Author Enneagram Case Study – Robert Silverberg (9w8)

Type: 9w8 [sx]
MBTI: ISFJ ?? [Si ?/Fe definite] – (probably would score as INFP or ENFP)
Type based on: type behaviours only – see below.
(It seems that the traditional ‘holy idea’ [love] that useful to identify Nines – compare Brunner description and note that the concept is something that is generally interesting to all the types.
Something that could be “right action” comes through in some sense. Estimates of dominant Jungian function gives very different results to what is normally given by MBTI testing for Nines. Possibly defense mechanism should be “dissociation” rather than narcotization.)


Normally I somewhat prefer not to try to analyze currently living authors in any depth, even though we expect all members of a type – living or dead – to be somewhat similar in any case. Sometimes it seems more necessary in that a given author’s output is particularly interesting; Nines seem particularly hard to definitely identify, as much with literature analysis as in person.
Silverberg is a fairly prolific SF author who was also a writer of ‘adult’ fiction in his much younger days. His books are interesting in their use of SF to discuss deeper spiritual themes (e.g. using such things as telepathy), and fairly good characterization (IMHO). World building is OK; books have plots that are relatively in the background. He shows a wide general knowledge and good descriptive imagery in his books.

Nine signifiers

As noted, Nines are one of the more difficult types to find (in my opinion). The mediator or peacemaker has a particular aversion to conflict or stress which shows up occasionally in Silverberg’s work.
Sensitivity to other people’s positions (the Nine intuitive style in Palmer’s opinion) is sometimes apparent in the way characters interact in conversations; mediation sometimes appears as a theme, as in ‘The Mountains of Majipoor’. A few of his short stories and other works show Nine comfort seeking and related behaviours:
-In “Something Wild is Loose”, an invisible telepathic alien is picked up whose attempts to communicate with sleeping humans generates terrifying nightmares. The main character, a telepathic psychiatrist, slowly realizes the problem and manages to contact it in the mind of a girl who had retreated into catatonia after the death of her family, in the end waking her. A subtheme is the main character himself becoming exhausted/sleep deprived tries to solve the issue. Nine problem-denial [ inferior extraverted intuition ?] is somewhat apparent, while the girl is showing a severe Nine-ish stress response.
-In ‘Dying Inside’, unrelated to the main theme, passing mention is made of the main character picking up a book on ‘Procrastination’, realizing then that he would never read it.
-self-forgetting: in ‘The Day The Past Went Away’, amnesia-inducing drugs in a cities’ water wreak havoc, but a cult of self-erasure appears as one man discovers he’s cured of crippling guilt (having survived the plane crash that killed his family, due to an affair). Amnesia is also a theme in Lord Valentine’s Castle. [see “related authors”, below].
-social invisibility; In “To See The Invisible Man”, a man is condemned to a year of being socially ignored for being overly cold, later to be punished when his suffering makes him unable to ignore another ‘invisible’. [ ‘being ignored’ is something Nines particularly hate, despite being a withdrawn type -a comparison here at this point is with Five, who could probably do a year of invisibility without much issue and who likely would consider “coldness” to be an extremely unreasonable crime].
-General resistance to mental stress is relatively low in various characters. Both main characters in “The Second Trip” are one example (nearing edge of mental breakdown); the stockbroker in To Live Again decides his day is terrible after an argument with his daughter, etc.
-Generally positive attitude (positive outlook group, 279]. Enjoyment of peaceful peasant life e.g. in Lord Valentine’s Castle, Valentine considers giving up his quest to regain the kingship to live on a peaceful island (fishing?) after seeing the people’s happy lifestyle there. [a ‘definitely not a Three’ moment]. Majipoor itself represents a sort of peaceful Utopia, people (including various aliens) living in harmony with the environment and little technical progress.
Conversely to peacefulness, ambition or focus [“Right Action”?] is generally seen as an admirable character trait. e.g. In “To Live Again”, entrepreneurs battle over the ownership of the stored psyche of tycoon Paul Krugman, hoping to assimilate it despite fears that the wrong person would be taken over by him completely.

