The Enneagram – A History (Part 3)

by | Aug 15, 2019 | Article | 0 comments

The nine-pointed symbol of the Enneagram first made a significant appearance in the modern West through the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, an Armenian mystic, around the turn of the century. Gurdjieff appears to have learned it from a secret school in the Middle East, a school steeped in a spiritual tradition that is at least two thousand years old. He did not, as far as we know, teach the Enneagram of personality fixation, which is currently the most widely known Enneagram. This Enneagram, which has become popular in recent years, came mostly from Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychiatrist and teacher, who learned it from Oscar Ichazo, a South American spiritual teacher. It is not clear which parts of this Enneagram teaching originated with Ichazo and which were added to or elaborated upon by Naranjo in the context of his extensive knowledge of depth psychology. Naranjo, from whom we learned the body of knowledge associated with the Enneagram, related it to the Middle Eastern school with which Gurdjieff was associated, but clearly stated that he received the basic knowledge of the Enneagram from Oscar Ichazo.1  – A.H. Almaas

As is wont to happen as things are passed from one person to the next, ideas once foundational to a teaching are ‘massaged’ and ‘improved’ until what you end up with is nothing like the original. Such was the case with Gurdjieff’s Enneagram. Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo each played a key role in the reimagining of the Enneagram. Because of this, because the modern Enneagram is not being taught and practiced the way Gurdjieff envisioned—as a tool which can reveal all knowledge and by which the secrets of the cosmos are laid bare—but rather as an enneagram of personality then the same questions and healthy skepticism—regarding and toward origin—must be asked and held of this new version as were of the original.

To follow the trail though begins with P. D. Ouspensky; he remained most faithful as he attempted to explain the man [Gurdjieff] and the process in his two books: In Search of the Miraculous and The Fourth Way. To avoid any confusion, it should be noted that the process known as The Work or The System as it was referred to by Ouspensky’s students was developed by Gurdjieff, but it was this system, explained and expounded upon by Ouspensky in his series of lectures, which was released by his students after his death as The Fourth Way

Ouspensky and Gurdjieff had several fallings out, the first was in 1917 when Gurdjieff suddenly decided to disband the group which had been working together for six weeks in Essentuki. It was here, to this group, of which Ouspensky was a member, that Gurdjieff laid out, “the entire teaching, revealing the links, connections, and direction of the teaching along with the origin of the ideas.”2 It is unknown what exactly happened but the disbanding of the group was key to Ouspensky beginning his own teaching of The Work though he would rejoin Gurdjieff and teach at Gurdjieff’s Institute in Constantinople. The strain on their relationship would continue for a number of reasons: Madame Ouspensky chose Gurdjieff over Ouspensky, her husband, to be her teacher; Gurdjieff went to London in 1922 and won the hearts and minds of many of Ouspensky’s student; Ouspensky rejected Gurdjieff’s offer to live with him in Fontainebleau; and then in 1924 Ouspensky told several of his senior students he had broken off from Gurdjieff entirely, that he would be working on his own, and he forbid his students contact with Gurdjieff.

Ouspensky’s legacy appears to be somewhat of a mixed bag. Of Ouspensky, C. S. Nott wrote, “All that Ouspensky had of value, he got from Gurdjieff, and that only with his mind.”3 Francis William Stanley Pinder, a student of Gurdjieff thought that Ouspensky knew the theory of The Work perhaps better than anyone but did not understand it.4 And Marie Seton said, “Here was a man who was at heart honest; a man who was not by any means devoid of compassion for people. But adulation and comfort and the dearth of friends and the terror of a period of war had sapped his will to keep theory and practice united.”5 Ouspensky, apparently, is remembered more for his knowledge of The Work than for his proficiency at it.  In the end though, both the Enneagram and The Work remained much as they were with Gurdjieff, one might even say that that Enneagram which Gurdjieff created and that Work which Ouspensky continued to teach died with them. 

Not only because the changes that Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo made to the Enneagam were so dramatic and fundamental but also due to their close working partnership, it will become necessary to discuss how the Enneagram evolved under their dual influence jointly rather than to discuss these men independently of one another—though the complexity and dysfunction of their relationship would eventually lead them to go separate ways. But first we began with the briefest history of both men, beginning with Oscar Ichazo.

