The word Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) comes from the Greek language. Ennea means “nine” and grammos means “sign/figure” in Greek. The Enneagram is a symbol that you may have seen before, and is often thought to be sacred geometry. (See figure) The symbol of the Enneagram is a circle connecting nine points that represent each personality type, each of them 40 degrees apart. These points are numbered from 1 to 9 in a clockwise movement. All nine personalities have natural paths shown inside the circle, connecting the points by lines.
What is the Enneagram? No one can say it better than Don Riso and Russ Hudson, two of the foremost authorities on the subject and cofounders of The Enneagram Institute. They say in their book The Wisdom of the Enneagram (1999), “The Enneagram is a condensation of universal wisdom, the perennial philosophy accumulated by Christians, Buddhist, Muslims (Sufis) and Jews (Kabbalah). The heart of the Enneagram is the universal insight that human beings are spiritual presences incarnated in the material world and yet mysteriously embodying the same life and Spirit as the Creator… Various forces obscure that light, however, and each spiritual tradition has myths and doctrines to explain how mankind has lost its connection with the Divine… The Enneagram is not a religion…nor does it interfere with a person’s religious orientation. It does not pretend to be a complete spiritual path. Nevertheless, it concerns itself with one element that is fundamental to all spiritual paths: self-knowledge… The Enneagram is a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.”
The website for Enneagram Monthly, an internet source for information and articles on the Enneagram, says, “A fundamental element of the Enneagram is its description of nine distinct personality types, each a reflection of different patterns of thought, feeling and action. Each of the nine types is rooted in a specific viewpoint or belief structure that largely determines what is important to you and how you interact with the world to fulfill your hopes and dreams.”
As a psychospiritual typology, the Enneagram helps people to recognize and understand an overall pattern in human behavior. External behaviors, underlying attitudes, one’s characteristic sense of self, conscious and unconscious motivations, emotional reactions, defense mechanisms, object relations, what we pay attention to, our spiritual potentials, and much more. These are all parts of a complex pattern that forms each personality type. Therapists, business counselors, human resource directors, and spiritual seekers from around the world are all finding the Enneagram to be immensely useful for self-understanding and personal growth. Always remember however, that the Enneagram does not put you in a box—it shows you the box you are in and the way out!
The depth and clarity of the Enneagram makes it possible for you to have deep insight into yourself and “Observe and Let Go” of old personality patterns. You are not your personality but something more. You are a spiritual Presence in the world. Seeing yourself clearly in the “mirror” of the Enneagram liberates you from the distortions of the past so that you can live joyously and productively in the present.
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