The Enneagram - The Discernment of Spirits
Category: Books sutras and myths
The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that is intended to be used as part of the spiritual path and very specifically the last three stages, where one meets and merges with one’s Higher spirit or if you prefer Immortal soul or Buddha nature.
It was once an oral wisdom teaching going back into the mists of time and has been adopted by the Sufis, as well as Mystic Christianity and many other traditions including the Kabbalistic form of Judaism.
Dante’s characters in The Divine Comedy correspond largely to the Enneagram types. And the Enneagram was used by Georg Ivanovich Gurdjieff. As I will try to show in the observations, it was quite possibly the Enneagram from which the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards was devised as there are correspondences between a number of cards and the Personality types in the Enneagram.
It also – like all good mystic systems defies explanation as to why it works, because it does work.
It is a method of finally ‘knowing thyself’, one of the most difficult tasks of all, to step back as the observer and see yourself as maybe others see you and not how you perceive yourself. It is intended to be a shock, enough of a shock that one moves forward on the path, by recognising that by over identifying with ‘the gift’ – the Personality one was given to achieve your destiny - one can be destroyed by it. Or as Richard Rohr says in his introduction to the Enneagram:
“you are destroyed by your gift; the very thing that you think is your strong point is the thing you will over identify with, it becomes your set of blinders”
Although everyone may be able to see a little bit of each Personality type in them, the objective is to find the dominant type, the one that best describes who you are.
Friar Richard Rohr
you are one basic number forever some of you are gonna try to avoid that and you're gonna go out here saying oh I'm a little bit of three and a little bit of four a little bit of seven no you aren't please trust me on this you it will profit you nothing, it will be no more than a parlor game, it will not convert you or change your life until you have the humility to accept you are one big blindness and that one is the one that that has to be faced…... The insight itself is the clap of the master's hand and when you get the insight the scaffolding falls or begins to fall it's all based on insight, its epiphany.
There is a tendency for the ego to cling on to this Personality type and by doing so one can never get closer to the Higher spirit. The objective is thus to find who you are so that you can gradually move away from obsession with the ‘I’ separation this creates and move towards the real you – ‘the face you had before you were born’.
Friar Richard Rohr
there is a lover within you who knows who you really are and loves who you really are that's the [immortal] soul if you just want to use that term - the true self ; and when you can let that do the knowing and that do the loving you will be content, you will be able to live without disguise a sort of a naked simple and clean life where you can enter into the pain of the world but you don't let it carry you; you don't let it define you or possess you
The Enneagram describes nine different Personality types. The name Enneagram comes from the Greek: Ennea is the Greek word for nine and Gramma means something that’s drawn or written.
The circle is divided into three, with three Personality types in each division that are related. The three divisions relate to the Heart [2, 3, 4], Mind or Intellect [5, 6, 7] and the Instinctive or gut response [8, 9, 1].
There is no one personality type that is ‘superior’ to any other and this is shown by having them within a circle with the types numbered round the circle in a clockwise direction. The top number is nine and from there each type is given equal spacing. A gap, however, exists between types 5 and 4 as it symbolically shows the separation of the Heart based types to the right [number 4] and the Head or Mind based types to the left [number 5].
I will provide a description of the types in the observations when relating them to the Tarot. It is worth adding at this stage that finding your core Personality type involves a lot of very hard work. Invariably you are not the person you think you are fundamentally when you first start. Your core Personality can have become entirely subsumed during your childhood, for example as a result of your parents
Friar Richard Rohr
sometimes people are absolutely convinced they are a certain number and invariably in working with them I found out .. they were subsumed inside of what their mother wanted them to be or their father wanted them to be …… and if they haven't made that break yet they're still desperately trying to please mom or get dad's love they think they are seven or a six or a five or three or two because that's what mom told them they should be.
