The Enneagram helps us to clarify our inner experience and see others as they really are. To understand and to discern our experiences. To discover and to honour our natural talents and resources and to take responsibility in our difficulties with others. To be less slaves of ager, sadness and fear and to love more. All without calculations and without guru: the only needed ingredient is the intention 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 to outline nine personality types with distinct and specific mental, emotional and motor patterns, and the interrelationship between them. Actually, the Enneagram is much more than this. It represents in a very precise way three intelligences – cognitive. emotional and visceral – with different approached to the world, and three survival impulses that affects in an automatic way our decisions and actions. It also describes different aspects of experience shared by all human beings. It’s a map of the path in the journey back home, the self-remembering.
One of the main points of strength and interest of the Enneagram is its objectivity and not being identified with any ideology or doctrine. It speaks a language that overcomes cultural, educational or religious differences. Describing our differences, it enlighten a level of common humanity.
The Enneagram offers various levels of interpretation and two of them are particularly evident. One is horizontal and it’s useful to understand the functioning of our personality and for supporting the awareness of cognitive, emotional and instinctual limiting patterns and of the available resources. It explains in a clear and detailed way the real motivations of our behaviour and it reveals the hidden intentions, beliefs and bias that automatically guide our decisions, providing concrete indications about the resources that can lead us out of this limitations. One is vertical and makes it clear the change within the personality, the shifting within the spectrum of motivations, traits, and defenses. A third one shows the connection between personality and Essence and the spiritual dimension.
It is a support to the process of change and transformation that becomes really functional and useful when it’s contextualised and practically applied with appropriate methods. Its’ precious in all situations considering self knowledge ed individual trasformazione as the fundament for any positive change in the quality of life and in workplace.
“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 –
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 describes three ordinary Centers of intelligence in human beings: cognitive, emotional and visceral which we all have access to. Each Center is represented by three points and personality types that have in common the gifts and difficulties of the Center to which they belong and which manifest three peculiar nuances of resources and difficulties.
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.
These intelligences refer to three brain formations with structural and chemical differences that correspond to different ways of receiving reality and experiences. As best as possible, they work together. However, each of us tends to use them in a confused way, preferring the use of one of them to the detriment of the others, generating a limiting favorite way of interpreting the world. This leads us to observe events from different perspectives and is reflected in our relating to even opposite meanings for the same situation.
Knowing how we manage our intelligences is an important key to harmonizing internal conflict, illuminating blind spots and fully developing our potential and ability to understand others.
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.
“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-