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Flower Essence Character Study of Gandhi: Archetype Four, Vervain


“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” “My life is my message.”


Gayle Kimball                                                            August, 2008


His Life and Impact

It’s important to have role models of outstanding humans in action. To me, Gandhi is one of the most Christ-like heroes of our era, one who combined

political liberation and spirituality. He said, “Though I cannot claim to be a Christian in the sectarian sense, the example of Jesus’ suffering is a factor in the composition of my undying faith in non-violence which rules all my actions, worldly and temporal.” Gandhi applied principles taught by Jesus, including turn the other cheek in political struggles.

His principles of soul-force and non-violent political change liberated India from British colonial rule and inspired heroes like Nelson Mandela,  Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dalai Lama who also changed the course of history. Gandhi was the first activist to apply non-violence on such a large scale. That is why I selected him for my archetypal study of Archetype Four—Community Service and a Vervain type. Thinking about him, I dreamed that he was an Eskimo, paddling his kayak into ice flows to get game for his people, knowing that he would get frozen in and die. He was in fact a martyr, who gave up sex, material possessions—even clothes for a handspun cotton loin cloth and shawl, and finally his life to as assassin. Lewis Mumford said Gandhi was “the most important religious figure of our time.” (Easwaran).

Gandhi called his autobiography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.”  (The quotes in this section are from his autobiography, unless another citation is given.) “My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth;” He realized the basis of the search for truth is ahimsa, non-violence. He wrote, “It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself,” for we are all children of the same Creator. “To slight a single human being is to slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.”

To find Truth, one has to love the Creation as oneself, which requires self-purification. “God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart.” And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings: “All that I can in true humility present to you is that Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth you must reduce yourself to a zero.”  To obtain purity, one has to become free of passion. “I must reduce myself to zero. Those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means…” Gandhi believed that “God could be realized only through service,” in his case to Indian liberation in South Africa and latter from the British in India. He realized “the infinite possibilities of universal love.” Yet reporter Louis Fischer asked Gandhi’s friend Mahadev Desai about the source of Gandhi’s hold on people, was it his passion? Desai agreed and said the root of the passion was “the sublimation of all the passions that flesh is heir to,” including sex and personal ambition. “Gandhi is under his own complete control. That generates tremendous energy and passion.” (Fischer)



Born October 2, 1869

1883 married Kasturba (they had four sons)

1888 traveled by himself to London to study law

1893-1914 practiced law and organized the Indian community in South Africa, developing his plan of non-violent protest.

1915 returned to India, became active in the Congress Party and in various social justice actions. 1921 head of the Indian National Congress, encouraging boycott of British products.

1930 Salt march to protest salt tax, one of his most successful protests. The British imprisoned over 60,000 people.

I946 unsuccessfully opposed partition into Muslim and Hindu states.

1947 Indian independence

1948 assinated by a Hindu radical.


Gandhi was born to a family of government leaders. He was so shy that he ran home as soon as school was over, but he became very attracted to and possessive of his young wife: “Separation was unbearable,” he wrote. His parents arranged his marriage when he was only age 13, without consulting him. The wedding ceremony is expensive and takes time-consuming preparation making clothes, decorations and food. His middle brother and a cousin were married at the same time to save money. His wife, Kasturbai, was his same age but illiterate. He later felt badly about keeping her up late at night talking and having sex. He struggled as an adult to overcome his lust and became celibate in 1906 after they had four sons. He remarked about their relationship, “We have had numerous bickerings, but the end has always been peace between us. The wife, with her matchless powers of endurance, has always been the victor.”

During his teen years, his friend Mohandas influenced to try smoking—stealing money from the servants to buy cigarettes, meat eating which his Vaishnava Hindu family did not do, as well as a visit to a house of prostitution (he wasn’t able to carry on with this experiment). Because he valued honesty and truth so highly, he confessed to his father what he had done. His father forgave him, teaching him a lesson in Ahimsa.

He passed the college entrance examination in 1887 and went to college, where he was so homesick he returned home at the end of the first term. A family advisor suggested that he shorten his years in college by going to England to study law so as to be able to support his extended family. His mother was reluctant to let him journey to a foreign land but he vowed not to touch wine, women, or meat and she and his uncle (his father had died) gave him permission to go. Law students studied text books on their own but were required to attend social gatherings with the barristers, and took the bar exam, but were not taught how to practice law. He got interested in vegetarianism and dietetics, an interest he continued throughout his life. Theosophists and others he met in the Vegetarian Society encouraged him to read the Bhagavad-Gita and other religious texts, encouraging an interest in religion for the first time.

