Friday, July 17, 2009

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. Debunks The Enneagram

Enneagram: A Modern Myth

The Enneagram is alleged to be a 2000 year old Sufi system of personality types from Islamic mystics who lived before the time of Christ.

The Enneagram is a circle, meant to symbolise the Cosmos and the "one-ness": this comes from a monist perspective. The Sufis are monists believing that we are all one with each other and with the universe and at the same time pantheists believing that the universe is god. So that's why they're not highly regarded in Islam, because they're kind of Heterodox.

Inside the circle is a triangle, and it connects up the points of the 9, the 3 and the 6; and it symbolises God. We should notice right away that it's God inside the cosmos, not the cosmos inside God.

There's another figure that is 6 sided and it connects from the I to the 4, 4 to the 2, 2 to the 8, 8 to the 5, 5 to the 7 and the 7 back to the I again. And there you have your Enneagram. (Ennea is Greek for "nine").

It is claimed that the Enneagram is a system revealing nine personality types and it is used in the various workshops and taught in seminaries.

Nine Personality Types

1. The Perfectionist: personality type-"ego-resent".

2. The Caregiver: personality type-"ego-flattery". These types will try to say nice things about you so that you can say nice things back to them.

3. The Achiever: personality type-"ego-go". It doesn't have a real interior life, it's all in its role, and all in its functions in society rather than to an interior depth.

4. The Artist: personality type-"ego-melancholy". This type feels sad it is among so many people that are without real sophistication. They're sad and melancholic over being so artistic among so many bores.

5. The Observer: personality type-"ego-stinge". These people want to gather in all sorts of things and never give anything back.

6. The Team Player: personality type-"ego-cowardice".

7. The Optimist: personality type-"ego-gluttony".

8. The Competitor: personality type-"ego-venge".

9. The Peacemaker: personality type-"ego-indolent". Don't cause any problems, just sort of let things be.

Link (here) to the full debunking


TonyD said...

I have a friend who had a Angel appear to confirm her Christian faith. I have another good friend who was praying in the forest when a Buddhist deity appeared to confirm his Buddhist beliefs.

I think we drastically underestimate how God uses truth for his own ends.

Isn't there some famous philosophical saying about developing an ability to hold contradictory truths?

Joseph Fromm said...

Tony D.

I think that Ignatius' "Discernment of Spirits" and mediation on the "Two Standards" are good Ignatian starting points.



TonyD said...


As someone who has had the misfortune to experience spirits, I find the "Discernment of Spirits" to be unworkable. There are many reasons.

For example,"...give spiritual gladness and joy..." ignores that a sequence of events may move you closer to God but involve pain along the way.

Similarly, "consolation of the soul" may or may not be appropriate for a particular person in a particular situation.

So God's involvement in both the above cases may be mistaken for "evil".

Really, I could go on and on about this topic. I'll stop by just saying that God really is transcendent - and his work reflects that transcendence.


Joseph Fromm said...

Tony D,

You are right that the Trinity transcends all things. These revealed truths can be expressed in some way, by seeing Jesus as “Christ the King” and Jesus known to us through His Sacred Heart. Jesus as the Alpha and Omega precedes and exceeds, the Church Militant He initiated at Pentecost. Over four hundred times the Prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus later releases the righteous captives of the Old Testament to heaven.

Yet it seems more is required of us. I would like to point to a few revelations. In Mark’s, “The woman who touched the hem of His garment” Jesus opens up in a real way, to actual belief in Him. Despite the fact all those around Him in that mob knew of Him, yet in an inferior way. The simple message of the Divine Mercy is, “Jesus I trust in You” and puts the Cross of Salvation squarely on our own shoulders.

Now to me, an Indian Hindu who wraps himself up in pagan prayer practices is completely different story, from a Catholic soccer mom in Peoria being told it is OK to participate in a yoga class, labyrinths, reiki , sweat lodges or any other form non-Christian worship/prayer practices.

The plain evidence of Ignatian spirituality as revealed in a supernatural way to Ignatius by Jesus Himself at Manresa shows no room for a Catholic to stretch out from flock.

Tony you talk about spirits and pain as a part of your journey. I have no doubt that you and I could talk for hours in personal recollections of our personal spiritual combats. A Jesuit that I deeply admire and have profound respect for used enneagram tactics on me, to figure me out in front of me. It was such a disappointment to be categorized in such a manner, I honestly lost faith in him as a spiritual director, because I felt that he could not adequately see beyond that limited and distorted view of the soul.

