPATIENCE (type 7: cardinal action).
The seven types of each overleaf
Let’s look at each set of overleaves in more detail.
Type 1 overleaves, the most inwardly-focused of the seven types, are designed to protect us from emotional harm by maintaining a cool, detached or disinterested stance. The basic quality is one of placidity, a tendency to be unaffected, not allowing oneself to be subjectively disturbed by life.
The aim in choosing a type 1 overleaf is to keep one’s emotions at bay, to not be distracted by personal feelings and emotional entanglements.
Type 1 overleaves are:
- Goal of RETARDATION (seeking to avoid interaction with the world in general)
- Mode of REPRESSION (acting without emotional engagement, not displaying one’s true feelings)
- Attitude of STOICISM (perceiving life without emotional response or attachment)
- Chief feature of SELF-DEPRECATION (false humility—exaggerating one’s faults out of a sense of inadequacy)
Type 2 overleaves are designed to reduce risk as we interact with life. Where type 1 overleaves eliminate undesirable feelings altogether through non-engagement, type 2 overleaves allow engagement but try to minimise the risk of negative outcomes. The basic quality is one of discernment, using sensitivity, clarity and judgement, being very selective and particular in how we engage with life.
Type 2 overleaves are:
- Goal of REJECTION (seeking to minimimise the risk of bad experiences in life; eliminating undesirable or uncertain factors)
- Mode of CAUTION (minimising the risk of an activity not working by trying to eliminate uncertainty beforehand)
- Attitude of SCEPTICISM (perceiving life with minimal risk of misunderstanding)
- Chief feature of SELF-DESTRUCTION (self-harming out of a sense of worthlessness)
Type 3 overleaves enable us to take on and maintain commitments. The basic quality is conscientiousness, being dependable, self-disciplined, resistant to external interference. If we are given a task to do, we do it.
Type 3 overleaves are:
- Goal of SUBMISSION (seeking to surrender control to others, a desire to serve)
- Mode of PERSEVERANCE (determination to complete tasks; willing to keep going for as long as it takes)
- Attitude of CYNICISM (perceiving life critically with a determination to never be misled)
- Chief feature of MARTYRDOM (acting as a victim out of a sense of powerlessness)
Type 4 overleaves are the neutral type. The basic quality here is a capacity to be neutral and therefore flexible, attuned to the specifics of each situation. Type 4 overleaves are relatively easygoing, taking life as it comes rather than trying to impose a consistent personal framework.
Type 4 overleaves are:
- Goal of SUSPENSION (seeking to let go, held in suspension, taking life as it comes, having no agenda)
- Mode of OBSERVATION (trying to understand each given situation rather than acting in a consistent way)
- Attitude of PRAGMATISM (trying to understand the given situation rather than perceiving in a consistent way)
- Chief feature of STUBBORNNESS (resisting all change out of a fear of new situations)
Type 5 is the first of the more extraverted, outward-focused types. Type 5 overleaves are focused on being constructive and making connections. The basic quality is one of being inclusive, reaching out to connect with life and with others, building bridges, establishing positive relations.
Type 5 overleaves are:
- Goal of ACCEPTANCE (seeking to connect with others, creating positive interactions)
- Mode of POWER (acting with a sense of certainty and confidence in positive outcomes)
- Attitude of IDEALISM (perceiving life inclusively and with a postive outlook, focusing on harmony rather than conflict)
- Chief feature of GREED (obsessive accumulation out of a fear of feeling want or lack)
Type 6 overleaves enable us to fully open up to life, allowing the emotional richness of life in and the full extent of oneself to shine out. This basic quality is sort of vitality and a willingness to experience all there is to experience, to stretch oneself towards a greater realisation of one’s potential, to seek meaning and value.
Type 6 overleaves are:
- Goal of GROWTH (seeking to experience life fully and in all its variety, good and bad)
- Mode of PASSION (acting with full engagement, from a place of emotional commitment)
- Attitude of SPIRITUALISM (perceiving life within a framework of profound meaning)
- Chief feature of ARROGANCE (false pride—feigning superiority out of a fear of exposing vulnerability)
Type 7 overleaves, the most outwardly-focused of the seven types, are designed to impact the world. The type 7 quality is one of assertiveness and leads to action that is self-initiated, purposive and powerful.
Type 7 overleaves are:
- Goal of DOMINANCE (seeking control over one’s life, a determination to succeed)
- Mode of AGGRESSION (acting with forceful energy to ensure success; overcoming all external resistance)
- Attitude of REALISM (perceiving life with great acuity, seeing all the forces at play)
- Chief feature of IMPATIENCE (rushing desparately through life out of a fear of missed opportunities)
Essence and Overleaves
We have seen how the seven universal patterns apply to personality traits. The picture is somewhat bigger than that, since the same seven also apply to essence (spirit) itself. There are seven basic soul energies (see: Soul Types: The Seven Roles in Essence) which correspond to the same seven qualities:
- Soul Type 1: Servers
- Soul Type 2: Artisans
- Soul Type 3: Warriors
- Soul Type 4: Scholars
- Soul Type 5: Sages
- Soul Type 6: Priests
- Soul Type 7: Kings
So some people have a cardinal essence while others have an ordinal essence. Kings, Priests and Sages are all cardinal Roles in essence, while Warriors, Servers and Artisans are all ordinal. Scholars are neutral.
Cardinal essence types tend to stand out as born leaders (Kings), role models (Priests) or great entertainers (Sages). Ordinal essence types tend to be more in the background, working in a one-to-one, hands-on fashion. With the right overleaves (personality traits), however, any cardinal essence can have an ordinal personality and conversely any ordinal essence can take on a cardinal personality.
For example, a Server (very ordinal by nature, type 1) can choose outgoing, powerful and/or charismatic overleaves which would enable it to to become a Prime Minister or President, if that was the aim.
A “well balanced” personality is a mix of ordinal and cardinal traits, though not every life is about being well balanced!