“Such strength, such intensity, such vitality the old man had had! Roditis examined strands of memory,; not tangled knotted ones but firm hawsers of recollection, stretching across the void of years. He acknowledge a formidable mind when he met one. Had old Kaufman ever forgotten anything? Had he ever blundered? Roditis stared in delight at serried rows of archives, at a comprehensive and flawlessly arranged memory bank. Kaufman must not have been human, but some sort of computer. But no, he was human enough. Here were lust, rage, avarice, all of the passions, throbbing chords of emotion that slashed in bright primary hues across the purpled backdrop of that powerful mind… …Roditis saw the unity of the man, saw the same unbending purpose at forty, at twenty, even at ten.”


“a tide of overwhelming sensuality came first, then a set of precise, instantaneous, all-encompassing calculations for the purchase, lease-back and depreciation of a four square mile area of Shanghai’s northern suburbs. On top of that came an overlay of family scheming, a nest of intricate and poisonous interpretations of family relationships…he [Mark] struggled for equilibrium like a man caught in rough surf and dashed again and again to the sand”

[note the business focus of this may be slanted by plot considerations in the parent novel, however]:

-high empathy; animal cruelty appears as a theme occasionally, as something Silverberg doesn’t like (I think). In some of his telepathy-based books telepaths are particularly entertained reading the minds of animals (“oh shit, the gnu!”), while one short story [Ishmael in Love] has a dolphin protagonist, and Downward to the Earth has elephant-shaped aliens. Hunting comes up occasionally (e.g. in Capricorn Games, To Live Again) , while eating meat is discussed (and grudgingly classed as acceptable) in Downward to the Earth. Generally, the same sort of conflict (pleasant sensation, vs. ethical concerns) also come up in favour of sensation in terms of relations to females, probably an 8-wing indicator. [very high sex drive]. Occasional mentions of attraction to slightly underage females and/or family members.
-Silverberg gives a description of ‘Capricorns’ in the preface to ‘Capricorn Games’ that he notes somewhat describes himself – ‘stubborn, dedicated, talented, self-centered, always planning things out ahead of time; manipulative’ – the stubbornness at least matches 9.
-generally strong focus on immediate body sensations, e.g. more attention on temperature, how what they’re wearing feels, are you sweating, etc. This is noted as a ‘9’ trait by Wagele and somewhat fits a theory of 9 as introverted sensing; it fits across most of the definite 9 authors.
Bad guys- generally characters are quite nice, even the bad guys – in Lord Valentine’s Castle for example, the bad guys steal Valentine’s body but leave him alive in the body of a wandering juggler, instead of some rationale being added to justify not imprisoning or murdering him (other types might need more justification). The bad guys appear slightly justified here, in that they are the natives of a planet that’s been stolen. On the other hand, ‘Thorns’ has a huge fat man who somehow feeds on the suffering of others. Short story “Flies” has a man rebuilt by aliens who loses his emotions due to them studying human feelings, who goes on a rampage – Even so, the character comes across as ‘mild’ and somewhat passionless in his rampage; the authors’ construction of the story indicates the author is probably high in empathy but trying to shock…[Cassiday’s demeanor here is strangely 9ish; he is physically imposing but a ‘mild-eyed tower of flesh’ who attacks an ex-wife while ‘deploring the crudity of it..he had never been a passionate man’).

Wing Determination (/w8)

Sex drive is noticeably extremely high; a few characters show various addictions. Survival drive is often quite high. “Self vs. others” appears as a theme that clashes with generally high empathy e.g. as noted above – coming through maybe in themes occasionally like organ harvesting in ‘Shadrach in the Furnace’, short story ‘Caught in the Organ Draft’, or “The Book of Skulls” (immortality for two, if two are sacrificed). Characters do argue fairly often and somewhat aggressively. Short story ‘The Man Who Never Forgot’ has a character who is vindictive due to perfect autobiographical memory.
‘The Second Trip’ has a relationship that seems to show 8 trust issues (if in a very SF context..); in the future, criminals warranting the death penalty have their personalities erased; Paul is a constructed personality inhabiting the body of brilliant artist but insane rapist Nat Hamlin, who is reawakened by contact with his telepathic ex-girlfriend Lissa. As the two battle to the death over who gets the body, there is also conflict between Paul/Lissa driven by his fear she may want Hamlin back. The doctor Gomez in this also is somewhat 8ish in demeanour, though (in part probably driven by plot needs, but still something from Silverberg’s own personality repertoire). Other characters sometimes appear that are unreasonably dominant e.g. the tribal leader in ‘The Mountains of Majipoor’.
Some feeling preference seems to be common in 9w8, as compared to 9w1 and so further suggests /w8 (based on those I know IRL).

