Early Axis

Early-Axis temperaments reflect a special affinity with the inspiration stage in formative process—that period when the buds of new creation first find their way into the world of the manifest.  The reality of Early-Axis individuals is born from the organizing sensibilities of possibility and imagination.


A few quotes which capture Early-Axis sensibilities and values: From Albert Einstein, “He who can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead.”  From Miles Davis, “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” From Henry David Thoreau, “It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”   From Orson Welles, “I don’t say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.” From Tom Robbins, “In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak.”  And from Picasso, “Everything is miraculous.  It is miraculous that one does not melt in one’s bath.”

Where do we find Earlies?  Often they work with young children (a grade school teacher, a day-care worker).  Frequently they become artists—visual artists (particularly those of more abstract inclination), dancers (particularly those whose esthetic tends toward the improvisational), musicians (most jazz musicians, some classical and rock and roll musicians), or writers (particularly poets and most writers of science fiction).  Earlies make important contributions in the sciences.  (Many of science’s major innovators have been Earlies—though the larger number of scientists are Lates).  Recently they have starred in the high-tech revolution. ( Their role in Information Age innovation has provided this temperament, the Axis least often associated with mainstream success, new stature and influence, and often great wealth—a kind of “revenge of the Earlies.”)   Most people who teach reflective techniques such as meditation and yoga are Earlies. (It is they who are most attracted to things spiritual, particularly practices with roots in Early-Axis cultures).

A few famous Earlies: Leonardo da Vinci, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Carl Jung, Isadora Duncan, Albert Einstein, Mary Cassat, Jonathan Winters, Antoine Saint-Exupery, May Sarton, Groucho Marx, Pablo Neruda, Anäis Nin, Howard Hughes, Alan Watts, Robin Williams, John Coltrane, Boris Karloff, Emmett Kelly, Gary Larson, Pablo Picasso, Buckminster Fuller, Frank Zappa, Nikola Tesla, Jack Nicholson, and Mrs. Saunders (my kindergarten teacher).  More notorious Earlies include Charles Manson, David Kaczynski, and Rasputin.

This listing necessarily skews toward the more manifest Early-Axis types—which in no way implies that they have greatest importance.  As is the case with every Axis, Uppers and Outers are most in the world and thus tend to be most visible.  It is only with the more universally manifest world of Late-Axis personality structures that do we see Inner/Lower personalities acknowledged historically, and even then they are underrepresented.  Mrs. Saunders is the only Early/Lower/Inner in this list.

The Early’s defining intelligence speaks the language of symbol, myth, and metaphor (for the modern Early, as experienced within the rational/material context of today’s Late-Axis culture).  Edgar Allan Poe captured the inner world of the Early when he wrote: “All that we see or seem is a dream within a dream.”  The magical and imaginative dimensions of this intelligence predominate in the more manifest Early-Axis temperaments (Early/Uppers and Early/Outers).  The mythical and mystery-centered dimensions hold sway in the psyches of Early/Lowers and Early/Inners.

As we might expect, Earlies tend to have an affinity for the beginnings of things.  Of all Axes, they are most comfortable with situations where the unknown outweighs the known.  Often their contributions are quite visionary.  (Jonathan Swift reminds us that “vision is the art of seeing things invisible.”)  As we would expect with more germinal sensibilities dominant, Earlies tend to be drawn more to wholes and interconnections than categories and differences, and more attracted to things fluid than things fixed.  Their greatest contributions often derive from their fascination with underlying principle and pattern.  (I am reminded of Albert Einstein’s famous assertion, “I am interested in God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”)  Earlies can take great joy in the nonsensical and contradictory. (From Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass: “‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if this were so, it would be: but it isn’t, it ain’t.  That is logic.'”).  Earlies, particularly Early/Lowers tend to be more comfortable in their bodies than other temperaments and derive particular fulfillment through bodily experience.  (Indeed, for many Earlies, body and spirit can be hard to distinguish.) Earlies generally feel a more immediate connection with nature than other temperaments, and greater comfort with their solitude (whether alone in nature or just with themselves).  I am reminded of the familiar words of Yeats:

“I will arise now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee.
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

Of all temperaments, Earlies have the most permeable boundary structures (which we would expect given that Early sensibilities are the least manifest).  Such can make an Early-Axis person seem fragile or frail, and present difficulties in situations where strong boundary structure is needed.  At the same time, this energetic porousness is the source of many of the Early’s great gifts and strengths—such as intuitiveness, sensitivity to interconnections, and an ability to “go with the flow.”

One is often first stuck on meeting an Early by a childlike quality.  Early-Axis people have a special appreciation for childhood sensibilities both in themselves and in the world around them.  While a certain non-conformism is a common Early Axis trait, its origin is less rebellion than a certain mistrust of—and even ignorance of—adult convention.

With Early/Uppers, qualities such as imaginativeness, intuitiveness, charisma, and spiritual and artistic sensitivity predominate.  Early/Uppers make manifest the sensibilities of the “magical child.”  Where inner aspects predominate, the Early/Upper’s “artistry” is most internal.  We often see Early/Upper/Inner sensibilities in poets, painters, and in people drawn to the more ascendant and ascetic of Eastern spiritual practices.  I think of the words of Pablo Neruda—”My obligation is this: to be transparent.”

Where Early/Upper/Outer aspects are strongest, the Early/Upper’s imaginativeness manifests with greatest visibility—through more dramatic forms of artistic expression or through scientific or technical invention.  It is here we find the notorious “mad professor.”  Note this description of Nobel physicist Theodore B. Taylor from The Universe of Binding Energy: “She found him attractive—tall, gangling with a broad forehead, a somewhat parted chin, and great thoughtful brown eyes, which often seemed to be focusing on something no one else could see.”

With Early/Lowers, attributes like connection to nature and mystery, a deep capacity to nurture, and spontaneity are most prominent.  We see embodied simultaneously the playful aspects of the child (as opposed to the numinous and magical), and the child’s connection with the primordial.  Darkness has an affinity for Early/Lowers not found with other temperaments.  I think of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s description of night as “when words fade and things come alive.”

With Early/Lower/Outers we are often most struck by their capacity for abandonment.  Spontaneity and the ability to improvise come easily.  Here, mythically, we find the wild man and wild woman.  Early/Lower/Outers often manifest as poets or more improvisational dancers and musicians.  Salvador Dali once exclaimed, “I do not take drugs—I am drugs.” (Early/ Lowers in particular tend to identify with the social margins—in the past as bohemians or hippies, more recently with school age Earlies as “goths” or as inhabitants of the “grunge scene.”)

Qualities like the ability to nurture and a delight in the mysterious predominate with Early/Lower/Inners.  Such people often manifest through artistic expression, frequently of a deeply personal sort.  And many contribute through work with children—attracted either to selflessly serving the children’s “magic,” or to the possibility of living immersed in the unformed.  They also often find fulfillment in work with animals.  Early/Lower/Inners in particular would appreciate these words of poet Izumi Shikibu:  “As I dig for wild orchids in the autumn fields, it is the deeply bedded root that I desire, not the flower.”

Common weaknesses of Earlies parallel their strengths.  Earlies often have a difficult time finding satisfaction in the traditional work-world—tending to like more freedom than most jobs provide and often being a bit too eccentric or original in their thinking to fit in well.  They also often lack the facility with detail and comfort with repetitive tasks that the work place so often demands.  Whatever the setting, Earlies can also run into problems because of difficulties they often experience in distinguishing between dreams and dreams made manifest.  (Or they recognize the difference, but are simply not good at carrying tasks to completion—a recent newspaper column jokingly referred to an obviously Early-Axis person as “planning impaired.”)  Earlies also often do poorly in situations that involve significant struggle or conflict.  They can lack the boundary solidity, the “thick skin,” needed for combat that is drawn out or, more generally, for the “hardball” reality of modern life.

Earlies are much more likely than Middles or Lates to feel awkward in social situations.  Even more expressive Earlies can seem quite introverted and a bit “nerdy.” Earlies also frequently find societally expected forms of commitment either challenging or not of real interest.   Relationship can be very important, but it must somehow complement the Early’s creative, primordial, and spiritual sensitivities to be long-lasting.

The primary partialities with Early-Lower personalities, particularly those with a strong inner aspect, follow from the fact that here, compared to other energetics, we see the least formedness and the most permeable boundaries.  Such people, if their Capacitance is limited, can find it difficult to manifest in any visible way in the world.  Similarly, they can have a hard time either allowing difference and individuality in others or mobilizing it in themselves.  The other side of the unique sensitivity to children often seen here is a common difficulty as parents in dealing with their children’s maturation.  If such people are not careful, they become suffocating or undermining, acting out their fear of letting new Aliveness rise and separate.

