The Bible warns us to test all things.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess.5:19-22)
We are called to be discerning hearers and readers; it’s sound advice.
What is the Enneagram? It depends on who you ask.
Supporters of it will say: The Enneagram is a personality typing system, with nine different personality types. They are organised around thinking, feeling and doing. It is an incredibly helpful ancient wisdom tool, which helps you discover who you are and why you think/behave as you do.
Detractors will say: The Enneagram is not a personality typing system and it is not an ancient wisdom tool. Having not been validated by any psychologists or other professionals, it is invalid as a personality typing system. Its origins are recent and occultic.
The Enneagram Symbol
The name enneagram means “drawing of nine” and comes from two Greek words: ennea (Εννεά) meaning “nine” and gram (γραμμα) meaning “drawing” or “figure.” The Enneagram is a nine-pointed figure inscribed in a circle. The meaning of the symbol itself, together with the personality types organized around the nine points, convey a system of knowledge about nine distinct but interrelated personality types, or nine ways of seeing and experiencing the world. (https://www.internationalenneagram.org/about/the-enneagram/)
A proliferation of Enneagram books/podcasts have flooded the Christian market since 2016.
Where Did the Enneagram Come From?
This again depends on who you ask. In their book Discovering the Enneagram, published in 1992, Richard Rohr and Andrea Ebert said:
‘The Enneagram is a mysterious model of the psyche that is not originally Christian.’p.15
‘I believe that the Enneagram can help us find a deeper and more authentic relationship with God – even though it was not discovered by Christians.’ p.15
Since then, various potential sources have been cited. These include the Greek philosopher Pythagoras; the fourth century Christian monk Evagrius Ponticus, and the thirteenth century philosopher and Christian apologist Ramon Llull. However, the enneagram cannot be traced back to any of these so-called historical sources. Rather, the enneagram finds its beginnings with a twentieth century mystic named George Gurdjieff.
George Gurdjieff (1866?-1949)
Gurdjeff was an Armenian philosopher, mystic, spiritual teacher, and composer of Armenian and Greek descent. He taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. He was the first to use a shape similar to the enneagram (enneagon), but he never added personality types to it.
After Gurdjieff’s death, his student P.D.Ouspensky took the enneagon and began to teach that it could be used to understand intuition, mind and heart.
Oscar Ichazo (1931-2020)
Oscar Ichazo ran an occult school in Arica, Chile founded in 1968. It is not known how Ichazo discovered the enneagram, but it was he who developed it. The enneagram symbol as it is known today came from him. He is not responsible for adding the numbers and personality types, but he did add what he called ‘nine fixations’. Ichazo taught that the outer-self is a cover up for the real true inner-self. All people have been fed false ideas about themselves. Your essence is pure – untouched by anything bad.
Claudio Naranjo (1932-2019)
Naranjo, a psychiatrist and spiritual seeker, was a student of Ichazo. It was he who took the enneagram to New Age Centre named Esalen. Esalen – ‘a place where people were likely to get naked, take LSD and beat native drums’. Ronald V. Huggins Naranjo admitted that it was he who developed the enneagram into a personality typing system. He said the personality types came from observing people, but ‘mainly from automatic writing’.
He taught the enneagram to the psychic-intuitive ‘new age’ Helen Palmer and Jesuit priest Bob Ochs. It was Palmer who took to the enneagram to the new-age market and Bob Ochs who took it to the Jesuits – including Richard Rohr.
Richard Rohr (1943 – )
Richard Rohr founded the Centre for Action and Contemplation in 1986. Rohr taught the enneagram to Ian Cron/Suzanne Stabile, who wrote the best-selling book The Road Back to You (2016) published by Inter-Varsity Press. Another of Rohr’s students, Christopher Heuertz wrote The Sacred Enneagram (2017) published by Zondervan.
It was these books that launched the enneagram into the evangelical world. The Enneagram cannot be separated from Richard Rohr and his teachings. In their book The Enneagram – A Christian Perspective (2001) Rohr/Ebert, claimed that the enneagram had a Christian heritage:
‘…a very ancient Christian tool for the discernment of spirits, for the struggle with our capital sin, our ‘False Self,’ and the encounter with our True Self in God’
(The Preface – The Enneagram A Christian Perspective p.xvi-xviii)
Who is Richard Rohr?
Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.
(Amazon – Biography )
It must be noted that Rohr does not believe that the enneagram is a personality test. He believes it is a path to your ‘true’ self. He claims that the enneagram comes from a spiritual tradition including the Desert Fathers and Sufi-Muslims. He said: ‘The Christian Tradition, Sufi-Mysticism and the Jewish Kabbalah all recognised the Enneagram’s wisdom’
He also said:
‘In my opinion, I cannot prove all of this, but it is the only links in the chain we can discover’
What does Richard Rohr believe?
Rohr makes a distinction between Jesus and the Christ. He teaches that incarnation happened long before Jesus. The first incarnation came through creation:
‘God spoke the Eternal Blueprint/Idea called Christ, “and so it was!” (Genesis 1:9). Two thousand years ago marks the Incarnation of God in Jesus, but before that there was the Incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast” according to the Genesis (sic) creation story (Genesis 1:3-25). This is the “Cosmic Christ” through which God has “let us know the mystery of God’s purpose, the hidden plan made from the beginning in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10)
‘Christ Since the Beginning’ Centre For Action and Contemplation website (February 21st 2019)
Rohr teaches panentheism, the idea that God’s essence (DNA) is in all things, yet God is also separate from all things.
“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”
(Seeing Christ Everywhere — Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org)
In the preface to his book, The Universal Christ, Rohr says:
According to Rohr:
- Sin is only believing you are separate from God.
- Salvation is universal. Everyone and everything will be brought into Christ.
- The Cross is not God’s judgement on sin, but rather His way of showing solidarity.
‘Incarnation is already redemption. Bethlehem was more important than Calvary.’ (The Eternal Christ in the Cosmic Story – National Catholic Reporter – Dec 11th 2009)
- Richard Rohr is a Perrennialist. This means that all religious traditions are valid and so he doesn’t believe that a person must be a Christian to be in Christ.
The perennial philosophy is a perspective within the philosophy of religion which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth and a single divine foundation of all religious knowledge.
- Rohr teaches that to arrive at truth a person must let go of certainty and practice contemplative prayer:
‘Contemplative prayer, remaining silently and openly in God’s presence, ‘rewires’ our brains to think non-dually with compassion, kindness, and a lack of attachment to the ego’s preferences. In contemplative prayer we move beyond language to experience God as Mystery. We let go of our need to judge, defend, or evaluate, plugging into the mind of Christ which welcomes paradox and knows its true identity in God. During contemplation we come to know that there is no separation between sacred and secular. All is one with Divine Reality.
Can the Enneagram be Redeemed?
Many Christians claim that though the enneagram may have sketchy beginnings, it can be Christianised. They claim that to say it cannot, is to commit the genetic fallacy. That is to reject something because of its origin.
This is the position of Todd Wilson author of the book: The Enneagram Comes to Church. In a recent debate on Premier’s Unbelievable, with former New-Ager Marcia Montenegro, Wilson claimed that the enneagram had helped him better understand his wife, children and congregants.
Montenegro pointed out several issues:
- The Enneagram is pseudo-science. No authoritative body supports the enneagram as a valid psychological tool.
- The personality types were given via occultic automatic writing.
- The enneagram has no Christian background.
- Saying that the enneagram is extremely accurate and/or helpful does not validate it. As a former New-Ager, Montenegro cast many horoscope charts for people. All these people said that the horoscope was accurate and helpful – but that does not validate it.
What is Going on in the Church?
Many Christians are caught up in what is known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism which teaches:
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good and nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involve in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
(Ref: Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. pp162-163)
Many are attracted to the enneagram because it focusses on the self – and people like to learn about/talk about themselves. The danger of the enneagram is that you begin to see people in terms of their number, rather than through a biblical lens. Why would Christians want to use a non-biblical, pseudo-scientific, occultic tool?
What Does the Bible Say?
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
‘As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.’ (1 Timothy 1:3-4)
‘Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. The have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.’ (Ephesians 4:17-25)
‘So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’
Book: Richard Rohr and The Enneagram Secret – Marcia Montenegro and Don & Joy Veinot.
YouTube: Midwest Christian Outreach – The Enneagram
YouTube: Is the Enneagram a Trojan Horse in the Church? – Alisa Childers and Marcia Montenegro