“As for him who looks through
eyeglasses, everything he sees seems to be the color that they
are. And just as things appear smaller or larger according to
the shape of the lenses, the passions and affectation of the soul
make everything appear according to the passions that govern it.”
Juan de Borya, The Empresas
“Introspection is the first step toward transformation,
and I understand that, after knowing himself, nobody can continue
being the same.”
Thomas Mann—On himself
The transformational power of the Enneagram
system lies in the concept of the virtues and the passions. The
passion of each type represents the primary emotional motivation
for that type. In short, the passions motivate peoples' behaviors.
The idea is that by learning to recognize their passions, people
may come to see how these habitual emotional preoccupations have
gained control of their lives. Each type's passion is its greatest
challenge—and its greatest teacher.
The Enneagram is based on the traditional virtues of mankind. They
are: serenity, humility, truthfulness, equanimity, non-attachment,
courage, sobriety, innocence and action. Plato called these virtues
moral energies.1 The universally recognized virtues (higher
energies) flow naturally when we are aware of them and use them consciously
in our lives. Each type has its own corresponding virtue.
The passions (anger, pride, deceit, envy, retentiveness, fear, gluttony,
lust and sloth) are distorted versions of the virtues that develop
in childhood as ways of coping with the difficulties of growing up.
These ego-coping strategies are effective and appropriate for children,
but as people mature, these same once necessary strategies turn into
habits that can become counterproductive.
The passions are deficiencies of the virtues, as Aristotle put
it, or they are twisted misapplications of the virtues. The passions
are chronic emotional preoccupations; automatic default feelings—the
driving emotional force of each of the types. For most of us they
are as natural as the air we breathe, so we don’t even realize
these forces are controlling us --though others often see these
forces at work in us quite clearly. The passion and the virtue
together for each type describe the two sides of the personality
coin that make us knowable or recognizable as our type. And recognizing
the passion of our type in action can help us to restore the virtue.
Returning to your type’s virtue, allowing it to govern your
behavior rather than the passion, is the goal here in improving
one’s experience of life.
These passions have been described in the world's literary traditions
for centuries. In The Divine Comedy, Dante describes the seven
areas of purgatory in virtually the same terms as the Enneagram
describes the passions. These seven deadly sins, with the addition
of deceit and fear, form the nine passions of the Enneagram. And
each "sin" has a corresponding "virtue" that
acts as an antidote to the "poison of the sin." 2
It is important to note that each of the passions, is shared by
all of the types. We are all familiar with anger, lust and pride,
for example. But each type tends to operate out of one passion
over the others. (Interestingly, we tend to be most blind to seeing
just which passion is operating as our default mode.) It is also
important to note that no one type is better or worse than any
other type. We're all in this boat together.
1 Oscar Ichazo followed Plato's lead in the use
of this terminology.
2 Ichazo is credited with coming up with the
placement of the personality configurations as known
today onto the Enneagram symbol. Also, the passions
have different, but related, labels according to which
author you read. See Rohr, Richard and Andreas Ebert,
Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient tool for a New
Spiritual Journey, New York: Crossroad, 1992, for
a discussion of the historical view of the passions.