Self and Sense of Identity / unity

A recurring theme in Silverberg’s work is a sense of search for ‘self’. The word ‘dybbuk’ comes up frequently [Jewish; ‘malicious possessing spirit’], along with a fear of being somehow empty or a husk.
A sense of inner conflict or clash of inner wills frequently appears. Two examples again would be “The Second Trip”, a battle between the spirits of Paul and his bodies’ previous occupant. In “To Live Again”, people absorbing other minds in order to gain more skills/knowledge risk being taken over by their “personae” .
In “Capricorn Games” [the title story of the anthology], Nikki speaks to Nicholson, an immortal whose secret method of immortality is that he has an eternal and unchanging self, who taunts her about her lack of a centre.
Lord Valentine’s Castle also deals with lost identity, except that Valentine is largely pleased with his recovered persona, as opposed to a struggle occurring.
(Characters also struggle with themselves in lesser ways e.g. against basic physical desires in “To Live Again” again, Fangs of the Trees, or The Book of Skulls, – some of this maybe also showing connection to 8. Or ‘Born with the dead’ shows a character who can’t let go of his wife, resurrected as a ‘cold’ with fewer human feelings – though this last has almost a more Two-ish vibe – from an MBTI view, we could say it deals with Fe/Ti second and third function conflict, rather than going all the way down.)

(for all the types, “essence” is sort of a metaphor for self, but essence varies in how its felt/described among the types, with this seeming more Nine-ish in nature. See similar and related authors.  Three perhaps also seems to feel slightly similar –  I should eventually post a description for Michael Ende [3w4?], and there are superficial similarities to Louise Cooper [2w3]. Perhaps also compare John Brunner [5w4]).


Other Themes

Telepathy also appears frequently as a theme (connection to others). In “Dying Inside”, a telepath slowly loses his gift, but when he does finds himself finally able to deal with or love people, who evidently had some sort of instinctive hatred of him because of his gift. Conversely in “Downward to the Earth”, a character goes through a resurrection ritual that makes him telepathic. The Man in the Maze has a man who constantly broadcasts thoughts, making his presence unbearable to others, while “The Second Trip” has a telepath unable to deal with others’ thoughts.

Theories of Nine functioning:

Traditionally the theory is that Nine simultaneously represses and prefers the instinctive/moving centre. I would instead theorize Nine has issues with a point that is not any of the normal three centers, but is ‘beyond’ them (or between them) and controls the other centers. Other types have a solid identification within one of the points that gives them more control but with an opposing function within the centers, while nine is a “state” that is not a product of a centre exactly, with instead multiple centers being involved.

Other Types Considered for the Author

Artistic themes seem somewhat apparent, and appear to be present in Nines as well as Fours [introverted sensation?].
Silverberg is somewhat aware of the “tormented artist” stereotype [based on the frequency of 4 artists] and occasionally uses it as a template for characters. In ‘The Book of Skulls’ for example, gay poet Ned comments that for consistency of pose he must contemplate suicide. As a writer, Silverberg probably self-identifies as an artist, but I don’t believe is actually a 4.
Given warm qualities, I also considered Two (e.g. one book starts with someone giving a ‘gift’ of a million dollars to a lamasery, hoping to get concessions on a deal – resembling Flattery). Primarily I put this down to 9/2 being difficult to disambiguate [extraverted feeling component in this case], since 9 traits seem definitely there. Silverberg *does* occasionally mention a feeling of freedom, such as when speaking of how he has no existing ties/ family apart from his wife in interviews, and offhand in in title story of ‘World of a Thousand Colours’. Assuming he’s a 9, this is useful information in that it means mention of freedom isn’t perfectly identifying for 2.
Hedonistic qualities (and apparent repression of anxiety) also had me consider 7, although this mostly may be a lookalike due to combination of 8 addictive traits, 9 spirituality, and both being ‘positive outlook group’ types.
‘Shadrach in the Furnace’ has somewhat 6ish themes in that it deals with loyalty and anxiety (a doctor to the Khan discovers the Khan wants to use him in his mind transfer project to live forever). Much of the story however is about Shadrach avoiding the problem, and he goes to find comfort either on holiday or with several weird future religions e.g. carpentry and dream travel, before finding a solution. [Wagele describes 7s as likely to try various religions, though Ichazo considered ‘seeking’ a 9 quality].
Silverberg definitely finds the idea of immortality interesting [“You will show me how I will live forever and never grow old. A cozy, soothing idea” – Capricorn Games], but his characters also repress anxiety and tend to do stupid things – the same character later while high swallows some random pills from a medicine cabinet. Self-destructive traits however also appear in places e.g. suicidal characters (a recurring idea is ‘carniphage’, a virus that works as an ingested poison, starting an irreversible melting process).


