Monday, 14 March 2016

Mahatma Gandhi (IEI): Personality Type Analysis

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later known by the honorific 'Mahatma', led the movement for independence under British-controlled India of the early 20th century. Initially trained as a lawyer, he became involved in political demonstrations while expatriate in South Africa with the local Indian community there. Over time he became known as the 'father' of the Indian nation. He was most known for his consistent approach of non-violent civil disobedience.

There has been some debate over Gandhi's type. Many paint him as a gentle, highly conscience-driven man with his pacifism being interpreted as a sign he could not value F. However, I would offer an alternative opinion: Although Gandhi's principle of non-violence was of not physically hurting people, it was not a principle that prevented him from changing the world aggressively by any other means available to him. Gandhi believed that the occupation of India needed to be confronted and changed by radical means. Not only this, but he tried actively to be an enabler of such confrontation and impact on the world with his ideologies. He just happened to have been influenced by Eastern philosophies, so that he believed in not doing so via bloodshed. In this regard, his way of viewing the world was still much in line with F & T valuers. The absence of physical force is trivial compared to his world-confronting and world-changing world-view, which is often seen in the F-valuing Beta quadra.

Gandhi was a visionary nationalist who sought to bring about great change in India, possessing a great ideological mission. Throughout his life, he rejected the comforts and conveniences of the day to day, so that someday his mission could be achieved, wearing simple spun-clothes, and putting himself in painful or dangerous situations, or going on hunger strikes. This is very consistent with someone who focused primarily on T, with a rejection of S. Indeed, this would fit T1 and S3 rather well.

A quote from Gandhi : "Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs... It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany... As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions."

Gandhi believed this act of "collective suicide", in response to the Holocaust, "would have been heroism". What we see here is someone who very much saw the world in terms of the battling of forces against each other. However, he believed that the right way to manage this force was to bend to the butcher's knife, to submit to violence so that it would inspire thousands of others to act. Rather than someone who saw no value in authority, hierarchy, systems of power (F+L) etc., he saw it as crucial to bring about world change, by submitting to it. This fits very well with F5.

As for claims that morality led his actions, I would say that Gandhi was not someone who made decisions as to what was 'right' and 'wrong' based on personal conscience. His choices give little sign of someone who personally feels that something is bad or good. On the contrary, Gandhi was largely driven by religious, spiritual and political principles or ideologies that would remain a consistent, objective guide for him, rather than personal attitudes of morality. For instance, his pacifism was largely due to the influences of Jainism and the ideological preaching of Tolstoy. His desire for rebellion against British occupation came purely from an Indian nationalism, rather than a general dislike of coercion. This was clear, given his support of the British subjugation of the Zulus. In addition, he was obsessed with religious ideals of purity. For example, he would personally challenge himself to be more 'pure' by sleeping in the same bed as young girls and demonstrating that he could resist having sex with them. Also, his principles could be firm and unbending, when he allowed his wife to die of illness by forbidding that she be allowed to have penicillin, as it was against his principles. This shows a very clear reliance on the structure and ideology of L, rather than the more situational and personalised sentimental judgements of R. This makes it quite clear that Gandhi was a Beta type, valuing L alongside T.

At the same time Gandhi was clearly very capable of judging the mood of the people, and timing his actions perfectly to create a great, populist reaction that defied all common sense. Why would so many people go nuts over some salt? In going on the famous Dandi Salt March, Gandhi had the perfect balance of an illegal, but seemingly innocuous activity (collecting seawater to make salt), while presenting the act as a sort of religious pilgrimage that the British knew they would look bad to stop, all the while, securing as much media coverage as could be accomplished back then and managing to win over more and more people with each village he visited on the way. The subtle success of this March in rallying Indian people behind him, while not immediately angering the British and provoking their reaction, clearly shows someone who understood the mood of the people and how to manage it, albeit subtly. This is the hallmark of E2. At the same time, his firmness of L easily fits the weaker, but more overt L6. He may have followed principles zealously, but he did not show the same nuance in managing systems and frameworks that he did in managing the spirit of the people.

Gandhi knew that he commanded the love and admiration of many thousands of Indians, and he used this like a weapon. When he wanted something, he would go on a hunger strike, knowing that his opponents would bend under the desperation of his followers to keep him alive. This is once again, very much in line with valued F, but one that only surfaces through use of stronger T1 & E2, therefore F5 (and throughout a complete rejection of P4 & S3, he had no interest in daily conveniences, comforts or practicalities, and was more self-sacrificing than self-sufficient). This, combined with a rigid L6, makes IEI the most reasonable typing for Gandhi.

To learn more about the IEI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.


Gandhi's Passive Aggression (33 Strategies of War)


  1. "As for claims that morality led his actions, I would say that Gandhi was not someone who made decisions as to what was 'right' and 'wrong' based on personal conscience."

    As if only the Fi (R) types can ever personally feel what is right or wrong *rolls eyes*.

    1. Sure, I'm not claiming otherwise. I actually am agreeing with you. R1s have a certain approach towards morality that differs from Gandhi's more L approach to morality. Not all moral approaches are R and R isn't the sum total of morality. That's my point.