After he returned to India, he went to Bombay to study Indian law and to try to get some clients. He childhood shyness persisted; he was so nervous at his first case that he couldn’t speak and told his client to hire someone else. His brother found him a job with a company in South Africa. He left his wife and two sons in India.

“Colored” people were not allowed on South African first-class train compartments, as he discovered when he was kicked off despite having a first-class ticket. This was not the first or the last time he would resist unjust authority, beginning as a small child when he removed the statue of a god from its niche in the family prayer room so he could sit there. (A &S Gandhi). An Orange Free State law removed other rights in 1888 and in the Transvaal in 1885. They couldn’t own land, vote, or be outside after 9:00 PM. Gandhi became a leader in protest against a proposed bill to prevent Asians from voting in Natal, forming the Natal Indian Congress and writing columns for the newspaper Indian Opinion that made the struggle possible. Gandhi wrote a petition to the legislature; volunteers gathered 10,000 signatures. He sent copies to all the newspapers and publicists he knew, including to journals in Britain and India. He said the struggles required “unflinching faith, great patience, and incessant effort.”

Back in India for a visit, he distributed a pamphlet on the condition of Indians in South Africa. This was the first time he used children as volunteers to get the pamphlets ready to post. He also organized meetings with influential leaders.

At age 36 he took a vow of celibacy (brahmacharya), non-possession (aparigraha) and simple food, without consulting his wife on her wishes. Celibacy resulted in the couple being” true friends, the one no longer regarding the other as the object of lust.” He also spent one day a week in silence. He explained, “Passion in man is generally co-existent with a hankering after the pleasures of the palate. And so it was with me. I have encountered many difficulties in trying to control passion as well as taste, and I cannot claim even now to have brought them under complete subjection.” They ate as their staple foods raw nuts, bananas, dates, lemons, and olive oil. He also developed a passion for “self-help and simplicity” as in doing their own washing, cooking and hair cutting, avoiding adornment like jewelry, and medicine. He said most illnesses can be cured by a well-regulated diet and household remedies. He believed someone who relies on drugs “by becoming the slave of his body instead of remaining its master, loses self-control, and ceases to be a man.” He believed self-purification was a prerequisite to Satyagraha, soul force that he developed in South Africa as passive resistance to an unjust system.

Influenced by Ruskin’s book Unto This Last, he added to his belief in public service a new respect for manual work on the land. In 1904, he formed a community on farm, called the Phoenix, which would produce Indian Opinion newspaper there. The children learned shoe making, carpentry, and cooking. On Tolstoy Farm, another commune he founded, the children always had a teacher working with them, as the rule was youngsters were not asked to do what teachers did not do. The students also learned various Indian languages as well as English, and basic history, geography and arithmetic. He believed that spiritual training came most powerfully through the example of the teachers, more than books. He was of course opposed to corporal punishment, although he did one time hit an unruly boy with a ruler on his arm. “But I still repent that violence.” So he never did it again, but instead fasted to do penance for misdeeds of students as he continued to do when he turned to protest British rule.

The struggle ended in 1914 when he and some of the Phoenix group returned to India. The Phoenix community transferred to the Satyagraha Ashram in 1915 in Ahmedabad. Soon after it was founded they added an untouchable family to the Ashram. Monetary help stopped until one man drove up and donated money. Gandhi also opened primary schools in six villages. Concerned about the unsanitary conditions, he brought in a doctor to educate the teachers about public health policies.

His first social struggle for Satyagraha in India was to abolish the indentured servant system in India. The British Viceroy opposed immediate abolition, so in 1917 Gandhi decided to “tour the country for an all-India agitation” on third class trains. First, he discussed the matter with the Viceroy. He also took on the cause of tenant farmers of indigo planters in Tirhut. The owners took him to court for disobeying the order to leave the area. He explained he disobeyed due to “obedience to the higher law of our being, the voice of conscience.” Gandhi made a point of talking with the planters, to learn about their side of the case and “to win them over by gentleness.”  He met with leaders individually and with their Association and was polite to police officers. “They thus saw that I didn’t not want to offend them personally, but that I wanted to offer civil resistance to their orders. In this way they were put at ease, and instead of harassing me they gladly availed themselves of my and my co-workers’ co-operation in regulating the crowds.” When the planters spread falsehoods about him and his co-workers that appeared in the newspapers, “my extreme cautiousness and my insistence on truth, even to the minutest detail, turned the edge of their sword.”

