Ex-Jesuit Don Riso, one of the founders of the Enneagram Institute, told David Ian Miller that “the Enneagram, as I've defined it, is a guide to self-observation. It is a way to map the spectrum of personality and illuminate those dark areas.”
There are nine different Enneagram types, each of which has nine states of development. “You could spend your whole life on one of these levels,” said Riso.“Or you could move from one level to another, as most people do, depending on various circumstances and the stresses operating on them from moment to moment.”
You move from level to level when you have “awareness” and are “willing and able to go against the habits of your personality type,” said Riso.
Those at the lower levels, who are “asleep to themselves,” “need the help of some external force” --- “therapy or a spiritual teacher,” for instance.“Enneagram knowledge alone is not enough,” said Riso.
Riso said the Enneagram provides a spiritual path “to see reality directly.” “To me,” he said,
“reality is spiritual. If God is real, God is by definition the most real thing there is ... The world of maya, the world of illusion, in which we live, is not ‘the really real.’”In it “we are dealing with mental constructs: our projections, our reactivity, our fears -- all kinds of things in our mental world.”
To Miller, noting that “religious groups” like the Catholic Church have been critical of the Enneagram, Riso said they “get scared” because
the Enneagram is “not dogmatic. It's not a religion. It is an invitation to spirituality, to learn about spirituality for yourself and to investigate your own experience of the divine in your life.” Religion’s big problem today “is that people are not taught how to have spiritual experiences. If they did, then they might not need organized religion anymore--- at least, that is the underlying fear.”
Though a former Jesuit, Riso said Buddhism is the spiritual tradition that has influenced him most.
“Sufism has also been important to me,” he continued. “I would say that my spirituality is fairly nondenominational.I think the seeking comes from a desire for the truth in whatever form it appears, especially in my own personal experience. I've never been much of a joiner, and I've never been one to read tons of books to find answers.”
Link (here) to the full article first published in 2007 in the California Catholic Daily.
Link (here) to an article by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. entitled, Enneagram: A Modern Myth.