Newsletter february 2022
As Cultural anthropology, the Enneagram map belongs to the science of humans field.
Awareness or negligence of the fundamental characteristic of the anthropological reasoning influence the way we use the Enneagram map and the impact this has on people, environment and society. The principles and methods of Cultural anthropology are a great support for the appropriate and ethical use of our map.
I choose this presentation for the Regional IEA Conference because I’ve a background in Cultural anthropology and a rich training and experience in the somatic field which supports both the anthropological and the Enneagramm understanding.
I want here to share the resume of the presentation content wishing it will interest you and it will be useful.
Anthropology means “study of mankind”. Cultural anthropology is about understanding the varied, fascinating, problematic, complex, and often mysterious, multi-dimensional nature of human life. It is about facing the encounter with human beings with habits and conceptions of the world different from our own. It deals with discovering similarities and differences between the various ways in which different human groups face, interpret, know, imagine, transform, react, adapt to the world around them. Its task is to translate and build a bridge between them. It wish to make us grasp the unity under the apparent diversity of the behaviour and ideas of certain peoples, and also the profound differences that exist under the surface of an apparent similarity. The anthropologist interprets interpretations combining the theoretical knowledge of the discipline with the personal experience of observation, reflection and research and wanders about the relationship between nature and culture.
The Enneagram map fits perfectly in these themes and enlighten the same questions and scope.
Although the origins of anthropology date back to the Greek traveler and writer Herodotus (6th century BC), its most immediately recognisable roots date to European humanism, the discovery of the New World in the fifteenth century. In the first half of the sixteenth century, with colonial expansion, commercial traffic, conquest and missionary work, the contacts of Europeans with other peoples intensified rapidly. This gave rise to serious religious, scientific and moral problems. In European courts, tribunals, seminaries and universities echoed questions as: Are they human beings like us? Should we convert them to the true faith? If so, should we convert them only by word or also by force? And anyway, do they have a soul? At the end of the eighteenth century it was believed that the study of mankind could be useful for building a better society, in the second half of nineteen century anthropology was considered a tool to eliminate the pockets of prejudice, superstition and ignorance and to get to know the peoples of the colonies, basically for better controlling them. The establishment of the first teachings of anthropology in European and American universities dates to the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
The title of the Conference was “As above, so below”. It means “That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above.” It is a popular modern paraphrase of the second verse of the Emerald Tablet, a compact and cryptic Hermetic text first attested in a divulged medieval Latin translation of a late eighth or early ninth century Arabic source. The original text was different: “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above.” Not as, but from.
The somatic experience teaches us that from the mitochondrion of a mono cellular being until the large known universe there is a perpetual pattern of movement of expansion and condensation. In every cell, tissue, organ, system, body, emotional experience, flow of thoughts, relationship and group dynamic, cultural model, in government, in process. History and evolution also have this pattern and for instance Spiral Dynamics well systematises this rhythm.
The rhythm condensation/expansion is uninterrupted and it happens simultaneously. Inside the phase of condensation there is already the seed of the expansion and in the phase of expansion there is already the seed of condensation. The interpretation of the rhythm of condensation and expansion as contraction and closure or dispersion and opening, or as separate and disconnected moments and phases, are judgments produced by human perception – individual and cultural – which has no parallel in the natural reality in which the experience is pure. “That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above” means that every movement in any dimension of existence is impacted and has an impact in all the others. Practically we have a responsibility not just about what we do but also about how we do it. In this planetary processes that are reducing the variety of human cultural experience to the advantage of uniform models, it is important to be determined in our individuality, to have healthy boundaries and nourish deep bond with others.
Man is born naked. For their survival, human beings depend much less on genes than on culture, contrary to animals which have inscribed in the genetic code the information that enables them to obtain food, to find shelter, or to travel thousands of kilometres every year to always reproduce in the same places, to recognise with who to reproduce, real danger, real support. Man is the only animal that from the moment he is born needs the care, attention and assistance of his fellow adults for the long time. The development of neuronal connections in the human brain occurs largely after birth, in a proportion of about 70%. Our genetic code predisposes us to perform a series of operations that are infinitely more complex than those that can be performed by any other animal, but it does not indicate which operations we must perform and how.
Here comes culture. A culture is the complex sets of ideas, emotional habits, behaviours and symbols shared by a certain number of individuals. Mental, emotional and behavioural patterns that in humans work in the same way as genetic information in animals. Between the impulse to satisfy a primary instinct (feed, reproduce, rest) and its satisfaction human beings place culture. And we may add, the type.
In order to live with their fellowmen, human beings must adopt practical, emotional and mental codes of behaviour that are recognisable and shared. What is not recognisable by a cultural code are either ignored or misinterpreted. Cultural models could be considered paradigms as the 27 Instinctual variants described by the Enneagram can.
As well as the types, the aspect of the boundary of a culture is closely connected with that of identity. Cultures change all the time and do not have clear, precise, identifiable borders, they have strong nuclei which distinguish them and at the same time assimilate them to others.