Then he got involved in a strike by mill workers in Ahmedabad. He taught them a successful strike requires no violence and “to remain firm, no matter how long the strike continued, and to earn bread, during the strike, by any other honest labor.” After several weeks the strikers started to fall from these principles, becoming hostile to the strikebreakers, so he decided to fast. “The net result of it was that an atmosphere of good-will was created all round. The hearts of the mill-owners were touched, and they set about discovering some means for a settlement. “ After three days, an arbitrator was brought in and the strike ended after 21 days.

In a dream, he got the idea for a whole country strike, a hartal. They decided to apply civil disobedience to the unpopular salt tax. He suggested that people prepare salt from seawater in their homes. Volunteers were trained in the conditions of Satyagraha, as with leaflets. Then he started hand spinning with a spinning wheel, developing a movement to make cloth called khadi to boycott British clothing. He got involved in Congress politics leading the Quit India movement, with successful liberation from Britain in 1947. He was assinated a year later due to the struggle between Muslims and Hindus over partition.

Gandhi’s Archetype

Astrology: Libra (October 2). Dr. Bach linked one’s natal moon sign with one of the Twelve Healer typologies. His moon was in Leo, which Bach linked to Vervain.


Myers Briggs: Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving (INFP). Hallmark Characteristics: Virtuous, Devoted, Theoretical, Compassionate, and Private. Leadership Style: Skilled listeners with a natural ability to identify with others, INFPs project an outward quiet gentleness, which masks their great determination. Proficient at encouraging others they affirm individual contributions and relentlessly uphold regarded values and ideals while inspiring followers to achieve goal accomplishment.

             Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were strong perceivers—they were able to affect great change within their respective countries by being flexible and adaptive, while remaining strong-willed. http://www.allcareerschools.com/career-center/all/all/personality-article/


Enneagram: Various people in Internet articles have labeled him a one, two, and eight. I vote for one with a two-wing.

Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.


    * Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective

    * Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced

    * Enneagram One with a Nine-Wing: “The Idealist”

    * Enneagram One with a Two-Wing: “The Advocate” http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/typeOne.asp


Jupiter Archetype and Vervain: Gandhi clearly represents Meta-Flora Level Four, the Jupiter Archetype, as the Great Soul found his life purpose in social service to his countrymen in South Africa and then back home in India. Notice the photo of his few personal possessions and note that at one point he was the highest earning lawyer in South Africa. In terms of the Bach Twelve Healers, he is a Vervain. Author Gaye Mack comments in a personal email about Bach’s typology, “I have always felt that he never wavered from one of these being at the core in each of us even though he really never came back to the concept of soul types/personalities in his later writings.” In the following section italics indicate quotes describing Vervain and in brackets how these traits applied to Gandhi. The illustrations of how Gandhi acted out his Vervain nature are drawn from his grandson’s book The Forgotten Woman.

Dr. Bach described Vervain this way in The Twelve Healers.

Those with fixed principles and ideas, which they are confident are right, and which they rarely change. They have a great wish to convert all around them to their own views of life. Vervain teaches us that it is by being rather than doing that great things are accomplished. [He tried to educate his illiterate teenage wife, about whom he was jealous and possessive as a teen and when he came back from England. Even at the end of their lives, in wouldn’t let her have a notebook she wanted, until her handwriting improved. She said, “I am done with my lessons for life, thank you.” He admitted he was a jealous and domineering husband. Another example of his domination was he insisted his wife and sons wear shoes in the house in South Africa, although they weren’t used to it and it hurt their feet.  He commented, “I regarded myself as my wife’s teacher and so harassed her out of my blind love for her.” He made her empty the chamber pot of a guest, defying Hindu beliefs about work suitable only for Untouchables.

He wrote in a letter to a friend, “I do not know what evil there is in me. I have a strain of cruelty in me, such that people force themselves to do things, even attempt impossible things, in order to please me.” However, he noted, “The wife, with her matchless powers of endurance, has always been the victor.”]


They are strong of will and have much courage when they are convinced of those things that they wish to teach. [Despite his early shyness and fears, he was able to become a public speaker in South Africa in his efforts to emancipate Indians. It took strong will to endure years in South African and British prisons and many fasts of long duration as part of his protest against injustice.]