…..And you want to talk about conflicted? They tend to be very conflicted people because they're forced to keep living up to a self-image that they are not and until they can find their own authentic emotional life and perceptual life, they tend to be very neurotic and unhappy people, so that's important that we put that out now because that could really send some of you down a wrong course thinking you're a number because it was your family script to be that number ….. try to compartmentalize that insofar as you can to find your authentic self
or even as a consequence of the dominant reward bias of your country and its culture
Friar Richard Rohr
in the United States of America I think every boy thinks he should be a three in some way. Do you know how many boys that defeats at every high school? I'm not a 3, I'm never gonna be able to run circles around everybody else like the threes do, I think that's correct but no I'm not and I don't need to be
‘Vices’ and ‘Sins’
Each Personality type has a ‘Vice’ or ‘Sin’, what that Personality can become if it doesn’t recognise what is happening or doesn’t get a wake up call, and each Personality type has a ‘Virtue’, the state it can move towards or attain by being ‘Redeemed’ essentially humiliated into recognising the Vice it was sinking towards. So a person driven by fear for example can, by redemption, become a person of courage, a true hero. Roughly speaking, the virtues and vices are as shown below, shown by type
Type , Characteristic role , Vice/Passion , Virtue
1 , Reformer, Perfectionist - Anger ; Serenity
2 , Helper, Giver - Pride ; Humility
3 , Achiever, Performer - Deceit ; Truthfulness, Authenticity
4 , Individualist, Romantic - Envy ; Equanimity (Emotional Balance)
5 , Investigator, Observer - Avarice ; Non-Attachment
6 , Loyalist, Loyal Skeptic - Fear ; Courage
7 , Enthusiast, Epicure - Gluttony ; Sobriety
8 , Challenger, Protector - Lust (Forcefulness) ; Innocence
9 , Peacemaker, Mediator - Sloth (Disengagement);, Action
Compulsion and Conflict
The centre number in each segment – the 3s, 6s and 9s are the core symbols but the numbers prior and after the core numbers are still of the same type but are called the compulsion and conflict numbers.
Friar Richard Rohr
so the previous number [of the three core numbers] is the focused and obvious form of the compulsion utterly committed to heart, head or gut ………………. the conflicted numbers [after the core number] aim to sort of reform it and fix it. ………………… you'd never think to look at a 7 they're a head person, for example, it's the most clever disguise possible I mean they're just going to Disneyland every other week they're dressed in primary colours they drive yellow cars they're just so happy and everything's upbeat and positive and the world is just wonderful and they refuse to see the downside of anything, but do you see the utter conflict that's going on there? They're actually head tripping constantly about what could go wrong ….they're scared in many ways because all head people are scared and they found the most clever disguise for fear possible, it's just whistle in the dark and they go through the whole of their life whistling and you get sick of the whistling after a while, you don't believe the whistling after all because it's too much whistling and you know that they never face the dark, they hate the dark
A person's basic type is modified, at least to some extent, by the personality dynamics of the two adjacent types as indicated on the enneagram figure. These two types are often called "wings" because they help the person to figuratively fly, overcome the descent into the negative aspects of the Personality.
A person with the Three personality type, for example, is understood to have points Two and Four as their wing types. One of the most interesting Personality types from this point of view is the Type 4 or Type 5 because in order to fly they have to embrace almost their opposite – shown symbolically by using a gap between the heart and head segments.
An almost reclusive bookworm, a detached absent minded professor [type 5] has to embrace the emotional artistic almost bipolar artistic Personality of the 4 to figuratively fly. And if they can, a playwright can become a Shakespeare and an artist and a draftsman can become a Leonardo da Vinci. In the case of a type 4, if they also manage to embrace the achiever – the selling of their gift in an authentic way, they have achieved a very high pinnacle of success.
Friar Richard Rohr
the center number is your primary compulsive blindness the primary way you perceive and get your energy, therefore you think it's your only self but if you remain trapped there, I can say without any doubt you will move toward the compulsive end of the spectrum. In order to fly - and that's why the word wings is good - you need to develop the numbers on each side and in every case they will balance you out, take my word for it they will balance you out.
The Arrow theory
The arrow theory is about the paths of integration and paths of disintegration.
· With integration , the arrow goes from a number other than the wing numbers to your core number. The other number is the Personality you had as a child, and by integrating it one becomes rounder and more balanced.
· With dis-integration , the arrow goes to a number other than the wing numbers from your core number.
