Author Enneagram Type Case Study – Clark Ashton Smith (4)(updated wing)

EDIT NOTE: while I initially concluded Clark Ashton Smith to be a 4w3, I’ve now revised that to 4w5. The initial article from here on is unchanged; see Comments for discussion of changes).


Type: 4w3 sx
Based on: General type indicators [very strong], fixation mentions (not holy idea), probable function preferences.

Continuing around the circle in no particular order,  the fantasy/horror writer Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) is an interesting study, again due to very clear or recognizeable type traits, at least as far as the core of Four is concerned. His output is largely in short stories which were published in various pulp magazines of the era, and is also interesting for this because the reader here can study many of his works online as well-
He was a contemporary of H P Lovecraft’s [a 5w6 or 6w5, probably], who referred to him as the “Atlantean High Priest Klarkash-Ton”. Smith was a poet and sculptor in his normal life, as well as painting and drawing, reportedly considering his writing to be primarily for the money. If anything, the main problem with studying him as a Four is that with his Four traits being so strong, by comparison it may be possible to overlook other Fours in which the personality is less all-consuming. Again, note he shows typical type traits despite no knowledge of the enneagram himself.

Core Four traits:
Themes in his works include lost love, loss and ruin, defeat, sadness, death. Envy is a frequent motivator of characters in his fiction. Preferring tragedy, protagonists nearly always die in the course of the book, and if not will frequently suffer loss of friends, limbs, etc.
Melancholy, the four ‘fixation’ according to Ichazo, is very clearly apparent – there is a aura of despair or futility central in his work. Note that while authors of other types will frequently add relatively dark themes in order to add drama to their stories, and this is perhaps the primary difficulty in identifying Fours, they are more likely to take it further.
Smith has an extreme fascination in death and decay, shown in his various stories about necromancers, the undead, ghosts, lamias, corpses, catalepsies mistaken for death, graves, children of women believed dead attacked by ghouls, etc.
Its somewhat noteworthy that even characters you might expect to be reasonably pleased with their life remain dissatisfied – the ruler Maal Dweb for example, suffers an ennui enlivened by various horrors perpetrated against his subjects – ; or, the aged wizard Malygris is indifferent to his power and status and remains preoccupied by his lost love:

But, though these things and the power they held or symbolized were the terror of the peoples and the envy, of all rival magicians, the thoughts of Malygris were dark with immitigable melancholy, and weariness filled his heart as ashes fill the hearth where a great fire has died. Immovable he sat, implacable he mused, while the sun of afternoon, declining on the city and on the sea that was beyond the city, smote with autumnal rays through the window of greenish-yellow glass, and touched his shrunken hands with its phantom gold and fired the bales-rubies of his rings till they burned like demonian eyes. But in his musings there was neither light nor fire; and turning from the grayness of the present, from the darkness that seemed to close in so imminently upon the future, he groped among the shadows of memory, even as a blind man who has lost the sun and seeks it everywhere in vain…Then Malygris groped backward to the years of his youth, to the misty, remote, incredible years, where, like an alien star, one memory still burned with unfailing luster – the memory of the girl Nylissa whom he had loved in days ere the lust of unpermitted knowledge and necromantic dominion had ever entered his soul.

Lost love is a very common theme across his works generally, while dreams of contentment are also surpassing or transcendent, but inevitably brief:

We felt no needs, no hungers, other than those which were amply satisfied by the crystal well-water, by the purple fruit of the trees, and by each other. Ours were the dawns that poured through the feathering emerald of fronds; and the sunsets whose amber was flung on a blossom-purified sward more delicate than the rugs of Bokhara. Ours was the divine monotony of contentment, ours were the kisses and endearments ever the same in sweetness yet illimitable various. Ours was a slumber enchanted by cloudless stars, and caresses without denial or regret. We spoke of naught but our love and the little things that filled our days; yet the words we uttered were more than the weighty discourse of the learned and the wise. I sang no more, I forgot my odes and ghazals; for life itself had become a sufficing music.

The conflict between the feeling of life being prosaic and ordinary, vs. romantic ideals shows up particularly in ‘The Planet of the Dead’.
where the spirit of an amateur astronomer briefly becomes a poet on an alien world before it’s destruction, only to return home when the planet is destroyed.
What makes this particularly 4-ish, perhaps, is that this begins in ordinariness, and again ends in ordinariness – leaving the character to feel saddened by the loss, in a way mere death would not have sufficed. The nature of the transfer itself is never explained, representing a normal Four dramatic focus over logical structure – inasmuch as the story of lost love could have been just set on the ‘planet of the dead’ without the mind of the character having been (somehow) transported there. Its also not a ‘past life’ or reincarnation since at the beginning Antarion remembers being Melchior.
Another somewhat peculiar feature of the love story is the capriciousness of the love involved, in that the main character has limited sympathies for other characters (“…Antarion was once more admitted to the presence of Thameera by slaves who were invariably discreet, being tongueless…”) .
Taken as being an accurate representation of the author (something of an assumption) this would more likely reflect /w3 rather than /w5, /w5 differing in being both more ethically uptight (a plus) and also having a somewhat colder emotional climate (a minus). For contrast purposes e.g. Ray Bradbury would be a 4w5 (with his works seeming to show a cynicism about relationships fairly often). I expect a Five would likely find it “weird” that someone with apparently quite poor ethical/psychological functioning could still be sincerely in love, despite this being a common trope, due to their particular issues with detachment and its potential to interfere with relationships and feelings, and despite this being a common fiction trope.
In the story the main character is attracted to Four-ish traits in the partner (emotional changeability). In most stories, Smith seems particular preoccupied with appearance over personality, perhaps due to his high-Sx/low So or to put it another way, high Se/ less Fe function setup, and perhaps suggesting a tendency to build a romantic fantasy around a partner who is attractive, without much consideration as to personality (and something likely to cause difficulties in normal life).

