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All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted. And in this connection 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 makes books and libraries entirely unnecessary. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram. --P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the miraculous

I teach it in conjunction with a psychiatrist who has a deep interest in the Enneagram. The psychotherapists want it as a very useful, hot tool to work with normal, high-functioning people. You see, there is no psychology for the normal and high functioning person....

I've had ONE's who have so repressed their anger that they don't think they're angry....

...the spiritual agenda is paramount, which is this conversion process. Whether we know it or not, we're all transforming, because we're hungry for the opposite of our vice. Even if we don't know about our vice, we suffer from lack of its opposite tendency. --Helen Palmer, of the Oral Tradition

The work of the enneagram authors is plainly unscientific and without rational foundation, because it is based on dogmatic formulations as opposed to the Arica system, which under any measure is logical and scientific and is based on rational metaphysical propositions and ultimate theological truth. --Oscar Ichazo

The fundamental premise of the enneagram is that each of us has one dominant (not exclusive) energy that drives us in everything we do. This dominant energy is our greatest gift so we use it too much and it becomes our chief fault - or sin. This energy, like a prevailing wind that bends a tree permanently, sculpts our interior geography and shapes our entire life. --Enneagram Central

The EnneagramAn enneagram is, literally, a drawing with nine lines. Figuratively, however, the enneagram is a New Age mandala, a mystical gateway to personality typing. The drawing is based upon a belief in the mystical properties of the numbers 7 and 3.* It consists of a circle with nine equidistant points on the circumference. The points are connected by two figures: one connects the number 1 to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 and back to 1; the other connects 3, 6 and 9. The 142857 sequence is based on the fact that dividing 7 into 1 yields an infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. In fact, dividing 7 into any whole number not a multiple of 7 will yield the infinite repetition of the sequence 142857. Also, 142857 x 7 = 999999. And of course 1 divided by 3 yields an infinite sequence of threes. The triangle joining points 3, 6 and 9 links all the numbers on the circle divisible by 3. To ascribe metaphysical or mystical significance to the properties of numbers is mere superstition and a throwback to an earlier time in human history when ignorance was considered a point of view (apologies to "Dilbert" and Scott Adams).

The enneagram represents nine personality types. How the types are defined depends on whom you ask. Some define them by a fundamental weakness or sin. Others define them by a fundamental energy that drives one's entire being. Some follow classical biorhythm theory and classify the nine types according to three types of types: mental, emotional and physical. Others classify the nine types according to three types of instinctual drives: the Self-Preserving drives, the Social drives and the Sexual drives.* Some follow Gurdjieff, who claims to have followed Sufism, and type the types as mental, emotional and instinctual.

The one who seems to be the father of the enneagram, Oscar Ichazo (b. 1931), spoke of enneagons (nine-pointed figures, enclosed in a circle, with straight lines connecting each point to two others) and ego fixations corresponding to each of the nine points. (Several sources claim that Ichazo learned of the enneagram through Ouspensky's writings of Gurdjieff, but Ichazo denies this.) He called his system Arica, after the coastal city in northern Chile, near the Peruvian border, where he opened his first school in 1971. In the early nineties, there were "forty or so Arica training centers, located in the United States, South America, Europe and Australia."*

The Arica system constitutes a body of practical and theoretical knowledge in the form of a nine-level hierarchy of training programs aimed at the total development of the human being.... The Arica system observes that the human body and psyche is composed of nine independent yet interconnected systems. Particular imbalances within these systems are called "fixations".... These nine separate components are represented by enneagons-- nine pointed figures that map the human psyche....[T]here are seven fundamental enneagons associated with the nine ego fixations. Thus, the enneagons constitute the structural maps of a human psyche ... [and] provide a guide through which a person may better understand oneself and one's interactions with others.... An ego fixation is an accumulation of life experience organized during one's childhood and which shapes one's personality. Arica training seeks to overcome the control and influence of the ego fixations so that the individual may return to the inner balance with which he or she was born.

Ichazo would make claims like 'the dominant passion of the Indolent fixation is Sloth; the dominant passion of the Resentment fixation is Anger; and the dominant passion of the Flattery fixation is Pride.' In short, he developed a typology of "ego fixations" based on the classical Christian notion of the seven capital vices (seven deadly sins) plus fear and deceit

Ichazo was called the "continuation of Gurdjieff" by filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky ("El Topo," "The Holy Mountain"), who claims to have spent a weekend expanding his consciousness with Ichazo and LSD, according to Jay Babcock. It is believed by some teachers of the enneagram that Gurdjieff learned the enneagram from Sufi masters, and that he was trained in the mystical arts not only of Sufism but of the cabala and Zen. He is said to have studied martial arts, yoga, Buddhism, Confucianism, the I Ching and alchemy. Sam Keen (1973) claims that Ichazo told him he began teaching the enneagram after spending a week in a "divine coma." Ichazo denies this. Ichazo claims that he has a scientific basis for his theory of personality types, ego fixations, etc. He denies that his notions were based on visions and insights taken from numerous eclectic sources and freely mixed into an amalgam of mystical psychobabble. The National Catholic Reporter, however, claims that:

Ichazo claimed to have discovered the personality type meaning of the enneagram while in some kind of ecstatic state or trance under the influence of some spirit or angelic being: the Archangel Gabriel, the “Green Qu’Tub” [a Sufi spiritual master] or Metatron, the prince of the archangels.

