On the Nature of the Enneagram Subtypes — page
three great assets: (a) a focus on motivation, (b) a geometricdimension, and (c) a way of combining different aspects of type that makes it possible to distinguish many more thannine types.Over time, I came to realize that these advantages far outweighed the disadvantage of seeing the enneagram typesdescribed in mostly negative terms. I realized that the typesthemselves were more basic than any of the descriptions that people generated.So I could study them directly and gradu-ally generate my own (more value-neu-tral) descriptions of the types.With this in mind, I began to delvemore deeply into the enneagram. I sawthat the negative descriptions of type ariseout of two related assumptions: (a) thatenneagram types = personality types and(b) that personality is inherently unregen-erate. That means that, in moral terms,the personality self is sinful and in psy-chological terms, it’s pathological.How did the personality come togain such a negative reputation? It wasn’tclear to me at the outset. But after someinvestigation, I began to understand why the enneagram pro-
les seemed to focus so much on the negative aspects of hu
-man nature.In some ways, the reasons for this negative focus may be traceable to a single person: George Gurdjieff (see Fig-ure 2).
Gurdjieff was the rst person to publicly present teach
-ings on the enneagram. He was a spiritual teacher of some
magnitude whose inuence is still strong more than half a
century after his death.Gurdjieff was not a retiring mystic, but a spiritual mas-ter with an iron will and magnetic personality. He had anextremely robust and provocative style of teaching. His con-frontational style was designed to effect a radical transfor-mation in those students who were willing to submit them-selves to its rigors.Gurdjieff’s approach is based on an ancient model of the relationship between a spiritual master and his disciple.It assumes the presence of three elements: a true spiritualmaster, a deeply committed aspirant, and the shared goal of effecting a radical and permanent restructuring of the inner self of the student.Since most teachers and students have traditionally beenmale, this approach is a very masculine in nature. It’s basedon a “slay the dragon” view of life that’s quite direct andadversarial. The ego or personality self is viewed as an en-emy of the higher good and is ruthlessly attacked in order tostrip away its defenses so that the disciple might realize itslimitations.This approach has its uses, but it’s risky. And in thewrong hands, it can be disastrous. As Jungian scholar JamesHollis observed in an interview for
What is Enlightenment?
magazine, “the ego is a necessary formation for the creationof identity, consciousness, intentionality, and purpose—allof which are pluses.”
But he says that the ego is also mal-
leable. It can be dominated by inuences of
both the inner psyche and the outer world if it lacks the strength and resiliency necessaryto maintain its integrity.So from this perspective, what we needisn’t to destroy the ego, but to support it.With proper support, the ego can develop ina healthy way. It can help us function in theworld without interfering with our ability to be inwardly attentive to the energies of the[higher] Self.An integrated ego-personality helps usdevelop both inner balance and outer poise.
It can support us in nding our life’s call
-ing. And this, as Hollis observes, has very
little to do with ego in the selsh sense.
Today, the idea of slaying the ego seemsharsh and out of step with the times. This is because the con-sciousness of the collective is changing, and we now haveways of working with the psyche that are both more effectiveand less wrenching than the methods of the past.If we can work with the self is a gentler way, why not doit? Why make the task of changing harder than it needs to be? To ask such questions is not to criticize Gurdjieff or hismethods, but simply to observe that teachings intended for one era may not be appropriate for another. If Gurdjieff werealive today, I doubt very much whether he would take thesame approach he did during the early part of the twentieth
century. He would adapt his approach to t the times.
The decades since Gurdjieff’s death have seen somemajor shifts in consciousness—not just among the spiritualelite, but across a broad swatch of the public. We’re now liv-ing in a post-Newtonian world, where we’re told that there’sorder in chaos, time isn’t real, and everything is intercon-nected. The actual implications of the new physics may nothave sunk in yet, but the intuitive sense that separatism and
duality are illusions is denitely in the air. Many people
sense that we’re on the brink of a real shift in perspective— of a completely new way of being in the world. This new paradigm is holistic, inclusive, and dynamic in nature. Ittakes us beyond the old “good vs. bad” dualities. It helps ussee beyond our apparent differences to the underlying unityof all life.The transition from the old paradigm to the new is, likeall transitions, somewhat awkward and confusing. I see the
G. I. Gurdjieff.