There once was a tribe of tent-dwelling people called the Lapsonians who lived deep in the midst of a dense forest. Long before anybody who was living could remember, part of the forest had been carved into an intricate maze.

At the center of the maze was a cornucopia of fruit and nut trees, and the ground was teeming with delicious edible mushrooms. Everything at the center of the maze was fit to eat — and delicious. Outside of the maze, nobody knew what was safe and what was poisonous, and almost none of the fruits outside of the maze tasted as rich and sweet as those at its center.

The spirit gods of the forest worshiped by the Lapsonians had prohibited them from setting their tents at the center of the maze. The shamans promised that death and extinction awaited the tribe if ever they violated this prohibition: the fruits would stop growing from the trees, the mushrooms would stop bursting from the ground. To settle at the center of the maze, even for the night, was the ultimate sin in the Lapsonian religion.

Thus, for the Lapsonians, it was essential that some members of the tribe reach the center of the maze each and every day — and make it back before dark, for it was also forbidden to carry torches into the maze, in the event that an accidental fire could destroy their primary source of food and everything around it.

The maze was so complex that it was utterly impossible to map with any degree of accuracy. There were, in fact, many possible routes to the center of the maze, but they were always changing. Trees were born, and trees died, bushes grew in certain seasons and withered in others, — bears and ferocious felines might appear at critical junctures on certain days, but not on others.

As a result, even if the Lapsonians had managed to invent a stable form of writing (which they did not have), the map would have been out of date as soon as it was made. Anyway, they could hardly spare the human resources to focus on making maps when there was so much that needed to be done each day in the life of the tribe.

Indeed, in the tribe’s oral tradition, there were stories of chiefs who had ordered maps to be made of the maze that nearly resulted in the obliteration of the tribe, and it came to the point that it was completely taboo to even raise the question again. Children were taught this from an early age, and by the time they were sent out on their first journeys into the maze, they knew never to suggest it in a fit of laziness.

“All maps are lies. All lies are death,” was the mantra chanted by the shaman every morning before the search parties were sent out to gather food at the center of the maze.

Similarly, it was important, given the complexity of the maze, that the search parties maximize their chances of success. If everyone traveled together, they might not reach the center of the maze, or make it back out on many days (or perhaps ever!), and the tribe would starve to death. The more chances of success, the better.

But, at the same time, there were perils along the way — the aforementioned bears and ferocious felines, amongst others. If somebody were to get injured, they would need help either treating the wound or getting back to the settlement.

It was also imperative that whenever somebody would reach the center of the maze, that they were not alone in gathering the food and carrying it back.

Thus, over the centuries, the shamans had developed an intricate system to maximize the probability of daily success in the endeavor. As with any probabilistic system, it did not work every single time, but it was designed to work well enough that it was inconsequential on the days it did not.

The paradox, the shamans understood between themselves, was that it was better to make too many errors than too few. The number of errors correlated with the number of decisions, and the more decisions were made, the higher the likelihood of correct decisions.

Put another way, the deep magic of the Lapsonian shamans was the understanding of this counterintuitive truth: error correlates to success.

From early childhood, each member of the tribe was drilled in specific directional and instructional preferences, and they were taught to be consistent with that preference except when there were obvious reasons to do otherwise.

For example, each child was sorted into a “left” or “right” preference group. The lefties were taught that at every fork in the maze where there was an option of going right or left, they were to choose left. The righties were taught the contrary.

The sortings continued along these lines — when there was an option to go up or go down, half were trained to go up, and the other half down.

Half were trained to engage with threats encountered within the maze, and the other half to avoid them.

Half were taught to take short-cuts when a short-cut appeared, and half to stay on the carved path instead.

This meant that every member of the tribe was taught to specialize in a mixed set of these preferences. One could be a Left-Up-Engage-Shortcutter, or a Right-Down-Avoid-Longwayer, or any other possible grouping. Being a lefty was not mutually exclusive to being a downer — each element was independent of the other, and each combination gave rise to entirely different navigational patterns within the maze.

For the safety of each member of the tribe, who were all considered sacred and precious in the tribe’s spiritual tradition, the searches to the center of the maze were conducted in groups of four, with a leader appointed to each group. The law of searching mandated that it was the leader’s navigational preferences that were to be followed, except when there was obvious evidence there ought to be a deviation — nothing was ever supposed to be absolute. As the Lapsonian prophet-shaman from ages past Ralph Waldo Emerson taught them, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Thus, the system that the shamans developed required the leaders to be selected such that there would be equal proportions of each navigational preference between them, and a mixture within each search party as well. This ensured that the leaders’ preferences were balanced out by the members of their party, so that when clear exceptions needed to be made, there would be the ability to see them more quickly.

On any given day, no search party had any guarantee of success, and each step of the way was fraught with the perils of the maze. No matter how hard anybody tried to outsmart the shamans’ system — and they certainly tried! — it turned out that over time, nobody could.

