The Enneagram helps us to recognise ourselves and see others as they are, to understand and to discern our experiences, to discover and to honour our natural talents and to take responsibility in our difficulties in relationship issues, to manage conflicts in a constructive and positive way, to overcome the lack of confidence and find strength in ourselves, to have less fear and to love more. All without calculations and without guru: the only needed ingredient is the openness to be honest with ourselves.
The Enneagram is formally represented by a circle that includes an equilateral triangle intersecting a six sides figure. The points touching the circle are numbered from one to nine in a clockwise direction and are connected by lines and arrows in both internal figures.
The Enneagram nowadays is mainly used s as a map of human psychological aspects and to describe nine personality types with distinct and specific mental, emotional and sensory patterns, and the interrelationship between them. Actually, the Enneagram is much more than this. It is also a map that describes in a very precise way different aspects of human experience and the natural forces that exist within all of us, as well as the path that every human being may travel in the journey back home, in self-remembering.
The Enneagram is currently the most powerful and practical intercultural system available for personal development and professional growth in all areas of life. It is a system that improves any type of relationship, enhances communication, education and therapeutic orientation and offers the possibility to manage conflict and feedback in a positive way.
Its singularity is the ability to bridge the gap between psychological and spiritual development. It shows in a clear and detailed way the real motivations of our behaviour and it reveals the hidden intentions and beliefs that automatically guide our choices. It illuminates our natural talents and underlines the areas for improvement for the different types, providing concrete and specific developmental strategies for each of them.
Regarding the symbol, the origins are lost in history.
Regarding the content, the Enneagram of personalities we use today has a very recent history and derives from multiple sources. The body of knowledge and the wisdom it contains are an incredible concentrate of the philosophical and mathematical understandings of different eras and cultures combined with modern psychology. In many of the theories contained in the Enneagram – not to mention geometry and mathematics – are recognisable the classical Greek thought, the theories of Pythagoras and Plato, aspects of the mysticism common research of the three monotheistic prophetic religions, supported by the Desert Fathers in Christianity, by the Sufis in Islam and by the Kabbalah masters in Judaism and also the condensed wisdom of Buddhism.
The first to introduce the symbol in the West was the Armenian Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff around 1913 in Moscow. He used it to describe the cosmic order of the universe and the natural laws that govern the occurrence of all processes. It was included in his Human Harmonic Development program to provide a balanced education of the different sides of human nature. His intent was to awaken man to a higher state of consciousness, make him aware of his mechanical personality and activate his most essential part. He spoke of the existence of dominant character traits in each individual stating that “The essence is the truth in man, the personality is the lie”. George I. Gurdjieff attached great importance to the integration of the three mental, emotional and instinctive centers and to their dynamic and active involvement in the evolutionary process.
Around 1950, the Bolivian anthropologist Oscar Ichazo interpreted the symbol – that he called enneagon – to describe nine types of ego, nine dimensions of the human being ,his evolution and the stages of the adventures of the initiatory journey within oneself. In 1968 he founded a School of Awakening in Arica, Chile.
In the 1970s, his pupil Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychiatrist residing in San Francisco Bay area, revised and refined with the vocabulary of modern psychology the basic descriptions of types in models of character, calling them enneatypes.
Since then, the Enneagram of personalities has begun to be rapidly disseminated throughout the world and many names have subsequently contributed to the development, adaptation and popularisation of the original theory.
“There are enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.
– G. I. Gurdjieff –
The Enneagram postulates three Centers of intelligence in human beings: head, heart and gut. Each Center is composed of three points and personality types that have in common the gifts and difficulties of that Center.
The Gut or Instinctive Center is represented by the points Eight, Nine and One, the Heart or Emotional Center is represented by the Points Two, Three and Four and the Head or Mental Center by the Points Five, Six and Seven. Points Nine, Six and Three – which correspond to the angles of the inner triangle – are the nuclear points of each Center. Each Center has a specific dominant energy, a particular aspect that has difficulty managing. Anger for the Gut Center, shame for the Heart Center and fear for the Head Center.
Each individual has all three Centers and each of the nine types is a shade of the particular strength and weakness of the Intelligence Center to which he belongs. Understanding our primary Center is an important key to developing our potential and overcoming our blind spots.
The Gut Center is the expression of the movement of the vital force and our being and be agent in the world. It is the site of instinctive intelligence and body memory and allows to act. The resources and gifts that this Center offers are grounding, strength, vitality, energy, dynamism, immediacy, wholeness, fullness. The difficulties of this Center are aggression, indolence, physical tension, resistance to reality, rigid and defensive borders, control of the environment and repression.
The Heart Center is the expression of value, identity and manifestation of who we are in the world. It is the site of emotional intelligence that allows to desire. The resources and gifts that this Center offers are love, sweetness, delicacy, tenderness, kindness, care, generosity, compassion, intimacy, acceptance of oneself and others, a sense of one’s own and others’ real value. The difficulties of this Center are hardness, hypersensitivity, emotional manipulation, the search for visibility, hostility, emotional reactivity, ostentation of appearance.
The Head Center is the expression of clarity, intuition, understanding and our being internally guided. It is the site of cognitive intelligence and allows to know. The resources and gifts that this Center offers are awareness, concentration, attention, objectivity, curiosity, openness, precision, knowledge, support and inner freedom. The difficulties of this Center are hyper-analysis, mental paralysis, mistrust, insecurity, doubt, anxiety, strategies, planning, anticipation, projection, ideologism.
The Enneagram offers various levels of interpretation and two of them are particularly evident. The first one recognises the patterns of our ego and their predictability. A second deeper function of the Enneagram leads beyond personality into the realm of the essence and true self, becoming a model of conscience where the personality is a veil on the essential self.
“God made the creatures as veils. He who knows them as such is led back to Him, but he who takes them as real is barred from His presence.”
– Ibn al-Arabi –
The Enneagram is a tool for transformation because the information affects the space of consciousness. It’s very precious support in the process of rediscovery of our true identity.
For really improving the quality of our lives and for the connection and expression of our talents to become stable, much more than some interesting information about nine types is necessary.
This map of the soul becomes functional and really useful when it’s contextualised and actually integrated with practice, with an attitude of love for truth, openness and respect for life’s mystery.
One of the main points of strength and interest of the Enneagram is its objectivity, its not being identified with any ideology and being beyond doctrinal differences. This helps individuals from different religious faith, beliefs, education and culture to rediscover their fundamental similarity and unity. The Enneagram may be of great value in the contemporary world to show how, looking beyond superficial differences that separate one from another, we may meet at a common human level.
“An ‘arifa nafsahu faqad ‘arifa Rabbahu – Who knows himself, will know Allah, subhanauh wa ta’ ala This material knowledge is never giving an answer to you, saying that you are this or that one. We may ask: “Who am I?” or “Who are you?” and not yet know about ourselves, not recognise our mission and the reason of our being or existence. […] The first level of knowledge is the teaching about yourself. We may ask: “Who am I?” or “Who are you?” to know about ourselves. […] When we are reaching the level of Heavens and learning about ourselves, then we are asking more, another kind of knowledge making ourselves closer from His Divinely Presence, because we have been created to be His servants in His Divinely Presence.”
-Maulana Sheikh Nazim Al-Haqqani, Sunday, November 5, 2006-