Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Enneagram

The Wikipedia decribes the Enneagram"(also sometimes called Enneagon) is a nine-pointed geometric figure. The term derives from two Greek words - ennea (nine) and grammos (something written or drawn)."

Paul Fromond, one of the two Progidal Kiwis(s) writes about the Enneagram as

The enneagram is a remarkably accurate map of our inner geography. It is distinguished from much of modern psychology in that it illustrates our inner motivations and our behaviour only secondarily. The enneagram map depicts what model of the universe each of nine different kinds of people have. This map, like all maps, describes some things and leaves out others.

He is commenting on an interview with Clarence Thomson by The National Catholic Reporter. The interview that is divided into three parts:
1. What the Enneagram is and why it works.
2. Widening your focus.
3. The Enneagram fits into traditional Catholic theology.
Download it (Mp3) here. You can complete an online enneagram exercise here.

What is interesting is the comment by philjohnson posted on Paul's blog.

I do not wish to detract from your post nor from the Catholic authors who encourage responsible and theologically reflective use of the Enneagram.

However, one point that I do feel that needs to be underscored is a matter of discernment. Although there is a corpus of Catholic literature that seeks to integrate the Enneagram into a theological framework, there is another stream of thought connected to the Enneagram that your readers do need to be cognizant of.

The Enneagram was conceived of by the Russian occultist George Gurdjieff, and other elements related to the 9 personality types were then developed by a Latin American psychic Oschar Ichazo of the new age Arica School.

There is an entire corpus of metaphysical literature built around the Enneagram that propagates an entirely different anthropology and cosmology that is essentially Gnostic, and thus in many respects stands in great tension with orthodox Christian teachings (as expressed in the ecumenical creeds of the Church).

I am not arguing here that because the Enneagram originated in the mind of an occultist therefore the whole thing must be rejected. That would be logically fallacious.

However, because of the sheer volume of published materials based on or explaining the Enneagram, some discernment is needed.

I was first introduced to the Enneagram by Richard Rohr and Angreas Ebert's 1990 book, Discovering the Enneagram. According to that edition, Rohr described the Enneagram to have its origin from sufism. Muslim mathematicians had discovered that "a new kind of number comes into being when zero is divided by three or seven (periodic decimal fractions)...they called it the "face of God,"because in the nine points of energy that the Enneagram describes they saw nine refractions of the one divine love."(p.7). This is also consistent with the "mathematic constructs of the Jewish Kabbala and the Kabalistic doctine of the tree of life..." (p.8).

I have been using the Enneagram in my counseling and spiritual direction. I find it useful especially in understanding our inner motivations and subconscious drives.

Richard Rohr and Angreas Ebert came out with a new edition of their 1990 book in 2004. Now, they claim that with additional research, they have found that the Enneagram in fact originated from the Desert Fathers and the sufis modified on the concept.

This is my personal observation but everytime I used the Enneagram, I feel a certain unease. I feel similar unease when I walk into temples, sites of old battlefields, and "sacred high places."
I believe there are two levels in the Enneagram. One is the purely psychological level. On this level, it is like any spiritual/psychological tools, it can be used to understand ourselves and our motivations better. However, there is a deeper spiritual level which we do not know anything about. I will liken this to the martial arts like Tai Chi, Karate and Wu Su. There is a physical level and a spiritual level.

Discernment is needed at the spiritual level. Who resides there? Princes, powers, and principalities? I do not know. For the moment, I have stopped using the Enneagram until my level of discrenment have improved or someone have convinced me otherwise.

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Anonymous alwyn said...

now this is interesting...and to think i was once given the frowns for using "imaginative prayer" (i.e. visualisations of Christ, etc.)...i'm intrigued by your forays into this area and i'm sure you're taking every discerning precaution available.

at first blush, my impression is that the enneagram is a bit like acupuncture i.e. both 'practical' yet inseparable from the culture from which it originated, and i guess Christians are trying to apply (or redeedm?) the helpful aspects without getting caught by the non-Christly ones.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi alwyn,

I believe there are three aspects to everything we do on earth: the physical, the social/cultural, and the spiritual. Often we missed out on the spiritual and think everything is just physical and cultural.

You have mentioned acupunture which is a good example. Alternative medicine is full of such examples. What do we know of the chi, chakra or reiki? What do Christians think of the yin and yang? Are they spiritual powers behind this metaphysical philosophy? Something to think about.


11:48 PM  

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