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I thought this was very interesting and served as a resource of background and history on Enneagram Theory.. I hope you are able to take the time to read it and see for yourself what the information has to offer for you.

Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram

by Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.

from the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1991, page 14. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

In America and abroad a system of classifying personality types -- the enneagram -- is becoming very popular. Strictly speaking, the enneagram is a circle with nine points on it (ennea means "nine" in Greek, and gram means "line drawing"). Inside the circle two figures connect the nine points, a triangle and an oddly shaped six-pointed figure. Most people who refer to the enneagram, however, relate it to a personality typology system based on this drawing. In workshops they learn that only nine personality types exist and that every person fits into one of them. Each of these nine types represents a personality compulsion, a wrong or even "demonic" way of behaving. Once a person identifies his or her type (usually classified by a number on the enneagram), then he or she can supposedly learn how to improve, or at least avoid getting worse, spiritually.

The enneagram is particularly popular among Catholic groups, with parishes and retreat houses offering workshops across the country. Rarely are teachers or participants aware of its occultic origins, something that should be a source of real concern for the Christian church. Echoes of a false, Gnostic theology are heard in enneagram teachings, though its occult roots are masked. The lack of scientific research into the enneagram system is an additional cause for concern. This article will examine these three aspects of the enneagram: its occultic roots, its Gnostic theology, and its lack of scientific support.


The man credited with bringing the enneagram figure to the West is George Ilych Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian from what is now Soviet Georgia. He apparently enjoyed being shrouded in mystery, as seen in the different dates he gave for his birth: he told some disciples it was 1869. But his passport had the date December 28, 1877. He told others that an Edison phonograph was playing during his birth, confirming 1877, the year the phonograph was invented. Others said he was 77 years old when he died, placing his birth year in 1872. (Gurdjieff was known to be a liar and to make outrageous claims in order to shock disciples into spiritual change; perhaps the secret about his age belonged to the outrage.)

According to Gurdjieff's book Meetings with Remarkable Men, a sort of autobiography, his family wanted him to study for the Orthodox priesthood, while his own interests were in studying science and technology. Meanwhile, a local priest suggested both seminary and medical school so he could heal both soul and body.[1] Gurdjieff ultimately rejected all of the above because of his fascination with the occult. Astrology, mental telepathy, spiritism and table turning, fortune telling, and demon possession all held his interest as a youth.[2] He would not listen to his priest's warnings about these things, nor did he find the explanations of science very satisfying, either. Therefore, in his late teens, he set out to pursue these occult "sciences," traveling throughout central Asia, the Mediterranean basin, Egypt, Tibet, and India. The special goal of his search was the esoteric Sarmouni school, allegedly founded in Babylon around 2500 B.C. He had read about it in an ancient Armenian book and felt drawn to find this school.

Gurdjieff supported himself throughout this spiritual venture with legitimate businesses (e.g., selling carpets) and fraudulent enterprises (e.g., coloring sparrows with aniline dye, calling them "American canaries," and selling them at a great profit). So enterprising was he that he eventually became a millionaire.

Gurdjieff relates that while in Afghanistan, around 1897, a dervish (a type of Muslim mystic or Sufi) introduced him to an old man of the Sarmouni sect he had been searching for. As the story goes, this man arranged for an expedition to take Gurdjieff to the Sarmouni monastery in central Turkestan, where he learned their mystical dancing, psychic powers, and the enneagram. For the Sarmounis the enneagram was important as a means of divination to foretell future events as well as a tool to represent life processes, such as personal transformation.[3] They also used it as a symbol of the conscious and unconscious states in human beings.[4] These uses would become part of Gurdjieff's spiritual teaching when he founded his own school for attaining enlightenment.

Upon leaving the Sarmouni monastery, Gurdjieff formed a group, the Seekers of Truth, as his companions in the quest for enlightenment and (full) consciousness.[5] They reportedly traveled to Tibet to make contact with the "awakened" inner circle of humanity and to learn the wisdom of the tulkas, the supposedly reincarnated Tibetan lamas (monks).[6] Later Gurdjieff snuck into Mecca and Medina, the centers of Islam, but failed to find inner truth there. Then he went to Bokhara, where the Bahaudin Naqshbandi band of Sufis lived.[7]

These Naqshbandi Sufis, also called the Khwajagan or "Masters of Wisdom," claimed to be the "World Brotherhood," composed of all nationalities and religions, teaching that "all were united by God the Truth." Typical of central Asian belief, the Naqshbandis had a legend of an inner circle of humanity who formed a network of highly evolved people with special knowledge. These people allegedly watch over the human race and direct the course of its history. The Naqshbandis also believed in a perpetual spiritual hierarchy headed by the Kutb i Zaman or "Axis of the Age," a personal spirit receiving direct revelations of the divine purpose. This spirit purportedly transmits these revelations to humans through other spirits called the Abdal or "Transformed Ones."[8] Gurdjieff and his followers believed that these spirits, "demiurgic essences" from a higher level than man, were responsible for maintaining planetary harmony and evolution. However, their work is not necessarily favorable to the liberation of individuals.[9] Despite their potential hostility, Gurdjieff and his followers maintained contact with these spirits.

Anyone familiar with Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy will recognize similar beliefs in highly evolved "masters."[10] Perhaps she learned about the masters from traditions similar to those Gurdjieff learned in Central Asia. Remember, she had traveled through the same areas of Asia only thirty or forty years before Gurdjieff.

The Naqshbandis also taught Gnostic doctrines. For instance, they taught Gurdjieff that faith arose "from understanding" which is "the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced." Only understanding can lead on to God and only experience and information allow one to acquire a soul.[11] This approach to faith places Gurdjieff squarely in the Gnostic camp outside Christianity. For Christians, faith is a gift from God; it is available to the brilliant or the retarded, the aged or the child, independent of whether a human understands or not. Instead of human understanding leading to God, it is God who comes to humans, offering to dwell within our hearts through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

After years of travel, the millionaire Gurdjieff returned to Russia in 1912. In Moscow he established the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man to train disciples to teach the world what he had learned in his travels. However, Moscow soon became an inopportune place for a millionaire, so in 1915 he returned to Armenia. The arrival of the Bolsheviks in Armenia meant the exit of a shady capitalist like Gurdjieff, who moved successively to Istanbul, Berlin, Dresden, and finally (in 1922) to Paris, where he reopened his Institute.[12]

In Paris (and the New York branch of the Institute, which opened in 1924), he taught "esoteric Christianity" along with a program to help students reach the highest levels of consciousness. His Sufi/Gnostic-inspired doctrine included the belief that everyone has three personal centers: the mental, located in the head (path), the emotional, located in the heart (oth), and the physical, located in the belly (kath). One prime cause for people being spiritually "asleep" or "mechanical" was the imbalance of these three centers within each person. His Sufi dances and other exercises were designed to restore balance to these three centers and move the person closer to an alert spiritual state.