Integration arrow examples
If the person was a healthy seven when they were a child and the world seemed absolutely beautiful and wonderful without a dark side, then in fact this becomes the original wound if the Personality could not be maintained. As an adult, if the Personality has become a one, say, the heavy moralistic perfectionist of a one, then by embracing the seven, the heaviness is lightened. This is also called the “soul child theory” - that your soul child was what you originally rejected, but when you're doing really well you go back to it for a moment and you can enjoy it.
Friar Richard Rohr
…… when the three is doing good believe it or not they become like a very healthy six that they take on some of that structure and groundedness they stop trying to save the world you know they just go back to their Catholic Mass where they went as a little boy and refind themself there; for them that's very healthy if they don't get lost in all this you know making money or looking good. Just go back to where you began and do the rituals one more time as it were, that's where tradition is very very healthy
in my 34 years as a priest I have had more fours come to me for guidance and spiritual direction than any other type; they're always saying ‘would you be my spiritual director’ you know because they intuitively know that we have what they need …… they're all over the place, diffused with their emotions and their fantasies and their dreams and they need the discipline and the focus of the one, but you go back to their youth …. and they'll invariably find someone who still gives them comfort still gives them grounding and a sense of consolation………………
the seven when he or she is doing well takes on, believe it or not, the healthy research and study of a five. That keeps them from being an airhead, that's exactly what they need. I have seven friends who say they haven't read a book in twenty years; sevens hate to read books, unless they have pictures on every page with bright colours, sevens and threes both avoid reading books but when a seven is doing well, they'll hunker down and say hey it's time I did a little research on this, time I grounded myself in some good intellectual work. Without it they will be Peter Pan just flying off into the universe. I've asked two of my seven friends I said ‘what were you like as a little boy’? And both of them said ‘ I was quiet and I wanted to be alone in my room’ and then they said ‘you mean that's that's who I first was?’ Yes! And this airhead stuff is a distortion
and finally the nine when the nine is doing well they take on the effectiveness of the three remember I said the gift of the three is decisive action I've known threes that just by the end of the day they've checked off a list of 15 things and they do each one with simplicity and focus they say focus now and they focus, they … end up more effective than some of the rest of us. That's why in the classic sense you can't call 9s lazy ….. they actually are very effective you just gotta help them focus so that is the integration line.
Dis-Integration arrow examples
If you reverse each of the lines you will have the dis-integration - just reverse every arrow. So, when you're falling apart when you're not doing well, you will take on the worst aspects of the other number.
If a one has problems with a four, for example, it is because the one takes on the worst qualities of the four when they’re not doing well ; so when a one sees it in a four - the depressed self-pitying – the one is unable to interact with the person, for fear they may fall into the same depression . The four at their worst are very depressed people and the ones – perhaps most people - keep them at arm’s length because fours have the tremendous power to suck others into their vortex.
The observations we have chosen are a series of lectures given by Friar Richard Rohr. Richard has written a number of books on the Enneagram, but also gives lectures, and this taped series is long enough to mean it is not superficial and meaningless, but short enough to mean the series is watchable and provides an extremely good overview of both the history of the Enneagram , each of the various types as well as how the 'wings' help them to fly. Using his own biography
"Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized. Fr. Richard is the author of numerous books, including
- Everything Belongs,
- Adam’s Return,
- The Naked Now,
- Breathing Under Water,
- Falling Upward,
- Immortal Diamond, and
- Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.
- His newest book is The Universal Christ.
Find his audio conversation series Another Name for Every Thing, exploring themes from The Universal Christ, on most podcast platforms. Fr. Richard is academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Living School is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings."
And of course there are his various books on the Enneagram, I won't list them all as this will soon get out of date. A quick search through the Internet will provide you with an up-to-date list
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 1 and The High Priestess
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 2 and The Empress
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 3 and The Emperor
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 4 and The Hanged Man
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 5 and The Hermit
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 6 and the Hierophant
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 7 and The Fool
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 8 and the Devil
- Correspondences between The Enneagram and the Tarot – Enneagram No 9 and the Magician
- The Enneagram - 01 The Discernment Of Spirits (Introduction)
- The Enneagram - 02 The Discernment of Spirits (Types 1 2 3 4)
- The Enneagram - 03 The Discernment of Spirits (Types 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
- The Enneagram - 04 The Discernment of Spirits (Conclusion)
- The Enneagram as a tool for spiritual discernment