What Is The Enneagram?

The Enneagram is an ancient tool for spiritual direction. It is based on a geometric design made up of  three figures − a circle, a triangle and an irregular six pointed star. These three geometric figures relate to the three underlying universal laws which affect the human search for meaning and fulfilment. When combined, these three geometric figures make up a nine pointed star, referred to as ‘the Enneagram’, from the Greek meaning ‘nine ways’. Thus, the Enneagram combines the three universal laws of sacred psychology − and the nine ways in which human beings avoid making their spiritual journey. These nine avoidances or survival strategies are referred to as passions, vices or in the modern world, ‘personality types’.

The Enneagram is not a psychological system as such. To claim so is not to understand its theological position and historical development. Even the use of the word ‘personality type’ as a description of the nine passions of human experience is to misunderstand the Enneagram’s real intent. That being so, the Enneagram is increasingly used by modern psychologists because of its uncanny accuracy in describing human behaviour and motivation. However, its misuse by psychologists or new age self help practitioners may have unforeseen consequences on both the individual and society.

The universal laws described by the Enneagram are the Law of One (the law of unity), the Law of Three (the law of countervailing forces), and the Law of Seven (also called the law of perpetual change). These three laws, much like Newton’s laws of physics, apply universally throughout the cosmos, but more importantly in terms of the Enneagram, apply not only to the physical created universe, the macrocosm, but also to the worlds of human thought, emotion, and instinct − the microcosm.

The Law of Three states that in a closed system where there is an exercise of power, a power or force of equal strength will be created and be held in tension until a new state of equilibrium is established by the system. The second law, the Law of Seven, provides that all things physical, emotional or instinctual, are in a constant state of change and that that change comes in waves with peaks and troughs. The third law, the Law of One states that every beginning is also the end and that as a consequence nothing is permanent but comes into existence and then out of existence. Where the triangle and star touch the circle are the human desires (or passion or vices) that are resistances to all change and love. The behaviours associated with these passions are what are referred by psychologists as personality types.

Sadly, the modern Enneagram of Personality Types is a shallow understanding of a much more complex synthesis of the three great universal laws. The modern adherents, found especially in the self-help and new age movements potentially trivialize its potential contribution to the spiritual, philosophical, ecological, ontological and psychological lives of people and communities throughout the world.
 

 

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The Australian Enneagram Community (AEC) is a community based organisation that offers Panel Series, workshops, colloquiums and other opportunities throughout the year to learn about the enneagram.

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