Gurdjieff also taught that everyone has an essence and a personality. The essence is "the material of which the universe is made. Essence is divine -- the particle of god in our subconscious called Conscience."[13] The personality is a mask of compulsive behavior which covers the essence. Though everyone is born in essence, they choose a personality ego style around the age of three or four. It is nearly impossible to return to the essence, but with slow, deliberate, conscious work one can arrive at it again.[14] Note that Gurdjieff's doctrine of "essence" places him squarely among the pantheists (who believe that everything is God). Enneagram teachers who recommend that students return to this essence rarely understand what Gurdjieff meant, but his words make it clear that he did not have a Christian sense of God. This is one reason he claimed to teach "esoteric Christianity"; orthodox Christianity proclaims we are creatures of God, not divine particles.

The enneagram figured prominently in Gurdjieff's teaching, as seen by its frequent appearance in his disciples' books (though not in his own). The Sufis had used the enneagram for numerological divination. (Numerology is an occult "science" which holds that the characteristics of people and virtually everything in the universe are determined by numbers, and that such characteristics can be divined if the people or things' individual numbers can be identified [e.g., from their names or dates of birth] and the meaning of those numbers can be determined.) The Sufis searched for the mystical meanings of the decimals .3333..., .6666..., and .9999... (based on dividing the number one by three), and of the decimal .142857... (based on dividing the number one by seven and containing no multiples of three).[15] The multiples of three correspond to the triangle inside the circle, and the decimal .142857 (derived by dividing seven into one and resulting in a repeating decimal that never contains three or its multiples) corresponds to the points on the circle that connect the six-sided figure.

Through these two figures inside the enneagram circle, each based on the decimals of three into one and seven into one, Gurdjieff was able to manifest the great numerological laws of the three and the seven. He taught that "all things in life work on two laws -- 3 and 7." All psychological laws fall within the law of three -- as with the three personality centers, and all material things fall within the law of seven.[16]

Gurdjieff and his followers made tremendous claims for the enneagram as a result of these numerological beliefs. Piotr (or Peter) D. Ouspensky, a mathematician, writer, and Gurdjieff disciple, quoted Gurdjieff as saying: "Only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram he does not know."[17] In other words, any information that cannot be assigned its numerical value and then run through the enneagram diagram could not be understood in terms of its true cosmic significance. The process of knowing something through the enneagram meant distinguishing between the functional steps of a process, which must always follow the nine points around the circle, and the "will cycle," which follows the inner figure along the lines between points 1, 4, 2, 8, 5, 7.[18]

Gurdjieff taught that the enneagram has the power to reveal the "timeless" aspect of any cosmic process, since the enneagram is a symbol of the cosmos (i.e., the universe itself is ordered according to the same numerical arrangement as the enneagram).[19] Therefore Gurdjieff instructed his students in the enneagram of cooking (symbolizing the process of personal transformation), which had nine steps and six inner dynamics. John Bennett, a Gurdjieff student, came to believe that the "enneagram is more than a picture of yourself, it is yourself....the enneagram is a living diagram and...we can experience ourselves as enneagrams." He came to this understanding when Ouspensky drew the enneagram on a blackboard and Bennett "felt myself going out of myself and entering the diagram."[20] The enneagram of personality developed from similar beliefs held by other Gurdjieff disciples.


Many different Gurdjieff groups formed after his death, such as Gurdjieff-Ouspensky Centres, Robert Burton's Fellowship of Friends, the Theater of All Possibilities, and the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being. The one most influential in the spread of the enneagram of personality is the Arica training (named for a city in northern Chile), a "human potential" program founded by Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychologist and former Esalen instructor, are both disciples of Gurdjieff, and together (according to Naranjo) originated the enneagram of personality types. Their ideas are closely related to Gurdjieff's thought, especially regarding the structure and use of the enneagram.

At age six Ichazo became disillusioned with the Catholic church because its teachings contradicted what he learned through occultic out-of-body experiences. He rejected what his Jesuit teachers said about heaven and hell, claiming to have been there and learned more about it than Christ and the church. He came to believe that living in one's subjectivity was the real hell, but people could become free of it. He then studied Oriental martial arts, Zen, yoga, shamanism, hypnotism, and psychology, and experimented with Andes Indian psychedelic drugs, to learn techniques to free himself from hellish subjectivity.

An elderly man (anonymous) in La Paz, Bolivia introduced the nineteen-year old Ichazo to a group in Buenos Aires studying "esoteric consciousness-altering techniques." Ichazo impressed the group with his ability, so they offered him the chance to travel to Hong Kong, India, and Tibet to study more martial arts, higher yogas, alchemy, the I Ching, and Confucianism.[21]

Along the way Ichazo came to believe, as Gurdjieff did, in a hierarchy of spirits and entities. He allegedly receives instructions from a higher entity called "Metatron, the prince of the archangels," and the members of his group contact lower spirits through meditation and mantras. Ichazo now considers himself a "master" in contact with all the previous masters of the esoteric school, including those who have died. Students of his Arica training are helped and guided by an interior master, the Green Qu'Tub, who makes himself known when a student reaches a sufficiently high stage of development.[22] Apparently it is the same as Qutb i Zaman, the spirit in charge of the hierarchy that speaks through other spirits, as taught by Gurdjieff (see above).

Somewhere in his spiritual search, Ichazo learned the enneagram. Perhaps applying Gurdjieff's principle that nothing is known until placed into the enneagram, Ichazo developed a system of nine personality types, each corresponding to the enneagram's nine points. The personality theory behind the types is based on Gurdjieff's idea that everyone has turned away from the essence into which they were born and chosen an ego type. This compulsive ego turns people into machines and puts them spiritually asleep. According to Naranjo's report, Oscar Ichazo gave these nine compulsive ego types some "dirty" names: resent, flattery, go, melancholy, stingy, coward, plan, venge, and indolent.[23] Ichazo further identified Holy Ideas and Virtues which correspond to each of the nine types when a person reaches the essence level of higher consciousness. He wrote short descriptions of each type and employed animal symbols or "totems" to exemplify the qualities of each.[24]

Helen Palmer's classic text on the enneagram gives a different version of the origin of the enneagram of personality, which is basically confirmed by Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo, too, had belonged to Gurdjieff groups, but found them wanting. On a visit home to Chile in the late 1960s he met Ichazo. Though not impressed with him at first, he found him a powerful person once he had meditated in his presence. He helped Ichazo develop the enneagram and disseminate it in America. Naranjo contributed to the personality descriptions and correlated the Freudian defense mechanisms to each of the nine types. Then, in 1970, he brought a group of 50 Esalen students, including John Lilly and Joseph Hart, to Arica, Chile for Ichazo's training in the enneagram. When they returned to California Naranjo taught the enneagram to Esalen students -- including Helen Palmer, Kathleen Riordan Speeth, and Fr. Robert Ochs, S.J.[25] Though Naranjo claims that these people had promised not to teach others the enneagram,[26] the above-named people have written and lectured about it since the early 1970s. In particular, Palmer has written one of the basic texts, and Ochs introduced it to the Catholic community.

