Chapter 8 The Four Elements

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) introduced the concept of the four temperaments as part of humourism, an old medical theory that suggested human personality traits and behaviors are influenced by four bodily fluids. While modern medical science doesn’t establish a direct correlation between internal secretions and personality, certain psychological personality classification systems draw parallels to the Greek temperaments.

  • Choleric : Fire
  • Phlegmatic : Water
  • Sanguine : Air
  • Melancholic : Earth

Source: Wikipedia

The attempt to correlate Keirsey’s temperaments with astrological categories offers a stimulating exercise in symbolic thinking, opening up fresh perspectives on the rich tapestry of human personality. However, it is crucial to maintain a balanced perspective that respects the integrity of each system and acknowledges the complexity and diversity of human behavior.

The Four Elements and Astrology

The four classical elements—fire, earth, air, and water—have been foundational concepts in various philosophical systems throughout history. These elements not only represent physical phenomena but also symbolize certain human characteristics and tendencies. This symbolism can be applied to both the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a personality categorization tool, and astrology, the study of celestial bodies’ movements and their purported influence on human behavior.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter and the Four Elements

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter classifies people into four temperaments: Artisans (SP), Guardians (SJ), Rationalists (NT), and Idealists (NF). Each temperament embodies a distinct set of characteristics, which can be associated with the four elements.

  1. Artisans (Air): Artisans are spontaneous, energetic, and action-oriented—characteristics that align with the dynamic and transformative nature of fire. However, air is arguably a more fitting association. The Artisan temperament, characterized by spontaneity, adaptability, and a preference for action and the present moment, can indeed resonate with the qualities traditionally associated with air. In many philosophical systems, air embodies movement, change, and freedom - reflecting the Artisan’s adaptable and exploratory nature. Moreover, air symbolizes communication and social interaction, aligning with the Artisan’s often expressive and engaging communication style.

  2. Guardians (Earth): Guardians, who are practical, dependable, and value security, echo the stability and groundedness represented by earth.

  3. Rationalists (Fire): Rationalists are analytical, theoretical, and strategic, traits that resonate with the element of air, symbolizing intellect and communication. However, fire is arguably a more fitting association. The Rational temperament, marked by strategic thinking, a quest for competence and knowledge, and a tendency towards innovation, can be linked to the element of fire. The fire of mind is often associated with transformation, energy, and the light of intelligence - all of which align with the Rational’s intellectual drive and transformative problem-solving abilities. Furthermore, fire symbolizes intensity, which resonates with the Rational’s passion for mastery and understanding.

  4. Idealists (Water): Idealists, known for their empathy, introspection, and focus on personal growth, mirror the emotional depth and adaptability attributed to water.

Astrology and the Four Elements

Astrological signs are grouped into four elemental categories, each signifying a particular energy pattern:

  1. Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius): Fire signs are passionate, dynamic, and temperamental, embodying the transformative and energetic qualities of fire.
  2. Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn): Earth signs are practical, grounded, and value material comfort, mirroring the stability and tangibility of earth.
  3. Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius): Air signs are intellectual, social, and independent, reflecting the communicative and free-flowing nature of air.
  4. Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): Water signs are intuitive, emotional, and sensitive, capturing the depth and fluidity of water.

These correlations between the four elements and the Keirsey types or astrological signs are interpretive, providing a symbolic framework for understanding complex human behaviors. However, they should be used judiciously and in conjunction with other evidence-based approaches to personality and behavioral analysis. While these associations offer intriguing insights, they are not definitive or universally applicable, given the complexity and diversity of human personality.


The association of the “fire of the mind” characteristic, a hallmark of Keirsey’s Rational temperament, with the three fiery signs of the Zodiac—Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius—involves an application of symbolic reasoning grounded in the principles of comparative analysis and metaphorical interpretation. It necessitates a thorough understanding of the Rational temperament’s defining traits and the distinguishing characteristics of each fiery zodiac sign.

The Rational temperament, as delineated by Keirsey, is characterized by strategic thinking, intellectual rigor, analytical precision, and a relentless quest for knowledge and competence. The metaphor of the “fire of the mind” captures the transformative power of intellect and the burning passion for understanding that are characteristic of Rationals.

  • Aries: Aries is marked by pioneering spirit, courage, and determination. The innovative and trailblazing tendencies of Aries can be seen as a metaphorical manifestation of the Rational’s intellectual pioneering. The courage of Aries aligns with the Rational’s bravery in challenging established norms when they stand in contradiction to logical analysis. The determination of Aries resonates with the tenacity of Rationals in their pursuit of knowledge and competence.

  • Leo: Leo is characterized by leadership, creativity, and confidence. The leadership quality of Leo corresponds to the Rational’s propensity to lead in intellectual pursuits, while Leo’s creativity parallels the Rational’s creative problem-solving abilities. The confidence of Leo mirrors the Rational’s trust in their logical reasoning and analytical skills.