In illness they struggle on long about many others would have given up their duties. [One could look at extensive fasting as a type of illness. He was very healthy, although he had hypertension, a bout with dysentery, and his appendix was removed—without anesthesia. Interestingly, Vervain has been used as a remedy for high blood pressure and other nervous disorders (McIntyre).]


McIntyre adds in Flower Power that Vervain is a remedy for charismatic people with huge resources of energy, which can be a great inspiration to others….Vervain people tend to espouse themselves to causes…Their commitment to their work or ideals can lead them to sacrifice all their energy and time to further their cause. It can take over their lives, and they are unable to rest or relax, feeling the need to win those around them to their viewpoint….They have enormous willpower and often being revolutionaries at heart are prepared to suffer for their convictions. She adds they can be domineering, over-intense, fanatical, and tense. [Yes, he was energetic. His grandson noted Gandhi’s “quick movement appeared to be fueled by some inexhaustible store of energy.” His fellow activist Gokhale told him in South Africa, “You will always have your own way.” He warned him again being a tyrant to others in imposing his self-denial on others. Gaye Mack’s book quotes Barnard as explaining it’s hard to differentiate a Vervain and an Impatiens, but the former is more mental and perfectionist and the latter more feeling. Mack adds that Impatiens show visible irritation—as Gandhi did with his wife, but he was mentally focused as in the influence of books he read on setting up communes.

Long-term Bach expert, Nickie Murray adds that Vervains are perfectionists who like to influence other people, but are not domineering in the way that a Vine works with others. Gandhi’s daughter-in-law said he was “quite a perfectionist,” even as to how an orange was peeled, all membrane removed, and each section had to remain unbroken.

His pursuit of perfection could sometimes become hurtful to those whom he hoped to perfect, such as his wife and oldest son, noted his grandson. To his son Harilal he wrote, “I know too that you have sometimes felt than your education was being neglected…” What can be better than that you should have the opportunity of nursing your mother” and looking after your sister-in-law. Harilal said, “He just does not care for us, any of us.” Gandhi wrote to Harilal, “The only thing that pleases me is to be ever occupied with activity of the utmost purity…” The father’s extremism led Harilal to be an alcoholic dropout, resentful of the lack of education and late marriage neglect by his father (parents arranged their children’s marriages).

An example of his absolutism is at his Indian ashram in 1915, all had to agree to nine vows, including be truthful, nonviolent, celibate, to possess nothing, no foreign cloth, to fear nothing, and accept Untouchables. Towards the end of his life, after his wife’s death, he slept naked with young women to test his strength of will and reported to a friend that he did not feel aroused.]


 From the FES website on Vervain:

Definition: Vervain soul types naturally possess strong forces of passionate idealism. They give themselves fully and completely to the work or cause in which they believe. [As an idealist, he assumed decency on the part of his adversaries, believed they could be reached by morality. In a Satyagraha campaign, the adversary is not to be destroyed, but to be won over, he said. He also attempted to courteously talk over an issue with his opponents. “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall–think of it, ALWAYS!” He was a feminist who was against child marriages and a double standard of morality. He said, “I strongly feel that the ultimate victory of nonviolence depends wholly on women.”]


However, they can become so convinced of the rightness and urgency of their beliefs that their natural charismatic capacities degenerate into those of the zealot or fanatic. Their true leadership ability is afflicted, for the Vervain type’s incredible intensity can overwhelm and prevent others from making their own energetic connection to the project or cause which is being promoted. [Gandhi was in some ways a fanatic, but he was able to mobilize the support of his countrymen due to their understanding of his purity. Gandhi was a charismatic leader. His friend Gokhale told a Bombay audience, “Gandhi has in him the marvelous spiritual power to turn ordinary men around him into heroes and martyrs.” But of his four sons, only Manilal adopted voluntary poverty and devoted his life to nonviolence]


Such an individual can be characterized as possessing not only great intensity but also great physical tension, which results in many nervous and digestive problems, and in extreme cases may lead to nervous breakdown. These persons are usually unaware of their true energy levels, and often push their bodies completely beyond their natural capacities. In fact, there is very little connection to the physical body or to the physical world, because this type lives so fervently in the world of ideas and ideals. Vervain is particularly an embodiment remedy, helping the soul to center and ground its tremendous enthusiasm. In this way, the body becomes a natural regulator and harmonizer for the abundant spiritual forces which pour out of such a person. When the fiery light of Vervain radiates through the medium of the body and the physical world, it becomes more luminous and contained. Such soul ardor is able to inspire, lead, and heal others.