With major splitting in Early/Upper dynamics (when the available Capacitance is chronically insufficient for the challenges of daily life), charisma can transform into grandiosity, often with a touch of paranoia.  The person’s energetic becomes like that of the mythic god-king; if his charisma brings him followers (people to be one with him within a reality he defines), he can be quite magical and charming.  But where this is lacking, and certainly most often as an adult it will be, he can feel frightened and alone.  Where the dynamic is more inward, the grandiosity tends to be spiritually rather than personally defined.

Significant splitting in Early/Lower dynamics results in some of the strongest tendencies toward depression:  the spark of inspiration is simply swallowed before it can appear.  Particularly with more Early/Lower/Inner patterns, strong dependency is also common.  Where in Early/Upper we saw the grandiosely self-centered child, here we see the needy child.  A magical causality again operates, but rather than emanating from the self, it is centered on an external agent such as a charismatic individual or a group (like a religious cult).   With more Early/Lower/Outer patterns, the Early’s rudimentary boundary capacity is apt to be expressed less through such dependent merging than through avoidance of social contact or anti-social behavior.

Early-Axis people characteristically look young for their age.* The body of Early/Upper people tends to be thin and unusually flexible.  Appearance can range from the awkward child look of a Lyle Lovitt to the Adonis-like beautiful child look of an Andre Agassi. The major parts of aliveness are carried in the inner, “magical” layers of the upper chest, face and eyes.  Tissues tend to be on the soft side.  Where there is splitting, the body energetics of Early/Upper personalities become hyper-ascendant and tissuesand movements take on an increasingly brittle quality.  As a person moves further beyond an age where childlike narcissism is appropriate, this brittleness can become the dominant body characteristic.

Early/Upper people tend to be taller than the norm.  This is likely  a function of their later-than-usual onset of puberty and, with this, a delay in closing of the skeletal growth plates.

We see several body patterns with Early/Lower dynamics.  They have in common a tendency toward unboundedness and dominant embodiment in the belly and pelvis.  With more external dynamics, the body tends to be hyper-flexible and often quite animated, not unlike what we see with more ascendant patterns, but with a slightly lower center of balance and generally with somewhat greater body mass.

With Early/Lower/Inner dynamics, we see two patterns.  In one, the person tends toward being thin and gaunt, a “hungry child.”  In the second, there is more pudginess, like a child yet to lose its baby fat.  Here there may be significant obesity.  With splitting, the bulk serves as a covert boundary, both keeping distance and obscuring clarity of interface.

The “Diagnostics” section introduces a tool called The Diversity Game that uses game cards with assorted quotes and observations to help people learn about their own personality style and about personality diversity in general.  Personality cards selected by people with Early-Axis personality structures might include the following.


“My obligation is this:
to be transparent.”
—Pablo Neruda

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it.  That is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.”
—J. Krishnamurti

“I really value solitude.  It nourishes me and brings me close to the spiritual in things.  It’s funny, I often feel least alone when I am by myself.”


“I’ve got quite a bit of the mad scientist in me.  It is right that Albert Einstein’s hair should seem to have a mind of its own.”

“I’m better at coming up with new ideas than carrying them out.  I need others around who can take my wild brainstormings and turn them into practical action.”

“She found him attractive—tall, gangling with a broad forehead, a somewhat parted chin, and great thoughtful  brown eyes, which often seemed to be focusing on something no one else could see.”

—description of nuclear physicist Theodore B. Taylor from the book
The Universe of Binding Energy


“As I dig for wild orchids
in the autumn fields,
it is the deeply bedded root
that I desire,
not the flower.
—Izumi Shikibu

“People sometimes think I am sad or depressed when actually I’m just deep inside myself.  It takes me by surprise when people think this because it is often in moments when I am feeling most at peace and honoring of myself.”

“In having children, I particularly loved the almost vegetative state of early pregnancy and very early mothering.”


“I love things primordial:  the roar of the ocean, the musky smell that lingers
after sex.”

“I’ve often named the cars I’ve owned.  And the ones I remember most fondly are not the ones that ran best, but the ones that had particularly special or quirky personalities.  It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I think I relate to cars more as creatures or mythic beings than as machines.”

“I do not take drugs—I am drugs.”
—Salvador Dali

A few more famous Earlies within each quadrant:

Famous Earlies within the various quadrants of poles and aspects:

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