  • Sagittarius: Sagittarius is known for its optimism, love for freedom, and philosophical inclination. These traits align with the Rational’s optimistic belief in the power of reason, their value for intellectual freedom, and their tendency to engage in philosophical contemplation as part of their systematic exploration of reality.

The association of Keirsey’s Rationals with the Zodiac signs Leo and Sagittarius certainly takes on additional depth when considering the symbolism of concentration and focused intellect. This is indeed a significant trait of the Rational temperament, as they are known for their propensity towards in-depth research, systematic analysis, and rigorous intellectual pursuits.

  • Leo: Ruled by the Sun, Leo’s glyph—a central point surrounded by a circle—signifies the concept of a singular focus or concentrated energy. This resonates with the Rationals’ approach to intellectual endeavors, which often involves a high degree of focus and a concentrated effort to delve deeply into a subject matter. The sun, as the center of our solar system, also symbolizes authority and leadership, mirroring the Rational’s natural inclination towards leading intellectual pursuits and their authoritative command over their areas of expertise.

  • Sagittarius: The arrow of Sagittarius, pointing in a single direction, embodies the idea of targeted pursuit or one-pointed concentration. This aligns with the Rationals’ capacity for focused and intensive intellectual explorations. Additionally, the opposition of Sagittarius to Gemini—a sign traditionally associated with versatility and scattered interests—further emphasizes the contrast between a concentrated versus a diffuse mental approach. This contrast mirrors the Rational’s propensity for deep, focused study as opposed to a more superficial exploration of a broader range of topics.

In conclusion, these symbolic correspondences enrich our understanding of the Rational temperament by highlighting its defining trait of concentrated intellectual activity. They underscore the Rationals’ capacity for focused mental effort, systematic exploration, and in-depth analysis—traits that align them with the concentrated energy symbolized by Leo’s sun glyph and the one-pointed focus represented by Sagittarius’s arrow. However, as with any symbolic system, these associations should be understood as metaphorical insights, supplementing rather than replacing empirical observations and rational analysis in our quest for a comprehensive understanding of human personality.


In the realm of symbolic interpretation, it is indeed plausible to draw parallels between Keirsey’s Artisan temperament and the air triplicity of the Zodiac—Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. However, it is important to approach such correspondences with a spirit of open inquiry, recognizing their metaphorical nature and grounding them in a rigorous analysis of the defining traits of both temperamental and astrological categories.

Keirsey’s Artisans are characterized by their adaptability, pragmatism, and spontaneity. They are tactile, grounded in the present moment, and often excel in manipulating tools or instruments. Artisans value freedom, seek stimulation, and tend to be gifted in tactical operations and crises management.

The air signs, on the other hand, are associated with intellect, communication, social interaction, and abstract thinking. Let’s explore how these characteristics might correspond to the Artisan temperament:

  • Gemini: As the sign of the Twins, Gemini is linked to adaptability, versatility, and communication. The adaptable nature of Gemini could be seen as corresponding to the Artisan’s pragmatic approach to life, which allows them to adjust readily to changing circumstances. Gemini’s emphasis on communication may align with the Artisan’s ability to tactically navigate social situations.

  • Libra: Libra, symbolized by the Scales, is associated with balance, harmony, and social interaction. The Artisan’s knack for maintaining equilibrium in crisis situations could correspond to Libra’s quest for balance. Likewise, the Artisan’s natural ease in social situations may resonate with Libra’s focus on interpersonal relations.

  • Aquarius: Aquarius, the Water Bearer, is linked to innovation, humanitarianism, and intellectual independence. These traits may align with the Artisan’s innovative problem-solving abilities, their tactical skills, and their independent spirit.

While these correspondences offer intriguing possibilities, they should be approached with caution. The Artisan temperament, rooted in sensory experience and immediate action, differs significantly from the more abstract and conceptual orientation of the air signs. Therefore, while the Artisans’ adaptability, social skills, and tactical acumen may find echoes in the qualities of air signs, the overarching correspondence between the Artisan temperament and the air triplicity should be recognized as a broad, metaphorical association rather than a precise, one-to-one match.

We can also explore the possibility of associating Keirsey’s Artisan temperament with the Bailey Ray 4, which pertains to the intuitive sense and abstract thinking.

Ray 4, the Ray of Harmony through Conflict, is often associated with intuition, bridging opposites, and synthesis. This ray has a particular focus on the resolution of dualities into a harmonious whole, a process that requires a highly developed intuitive sense and an ability to think abstractly.

Keirsey’s Artisans are characterized by their adaptability, pragmatism, spontaneity, and a focus on the present moment. These traits underscore their tactical intelligence, which is rooted in concrete sensory experience and immediate action. However, if we consider the Artisans in light of Bailey’s Ray 4, we could interpret their adaptability and crisis management skills as indicative of a kind of intuitive intelligence. Their ability to respond effectively to rapidly changing circumstances may be seen as a form of practical intuition, an immediate grasp of what needs to be done in a given situation without conscious reasoning.