My contact with the enneagram came through Fr. Ochs, who taught it at our Jesuit seminary. We students who learned it there also promised not to teach it to anyone for at least two years, until we could integrate it into our own lives. However, many of us, myself included, could not resist the temptation to share this esoteric teaching with others. Many of us led classes, seminars, and retreats based on the enneagram, spreading it throughout the Catholic community in America, Australia, and other countries.

Learning about the roots of the enneagram has been difficult because it has been shrouded in secrecy. Its occultic background was not taught to me, and most of the Catholic teachers know little if anything about that aspect. Once I learned about its occultic roots, however, it became clear that some of these teachings seeped through to us, despite demythologization of the system. Bad theology and poor pastoral practice have accompanied the enneagram, for which reasons I now criticize it.


Nearly all the enneagram books and lecturers accept Gurdjieff's claim that the enneagram is very ancient, originating in the Babylon or Mesopotamia of 2500 B.C. Faith in the enneagram's antiquity is in effect a claim for its authority. However, in my studies of ancient literature and archaeology, I find no evidence for the enneagram's existence in ancient times, neither inscriptions nor drawings. In fact, Ouspensky's books on Gurdjieff are its earliest appearance. John Bennett says that the symbol may go back to fourteenth century Sufis, since that was the time of the discovery of zero and the decimal point.[27] The enneagram's dependence on the decimal point for its inner shape prohibits an earlier date. However, external evidence for a medieval date is lacking; there is merely the possibility that it has mathematical roots back then.

After taking an enneagram course, I searched for more information about the enneagram of personality types. While Ouspensky and other Gurdjieff disciples described cosmic interpretations of the enneagram, or used it to describe the process of cooking or scientific experiments, none of them described nine personality types. Only after hearing Claudio Naranjo's lecture[28] and reading Palmer's book did I learn that Oscar Ichazo invented the enneagram of personality types in the 1960s.

Significantly, Ichazo's enneagram employs the numerological background of the Sufi decimal point symbolism in understanding personality dynamics. For instance, according to the system, the number one gets worse by following the direction of the arrow on the line connected to type four; four gets worse by becoming like a two, and so forth. People improve by moving in the direction opposite the arrows; that is, a one gets better by becoming like a seven, a seven should become like a five, and so on. Remember that this inner dynamic of the six-point figure and of the triangle is based on the numerology of dividing seven into one or three into one, a dynamic rooted in occultism and divination. This occultic dynamic was Ichazo's a priori structure into which he conformed the nine personality types and their inner principles of spiritual improvement or regression. Many people accept this and adjust their spiritual and psychological life to these principles.

Even if one demythologizes the occultism, or assumes good will among those who are ignorant of the occultic roots, one must nonetheless demand an examination of this system by psychologists and behavioral scientists. What is the evidence that a resentful perfectionist (one) should seek the virtue of the happy-go-lucky planner (seven)? Why should the vengeful, power-hungry person (eight) become a helper (two) rather than seek other virtues? Besides faith in the antiquity of the system, which it does not possess, how can anyone know the best virtues to pursue for any individual type? No research has been done in this regard, yet enneagram experts suggest specific spiritual goals based on this system to their students in parishes and retreat houses. The lack of scientific study should set off alarms for anyone interested in this approach to spiritual growth.

A second area to be questioned and tested is the existence of the nine personality types. Nine is the a priori number suggested to Ichazo and Naranjo by the occultic enneagram figure. What psychological proof do they have that only nine basic types exist? And what is the evidence that these are in fact the correct nine? This has not been researched, either.

A third area needing research is the theory of personality structure taught by enneagram experts. Following Gurdjieff, they assume everyone was born in their essence but chose an ego fixation around age three or four. Children choose these egos as a defense against their parents' egos, but get trapped by their own defense mechanisms.

The experts also teach Gurdjieff's theory that three centers of consciousness -- mind (path), heart (oth), and belly or instinct (kath) -- is true. Some associate the head center with types 5, 6, and 7; the feeling center with types 2, 3, and 4; and the belly with types 8 and 9.[29] They teach Gurdjieff's doctrine that human personality problems derive from the imbalance of these three personality centers. One goal of enneagram therapy is restoration of the interdependence of the three centers.[30] But where is the evidence for the existence of such centers? Can psychologists confirm their existence, describe their imbalance, or test therapies that restore their balance? The enneagram industry, as Naranjo now calls it, tries to awaken these centers through "spiritual exercises" derived from yoga, zen, and Sufi practices, much the same way that kundalini yoga attempts to awaken psychic energy in the seven "chakras" of that school of yoga -- a practice that is considered dangerous even by its own adherents. Why are the enneagram teachers doing this, and what is their warrant except the practices of occultists like Gurdjieff and his followers?

Theological Problems with the Enneagram Doctrine

Besides these scientific and psychological problems with the enneagram, Christians have many theological difficulties with it. The frequent use of such occult practices as divination and spiritism in Gurdjieff and Ichazo immediately throws up a red flag. In Deuteronomy 18:9-15 and many other Scripture passages, God our Lord forbids such pursuits. Most of the "experts" I know, however, avoid the occult or know nothing about its presence in the enneagram's background. Despite this avoidance or ignorance, theological problems appear in enneagram workshops across the country.

Some enneagram experts claim that original sin begins when small children choose their ego type or fixation. This is utter nonsense to the Christian. Original sin, by its nature, is not some wrong that a person commits. Rather, because of the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (in trying to "become like gods" by grasping for forbidden knowledge about good and bad -- Gen. 3:5), all humans inherit original sin. Due to the fallenness of human nature, people are prone to commit actual sins, and frequently do so. Identifying a three- or four-year old child's choice of compulsion with original sin is a biblically false doctrine.

Another theological error follows from this one, namely, humans can undo the effects of this so-called original sin of ego fixation by means of Gurdjieff's, Ichazo's, or someone else's spiritual "work." Certainly, people can get help from others to overcome psychological problems, and they should seek the wisdom and counsel of solid, Christian psychologists when they need that type of help. However, such "work" can never be the removal of original sin, or any other sin, for that matter. Only the saving death on the Cross of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, can remove our sin. This is a free gift of God's grace which no human can earn or deserve. We accept this grace from the merciful God and return gratitude to Him, which is itself His gift to us. Any removal of the effects of sin -- the psychological residue or ramifications of sin -- may be alleviated by psychological help along with other aids, such as charity to the poor, proclaiming the Gospel, and so forth.

Further, the prophet Isaiah wrote that wisdom, understanding, and counsel are gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2), so we should seek psychological help from Christians blessed by these gifts. The Christian should know and proclaim to the world that even psychological techniques require God's grace if they are to be effective in removing the effects of our sin. Both the forgiveness of our sins and the removal of their effects demand God's unearned grace in our lives.

Another theological error is the claim that Jesus our Lord possesses the virtues of all nine types within Himself.[31] Only a contrived exegesis (interpretation) of the Gospels permits this silly idea. Assessing someone's personality is very difficult, even when that person speaks directly to the therapist or interviewer. Determining our blessed Lord's personality type from the Gospels is an abuse both of Scripture and therapeutic technique. Jesus did not grant any interviews for a psychological profile. Nor did He personally compose the texts of the Gospels. How can anyone claim to know His ego type from these texts?

Furthermore, the evangelists did not intend to give us a psychological profile of Jesus; they intended to proclaim the gospel that God became flesh, died on a cross, rose from the dead, and thereby redeemed the world. The evangelists' purpose was to summon the readers and hearers of the Gospels to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, not to analyze the Lord! These claims are absurd and should be rejected outright.

Naranjo taught that the Holy Idea or Virtue of each type is one of the nine faces of God; the compulsive aspects of each type turns the face of God upside-down and becomes a demon. The purpose of the "work" is to free oneself from the demons. Perhaps Naranjo intended this merely as a figure of speech, but it has become commonplace within the enneagram industry. Any Christian who hears it should recognize three errors here.

First, God does not have nine faces. Jesus our Lord revealed that there are three coequal persons in the one God, forming what the church has long called the Trinity. However, these three persons are neither multiplying nor subdividing into nine faces. That is a silly way to speak, ungrounded in divine revelation or common sense.

Second, no human can turn the face of God upside-down, right-side up, or any other way. God is our uncreated Sovereign, unmoved by created beings in any direction. Claiming that the upside-down face of God is a demon moves beyond absurdity to blasphemy. God, who is all-good and all-loving, cannot be remolded into a demon. No one should speak that way.

Third, as is true of sin, so also with demons: we humans cannot free ourselves from the demons. God delivers us from them. No technique or meditation delivers us from the power of evil or the elemental spirits. Jesus our Savior saves us from these evils. The enneagram practitioners, and anyone tempted to take their courses, must become aware that their doctrine must conform to Scripture and (at least in the view of the Catholic, but also to a lesser extent for many Protestants) church teaching. Wherever their teaching does not conform to God's revelation, they must adapt themselves to God. No matter how esoteric the Sufi tradition or what the claim may be, they will have to account to God for spreading false doctrine in the church of Christ.

Practical Problems with the Enneagram Industry

Books and teachers frequently claim that the enneagram helps everyone to categorize not only themselves but other people around them. In its framework experts classify different types of people, appreciate how they differ from us, and learn how to get along better with dissimilar types. The teachers usually take public figures as examples of the nine types. Palmer names groups of "famous" people belonging to each type. For instance, good Protestants such as Martin Luther and Jerry Falwell are "ones," as are nonbelievers such as George B. Shaw and Ralph Waldo Emerson.[32] The enneagram experts do not agree, however, on their categorization of these characters. Some consider Hitler an "eight," but Palmer makes him a "six." Similar contradictions exist among the books and speakers.

A basic problem is that these famous people never had the privilege of making the enneagram workshop, so they could not type themselves. Therefore, when the experts categorize and countertype famous people, their example teaches the students to categorize the people they live with. Once one feels like an enneagram expert, one can classify friends, spouse, or children. The expert may feel privy to secret knowledge granting the power to categorize others.

The abuse that follows from this practice is the trivialization of relationships. People believe they have more insight into someone else than that person has: the inner dynamics of the compulsions and the expected behaviors are known to the enneagram expert better than to the person under consideration. This opens some people to the abuse of relating to others on the basis of their enneagram expectations rather than what the people actually choose to reveal about themselves. This is not healthy but potentially abusive. I have done it and have seen others do it. Unleashing this on parish groups opens the way to serious problems in the time between the end of the workshop and the cooling down of the enneagram fad.

I do not have much respect for the enneagram industry at this point. Its occultic roots have not been thoroughly purged (if they can be), and it has opened itself to theological error and social and psychological misuse. The lack of scientific investigation means there are no controls to determine who actually is an expert, nor which advice is helpful or detrimental, nor whether the goals of the enneagram system are sound.

If anything of psychological value can be redeemed from the enneagram, its practitioners must thoroughly purge the system of unchristian elements. If any true insights within the system are to be useful, it requires psychological testing and control. Other-wise counselors will roam through the church, subtly taking people away from Christ their Lord and perhaps doing damage to their psyches. I recommend avoidance of the enneagram industry until the day it can be made completely compatible with Christian faith and sound scientific methodology, if indeed that is possible.

About the Author

Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., is a professor of Scripture and Hebrew at Loyola University of Chicago. His forthcoming book on the New Age movement includes two chapters on the enneagram.