Ichazo denies this and says:

I did not receive this material from any archangel or entity whatsoever, ... it was the fruit of a long, careful, and dedicated study of the human psyche and the main problems of philosophy and theology....after working years with the enneagrams, I could visualize them in the same form that is observed in tantric visualizations that become more vivid and clear than anything that we can perceive with our ordinary senses. But when I say that I saw the entire system of enneagrams like in a vision, it was a reference to this clarity of thought with which I could envision the entire system after so many years of dedicated, intense work. This is what I wanted to convey in my article that reads:

"They came to me, 108 in all, as in a vision, showing their internal relations with complete clarity, in 1954 in Santiago, Chile....not only am I the holder of the beginning of this tradition, but also, as can be absolutely and concretely proven, the one hundred and eight enneagrams and the entire system in all its terms have been developed by me, only and exclusively, and I am more than ready to contest it publicly. (http://www.arica.org/articles/trletter.cfm; site now defunct)

Like Gurdjieff—or perhaps not like Gurdjieff—he claimed we are born with an essence (nature) which conflicts with our personality (nurture), and we must struggle to harmonize the two and return to our true essence. He founded his Arica Institute in 1971.* The Institute continues to exist, though it has contracted somewhat from its heyday in the early 1990s, and now offers training in "Nine Hypergnostic Systems" and T'ai chi chuan in centers in New York and Europe. 

Several former disciples have modified Ichazo's teachings during the past twenty years. (Ichazo's view is that the others have not given him due credit and have engaged in a smear campaign to make him appear to be a kind of "crazy mystic.") Claudio Naranjo attended Ichazo's lectures on ennead personality types in Santiago, Chile, in the 1970's and published a book called Enneatypes in Psychotherapy in 1995. A Jesuit priest named Bob Ochs got the enneagrams from Naranjo and taught courses on enneagrams at Loyola University in Chicago in 1971. Naranjo also taught Helen Palmer, who claims to be carrying on the esoteric oral tradition in her writings. By the time the enneagram got to Palmer it was imbedded with western psychological notions. Nevertheless, it remained a set of teachings without any scientific foundation.

Helen Palmer is the author of The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life (1988). Arica sued Palmer for copyright violations but lost. Nevertheless, she seems to have based her work upon Ichazo's but changed the terminology. Enneagram replaced enneagon and personality type replaced ego fixation, for example.

Palmer says that the "Enneagram is a psychological and spiritual system with roots in ancient traditions."  She types people by fundamental weakness or sin: anger, pride, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth, fear, and deceit. She calls these weaknesses "capital tendencies." Each of us has a personality that is dominated by one of the nine capital tendencies. Knowing what type you, and what type others are, will put you on the road to "self-understanding and empathy, giving rise to improved relationships," says Palmer. 

Each personality type is numbered and labeled.

The Nine Personality Types
and the Nine Capital Tendencies

The Perfectionist One anger
The Giver Two pride
The Performer Three deceit
The Romantic Four envy
The Observer Five avarice
The Trooper Six fear
The Epicure Seven gluttony
The Boss Eight lust
The Mediator Nine sloth

Personality typing is somewhat arbitrary. The classification systems used by Ichazo, and modified by Palmer and others according to their own idiosyncratic beliefs, are not without merit. For example, one certainly could learn much of importance about oneself by focusing on one's central fault or faults, but those who advocate using the enneagram seem to be interested in much more than a bit of self-knowledge. Entire metaphysical systems, psychologies, religions, cosmologies and New Age springboards to higher consciousness and fuller being are said to be found by looking into the enneagram. There is seemingly no end to what one can find in these nine lines.

Some, for example, have developed personality profiles for different "styles" of personalities.

Style Five 

The life of the style Five centers on their thinking. Healthy Fives are both highly intellectual and involved in activity. They can be, if not geniuses, then extraordinarily accomplished. As the most intellectual of the nine types, they are often superb teachers and/or researches. Many healthy Fives are fine writers because of their acute observational skills and a developed idealism. They are highly objective and able to see all sides of a question and understand them.

