The Enneagram

I learned something new today - the Enneagram.  It's kinda like the Myers-Briggs, a personality "inventory."  A colleague shared it with us today. 

The word enneagram actually refers to a nine-pointed geometrical structure (just like a pentagram is five-pointed). But in terms of the enneagram of personality, it is the belief that all people fit into one of nine different personality types - nine archetypal ways in we view ourselves and the world and our relation to the world.

It's thought that these nine types originally come from Sufi beliefs, and that together the nine types of people make up "the face of God." (This is interesting to me because I know that in Islam, nine is the perfect number, the number closest to God.) In that context, contemplating the enneagram is more than just a way to understand psychological interactions, but is a means to enlightenment. 

I'm still digesting it, and frankly find it to be more difficult to grasp than the Myers-Briggs but that may just be familiarity.  Anyway, I won't go into detail except to mention one thing I noticed with respect to the ennegagram as a spiritual tool.

According to Susan, the nine types are grouped into threes.
Types 8, 9, and 1 are motivated more by anger - they think w/their gut.  They are doers.
Types 2, 3, and 4 are motivated more by need for recognition from others - they think w/their heart.  They are relators.  
Types 5, 6, and 7 are motivated more by fear - they think w/their mind.  They are thinkers.  (I'm a 5.)

Well these three groups remind me of the three margas (paths) or yogas (unions) of Hinduism - karma (action), bhakti (devotion), and jnana (wisdom) respectively.  Hinduism recognizes that different people have different natural proclivities, and thus are suited to different spiritual paths.  No path is better than another, tho a path may be better suited for any one person than another path.  In short, there are those who prefer to act/do things, those who prefer to relate/show their devotion, and those who prefer to philosophize.  In the end, all three are necessary for moksha (liberation).  That is, all three are necessary for union with the Divine, much like the three groups of the nine types of the Enneagram.

And I do truly believe, lest we end up in feckless navel-gazing, maudlin sentimentality, or blind action, that all three - head, heart, and hands are necessary for the full spiritual life.

If you're interested in learning more, I found this site to be very helpful:

And here's an online diagnostic:


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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative