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Brief History of the Enneagram

 


"Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West--and then seek"
Gurdjieff

Today the Enneagram is an amalgamation of the theories of the most respected schools of modern psychology and the ancient wisdom of the world's greatest spiritual and mystical traditions--along with a healthy dollop of good, old fashioned common sense. It is an "organic" system in that it has developed naturally into a system of interrelated parts that are inherently recognizable as describing the objective reality of human motivations and interactions. It can be looked at as the "Unified Field Theory" of psycho-spiritual development. Other terms in use are sacred psychology and trans-personal psychology.

The origins of the Enneagram can be traced back millennia to the Near East, to at least Plato and classical Greek philosophy. George I. Gurdjieff, a Christian philosopher and seeker, introduced this symbol to the West in the first half of the 20th century.

Gurdjieff called the Enneagram the Philosopher's Stone--the mystical key to uncovering the pearl of greatest price—our true essential Selves. Its study and use can turn the raw materials of our personalities (our egos, our primitive defense mechanisms and automatic behaviors) into the gold of our true personal selves.

Essentially, the Enneagram, a nine-pointed figure Gurdjieff said he learned from the secret mystery school, the Sarmouni Brotherhood, represents nine different ways of seeing life. It is a model that sees personality as a false-self system. The "true self" is spiritual in nature. This true self was covered up gradually as the false-self, what we call ego or personality, developed to meet the needs of surviving in the material world, developing into what Gurdjieff called the "false personality."

Over the course of our lives we identified so thoroughly with the "false personality"(i.e. the characteristics of our type), and came to rely so heavily on conditioned perspectives, that we forgot our true nature and "turned into" our personality, or false-self. From the perspective of the true or spiritual self, the nine viewpoints represent illusions about life; and those illusions are the natural starting points for both psychological and spiritual growth. The Enneagram serves as a map of our personalities that leads us directly to our true essential Selves.

Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean mystic, is credited with coming up with the placement of the personality configurations as known today onto the Enneagram symbol. Ichazo relayed his insights to a group of his students, among them a Chilean psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo, who began the integration of the basic Enneagram system of personality with modern psychological knowledge. Naranjo taught the system to psychologists and "seekers after truth" in Berkley, California in the early ‘70s, and it has spread from there. Since then, this ancient teaching has been combined extensively with modern psychological principles to form the personality typing system as it exists today, comprised of nine types that form a map of the objective reality of the personality, psyche and soul. It is uncanny how accurately the Enneagram describes, even predicts, human behavior.

When learning about the Enneagram it is useful to understand that the types have different, but related, labels or names according to which author you read. We think this can be a little misleading as each of these terms can be associated with certain connotations or biases for individual users. Our preference thus far, therefore, is to stick with the numbers as much as possible. This chart of names for the types used by several authors is useful as a study tool. Note that each name is indicative of some behavioral aspect of that type.


 

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