The enneagram is a wisdom mirror that describes the nine programs/strategies of the human ego. It is only through understanding our programming, that we can become free of it.
What is the ego? The thought, I am somebody with emotions and thoughts, which are mine. The ego is also self preservation software, that keeps us safe from harm and helps us fulfill our desires. Yet another definition – the doer, enjoyer and owner.
These nine ego strategies can be simplified into three broad categories – physical/anger, emotional/image and mental/fear. The nine points are achieved by adding an introverted and extroverted version to each core point.
While these programs (strategies) keep us safe from harm and help us get what we want, they also lead to suffering by covering the true Self – existence/being, love/bliss and wisdom/consciousness. Anger covers being, need covers love and fear covers consciousness. In the diagram below, the True Self is depicted on the left, while the human being identified with ego is on the right.
The Enneagram symbol can be traced back to Pythagoras and was introduced to the modern world by George Gurdjeff. It is thought to have Sufi origins. Ennea means nine sided. The present day exploration of the Enneagram as it relates to personality is attributed to Oscar Ichazo and further refined by Claudio Naranjo. There are others who have infused the enneagram with the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, like Eli Jaxon-Bear. Advaita means non-duality and Vedanta, the path of knowledge. My understanding of the enneagram has been greatly influenced by Eli Jaxon-Bear.
Movement Through the Geometry – Stress and Relaxation
We each move to a particular point in stress and another in relaxation/growth. For example, when looking at the opening chart, a five type goes to seven in stress and an eight in relaxation. In stress we go to the darker side of the stress point and in relaxation/growth, the lighter side of the relaxation point.
To the left and right of each point are the wings that influence each ego strategy/point. We tend to lean towards one point over the other.
The Subtypes – The Lower Three Chakras
As the wings influence each point, so do the lower three chakras, 1st: self-preservation, 2nd: sacral/sexual, and 3rd: solar plexus/social. When you take nine types, plus three subtypes, twenty-seven flavors of humanity result. Self-preservation subtypes tend to focus on survival. “Sexual subtypes are often charismatic with sexuality leaking through the eyes and they tend to have greater sexual plumage.” Eli Jaxon-Bear. Social subtypes tend to gravitate towards friendship and family and are more interested in status that sex or survival.
More Enneagram Knowledge
The Holy Idea, Essential Quality and Holy Path for each point.
The Holy Idea: can be a trap used to justify the ego strategy. Eight -Truth, Nine – Love, One – Perfection, Two – Freedom, Three – Compassion, Four – Origin, Five – All Knowing, Six – Trust, and Seven – Holy Work.
Essential Quality: When the egoic strategy is transcended (healing), the essential quality of the soul shines forth. Eight – Shakti (Energy), Nine – Being, One – Purity, Two – Kindness, Three – Love, Four – Joy, Five – Peace, Six – Consciousness, and Seven – Absorption.
The Holy Path: Action/intention that provides the antidote (medicine) for each ego point. Eight – Vulnerability, Nine – Right Action, One – Serenity, Two – Humility, Three – Being True, Four – Equanimity/Calmness, Five – Non-Attachment, Six – Courage/Trust, and Seven – Sobriety.
More on the Holy Path or medicine of each point: Eights need to bring vulnerability to their power, Nines need to discover, live their truth and uncover their anger, Ones need to surrender to the perfection that they are and life is, Twos need to explore their own needs and let go of control, Threes need to meet their fear of failure and low self worth that propels them to achieve, Fours need to embrace their shame, sense of being lost and let go of their stories of hardship, Fives need to experience emptiness, Sixes need to meet their terror and trust that all will be OK, and Sevens need to close the door on the future.
Essentially, the physical points (the 8-9-1) need to process the anger that Eights project out, Ones project inward and Nines deny. The emotional points (2-3-4) need to work with feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem and the mental points (5-6-7) need to address their fear.
Crossing the River, From Lessons For Living
Eights march into the water and swim upstream, against the current. Nines amble into the the river and flow with the current. Ones cross the river in the perfect place. Twos cross the river but then double back to help others. Threes wait at the edge until they are the center of attention, wear an attractive suit and have the best looking stroke. Fours swim wearing a fancy suit and even do some water ballet. Fives never get into the water but instead hide behind a tree, observing and taking notes. Sixes stride into the water and do the traditional breast stroke. Sevens splash, dive and have a really fun time, with no concern if they ever make it to the other side.
Exemplars of Each Point – Consider the qualities of each of the people and places below and also that some tend to express the negative qualities of that type, while others, the positive. For example Martin Luther King used his power for good, fighting for civil rights, while Russell Crowe’s spats with the paparazzi express the negative side.
Eights – Martin Luther King, Roseanne Barr, Russell Crowe, & Israel.
Nines – Abraham Lincoln, Whoopie Goldberg, Walt Disney & India/Cananda
Ones – Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Confucius, Plato & Switzerland.
Twos – Paula Abdul, John Denver, Stevie Wonder & Bali.
Threes – Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Ryan Seacrest, USA & China.
Fours – Rumi, Billie Holiday, Prince, Sarah McLachlan, Angelina Jolie & France.
Fives – Siddartha Gautama Buddha, Albert Einstein, Eckhart Tolle, Bill Gates, & Finland.
Sixes split into subtypes – Self-preservation – Billy Crystal, Woody Allen, Sexual (strength/beauty) Sylvester Stallone, Britney Spears, Bull Fighting, Social/Duty – Luke Skywalker, motorcycle police & Germany.
Sevens – Richard Branson, John F. Kennedy, Ram Dass & Caribbean/Brazil
Discovering Your Point
To discover your point, immerse yourself in the teachings with openness and the desire to learn. In time, when you are ready, your point will find you! Understand that you have a core point, a stress point, a relaxation or growth point, and a wing of influence.
Ask yourself, do you naturally move towards others – image point, away from others – mental point, or against others – anger point. It took me years to find my point. At first I though I was a seven, then a one, and now I believe I am a two. The internet tests can be revealing but can also be dead wrong. Realize that we each carry within us all the point yet there is one that holds the most gravity. And who you are, is not a point. Finally, consider where you go in stress, this can reveal your point.
In stress two get angry (eight), Eights go to knowledge (five), Fives go to pleasure (seven), Sevens go to perfectionism (one), Ones go to emotional need (four), and Fours go to the helper (two).
Think of the Enneagram as your program, not the truth of who you are, which resulted from past karma (action) in previous lifetimes. We incarnate to explore and work though our karma. Our enneagram point is neither good nor bad, it’s just simply the machinery that the light of consciousness shines upon and animates.
The goal in exploring the enneagram is to reveal the workings of our program, essentially bringing it from the shadow, into the light. We can then choose to follow our program or take action in ways that affirm personal or collective values (dharma).
The question we need to ask ourselves: is our program running us or are we using our program to share our gifts, passions and serve the greater good?
While there are many wonderful books on the Enneagram, I highly recommend Eli Jaxon-Bear’s, “Enneagram of Liberation, from Fixation to Freedom,” where you can explore the details of many of the ideas presented above.
Join Deva and I for an Enneagram workshop, Saturday, November 11th, 10:30 – 2pm at True Nature Healing Arts, Carbondale, CO.