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.
The origin of the symbol is lost in history. The first to introduce it in the West was the Armenian Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff around 1913, using it to describe the cosmic order of the universe and the creative processes. He spoke about the existence of dominant character patterns in each individual, stating that in man “the essence is the truth and the personality is the lie”. Gurdjieff bestowed great importance to the integration of the three mental, emotional and instinctive centres and their dynamic and active involvement in the evolutionary process.
In 1955 the Bolivian anthropologist Oscar Ichazo called the symbol enneagone and interpreted it to describe nine types of people and the vicissitudes of the inner initiatic journey. In 1968 he founded a School of Awakening in Arica, Chile.
In the seventies his pupil, Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychiatrist, revised and refined the fundamental descriptions of the nine types in models of character, calling them enneatypes. Since then, many authors have 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 original Enneagram theory affirms that psychological structures develop as a response and a strategy to manage the illusion of the loss of specific aspects of the divine nature towards which we are particularly sensitive and receptive.
This loss leads to nine different incomplete perceptions of reality that become our twisted, fixed and distorted views and beliefs about things, the core of the nine types. From this perspective, the distorted aspects of the personality operating in automatic are a pathway to our natural abilities.
The Enneagram postulates three Centers of intelligence in the human mind. The Gut Center allowing action, site of the instinctive intelligence and of the memory of the body, the Heart Center allowing desire, site of emotional intelligence, and the Head Center allowing knowledge, site of cognitive intelligence.
Every Center includes three types and has a specific dominant energy, a specific aspect difficult to manage: anger for the Gut Center, shame for the Heart Center and fear for the Head Center. The three angles of the triangle are the core points of the Centers.
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-