[He seemed calm rather than tense, advocating, “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and anyone who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” Gandhi was in touch with his body, as he was interested in alternative health cures such as mudpacks and delivered his fourth son by himself. He was very interested in diet and espoused vegetarianism. He exercised daily by walking with his followers, even as an old man.  He advocated simple village life, as “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” He spun cloth and walked daily; these simple activities kept him grounded.

He wasn’t a masochist; “Service has no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it.” But he felt care of the body took too much time: He wrote to Harilal, “I am filled with shame by the unworthiness of my mind. I fall into despair because of the attention my body craves and wish that it should perish.” This does indicate ambivalence towards being in a physical body, as does perhaps taking a vow of celibacy at 36. He explained “I clearly saw that as one aspires to serve humanity with his whole soul…. I should find myself unequal to my task if I were engaged in the pleasures of family life…The prospect of the vow brought a certain kind of exultation, opened out limitless vistas of service.” He opposed birth control because intercourse should be for procreation.]

Mahatma Gandhi had the idealistic zeal of the Vervain without losing touch with the physical world or being tense, although he could be controlling of those close to him.


FES Possibilities

Consulting Section Four FES types, perhaps he represents Black Cohosh, charismatic personalities who can be controlling of others. Perhaps Dandelion for those who push themselves relentlessly. Perhaps he represents Lakspur, for true leadership that is infused with ideals from higher realms within the spiritual world, stimulates charisma and joy.

Or Mountain Pride, for leadership that requires risk-taking; for the courage to take on controversial issues or to confront adversity situations…with equanimity.” Consulting the Flower Essence Repertory, I found that Mountain Pride, imparts to the soul the archetype of the spiritual warrior—the radiation of the positive masculine…Through Mountain Pride the soul learns to take a stand in the world and for the world, by aligning its own personal identity with forces of goodness and truth. The imbalanced part of Mountain pride is withdrawal in the face of challenge; he did have a fear of public speaking and wouldn’t do it in his early years, but overcame it.

Larkspur is associated with charismatic leadership, contagious enthusiasm, and joyful service. The soul learns to radiate inspire charismatic energy which motivates and encourages others. The pattern of imbalance is self-aggrandizement or feeling burdened by duty. I don’t see that Gandhi had this imbalance.

Or Tall Mountain Larkspur for leadership that is spiritually as well as cosmically aligned, reaching beyond the force of one’s personality to be filled with light and inspiration.

Positive qualities: Leadership based upon spiritual alignment; ability to hear, see and act in a greater capacity of soul leadership beyond one’s immediate personality

Patterns of imbalance: Inability to receive or trust spiritual guidance; restriction of true spiritual gifts due to lack of dynamic connection to higher dimensions of soul inspiration. [Gandhi was able to receive spiritual guidance in prayer; he said, “Without prayer there is no inward peace.” He was inspired by reading religious texts, Emerson, Thoreau, Ruskin, etc. He didn’t seem to lack guidance for what action to take next, although his grandson reported, “Kasturba had often seen him assailed by self-doubts, tortured by feelings of guilt or shame.”]

Gandhi took the principles of Jesus and applied them to political liberation movements. He was able to liberate his people by sticking to the principles of soul-force and non-violence and by removing an egoic desire for self-gain for himself or his family. He represents Archetype Four and the activist Vervain personality at their highest. “There is a soul force which if we permit it, will flow through us, producing miraculous results”



Dr. Edward Bach. The Essential Writings of Dr. Edward Bach. 2005


Julian Barnard. Bach Flower Remedies. 2002


Eknath Easwaran. Gandhi: The Man. 1997.


Arun and Sunanda Gandhi. The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur, Wife of Mahatma Gandhi. 1998


Louis Fischer. Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World. 1954.


Patricia Kaminski. Building Depth in Flower Essence Therapy: An Archetypal Map of the Human Soul.


Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz. Flower Essence Repertory.  2004.


Gaye Mack. Igniting Soul Fire. 2004

Anne McIntyre. Flower Power. 1996


Audiotape. Nickie Murray. The Flower Remedies of Dr. Bach. 1954.


Cindy Hillenbrand, “Bach’s View of Astrology: The Moon Sign and the Twelve Groups of Humanity.” The Journal of Vibrational Flower Essences, Vol. 2, #4, March, 2000. http://www.essences.com/vibration/mar00/bachmoon.html


. http://www.allcareerschools.com/career-center/all/all/personality-article/




Films: Gandhi, 1982, and The Making of the Mahatma, 1996.


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