1 Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men, 53-54.
2 Ibid., 37, 59-60, 62-72, 79-81, and psychic pet dog, 135.
3 Bennett, 3-4.
4 Gurdjieff, 148-65; Speeth and Friedlander, 113, 116.
5 Gurdjieff, 164-65.
6 Speeth and Friedlander, 81-82.
7 Gurdjieff, 227; Speeth and Friedlander, 93.
8 Speeth and Friedlander, 35-36.
9 Bennett, 75, 79, 83.
10 See Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), chapter eight, "The Theosophical Society."
11 Gurdjieff, 227-43.
12 Ibid., 270-85.
13 Anderson, 64.
14 Ibid., 63.
15 Riordan, 293; Bennett, 2-3.
16 Anderson, 71-72.
17 Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, 294.
18 Bennett, 31.
19 Ibid., 32, 47.
20 Ibid., 32.
21 Keen, 64.
22 Lilly and Hart, 341.
23 Naranjo.
24 Palmer, 46-47.
25 Ibid.; see also Naranjo.
26 Naranjo.
27 Bennett, 31.
28 Naranjo.
29 Beesing, Nogosek, and O'Leary, 144-47.
30 Ibid., 141-43.
31 Ibid., 49-98.
32 Palmer, 94


- Anderson, Margaret. The Unknown Gurdjieff. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962. A description of life among Gurdjieff's disciples and their devotion to his method of changing their lives.
- Beesing, O.P., Maria; Robert Nogosek, C.S.C.; and Patrick O'Leary, S.J.. The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery. Denville, New Jersey: Dimension Books, 1984.
- Bennett, John G. Enneagram Studies. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1983. Bennett was a disciple of Gurdjieff who lived with him for a while. He researched Sufism and writes about the historical roots of the enneagram.
- Gurdjieff, George I. Herald of Coming Good. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1973. His first book, stating some of his philosophy.
The following three of Gurdjieff's books are known as All and Everything, in three series:

- ______. Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, 3 vols. First Series. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976. More of Gurdjieff's philosophy, meant to introduce people to the strangeness of his ideas and "destroy, mercilessly...the beliefs and views...about everything existing in the world."
- ______. Meetings with Remarkable Men. Second Series. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. This is an autobiography meant to use stories about his life to give a new vision "required for a new creation."
- ______. Life Is Real Only Then, When "I Am." Third Series. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975. An introduction and a series of lectures to continue teaching what he means about the real world rather than the world of illusion presently believed in.
- Keen, Sam. "A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ichazo," Psychology Today, July 1973, 64-72. This is an interview with Ichazo, one of the few places where he speaks about himself.
- Lilly, John C., and Joseph E. Hart. "The Arica Training," in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Hart. New York: Harper and Row, 1975, 329-51. This article gives further background to Ichazo, including information about occultic practices in his group and the group's strong attachment to him.
- Naranjo, Claudio. "The Enneagram -- Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?" Audio tape recorded at the Association of Christian Therapists, February 1990, San Diego, California. Available through Diocesan Charismatic Renewal Center, 7654 Herschel Ave., La Jolla, California 92037. This talk is a rare history of the enneagram's roots in Ichazo's and Naranjo's own teachings.
- Ouspensky, P. D. The Fourth Way: A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. New York: Random House, 1957.
- ______. In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1949. Though the enneagram symbol is taught in Ouspensky's books, one searches in vain for information about the enneagram of personality.
- Palmer, Helen. The Enneagram. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988. A popular version of the enneagram that spells out the various types.
- Riordan, Kathleen. "Gurdjieff," in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Hart. New York: Harper and Row, 1975, 281-328. A short background to Gurdjieff's thought.
- Riso, Don Richard. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
- ______. Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990. Riso tries to use a more psychological approach but he has not given outside proof for the system or his own results, as he admits.
- Speeth, Kathleen Riordan, and Ira Friedlander. Gurdjieff: Seeker of the Truth. Bibliography compiled by Walter Driscoll. New York: Harper and Row, 1980. This is the most orderly biography of Gurdjieff that I know of. The chronology is helpful and the bibliography is excellent for research purposes.
- Wagner, Jerome. "A Descriptive, Reliability, and Validity Study of the Enneagram Personality Typology." Ph.D., 1979, Loyola University, Chicago.
- ______. "Reliability and Validity Study of a Sufi Personality Typology: The Enneagram," Journal of Clinical Psychology 39, 1983, 712-17.
- Waldberg, Michael. Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Work. Trans. Steve Cox. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981. A good summary of Gurdjieff's ideas arranged topically.

End of document, CRJ0146A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram"
release A, August 31, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

This data file is the sole property of the Christian Research Institute. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute"). This data file may not be used without the permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words.

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CRI Journal - CRJ0146A

1,338 Posts
"If anything of psychological value can be redeemed from the enneagram, its practitioners must thoroughly purge the system of unchristian elements."

how absolutely pathetic. in my opinion, the hopelessly indoctrinating nature of this article calls every bit of historical information that this guy has gleamed on gurdjieff or the origins of the fourth way into question.

1,656 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
"If anything of psychological value can be redeemed from the enneagram, its practitioners must thoroughly purge the system of unchristian elements."

how absolutely pathetic. in my opinion, the hopelessly indoctrinating nature of this article calls every bit of historical information that this guy has gleamed on gurdjieff or the origins of the fourth way into question.
He does put a lot of emphasis on the Christian values being the a point of contention for enneagram theory.. but he also criticizes psychologists for not studying these theories and their origins.. testing them and trying them to see if they are reliable before allowing them to be acclaimed as a useful and trustworthy tool in use of personality and human mechanics assessment. As in they haven't been challenged and proven thoroughly enough by scientists and doctors.

This article was written for a Christian demographic and therefore he is teaching points based on their interests.. however it can be useful resource of information for all people who are needing authentication of Enneagram.

I think he makes some valid points to consider in searching for a trusted tool in personalities, relationships, and self-improvment. Also he is thorough and educated in the history/core/changes/principles of it that is not widely known.. besides the religious part of it.

390 Posts

Refuting Rev. Mitch Pacwa's erroneous negative views of the Enneagram

Religious Accusations Against the Enneagram Proven False
© 2001, Enneagram Resources, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Kathy Hurley and Theodorre Donson

The Enneagram is a system of nine personality types that has been growing in popularity since the early 1970s. Each of the types is associated with one of nine core "passions." Sometimes called ego-fixations or compulsions, these nine negative emotional states are anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust, and laziness. This list largely depends on the tradition of "capital sins" in Christianity, although the Enneagram interprets them psychologically, not moralistically.

The Enneagram describes the nine personality types as patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. By revealing these patterns clearly, the Enneagram is used to guide people in overcoming weaknesses and capitalizing on strengths, to understand and develop compassion in relationships of all kinds, and to understand oneself in one’s own personal growth and relationship to God.

Catholic theologian Mitchell Pacwa, S. J. wrote extensively during the early 1990s on his interpretation of the Enneagram and how, like Jungian psychology, he believes it is misleading Christians in their search for spiritual direction. His two main statements are an article on the Internet, "Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram," (copyright 1994, Christian Research Institute) and his book Catholics and the New Age (Servant Publications, 1992). He continues to present his ideas on Catholic conservative radio and TV shows.

In mid-2000, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on doctrine issued a document on the Enneagram based on Pacwa’s ideas. It cautions bishops that "the Enneagram has its origins in a non-Christian world view and remains connected to a complex of philosophical and religious ideas that do not accord with Christian beliefs."