Jungian Functions:
Smith’s general functional system seems to be roughly ISFP, with introverted-feeling appearing to be his primary function. Other that that, he shows a flair for descriptions (with preference for commonsense solutions to problems) that indicate presence of Se. Many of his characters have a somewhat dissipated quality (various addictions), also suggestive of Se. He has an imaginative quality that seems to suggest some introverted intuition [Ni] , and I believe on the MBTI would most likely score as either INFP or ISFP , the former, if so, via overdevelopment of the tertiary and hence a relative non-adaptation to everyday life [fairly weak extraverted functions – 2nd Se and 4th Te].
Smith would be Sx-first, which is probably typical for a 4w3 (though possibly obscureable through upbringing or individual factors). The standard “Se” auxiliary correlates somewhat to Sx, while “So” correlates somewhat to Fe (not in the main stack of functions) and less much so to Te [4th or inferior function].
From the perspective of studying characters to determine functions, he often has only a single main protagonist, making that less apparent. One story in particular is interesting though, The Dark Eidolon:
Here the two main characters are the brooding and vengeful sorceror Namirrha [main character] and the debauched king Xotulla, who perhaps personify “Fi” and “Se” respectively, although they are opposed rather than being friends (both being destroyed in the end).

Disambiguation: Some sort of stylistic similarities are apparent with Louise Cooper (see previous, 2w3, perhaps with both being feeling types. Despite the interest in reputation, actual social skills are much less than say a Two, and his work is less sympathetic . We could say Four focusses more on “dark” emotions, while Two is more positive. Characters have an intense awareness/focus on their own feelings, with less “connection” to others than Two, and less concern with what others feel about them as well. (While Fe includes actual ‘affective empathy’ and includes or triggers various other emotions, Se/Ne/Te provide an ‘object awareness’ i.e. cognitive empathy only; the upshot of this is that while Twos and Fours are both feelers, they have somewhat different “palettes” of feelings).
As regards Clarks’ wing, again characters in his books shows a number of unhealthy 3 traits including status-seeking (despite not particularly enjoying the respect they manage to acquire, in most cases), and deceptiveness (including a fickleness in relationships). While apparently an introvert, this is a common trait between Four and Five. While his books show characters doing relatively little searching for knowledge, the eldritchdark web site does emphasize his isolation and delving through the library, so the wing is less definite.

Holy Ideas
Holy Ideas: the concept of “Originality” as described by Ichazo (the realization that someone is “really real” now, due to originating in “perfect being”) does not actually seem to be expressed by Fours in fiction to any real extent, unlike some other types which seem to innately talk to some extent about these, e.g. perfection (Ones) or freedom (Twos).
Ashton Smith mentions “hope” briefly in The Last Enchantment, and if anything the melancholy quality of his work seems to suggest an opposition to that quality of essence. References also occur in a number of other probable 4 authors (including Lee and Brust, below).

Similar Authors:
Tanith Lee has a strong similarity to Smith in some respects, and is probably another 4w3 [sx]. Stephen Brust is another probably 4w3, with fewer parallels apparent (overall healthier, stronger 3 wing and surprisingly strong Ni [tertiary] development). 4s overall are probably fairly common as fiction writers.
3w4s have tertiary Te (rather than 4th-function) and so are considerably more practical and efficient, if still occasionally melancholic. 3w4s often seem to have a good flair for description, as does Smith, although his vocabulary is extraordinary (reflecting time spent studying this, and an elitistic urge to show it off). Probable 3w4 authors include Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny.


One thought on “Author Enneagram Type Case Study – Clark Ashton Smith (4)(updated wing)


    After some review, I believe that I’ve mistyped Smith with regard to the wing.
    The primary clue I had missed would be that he actually seems to have been relatively private or introverted.
    At times he shows a sort of intellectual pretentiousness which I at this point recognize as more 5ish; this comes across for instance in the language he uses. A degree of fearfulness often described as felt by characters, also suggests 5 (a fear type) more (e.g. cf. “Return of the Sorceror”, which while a story about wizards taps into the 5 ‘mad scientist’ worldview somewhat). “The Plutonian Drug” could reflect the concept of ‘omniscience’ in some sense. In terms of self-image, there is some sense of alienation and a connection to the bizarre that maybe more 5ish as well; his characters are often scholarly (or wizardly) – e.g. Francis Melchior in his astronomy passion, the sorcerors Maal Dweb and Malygris.

    In light of that, I’m less sure of the functions I initially described him as having. Potentially I am mistaken in viewing him as sensation-secondary. One aspect here is, that over time I’m coming increasingly to the opinion that ‘introverted sensation’ reflects /connects with ‘internal’ or body sensation, which would make that the faculty involved in hedonism, rather than Se which more deals with external senses and perhaps as a result of that, orientation to or sense of reality.
    Smith’s appparently strong imagination might more closely fit his being an N.

    Another overlooked aspect would be that he sometimes has the ‘low energy’ of 5.
    [Planet of the Dead]: “He had lived as an intellectual sybarite; and by virtue of a half-primitive vigor, had not yet fallen upon the spiritual exhaustion and desolation, the dread implacable ennui of racial senescence, that marked so many of his fellows.”


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