Greek wasn’t exactly my favourite subject at school. But although I had no talent at all for classical grammar and complicated syntax in a foreign language, one Greek phrase has always stuck in my mind: ‘gnooti seauton’, or ‘know thyself’ in English.
In Ancient Greece, this maxim was engraved at the entrance to the temple of Delphi, a famous yet mysterious oracle. According to those in the know – also known as philosophers – it confronts people with what might be the most difficult question in life: who are you?
Luckily, there are lots of different ways to find this out nowadays. Each time you open a magazine, you will find articles inviting you to answer ten questions to discover what kind of student, colleague, friend or father you are. If you go for a job interview, diagrams in primary colours are used to test whether your personality fits in with the rest of the team. And the business model for websites like Buzzfeed consists of all kinds of quizzes to find out who your inner Disney Princess is.
I’ve tried several methods for living up to the recommendation ‘know thyself’. I carried out in-depth research on my own star sign when I was about 18 and I had a go at analysing my friends’ characters by looking at the position of the planets at the time of their birth. After that, I changed over to the personality types as defined by Myers and Briggs, whose method is slightly more academic but no less controversial. If you choose the statements which fit in best with your character, you get assigned an abbreviation plus a description which is often pretty accurate. And in the meantime, various colour tests have given me a whole rainbow of personality types.
So I’d already gone quite a way towards getting to know myself, but I was still in for a big surprise about my character. A few weeks ago, one of my friends suggested that I do a quiz on Pottermore. I’d always secretly hoped that I was a Gryffindor, the major heroes in the Harry Potter series, but now it seems I’m really a Hufflepuff after all.
And that’s really it for the time being! I’m pretty sure I’ve obeyed the instructions of Delphi, by discovering my inner green and yellow Scorpio from Hufflepuff called Mulan, as well as a true ENFP type according to Myers and Briggs. But I’m still wondering whether the ancient Greeks actually had this in mind when they built that entrance.
They Myers-Briggs Type Indicator isn’t *slightly more academic* – it’s not and has never been academic. It’s based on an (incorrect) interpretation of the (non-scientific) ideas of C.G. Jung, and has been thoroughly discredited in the scientific literature. To call it “controversial” is about as accurate as to call evidence for climate change “controversial”.
If you can read between the lines, I believe she in fact calls it bull shit.