Our Response to Pacwa’s Criticism of the Enneagram
This article is our response to these unfortunate interpretations of the Enneagram. We call these documents "unfortunate" because our own research clearly indicates that the Enneagram has solid roots in the Christian writings of the "desert elders." These men and women, sometimes called the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, lived and wrote in the first five centuries of Christianity. As the first interpreters of the Gospels, they inquired into the inner development of human nature as it progresses toward the experience of God.

Thus, we believe that Pacwa, with the U. S. bishops following him, is placing himself in the strange-but-true situation of encouraging Christians to be suspicious of authentic Christian teaching about the inner life because it appears in a form with which he is unfamiliar and therefore cannot immediately recognize as Christian.

The confusion these documents creates is compounded by the fact that none of them demonstrates an accurate understanding of the Enneagram. Because Pacwa’s article available on the Internet both summarizes his book and is the source document for the bishops’s statement, we will deal with it directly in this response.

False Accusation of Numerology
Pacwa’s document is marred by several erroneous assumptions. For example, it claims that the Enneagram depends on numerology and therefore calls it "divination." However, the Enneagram uses numbers, not numerology. The dictionary defines numerology as "the study of the occult meanings of numbers and their supposed influence on human life." Numerology assigns numbers to the letters of the alphabet and offers guidance to people based on the number equivalence of the letters in their names and their date of birth.

Pacwa also claims that the numerology of the Enneagram is based on the search for the "mystical meanings" of recurring decimal numbers. This statement is misleading in two ways. First, possible mystical meanings of numbers is not the same as numerology. Second, the Enneagram of personality as taught today relies on no such numerical mysticism. It simply uses the numbers one through nine. This is not numerology, just as arithmetic is not numerology.

False Presentation of "Essence" and "Personality"
Pacwa denigrates another teaching basic to the Enneagram, essence and personality, by calling it "pantheistic." The Enneagram claims to describe personality, which perceives reality in an overly subjective manner, and is opposed to essence or a person’s true nature.

In criticizing this idea, Pacwa is apparently oblivious to the Christian origin of the word "essence" in this context. It was first used in the 1330s by Gregory Palamas, a canonized saint in the Orthodox tradition. He explained the nature of God as "essence" and "energies," or the means by which God communicates with humanity. Since humanity is created in God’s image, this teaching evolved to say every human being also has an "essence" or soul and "energies" or personality.

Alleged Occult Basis of the Enneagram
Pacwa says the Enneagram has origins in the occult, which most people associate with magic and human use of spiritual powers not lawful to them. However, the ideas that underlay the Enneagram have esoteric origins, not occult ones.

For most people, the word "esoteric" is equivalent to "occult." In fact, religious traditions use this word in its most basic definition, which is "inner" or "interior." Esoteric principles teach the inner development of humanity as it yearns for the divine. Spiritual growth, contemplative prayer and the writings of mystics like Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross are all "esoteric."

Alleged Sufi Basis for the Enneagram
Pacwa claims the Enneagram comes from the Sufis (who teach contemplative spirituality in the Islamic world). Many Enneagram teachers (including ourselves) used to present this erroneous idea. But how could the underlying ideas of the Enneagram be Sufi when the Sufis themselves disavow this claim? To be sure, there are Sufi books on the Enneagram (for example, Laleh Bakhtiar’s three volume work, God’s Will Be Done (KAZI Publications, 1993 and 1994)), but the way they both describe and use the Enneagram barely resembles the presentation of the Enneagram Pacwa refers to.

Pacwa states the nine types of the Enneagram fall into three groups of three, associated with the head, the heart, and the gut (often called "the three centers"). Then he claims these three categories of intellectual, emotional and instinctual are borrowed from Sufism.

Yet Plato also taught such a tri-partite analysis of human nature (for example, see his Timaeus). So did the Christian desert elders when they called Christians to three renunciations — in the physical realm (simplicity), emotional realm (virtue rather than the passions), and intellectual realm (relying on divine and not human knowledge to lead a person to God).

Common sense leads to the same conclusion. Each day, when faced with decisions, people ask themselves, "What do I think about it?", "How do I feel about it?", and "What will I do about it?" These are universal categories. They don’t belong to any one religion or philosophy. Further, although they are given different names and appear in many different forms, they are almost universally used by the world’s religions and philosophies.

Because he wrongly believes the idea of the three centers is Sufi, Pacwa takes exception to the idea that imbalance among the three centers is one of humanity’s basic problems and therefore that balancing the centers is important spiritual work for everyone to do. Yet this was also Plato’s idea and the Christian desert elders built upon it, saying that when head, heart and body are balanced, people can more clearly hear God and more authentically fulfill God’s will. It also makes common sense that when we learn to think when thinking is appropriate, feel when feeling is appropriate, and act when action is appropriate, we live more whole, wholesome and holy lives.

The Ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff
Pacwa claims that the Enneagram is unreliable because it comes in part from the teaching of George I. Gurdjieff. However, it’s Pacwa’s tactic here itself that is unreliable: guilt by association. One does not authentically judge an idea as good or bad by its association with people, but on the merits of the idea itself. (Pacwa uses the same false argument regarding Oscar Ichazo’s association with the Enneagram; we will deal with Ichazo in a later section of this article.)

By giving only the kind of information about Gurdjieff that causes alarm but not balanced enough to allow readers to decide for themselves what kind of man Gurdjieff was, Pacwa relies on the dishonorable tactic of ad hominem argument, better known today as character assassination.

For example, Pacwa claims that Gurdjieff "rejected" the Orthodox faith in which he had been brought up to explore the occult. If Gurdjieff rejected his faith as taught to him in the Orthodox church, then why do Gurdjieff’s ideas dovetail with the Orthodox monastic tradition on almost every major point?

Whether you read the writings of contemporary monks and hermits from Mt. Athos (for example, Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers (Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 1994) by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos), modern western interpreters of the tradition like the Englishman Robin Amis (A Different Christianity, Praxis Institute, 1995) or primary sources like Gregory of Nyssa and Evagrius Ponticus, you see that the majority of Gurdjieff’s ideas, images, principles and practices come from the Orthodox monastic tradition. This includes the helplessness of humanity to experience spiritual growth without grace, which Gurdjieff called "higher influence"! Gurdjieff’s main contribution to this tradition was to modernize its language.

Pacwa also says that Gurdjieff eventually settled in Paris, where he taught "esoteric Christianity." However, that phrase doesn’t pique any interest and he moves on to report Gurdjieff’s other sophisticated beliefs out of context. Esoteric Christianity is the Christian teaching about the inner development of humanity toward the divine, and it definitely was Gurdjieff’s topic.

