The Simple, Confused & Conflicted History of the Enneagram

The True Spirit of the Enneagram

keys to the enneagram

With his recent contribution to the greater body of enneagram wisdom, The Keys to the Enneagram, A. H. Almaas continues to add to the repository of spiritual wisdom of the enneagram. Spiritual wisdom of the enneagram provides us with insight that penetrates the veils of our fixation to the ontological ground of consciousness. “Keys” provides specific understanding and orientation one can use to guide powerful, transformative, and transcendent inquiry into the personality.

true spirit of enneagram

For the first time ever, a course based on The Keys to the Enneagram will be offered to the enneagram community by renowned enneagram teachers and authors Sandra Maitri and Russ Hudson. The True Spirit of the Enneagram will not only help explicate insights contained in “Keys,” but also share Almaas’ technology and methodology for exploring your enneatype in a way that opens experience to the underlying essential ground of existence.

Common Agreement on the History of the Enneagram of Personality Types 

According to most, if not all, reports on the history of the enneagram it was George Gurdjieff who first introduced the enneagram to the West, it was Oscar Ichazo who introduced the enneagram’s use in connection with ego fixations, and it was Claudio Naranjo who fleshed out the enneagram of personality types. These three individuals are the known nexus of current awareness and understanding of the enneagram. 

History of the Enneagram

The word enneagram began appearing in print around 1894. Since then, a great deal has been written on the origins and history of the enneagram which reduces to three basic categories: the enneagram symbol, G. I. Gurdjieff’s discovery of the enneagram, and the origins of the Enneagram of Personality Types

This author found this post to be the best overall in-a-nutshell view on the history of the Enneagram of Personality Types: Where Did the Enneagram Come From? 6 Trailblazers and Innovators. This article proffers a common misunderstanding about A. H. Almaas and his work –  that Almaas’ accumulated bits and pieces of spirituality and psychology and mixed them together to produce the Diamond Approach™. When Almaas refers to the Diamond Approach being a synthesis of the spiritual and the psychological, he is referring to recognizing and understanding the fundamental ground from which they both emerge and not a process of amalgamation. 

The history and origins of the Enneagram of Personality Types are elucidated in this diagram, which takes into account both Gurdjieff’s and Ichazo’s own words: 

modern original enneagram teachers

As far as I can determine, all published works on the enneagram of personality types can trace their origins back to the teachings of these six individuals. Almaas, Maitri, and Ochs are the only members of Naranjo’s original SAT group to have taught the enneagram to others in a significant public manner.

“To our knowledge, almost every book and theory on the Enneagram of personality has been inspired by the material taught by Claudio Naranjo, who continued research with the teachings he had learned from Oscar Ichazo.” 

Setting the Record Straight, Enneagram Monthly, Issue 21, November 1996
Gurdjieff enneagram origin

Gurdjieff and the Enneagram 

Students of Gurdjieff’s have stated time and again that Gurdjieff would not give them specifics on how or when he first encountered the enneagram. His most direct reply was that he was introduced to it by the Sarmoun Darq spiritual brotherhood. 

The following is a recounting of a story of a meeting between Gurdjieff and Shaykh Abdullah Daghestani, a shaykh of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain of masters: 

Gurdjieff: Through your spiritual power I was able to ascend to the knowledge of the power of the Nine Points. Then a voice, addressing me as ‘Abd an Nur, said, “This light and knowledge have been granted to you from the Divine Presence of Allah to bring peace to your heart. However, you must not use the power of this knowledge.” The voice bid me farewell with the salutation of peace and the vision ended as you were finishing the recitation from the Qur’an. 

“The enneagram image holds the secret of the 9 Points, 9 States of Humanity, 9 Sultan al Awlya.” Shaykh ‘Abdullah replied, “Surah Yaseen was called ‘the Heart of the Qur’an’ by the Holy Prophet and the knowledge of these Nine Points was opened to you through it.” 

“The vision was by the blessings of the verse, ‘Peace! A Word (of salutation) from a Lord Most Merciful’ (Holy Qur’an, 36:58). Each of the Nine Points is represented by one of nine Saints who are at the highest level in the Divine Presence.” 