Yet Catholic angelology confirms the “Discernment of Spirits” and they inversely explain the nature of angels and fallen angels in the on going battle for our soul. Yet lurking evil does not necessarily lead to committing sin.



TonyD said...


Thanks for your obviously thoughtful response.

I think you are right - we could talk for hours on these subjects.

My own experiences have left me at a different place. I find that while, yes, "more is required of us", the specifics of that requirement may not be the same for every individual. That is, God gets to decide - we don't. Contradiction is not contradiction when it comes to God.

I should add that I am not trying to justify "enneagram" theology. On the other hand, I am not trying to invalidate it. I believe that it is possible for God to use it on a person as a way to advance him on his movement toward "good". In that light, it may represent either "evil" or "good" - again, the decision is God's.

If I were to summarize my perspective, I would suggest that humility is underestimated. Tremendous humility is required in order to avoid making "truth" or "the Church" more important than "love your neighbor" and "love God". It is too easy to forget that we live in a world of miracles, where truth is constructed.


Joseph Fromm said...

Tony D,

Thanks for being such a good contributor.

When my own father died he had just went to Mass the day before, for the the first time in years. My mother had a Mass celebrated for his intentions an hour before he passed. My father attended Mass maybe four time in the previous ten years. I honestly had not received the Eucharist for twelve years preceding his death.

It is my recollection that Jesus takes us on our best day. When the dirt was being shoveled over his casket I had never felt so utterly and terribly alone. At that moment I chose to follow Him as he wanted me to follow Him.At that instance it was my fathers best day, yet not my best day.

I have another Enneagram post in a few days, that point to its origins.

Peace be with you.



Anonymous said...

I found one error in your writing, Sufis are not Pantheists, they are Panentheists. Pantheists believe that all of nature is God; whereas Panentheists believe the universe itself is where God and Man meet as one.

Anonymous said...

As an Enneagram enthusiast, I wanted to respond to the "debunking."
1. Leading scholars on the Enneagram do not believe it originated with the Sufis. Its origins are unknown, but it is believed to have older beginnings than Sufism.
2. The Enneagram is not based on the decimal point. It is based on geometry. You do not need a decimal point to divide a circle into 9 parts. Pythagoras, and other mathematicians, used an Enneagon (9 points 40 degrees apart) in their works.
3. Enneagramists do not believe that a person (of any type) only commits one sin, nor is there an instruction to only focus on the one. The entire structure of the Enneagram, as a geometric symbol, is about wholeness, oneness, and unity. In response to the first question you raise, evidence of the truth of the Enneagram, and the inner structure of each type, is found within.
4. Your final question asks if the Enneagram is true or not. The truth of the Enneagram is multifaceted and multilayered. Testing of any complex spiritual system (including the Bible) would rarely hold up to scientific methods. Why? The scientific paradigm is limited and has many blind spots. What is wrong with not knowing? Isn't there beauty in uncertainty and simple experiencing the journey of the soul?
5. The Enneagram, like other theologies, can be misused and misrepresented. To judge the entire system based on the words, works, or lives of a few men lacks integrity.
6. Many Christians have very different beliefs from one another, and all claim to be 'right.' So, I pose the same question, how do we know if it's true or not? To seek certainty, for which there can never be enough proof, is an exercise in futility. What is God and What is Truth are important questions, but to develop certainty is to stop seeking and to stop growing in that area.
7. Have you taken the Enneagram of Personality test? You sound like a 1.

mellowmarcello said...

I'd put my money on 6w5 over 1. He's clearly a head type and not a gut/instinctive type with the "what we have to go on are what the authorities riso and ichazo have said" attitude(due to how "unclear" this stuff is discussion/debate needs to be rooted in what's "accepted")...not to mention all the mental hamsterwheeling of "this tidbit means this but that's BS see". 6w5s when tinkering with a system tend to have trouble with what to overweight, underweight, or omit entirely since more than any other subtype 6w5s place a premium on clarity and read into how something is explained. If something is poorly written like most enneagram literature they are the most uncomfortable about it.

The author might say he's not a 6 because he might not relate to the need for support/guidance/security...but that is more 6w7 regardless of what the books say. 6w5s look for answers more than support or guidance to iron things out and make sense of things for themselves.

baharaykac said...

Oh dear. Why didn't you read the Christian mystic and ordained Orthodox priest G.I. Gurdjieff before writing all this nonsense about personality types and spirits?None of this has anything to do with the Enneagram...which is a way of describing and seeing inner relationships in processes, all natural processes. Where on Earth did you find this rubbish about Gurdjieff talking to a "pillar spirit"? He constantly repeated "In the Name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost".
"Thou shalt not bear false witness..."