Like other animal and plant species, We live in the physical world we perceive the alternation of phenomena such as day and night, summer and winter, sleep and wakefulness. We as human being have also the perception of the transformation of things and their finiteness and through the body we experience the different placement and positioning of ourselves and other things or other subjects. The transformation of things and of oneself is experienced by humans in the form of what we call time. In reference to the positioning of one’s body and things relative to other bodies and other things, humans perceive what we call space. We cannot think of anything that is out of time and space. Culture and times direct us towards a preference for a quantitative or a qualitative time, and towards a different definition of safe and unsafe space. Senses offer us the experience, perceptions defines the interpretation and the organisation of those experiences. : The perception of the world around us and in the midst of which we live coincides with the processes by which we organise information of a mainly sensorial nature. Culture, type and consciousness inform the processing of the experience.
For adequately considering these aspects – which are only some of the human sciences field – when we want to use the Enneagram map, the fundamental principles of cultural anthropology are in our support. Here I deal with a few.
Holism enlightens that just as a network cannot be perceived by observing a single mesh, a map cannot be perceived by observing only a road or a sign. Culture and type a holistic entity, complex and integrated, made up of elements that are in a relationship of mutual interdependence. It is necessary to take into account the various elements of a society and a culture – as well as of a type – in order to be able to understand all the others. We start from a node in the network to understand the entire structure, and then go back to analysing that node in the light of the whole. We begin from particular observation to reach a global understanding where every detail is defined and connected to global meanings. If a holistic perspective is adopted, the researcher is obliged to consider every aspect of culture – or of a type – in relation to other aspects of it, that is to define the context in which the phenomena he takes into consideration are placed.
The respect both of the ethical point of view, that of the external observer and the emical point of view, that of the internal perspective, of those who perform gestures and actions without necessarily giving explanations, but out of habit and conformity. It’s called relativism, an attitude whereby every cultural expression – or type – must be explained within the symbolic framework of the society that produces it.
If relativism is adopted, there is the universalism, the recognition of the universal character of all men. It is opposed to ethnocentrism, the instinctive and irrational tendency to consider one’s group the center of everything and all others are evaluated in relation to it. It often lead to racism, which is the attitude of rejection and closure in the face of diversity and the believing that one’s own code and values are better than those of others. In the Enneagram it translates in “typecentrism”, a phenomenon very present in enneagramatic circles.
The anthropologist defines the scope of the research and which concepts to highlight because everyone ends up privileging the aspects that he considers most important and that are most suited to him.
The scope is conditioned by personality type, age, gender, education, culture, level of development, context.
We may then ask ourselves how much we are clear and coherent about the approach we have when we use the Enneagram. Do I have a structural or a functional approach? Structuralism considers the psychic unity of the human race through the identification of universal categories of the mind. Cultural diversities are variants of constant themes inherent in the human psychic structure. It’s different than functionalism where the society – or type in our case – is resulting from the action of different functions that work to keep it alive, economy, religion, family as organs of the human body.
Wittgenstein invited us not to think in a linear way, but to observe while participating. Participation and sharing experiences and situations with individuals with other habits than our own is necessary to grasp patterns. It is not a simple data recording.
In the relationship between the observer and the observed, rules and methods are not fixed a priori. We may favour an inductive method departing from elements, data, particular facts observed and then arriving at general considerations. Or a qualitative method, focusing on finding aspects that are difficult to translate into quantitative data.
Despite the practical and applicative contributions, cultural anthropology remains an academic-scientific knowledge, not a technique or a science whose discoveries can be immediately translated into action. Same with the Enneagram. The Enneagram is not a method, nor a technique with difficulty levels, it is a map. To use it appropriately involves our whole being.
Speaking about ethics, anthropologists and possibly enneagramists as well, do not pretend to teach anyone how to behave and do not use the knowledge they have developed to dominate, oppress or discriminate.
The anthropologist observes, looks, listens, tastes, touches, smells. His knowledge is built on sensory bases, before being translated into theories and models. On the ground he does not see structures, society, politics, economy, but people who meet, talk, fight, exchange, produce, build, eat, organise, pray, live.
People are not types, nor stereotypes. We need to get out of your clothes of typological cages and share time and experiences with others. Working with people lives and souls is working in a sort of dynamic no-man’s land, in an undefined area where thoughts, emotions and gestures identify common spaces of understanding.
It’s also part of an ethical approach to think back to the relationship with diversity. The other remains something else and at the same time we realise aspects about ourselves that the other carries within him.
The reflective dimension is central to anthropology, not only as it allows us to better grasp the point of view of others, but also so that we can better understand ourselves. To obtain this result we must decentralise our gaze, try to observe ourselves through the gaze of others. We need to use a zoom by adopting the long focal length at moments to observe details and at wide-angle moments to capture the entirety of the situation.
“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of… What’s the use of telling someone that I am changing? If I’m changing, I am no longer who I was.” – Rainer Maria Rilke –
You don’t learn to be good enneagrammer, you become one
Maura Amelia Bonanno