Gurdjieff had his shortcomings as all people do, and Gurdjieff did study all the world’s religions and philosophies as extensively as he could to find principles and practices that promote humanity’s inner development. However, by translating a basically Christian Orthodox theology into terms free from religious pietism, Gurdjieff can be seen as an innovative evangelist, not the purveyor of dangerous non-Christian beliefs as Pacwa states.

A Strange Misunderstanding of Christian Faith
Possibly the most telling statement Pacwa makes is on the nature of Christian faith itself. He says that Gurdjieff taught
faith arose "from understanding" which is "the essence obtained from information intentionally learned and from all kinds of experiences personally experienced." Only understanding can lead one to God and only experience and information allow one to acquire a soul. This approach to faith places Gurdjieff squarely in the Gnostic camp outside Christianity. For Christians, faith is a gift from God; it is available to the brilliant or retarded, the aged or the child, independent of whether a human understands or not. Instead of human understanding leading to God, it is God who comes to humans, offering to dwell within our hearts through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this paragraph, Pacwa demonstrates a misunderstanding of many things. Most important, he does not comprehend what Gurdjieff means by "understanding." Stated in its simplest way, understanding in this context is knowledge that is personally experienced; this is the teaching of the desert elders, who also definitely said understanding is the only road to Christian faith. Contemporary Christianity phrases it differently by delineating a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God is theology; knowing God is faith, and knowing God is an experience a person has.

Pacwa seems to be caught in an intellectualized idea of faith — perhaps faith as a set of beliefs, or as assent to certain truths — when he says it is "independent of whether a human understands or not." For Pacwa, understanding is intellectual understanding.

Gurdjieff, on the other hand, is teaching the tradition from the desert elders: faith happens when you personally experience the God you are taught about. Indeed, this is also the very meaning of the formula used by Pacwa himself when he says God offers "to dwell within our hearts through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit." What does "through Jesus Christ" and "by the power of the Holy Spirit" mean except that Christians experience God personally in their hearts?

Thus, the real meaning of Pacwa’s statement is that Gurdjieff taught the core meaning of faith as described by the desert elders, but then he confuses the issue by misinterpreting the meaning of the word understanding.

He further diverges from an accurate portrayal of Gurdjieff’s teaching by claiming Gurdjieff taught ". . . only experience and information allow one to acquire a soul." Gurdjieff spoke of understanding as defined by the desert elders above, not information. Further, he didn’t say that we "acquire" a soul but rather that all people are created with a soul "in embryo" which they themselves had to develop. While Gurdjieff’s language may shock us with its originality of phrasing (Is that such a bad thing in itself, or does it make us think in a new way about a familiar truth?), his idea is not dissimilar to traditional Christianity’s goal of "growing in virtue" or "becoming more like Christ" in one’s spiritual life.

Oscar Ichazo’s Influence on the Enneagram
Pacwa deals with Oscar Ichazo in a similar fashion to the way he treats Gurdjieff. A South American seeker, Ichazo’s main contribution to the Enneagram of personality was to accurately lay the nine passions (listed in Christian tradition by the desert father Evagrius Ponticus) around the Enneagram symbol, a nine-pointed star in a circle probably first drawn by Pythagoras. Thus, he created a map for understanding how human beings lose their way to God and find it again.

Ichazo’s particular genius lay in his insight that, of the nine passions described in classical literature (listed above), one is laid as the foundation of the personality. All of them are temptations for everyone, but one creates a veil of illusion that distorts a person’s perception of reality and thus unconsciously misguides his or her thinking, feeling and behaving. Consequently, it misguides a person’s quest for healthy relationships with self, others, the world and God.

However, modern Enneagram books and seminars have little in common with Ichazo’s original work beyond this basic point. Ichazo teaches a complicated set of principles and practices reserved only to the members of his "Arica School"; therefore, these teachings do not affect the modern Enneagram.

Further, if you read Ichazo’s descriptions of the nine personality types themselves and compare them to contemporary Enneagram books, you see very little agreement. That’s because for the past 30 years, the Enneagram has been exposed to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who have refined and reshaped the description of the types from their own experience. The modern Enneagram of personality owes its inception to Ichazo but has moved beyond him.

Ichazo holds many ideas that would be considered odd or strange by the average person and teaches beliefs contrary to his Christian upbringing. However, none of these ideas or beliefs have anything to do with the Enneagram as it is presented today by most teachers of the system.

Pacwa’s Misunderstanding of Theological Problems and the Enneagram
Pacwa wrongly accuses the Enneagram of presenting errors according to Christian theology. We wish to list these accusations and deal with each as concisely as possible. It should be noted that many of Pacwa’s accusations are "straw man" arguments; the tactic is to misrepresent an idea by weakening it, then to destroy the weakened argument. Jesuit education (which both Mitchell Pacwa and Theodorre Donson received) teaches clearly that guilt by association, straw man and ad hominem arguments are false, misleading and to be avoided.