When Fives become less healthy, they tend to withdraw. Instead of dealing with their sensitivity by being emotionally detached from results, they split off from reality, living in worlds of their own creating and not answering the demands of active living. Their natural independence as a thinker degenerates into arrogance. They can become quite arrogant or eccentric. In the movies, Fives are the "mad professors."

Fives you may know: Bill Gates, Scrooge, Buddha, T. S. Eliot, John Paul Sartre, Rene Descartes, Timothy McVeigh, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Einstein, H. R. Haldeman, Ted Kaczynski, Jacqueline Onassis and Vladimir Lenin.*

Scrooge and Descartes? Now there's an odd couple. What this typology is based on is anybody's guess. But it is reminiscent of astrological forecasts. There doesn't seem to be any way to validate this typology. At the heart of this New Age spiritual psychology are a number of concepts vaguely reminiscent of biorhythms, numerology, astrology, tarot card reading, and Myers-Briggs personality inventories. Nothing in the typology resembles anything approaching a scientific interest in personality.

The above Style was said to be mine as a result of a test I took. However, the test came with the following advisory:

Does this fit you? If it does not, go back over the test, rethink some of your answers and see if you come up with your style. This is not easy. Your enneagram style is an energy you have been using without knowing all your life. You have a vested interest in not knowing this energy because it may slightly alter what you have considered your motivation for many things. Besides, this energy has a down side you may not like to acknowledge.

If the style doesn't fit, go back and change some answers until it fits but be careful because you may be deceiving yourself when you answered the questions the first time or you may be deceiving yourself with your revisions! Note also how the profile contains several weasel words: 'can be', 'are often', 'tend to', 'can become'. The central feature of the Five is thinking. Nobody needs a personality test to determine if his or her dominant energy, drive, fixation, passion, etc., is the intellectual. Thinkers are observers and intellectuals are often arrogant. This is not a scoop. Nor is it very useful, as is evident by the listing of people who are allegedly all Fives.

The limits of the enneagram are the limits of the imagination of those who work with them. One claims that the Five's "primary passion is avarice in terms of their time and possessions, and their chief feature is withdrawal from experience." Another describes the Five as The Thinker and identifies this type by its dominant fear: fear of being overwhelmed by the world. We are told that if we want to get along with a Five

Be independent, not clingy. Speak in a straightforward and brief manner. I need time alone to process my feelings and thoughts. Remember that if I seem aloof, distant, or arrogant, it may be that I am feeling uncomfortable. Make me feel welcome, but not too intensely, or I might doubt your sincerity. If I become irritated when I have to repeat things, it may be because it was such an effort to get my thoughts out in the first place. Don't come on like a bulldozer. Help me to avoid my pet peeves: big parties, other people's loud music, overdone emotions, and intrusions on my privacy.

This is good advice for getting along with just about anybody, except for those who would rather be at a big party after spending the afternoon alone with a book.

We are also told that for a Five to reach his potential he must go against the grain and strive to be like an Eight, whose main vice is lust. The scientific studies supporting this claim seem to have been lost, however.

Some think there are sixteen basic personality types and use The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® . As Jung said, there could be any number of types, even 360 (McGuire: p. 342), if we wished. Who is right? Maybe they're both wrong. Perhaps we need only think of two types, those from Mars and those from Venus, as John Gray, Ph.D., claims.

See also astrotherapy, Forer effect, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, numerology, tarot cards, and Golf and the Enneagram.

reader comments

further reading

books and articles

The Enneagram: A Lecture by G. I. Gurdjieff "By becoming acquainted with the symbols expressing the laws of creation, man will learn the laws themselves, and by learning these in himself he treads the path of self-knowledge, and in this sense every symbol teaches us about ourselves. "

Keen, Sam "Interview with Oscar Ichazo" Psychology Today, July, 1973.

McGuire, William and R. F. C. Hull, eds., C. G. Jung Speaking (Princeton University Press, 1977).


"Your Brain Is A Crazy Guy," Mean Magazine, No. 6, Dec 1999-Jan 2000; Alexandro Jodorowsky talks with Jay Babcock.

ARICA INSTITUTE, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Helen PALMER and Harper & Row Publishers, Incorporated, Defendants-Appellees. No. 771, Docket 91-7859. United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Argued Jan. 30, 1992. Decided July 22, 1992.

Romancing the Enneagram by Don Riso (reformed enneagrammy---well, not completely reformed: Rebecca Newgent's doctoral dissertation at the University of Akron proved Riso's version of the Enneagram is scientifically valid and reliable.)

The Enneagram and the MBTI®

Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram by Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.

Enneagram Central

Instinctual Subtypes of the Enneagram


Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition

The Essential Enneagram

Gurdjieff and the Enigmatic Enneagram

The star of Goliath

Last updated 21-Nov-2015

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