Furthermore, Artisans’ skill in manipulating tools or instruments can be viewed as a form of abstract thinking, where they mentally model and predict the outcomes of their actions. This is a form of abstract reasoning that is grounded in sensory experience and immediate action, but it nonetheless involves a projection beyond the concrete present into the realm of possibilities.

So, while there remains a distinct difference between the Artisan’s practical, sensory-oriented intelligence and the more conceptual, abstract thinking typically associated with the air signs, the Bailey Ray 4 perspective does provide a bridge that can bring these two seemingly disparate modes of cognition into closer alignment. In this way, the association of the Artisan temperament with the air triplicity becomes more tenable.

In conclusion, the incorporation of Bailey’s Ray 4 into our analysis offers a nuanced perspective that can help reconcile the apparent tension between the Artisan’s sensory-based, pragmatic intelligence and the air signs’ intellectual, abstract orientation. This approach underscores the potential richness of symbolic correspondence when they are grounded in rigorous, evidence-based arguments and interpreted in a spirit of open, philosophical inquiry.


When we consider the earth signs in astrology—Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn—and their characteristics, a strong correlation can indeed be drawn with Keirsey’s Guardian temperament.

Keirsey’s Guardians are characterized by their dependability, practicality, and respect for traditions. They value security, structure, and order, and they excel in roles that require careful organization, meticulous attention to detail, and steadfast dedication.

The earth signs, in astrology, are associated with practicality, reliability, and a grounded, pragmatic approach to life. Let’s delve into how these characteristics might correspond to the Guardian temperament:

  • Taurus: As an earth sign, Taurus is associated with stability, practicality, and a strong connection to the material world. These traits align closely with the Guardian’s emphasis on security, dependability, and practical problem-solving.

  • Virgo: Virgo, symbolized by the Virgin, is linked to meticulousness, methodical approaches, and a focus on service. This corresponds well with the Guardian’s attention to detail, systematic approach, and dedication to duty and service.

  • Capricorn: Capricorn, represented by the Goat, is associated with ambition, discipline, and a respect for rules and structures. These traits resonate with the Guardian’s respect for tradition, their disciplined nature, and their tendency to uphold established structures and systems.

In light of these correspondences, it appears quite fitting to associate the earth signs with the Guardian temperament. Both share a fundamental orientation towards practicality, reliability, and a structured approach to life. However, as with any symbolic system, these associations should be seen as providing metaphorical insights that complement rather than replace empirical observations and rational analysis in our understanding of human personality.

In conclusion, drawing parallels between astrological signs and Keirsey’s temperaments offers us a rich and nuanced perspective on personality traits. By aligning the earth signs with the Guardian temperament, we gain a deeper understanding of the pragmatic, dependable, and structured nature of this temperament, traits that are beautifully mirrored in the earthy pragmatism of Taurus, the meticulous service orientation of Virgo, and the disciplined ambition of Capricorn.


In examining the correlation between Keirsey’s Idealist temperament and the water signs of the Zodiac—Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces—it’s crucial to delve into the fundamental characteristics of these categories.

Keirsey’s Idealists are known for their enthusiasm, trust in intuition, romanticism, and yearning for self-actualization. They are often driven by a deep sense of purpose and a desire for meaningful relationships.

The water signs in astrology are generally associated with emotional depth, intuition, sensitivity, and empathy. Let’s explore how these traits align with the Idealist temperament:

  • Cancer: As the sign of the Crab, Cancer is linked with nurturing, emotional sensitivity, and a strong connection to home and family. While Cancer may not directly correlate with the Idealist’s focus on self-actualization and personal growth, its emphasis on emotional sensitivity and nurturing could resonate with the Idealists’ empathetic nature and their desire for meaningful relationships.

  • Scorpio: Scorpio, symbolized by the Scorpion, is associated with intensity, passion, and a deep exploration of life’s mysteries. This aligns well with the Idealist’s passionate pursuit of self-actualization and their trust in intuition. Scorpio’s intensity and depth can be seen as a mirror of the Idealists’ strong inner drive and emotional depth.

  • Pisces: Pisces, the Fish, is linked with empathy, dreaminess, and a desire for transcendence. These traits correspond closely with the Idealists’ empathetic nature, their intuitive understanding, and their yearning for self-actualization and personal growth.

While each water sign offers a different lens through which to view the Idealist temperament, together they form a multifaceted picture that captures key aspects of this temperament. Cancer highlights the Idealist’s emotional sensitivity and interpersonal focus, Scorpio illuminates their passion and intensity, and Pisces underscores their intuitive, dreamy nature and their quest for transcendence and self-actualization.

In conclusion, while the symbolic correlation between the Idealist temperament and the water signs may be more immediate for Pisces, the other water signs—Cancer and Scorpio—also offer valuable insights into the Idealist’s emotional landscape. The nurturing nature of Cancer and the intense passion of Scorpio can be seen as complementary facets of the Idealist’s complex emotional world, enriching our understanding of this temperament. As always, these correlations should be taken as metaphorical associations that offer a fresh perspective on the rich tapestry of human personality, rather than definitive categorizations.