  • Pacwa insists the Enneagram has occult origins. Because Gurdjieff and Ichazo have done some things Pacwa disapproves of, he makes the leap that these practices affect their teaching. This assertion has no basis in fact. Further, the Enneagram as taught today was never taught by Gurdjieff; Ichazo created the basic idea but modern teachers are now so far from his teaching he himself complains about it. There is no occultism in the Enneagram teaching of prominent leaders in the field.
  • Pacwa says "some Enneagram experts claim that original sin begins when small children choose their Enneagram type." Then he launches into how this idea violates Christian doctrine on original sin. First, some Enneagram experts may teach this idea, but not many. Surely, we don’t. It is a speculation for which there can be no proof, so it is not good teaching. Also, few Enneagram presenters teach that people "choose" their type. Again, there is speculation on how we become the type we are, but none of these ideas can be proved.
  • Pacwa claims it is erroneous to believe that "humans can undo the effects of this so-called original sin of ego fixation by means of . . . spiritual ‘work.’" The core issue of each type is alternatively called a passion, an ego-fixation, a compulsion, and a psychological addiction to a point of view. No Enneagram teacher we are aware of identifies this aspect of the Enneagram with the Christian concept of "original sin." Then Pacwa states that "such ‘work’ (to deal with the passion) can never be the removal of original sin," which is a very different statement than his first statement about undoing the effects of sin. In his own confusion, he confuses the reader. Further, along the way he denigrates the value of spiritual "work," which the desert elders teach is the very heart of Christian spirituality. They say that dealing with the passions (as named by the Enneagram) is humanity’s most important spiritual work because through it people clarify their souls so that they can progress in understanding the communication of God to humans.
  • Pacwa states, "Another theological error is the claim that Jesus our Lord possesses the virtues of all nine types within Himself." We are aware of only one small book and one chapter in another book that use this idea. It is not an important part of anyone’s teaching on the Enneagram of which we are aware. Making as much of this idea as Pacwa does is the equivalent of throwing a red herring into the discussion.
  • Pacwa disagrees that there are "nine faces of God" of which each Enneagram type is a distortion. He claims "God does not have nine faces. . . . [T]here are three coequal persons in the one God [and] these three persons are neither multiplying nor subdividing into nine faces." Pacwa apparently does not know that the source of this image of the "nine faces of God" is the mystical Hebrew teaching called the Kabbalah. The Christian perspective of which we are aware both respects its Jewish roots and respects the Jewish faith as a sister faith to Christianity. Also, the word "faces" is a metaphor for "attributes." These terms are used interchangeably in the Kabbalah. Thus, the Enneagram relies on ancient Kabbalistic tradition for saying there are nine faces of God. We will deal with Pacwa’s problem with distorting the face of God in the next point.
  • Pacwa says that God is sovereign and no one can distort the face of God. However, Christianity teaches that humanity is made in the image and likeness of God. Orthodox Christian theology says that in Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden humanity retained God’s image but the likeness was distorted. This is the teaching to which Pacwa, a Christian theologian, inexplicably objects. In the language of Christian theology, the Enneagram says that every human being is created to live out an attribute of God in the world, but due to the sinfulness of humanity that attribute becomes distorted by egocentricity into a passion or compulsion. The Christian journey is to regain this lost attribute and thus to "share the life of Christ" with the world.
  • Pacwa objects to saying that the distorted face of God is a demon, as do some Enneagram teachers, and says doing so "moves beyond absurdity to blasphemy"; he also says that "we humans cannot free ourselves from the demons; God delivers us from them." Here Pacwa once again demonstrates his unfamiliarity with the teachings of the desert elders, the first Christian interpreters of the Gospels. Remember, a face of God is the same thing as an attribute of God (explained in point 5 above), which can also be called a virtue. The opposite of virtue is in contemporary language is vice; the desert elders called it a "passion." They regularly referred to the passions as demons and interpreted the Gospel stories of Jesus casting out demons as instructions to Christians on how they should handle the passions when they experience them. Again we find Pacwa disagreeing with ancient Christian teaching because it appears in a form with which he is unfamiliar and which he has not sufficiently researched.
  • Pacwa claims that the "‘occultic’ Enneagram figure" (a nine-pointed star in a circle) has determined the idea that "only nine basic types exist." He says there is no objective reason for this conclusion. However, in 1993 we the authors of this article wrote a book (My Best Self, Harper San Francisco) that explained why there are nine types. The explanation has to do with the three centers and how we use them to perceive reality and to respond to our perceptions in our daily lives. Groups of three types use one of the three centers as a lens through which to perceive reality. Other groups of three types use two of the three centers to figure out how they will respond to their perceptions. The result is a mathematical conclusion: three ways of perceiving reality times three ways of acting on our perceptions equals nine types. To explore this idea more completely, see our information on our website on Breakthrough Enneagram (r), or see our latest book, Discover Your Soul Potential.
  • Pacwa objects to practices such as assigning Enneagram types to public figures and using the Enneagram casually to type friends and family members leading to "the trivialization of relationships." Here we are in agreement with Pacwa. People know their Enneagram type through self-awareness; no one can decide for you what type you are. Thus, the practice common to some Enneagram teachers of using public figures as examples of Enneagram types is dubious at best. What one knows about public figures is from a distance, unless they also happen to be personal friends or relatives. People assign them an Enneagram type from the outside, often by looking at only a few salient features they present to the world. Who but they and their personal associates know what they are really like? One might develop a personal opinion about another person’s Enneagram type, but only the person him- or herself knows for sure. People should confine expressing these opinions to their personal circle and not make them part of their public teaching. The case is similar with one’s family members and friends. All too often, people make judgments that so-and-so is this type or that type based on insufficient knowledge. However, just because the Enneagram can be misused in these ways doesn’t invalidate the entire system. Human knowledge will always be misused. For example, Christian theology has been used to justify the Crusades and the Inquisition; those justifications do not invalidate Christian theology. Rather, the people who created the justifications are judged by society and by history to have made a mistake and fallen short of their ideals.

The Enneagram in a Christian Context
Thus, we believe that the Enneagram is not only compatible with Christian beliefs, it actually has evolved from them
. Further, it is based on human experience. While it has not been the subject of much strict modern scientific research, it has been exposed to and refined by the experience of thousands if not millions of people. Its authenticity comes from its accurate insight into human nature. This knowledge is helpful in self-understanding, which is the first step on the spiritual path according to many teachers of the spiritual life like Teresa of Avila. Therefore it supports healthy relationship with self, others, the world and God. That’s why spiritual directors and seekers are attracted to it.

The core teaching of the desert elders lies in the nine passions, the three centers, and the role of grace in the process of spiritual growth. An increasing number of Enneagram teachers, including ourselves, concentrate on these principles and eliminate unnecessary complications of the system like the "arrows" (to which Pacwa objects) and "wings." In this format, the modern Enneagram provides a practical access to the earliest Christian teaching about the development of the human soul in its yearning for the divine.

In addition, acknowledging the weakness of desert elders’ severe attitude toward the body, we, along with other Enneagram teachers, have updated this spirituality with respect for the beauty and value of physical reality. In this context, the Enneagram is an accurate mirror and guide on that ultimate of Christian journeys, the journey of the human person to God.

© 2001, Enneagram Resources, Inc. All rights reserved.


Kathy Hurley and Theodorre Donson’s most recent contribution to Enneagram studies is their award-winning book, Discover Your Soul Potential: Using the Enneagram to Awaken Spiritual Vitality (WindWalker Press, 2000), and they are the authors of two other bestselling books published by Harper San Francisco. Reach them at their website, The Enneagram in the Healing Tradition, and e-mail them at [email protected].

1,656 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
@dfoster Thank you so much for this research and this article!! I had no idea that it even existed. I am trying to learn what I can and find the authenticity of what I am learning... so this was very helpful..

I need to reread it and try to decipher some of it better so I can be more clear about it.. then I will respond to it if I feel the need. But for now I want to let you know that this is why I love this site... so many people are ready to jump on board with what I am personally dealing with and clue me/us in about it that I feel you can really get a well rounded aspect of whatever it is you are interested in.

Thanks again.
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