An occasional success story might come from deviating from the system, but the shamans knew that is just how probabilistic systems go, and never felt there was a threat from such attempts. Any series of errors could yield a success. Consequently, there was never a concerted effort by the shamans to punish particular deviations.

The story of the Lapsonians provides a simplified and metaphorical representation of the understanding I have developed over the past 25 years since I began my exploration of the differences in human personality at the age of 15, when I first encountered David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II and Jungian psychology.

What we observe to be “personality differences”, and which appear in recognizable patterns, “you are so much like this other person I know,” derive, I believe, from patterns of bias, or error preference that serve an evolutionary function analogous to my fictional Lapsonians.

For several years I had struggled to understand why I encountered so many people who had taken some sort of Myers-Briggs self-assessment that did not seem to match the person I was observing in front of me. In my workshops, I attempted to teach Jung’s dichotomies through the explanations and terminology used by Jung himself, Myers & Briggs in their books, and by other Jungian writers, and for whatever reason, something was perpetually off.

The key eureka! moment in my exploration of this topic came when I encountered Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow during Exosphere’s second cohort, in 2014. His delineation of subrational, heuristic-based System 1 thinking and rational, calculation-based System 2 thinking provided the codex I needed to reinterpret Jung and Jungian personality typing systems, and set out to develop my own.

After reading Kahneman, I realized that the disconnect was that personality is who we are without trying to be anybody, not who we are trying to be. Self-assessments, lectures, and interactive workshops engage System 2, and personality really comes from System 1.

I began experimenting with new language, and to the discomfort of many, that language was primarily negative. I hypothesized that our personalities represented our biases, not our gifts — that our gifts are in fact the positive side effects of what amounts to a negative: a particular form of irrationality.

Returning to the Lapsonians, the bias of going left is a benefit whenever left is the correct answer. When it isn’t, it’s pure annoyance. That is effectively how personality functions: our individual biases are part of a collective probabilistic tribal computer trying to average out to right answers across many observations through time.

It is easy to forget how recently we left tribal life, and how long it was the dominant social organizational structure before. Virtually every feature of the human evolved in a tribal context. Arguably the basis and prototypes of tribal structures are as old as primates themselves, stretching back 100 million years. The city of Rome was founded about 2,700 years ago, marking the beginning of post-tribal forms of social and political organization in the West.

We are much less rational than we think, and we are much more tribal than we want to believe. These are not statements intended to limit us to those outcomes, but rather honest assessments of how ingrained certain patterns are and how much extra effort is required to understand them and overcome their disadvantages — that is the primary motivation behind the work I am trying to do here.

We are not rational beings with an irrational body. We are not spirits with bodies and minds. We are instinctive bodies that evolved an extremely thin layer of rationality, which miraculously happens to be sufficient to perceive the Spirit within ourselves that interconnects with every particle in the universe.

This interconnectedness also gives rise to our differences, our specialized functions, within our species, and our species in the broader earth and universal ecosystems. The better we understand ourselves, the better we can play that role, and finish the consciousness revolution that was started so long ago.

Though undoubtedly heretical to most doctrinal Christian ears, my perspective is that this is the true meaning of the thread connecting the story of the Garden of Eden to the life and mission of Jesus. The “fall of man” is simply an inaccurate description (and one that is not found in the text itself — only on subheadings added long after).

The so-called “fall” is actually the story of emergent consciousness. We started to become aware of things, and this awareness enabled us to do things we could not do before (including things like lying, premeditated murder, etc.). We became aware of our irrationality, and we abused our newfound rationality. These were the externalities to our cognitive evolution, what religions call sin.

But taken to its eventually end, our consciousness can be the most extraordinary of gifts: relieving suffering, preventing & healing disease, the experience of higher order joy, the making of music, creation of art, and so much more.

My hope is that this essay is the beginning of an enhanced understanding of the mind, allowing us to better coordinate, better communicate, better relate, to be more patient with each other — and ourselves, and, to quote Aquinas, “never lose the resolve to change.”

The work which will follow here in the coming months will no doubt challenge many deeply-held prejudices and for many, will seem almost violently threatening to both their worldview and selfview. Others will read it superficially to confirm their biases and dismiss the actions of others (and themselves) as deterministically inevitable.

Unfortunately, I can do nothing to prevent any of this, no matter how much I intend the effect to be the opposite. Human nature is nothing if not persistent.

But for those who would be open to interpreting this work as a labor of love, as a desire for the amelioration of the human condition, a source of mutual understanding, and a genuine effort to engender peacemaking in our time, I invite you on this journey with me, a journey into the unknown, and one in which I still have far more questions than answers.

These are the notes of my own journey, scribbled across now literally millions of words of journal entries, the result of countless hours of contemplation and conversation — a conversation in which I hope you will choose to take an active part.

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