“They are the keys to the untold powers within man, but there is no permission to use these keys. This is a secret that in general will not be opened until the Last Days, when the Mandi appears and Prophet Jesus returns. This meeting of ours has been blessed. Keep it as a secret in your heart and don’t speak of it in this life. Abd an-Nur, for that is your name with us; you are free to stay or go as your responsibilities allow. You are always welcome with us. You have attained safety in the Divine Presence. May Allah bless you and strengthen you in your journey.”  – Shaykh Nurjan Mirahmadi, Levels of the Heart 

According to this story, then, Gurdjieff was able to use the enneagram while maintaining its secrets. 

Oscar Ichazo enneagram

Oscar Ichazo and the Enneagram 

Oscar Ichazo’s own words describe the lineage and his encounter with the enneagram in the aforementioned Enneagram Monthly article:  

“In 1943, I inherited my grandfather’s library from my uncle Julio, who was a lawyer and a philosopher. It was in an ancient text (a medieval grimoaire) about the Chaldean Seal (enneagram) where I first came across this diagram which, for the Chaldeans, was a magical figure. At the same time, I also found the Chaldean seal (enneagram) in the books of Ramon Llull, who gives the higher sense of the interrelation between the spheres. Here Llull is directly influenced by the Sufi theologists, Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Al’Arabi and even more by the great mystic Surawardi. There was also the work of Eliphas Levi, the father of the revival of Theosophy and Esoterism, his important book, The Book of Splendors, and his disciple, Papus (Dr. M. Gérard Encausse), who wrote about Llull’s metaphysical Machine of Thought and the esoteric tarot.” 

Ichazo’s Vision/Epiphany of the Enneagram 

The enneagrams certainly didn’t come to me as a coincidence or a casual realization while in my car staring at the stars during a hot summer’s night. In fact, they came to me as the result of a long process of investigation, analysis, and careful study of theology, philosophy, and mysticism, and our scientific knowledge of physics, biology, and medicine. 

I did not receive this material from any archangel or entity whatsoever, but that it was the fruit of a long, careful, and dedicated study of the human psyche and the main problems of philosophy and theology. At that point after working years with the enneagrams, I could visualize them in the same form that is observed in tantric visualizations that become more vivid and clear than anything that we can perceive with our ordinary senses. But when I say that I saw the entire system of enneagrams like in a vision, it was a reference to this clarity of thought with which I could envision the entire system after so many years of dedicated, intense work.

The reader curious about the above two paragraphs and the enneagram’s connections to the Greeks, the desert fathers and early mysticism are directed to: Letter to the Transpersonal Community by Oscar Ichazo. 

Claudio Naranjo enneagram

Claudio Naranjo and the Enneagram 

Chilean psychiatrist and enneagram of personality types theorist Claudio Naranjo was the first to articulate and place the personality types with their character structures onto the enneagram. Ochazo seems to have undisputedly placed the ego fixated views onto the enneagram, but it was Naranjo who fleshed out the character structures and subjective dynamics of each enneatype. 

Naranjo says his initial process of fleshing out the types was through “automatic writing” – in spiritualism, writing produced involuntarily when the subject’s attention is ostensibly directed elsewhere. He then verified the results with observation and his psychological knowledge and training. In June of 2010, Naranjo spoke with E. J. Gold about the origins of the enneagram of personality types

Personality Functions from History

Personality lives in the past, even when it is dreaming of or working toward the future. It’s all based on the past – memories, associations, hopes, and dreams.

By contrast, exploring the enneagram’s connections to essence is centered in the immediacy of what’s happening now. There is no goal other than bringing more awareness to and understanding of one’s reality. This contains all the dynamism needed for change and transformation.

The world outside of the box, beyond the fixation, is full of wonder and delight.

Want to learn more about how the enneagram can support moving from the past into the present? You’re invited to register for the True Spirit of the Enneagram.

4 thoughts on “The Simple, Confused & Conflicted History of the Enneagram”

  1. This is a great synthesis of how the teachings have developed through the years. Being part of Sandra’s IRG since it’s inception, and having gone through all the certification courses with Russ ( and Don) I truly look forward to witness them working together.
    Ann Devlin

  2. Do the enneagram types apply across cultures and across centuries? Are there studies done on this? My friend and I were discussing this last night. She had spent several years in a primitive village in Alaska where the natives lived a very different paradigm.

    1. They appear to, with cultural differences. I know of no research supporting this, but Russ Hudson teaches the enneagram around the globe and their are many teachers in many countries.

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