Oscar Ichazo was born in Bolivia 1931, then at nineteen he was introduced to a group whose study included techniques of altering the consciousness, “I had contact with Indians and they introduced me to psychedelic drugs and shamanism while I was in my early teens.” (Source: Sam Keen, “A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ic- hazo,” Psychology Today (July 1973), p. 64.) About a year later Ichazo was introduced to the writing of both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, “In 1949, I started reading the work of Ouspensky, and in 1950 in Buenos Aires, I was invited to a closed study group of Theosophists, esoteric Rosicrucians, and Martinists, where I participated in long discussions about the work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Here is where I first pointed out to this group that all the ideas proposed by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky could be traced to certain forms of Gnosticism and to specific doctrines of the Stoics, the Epicurians, and the Manichaeans.”6 

Ichazo wrote that he learned about the Enneagram from Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way from Ouspensky, “I came into contact with the ‘ideas’ of Mr. Gurdjieff in the early 1950’s and I first became acquainted with his ‘ideas’ in Ouspensky’s book, In Search of the Miraculous.7 Although Ichazo admitted that Ouspensky was scholarly, he also believed that the ideas in the book where nothing new and disparaged much of what Ouspensky taught,8“but we see him [Ouspensky] presenting very old ideas so terribly well known as if he was producing a new gospel full of wonderful new, and he acknowledges this fact by saying, ‘I realized that I had met with a completely new system of thought surpassing all that I knew before.’ For myself I saw it as rather comical and I said so to my friends who were engulfed in this thing of The Fourth Way.”9

As a result of his out of body and near death experiences Ichazo sought to determine what exactly happens while in these states, “I began a serious research into Eastern tantra and the Holy Kabbalah. In 1945, it was at the culmination of my tantric work with the Lalita-Sahasranaman Tantra when, by controlling the ascent of the kundalini, I could transform the experience into a vehicle for entering from the awakened state directly into the Light, known as the Kulanidhi in the tantric Kaula Tradition, or the pure Sambhogakaya state (body of enjoyment) of the Buddhist Mahayana tradition, or the ‘Third Heaven’ of the Gnostics, which is the outcome of the success of the tantra.”10

He would also travel to Tibet and India to study higher yoga, alchemy, I Ching, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Zen, and Sufism. Ichazo claimed to have received insight and instruction from Metatron the prince of the archangels and students whom Ichazo trained at his Arica Institute were guided by their own spirit guide, the Green Qu ’Tab, once they reach a higher state of development.11 Ichazo also says that he knew he should teach after waking from what he called “a divine coma” which he was in for seven days12 and that he was “entrusted by an Eastern esoteric school with the task of bringing a special new accelerated method of spiritual work to the West.”13 And finally Ichazo says the Enneagram came to him as a vision and is his alone—it is to this specific claim as well as the many later contradictions we will return shortly. 

Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean psychiatrist, was born in 1932 in Valparaiso, Chile. Like Ichazo, Naranjo was also introduced to Ouspensky and the Enneagram while still in his teen years. It was the death of his son in 1970 which led Naranjo back to Chile, to the Arica Institute, and ultimately to become a student of Ichazo. Much like Ichazo before him, Naranjo muddied the water as to the origin of the Enneagram, first saying that it was Oscar Ichazo whom introduced Naranjo to the Enneagram during a series of lectures in 1969 14; while later he seemed to suggest Ichazo cared very little for the Enneagram, “He [Ichazo] didn’t talk about the enneagrams of personality more than two hours during our year with him.”15 He suggests, “if we give [Ichazo] credit as the ‘seed’ of the enneagram movement, I should rather compare myself to the gardener who has watered the plant,”16 and posits that it was he who put into words what Ichazo had the barest understanding and description of.17

This back and forth regarding the claims of origin, supernatural inspiration, and to whom credit was due only grows worse. Because of this, as stated above, it only makes sense that we continue to look at these two men together as they were the first, but not the last, to reinvent Gurdjieff’s Enneagram into . . . well, we’ll see.

Early in 1971 Ichazo began teaching to a group of fifty-five students in Arica, Chile. The hope was to help them reach their human potential by using a variety of spiritual practices based on mystical traditions and meditative exercises, as well as the series of lectures he would give.18 19 It was to Ichazo whom most attribute the identifying of the nine personality categories and the assigning of them to their corresponding points on the Enneagram, though he also introduced several other Enneagrams, one hundred and eight in total, the only difference being the terms which surrounded the Enneagram but not the figure itself.20 Ichazo claims direct revelation of these one hundred and eight Enneagram types, “I didn’t receive the enneagons from anybody. . . They came to me, 108 in all, as in a vision, showing their internal relationships with complete clarity, in 1954 in Santiago, Chile. Since then, they have never required any correction or change. . . I never considered [them] my invention, but a discovery as scientific discoveries are, with exactly the same qualifications of being verifiable and objective. . . [They] reflect something real in human nature itself. We feel that the categories have been discovered rather than invented.”21 

