The Four Temperaments and the Medieval Modes

Published: 16th September 2010
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In my previous article I dealt with balancing the Four Humours with the ancient musical modes. It was mentioned that this wisdom has fallen into disuse since pre-biblical times, even though the actual modes have persisted through the centuries - right up to the present day.

I am now going to deal with the characters of the Four Temperaments and reveal how we can apply the modes to them in order to help bring mental balance and inner harmony. This article will deal mainly with the Phlegmatic Temperament.

Each of the Four Temperaments is connected to a pair of modes. The following table makes these relationships clear:

Phlegmatic Humour

Increased by Dorian mode - Decreased by Hypodorian

Choleric Humour

Increased by Phrygian mode - Decreased by Hypophrygian

Sanguine Humour

Increased by Lydian mode - Decreased by Hypolydian

Melancholic Humour

Increased by Mixolydian mode - Decreased by Hypomixolydian

Phlegmatics are usually reliable, balanced, calm personalities. They prefer a quiet night in, to the pubs and clubs. Being mild and modest, the typical phlegmatic would rather take the blame for someone else's mistake than go through the unpleasantness or controversy of confronting them.

Phlegmatics seek neither power nor the limelight, but are content to stay in the background. Phlegmatics can always be relied upon. They are patient and methodical whether working quietly by themselves or in a highly stressed environment. They do like a stable, ordered structure in their work, but can also rise to positions of high rank.

When the phlegmatic humour is out of balance, one may become sleepy, lethargic, lazy, slow, dull and forgetful.

The dorian mode accentuates the positive aspects of the Phlegmatic Temperament. So it counteracts the sleepy, dullness that descends when the phlegmatic humour is out of balance. We therefore find it useful to get us up in the morning or keep us mentally alert when the need arises.

The dorian is also appropriate if it is encumbent upon us to enhance some of the other qualities of the phlegmatic humour. For instance, if we are afraid of losing our cool. Or,if the need arises, we could use it to increase our diplomatic powers.

If it happens that we feel we have been a little too phlegmatic, we could utilize the hypodorian. We could use it, for instance, if we are having trouble falling asleep at night, or generally relaxing. Perhaps we have been a little too understanding and forgiving recently and now feel rather under-appreciated! In this situation we could benefit from the hypodorian.

I plan further articles to explain how to play the modes for yourself. But my next article will be on the Choleric Temperament.

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