These are actually difficult to determine, though as mentioned I’d hypothesized introverted-sensation primary for Nines. Strong feeling (mainly Fe) seems apparent; a couple of characters seem to show representation of intuition [Ne] inferior, but his interest in mystical or spiritual themes could also be read as indicative of Ni. Generally sensation awareness seems high, however.
Socially, varies between introverted/extraverted, seeming to sometimes need to move back but characters are also capable of involving themselves in fairly direct ways – e.g. in ‘The Book of Skulls’, four guys on a road trip find four girls for casual liasons so they have somewhere to go for the night.

Similar and related authors

Reasonably few 9s have been definitely confirmed.
Robert Jordan [Wheel of Time] may be another 9w8, while 9w1s identified include Clifford D. Simak, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and probably Donald Moffitt. John Varley is possibly a 9w8 – he also has ‘multiple self’ symbology coming through in Steel Beach, where the central computer gets depressed due to its mind being partitioned, while in his Titan series, the living mini world of Gaea is torn apart by the revolution of its satellite brains. Likewise high sex drive; he has usually a more depressed atmosphere than Silverberg (e.g. Millenium, which has an alcoholic main character and a time travel plot with an extraordinarily black future). Problem avoidance as seen in Silverberg isn’t definitely visible, however.
Watt-Evans [9w1] seems a fairly clear ISTJ -similar comfort themes to Simak- like Silverberg he has artistic tendencies coming through in places, procrastination. One of his books, The Cyborg and the Sorcerors, ends with the main character who has artificially-induced multiple personalities having his original identity reassembled. Watt-Evans shows repressed anger themes that might however connect more to /w1 than 9 – e.g. Garth in ‘Lords of Dus’ is chosen as the avatar of the god of destruction and is constantly fighting off destructive urges; many other characters exude a mild low-level irritation.
Clifford D. Simak [9w1] also shows a “partitioning” theme in several books, including ‘The Werewolf Principle’ [an amnesiac wakes with the minds of two alien creatures in his body] and Ring Around the Sun [a man discovers he is an android who has had his essence divided among several cloned bodies, including his nemesis]. Werewolf Principle shows people in the book having the same sort of baffled conservatism as in e.g. ‘Something Wild is Loose’, and some of the same stress-aversion as Silverberg. Some of Simak’s characters are extremely stubborn. Note that both Simak and Evans seem to like amnesia as a theme, as does Silverberg (Lord Valentine’s Castle). (though as noted in Louise Cooper’s description, she has used this – Mirage, Aisling – and would be a 2w3).
Simak and Watt-Evans are both fairly clear Thinking types [I presume Te auxiliary], in contrast to Silverberg, as well as being more judgmental. Empathy seems lower than in /w8. More feeling difficulties are apparent, but with no real addictions and sex drive lower in intensity. Some depression/resignation seems present in both, with a number of Watt-Evans characters in Lords of Dus having a sense of futility (e.g. the main character, the King in Yellow, the Baron – though there are some plot reasons for this), while there’s an air of resignation through ‘Ring around the Sun’ (at least until the day is saved).
In the other direction, a couple of 8w9s have been identified; these would include Conan creator Robert E. Howard, and Harry Harrison (inventor of Soylent Green). 8w9 differs fairly dramatically from 9w8 (e.g. different behaviours, Jungian functions), though Nine has a noticeable effect on the overall personality (increased introversion, more resigned/sombre mood, Nine merging with those who are close rather than everyone).


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