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ENNEAGRAMon the Nature of Subtypes

ENNEAGRAMon the Nature of Subtypes



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Published by: Dew Nada on May 01, 2009
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On the Nature of the Enneagram Subtypes — page
On The Nature of the Enneagram Subtypes
1, 2006, 
The enneagram is an ancient but newly-revealed system thatcan be used for looking at many aspects of life. It’s currentlywell-known as a personality assessment tool. It depicts nine points on a circle, each of which represents a different per-sonality type with a distinctive core motivation (see Figure1). People new to the system often wonder how there can be only nine core personality types when there are so manydifferent kinds of people. The reason is that there are many
ways we can use to further dene
the nine types in order to accountfor the great diversity of tempera-ment. We can, for example, seewhich of the two points on either side (the wings) is most dominant.We can also look at the relationshipof each enneagram point with eachof its two connecting points.
But I nd that the most pow
-erful way to account for diversitywithin each type is to look at howeach type operates within threearenas in life, which we may call
 subtype arenas
. What’s of particu-lar interest is which of these arenas ismost dominant—that is, which onemost attracts our attention. When we know both our en-neagram type and our dominant arena, we can determineour enneagram
. Because there are nine enneagramtypes and three subtype arenas, there’s a total of 27 possiblesubtypes.In this article, I explore the nature of the enneagramsubtypes. Some of the ideas that I propose are controver-sial, because they’re based on propositions that diverge from
the received wisdom of the eld. But I hope to make a con
-vincing case for the approach I’m taking, because I think ithas certain advantages over the paradigm currently in use.Please note that, while mymain focus in this article is on thesubtypes, I also devote quite a bit of time to discussing both the ennea-gram types and energy cen-ters. I tried an approach that wasmore limited in scope, but soon re-alized that I needed to talk about allthree topics in order to present a co-herent picture of my ideas. The rea-sons for this should become clear aswe proceed.The article is divided into three parts: Background, Part I, andPart II. The Background section in-troduces the topic and provides thecontext for further discussion. Part Ifocuses on current assumptions about the types, the ennea-gram energy centers, and the subtypes. Part II proposes analternative view and some ideas for working with the en-neagram based on that view. particular set of moral, psychological, or spiritual standards.As a result, the MBTI system can be used in a wide range of contexts.
When I rst heard about the enneagram, it took me a
while to see why I should study it. One reason is that theenneagram only delineated nine personality types, while theMBTI delineated 16, so the enneagram seemed to offer a lessdetailed breakdown. Another reason is that the enneagramseemed less objective than the MBTI. Unlike the MBTI
 proles, most of the enneagram proles seemed mildly to
moderately negative in focus.Although the negative focus initially put my off, I even-tually learned enough about the enneagram to appreciate itsI became interested in the enneagram as a means of lookingat individual differences in motivation. As a cognitive psy-chologist, I’d long been interested in looking at how variableslike sex, age, and cultural differences affect our psychology.I was also interested in the effects of our basic dispositionor character, so I studied the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to gain insight into that dimension of the psyche.Based on a Jungian approach to typology, the MBTI
generates 16 personality proles. One thing that I like aboutthe MBTI is that these proles are pretty value-neutral. Thismeans that the MBTI proles simply distinguish individu
-als on the basis of temperament. They aren’t designed toevaluate the character of the individual by reference to any
Type 8Type 9Type 1Type 7Type 6
 ype 4
Type 5Type 3Type 2
 Figure .
The Enneagram.
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 inuence 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 inuences 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 selsh 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 denitely 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
 Figure .
G. I. Gurdjieff.
On the Nature of the Enneagram Subtypes — page
enneagram as a tool that can help us bridge the gap betweenthe old and the new. I suspect that this is the real reason thatenneagram suddenly appeared on the public scene a coupleof decades ago.
What’s strange to me is how such a revolutionarytool as the enneagram has become constrained by a wayof thinking that is not of the present, but of the past. Of course it’s possible to use the enneagram to catalog our qualities, neatly dividing them into good and bad catego-ries. But when we do this, we split ourselves in two. The“bad” qualities begin to seem like the ones that we actu-ally experience in ordinary life while the “good” qualitiesrecede into some elusive realm of spiritual transcendence.We reject ordinary life as gross and impure, looking for de-liverance elsewhere.This kind of thinking is dualistic. It splits the psycheand makes it hard to be completely present in the moment.It can cause us to lose momentum, falling under the weightof our accumulated sense of sin.Why not instead use the enneagram to cultivate asense of inner wholeness and integrity? To see how seem-ing limitations (our individual points of view) can instead be viewed as areas of specialization when seen from the perspective of wholeness?If we look at each point of view as an area of special-ization, then the enneagram subtypes become key to under-standing the many faces of type. They also give clues wecan use to discover our dharma or purpose in life. I’ll talk more about this later.To recap, I see the enneagram in its ability to help ussee our true worth and relate to one another in an intelligentway. Realizing who and what we really are is the chal-lenge for the coming era. Focusing on what is false aboutus doesn’t really help us see what is real. And it’s seeingthe real that gives us the courage to leap into the unknown.My intention in writing this article is to share a vision of the
enneagram that I nd both inspiring and evocative. This is
what I talk about in Part II of the paper.
Part I: The Received Wisdom
Before leaping into new territory, I have to spend a littletime talking about how we came to inherit the current visionof the enneagram, particularly how it came to have such anegative focus. So this section is about what I’m calling
the received wisdom in the eld. I’ll talk about the received
wisdom regarding the nature of the enneagram itself, thetypes, the energy centers, and the subtypes.
The Received Wisdom aboutthe Enneagram & the Types
If you ask someone to describe the enneagram, you’ll getdifferent answers depending on who you ask.Basically, there are two major views of the enneagram.In one view, it’s a map of a life process. In the other, it’s amap of the human psyche.
Gurdjieff taught his students a process-oriented versionof the enneagram, and it’s this enneagram that Fourth Way(Gurdjieff) students consider the “real” enneagram. Aricafounder Oscar Ichazo later adapted Gurdjieff’s process-ori-ented enneagram to look at differences in human tempera-ment or personality. Nowadays, it’s Ichazo’s version of theenneagram that’s the most well-known.Actually, Ichazo didn’t just teach one enneagram, butmany. Which enneagram he taught depended one what as- pect of human nature he wanted to emphasize. But thereare two of his enneagrams are now the best known: (a) theenneagram of the emotional passions and (b) the enneagram
of the cognitive xations.
One reason for the focus on these two particular ennea-grams may be that they are the ones of most interest to one of 
Ichazo’s most inuential students, Dr. Claudio Naranjo.
In the 1970s, Naranjo was a student of Oscar Ichazo.
However, within a decade, he became an inuential teacher 
of the enneagram in his own right. Many of the people who became later become prominent in the enneagram commu-nity started out as Naranjo’s students. Naranjo also wrote several books on the enneagram. All
of them focus primarily on the deciency motivations (core
neuroses) associated with each enneagram type. Figure 3summarizes the categories he developed for characterizingthe different types of psychological imbalance that can bemapped to each enneagram type. Naranjo goes into great depth in
Character and Neuro- sis
and his other books to describe the personality disordersassociated with each point. But he provides little or no de-scription of the balanced personality.I didn’t understand why until it dawned on me that, un-like James Hollis, Naranjo does not seem to believe that it’sactually possible for the personality self to become balanced.This is evident from many passages in his books.
His philosophical perspective (which seem akin to thatof both Gurdjieff and Ichazo) is that personality is inherently

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