Interestingly, in a letter from Ichazo to the Transpersonal Community he wrote something quite different, “They came to me, 108 in all, as in a vision, showing their internal relations with complete clarity, in 1954 in Santiago, Chile. Not only am I the holder of the beginning of this tradition, but also, as can be absolutely and concretely proven, the 108 enneagons and the entire system in all its terms have been developed by me, only and exclusively, and I am more than ready to contest it publicly.”22

Naranjo corroborates the statements of Ichazo about how he received them23 and added that the Green Qu ‘Tub was the interior master of all the Arica students24 and that the students can expect to hear from other higher entities as well, “[H]e [students] may receive instructions from the higher entities such as Metatron, the prince of the archangels, who has given instructions to Ichazo.”25 Naranjo says that is was his own reading of Ouspensky and the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff which led him to Ichazo, “[M]y main interest in learning form Oscar Ichazo was a conviction that he was a link to the Sarmouni—the school behind Gurdjieff.”26

Ichazo and Naranjo went their separate ways; the popular theory, though denied by Ichazo, was that Naranjo wanted to publicize the teaching while Ichazo wanted to “keep it the secret lore of the Arica School.”27 Naranjo ended up in San Francisco where he taught the Enneagram of Personality then he moved to Berkeley, CA and in 1971 he established the Seekers After Truth Institute or SAT. Here he taught: the Enneagram of Personality, Buddhist meditation and Zen practices, mindfulness, Vipassana meditation; and he used these in conjunction with psychotherapy. 

It is from this point where things begin to get even more interesting in regards to the ownership of the Enneagram and the origin of who got what inspiration from whom. The Gurdjieff Institute claims the Ichazo got the Enneagram from Gurdjieff without acknowledgement, “The Bolivian founder of Arica expounds his system, a popular psychological training which draws—usually without acknowledgment—on several of the Gurdjieff ideas, especially the symbol of the enneagram (called here the ‘enneagon’),“28 a reasonable claim and accusation considering Ichazo admitted inspiration from the Sufis and Gurdjieff.29 Ichazo initially denies this accusation of theft30 but adds the knowledge he contributed to Arica came from many sources.31  This claim of ‘many sources’ though is at odds with his comments about the mixing of traditions, “You cannot make a cocktail of traditions,”32 and contrary to what we read in Ichazo’s Letter to the Transpersonal Community, where he claims his method is completely new and he is the “root of a new tradition”.33He goes even further claiming that the system he developed and taught at Arica is not, “from some obscure Sufi sect or from anyone else.”34 Supporting this claim is Naranjo who says Ichazo believed that the enneagram came to him by direct inspiration.35 Again these are direct contradictions of Ichazo’s earlier claims that he was influenced by Gurdjieff and the Sufis and seems to be an attempt to circumvent the accusation of theft by the Gurdjieff Institute. We will see this theme of contradictions more and more as we go along.

Naranjo noted certain similarities regarding the claims of how the Enneagram was discovered saying both Gurdjieff and Ichazo point to the Sarmouni school (School of Bees) and the Sufi teachings, but then a specific difference: that the enneagram itself was passed by the Sufis to Ichazo36 rather than by Gurdjieff to Ichazo.37 This contradicts with what Naranjo said in an interview about Ichazo where Naranjo stated that Ichazo denied the Sufi knew anything about the Enneagram, “In a recent interview, he said that he never met a single Sufi who knew about the Enneagram.”38 Ichazo corroborates this here, “I know Sufism extensively—I’ve practiced traditional zhikr, prayer, meditation— and I know realized Sufi sheiks. It is not part of their theoretical framework. They couldn’t care less about the Enneagon,”39 but this statement refutes his earlier claim of Sufi influence.

Next we see Naranjo making some rather interesting claims himself about what he learned and from whom. According to Naranjo he learned the Enneagram of personality in 1969 from Ichazo while attending a series of lectures sponsored by the Chilean Psychological Association40 a claim he later denied saying that the reason he did this was based on his desire to draw more individuals to the Enneagram and so he cited Ichazo as his source due to greater name recognition. Naranjo stated that the psychological types of the Enneagram came to him by a process known as ‘automatic writing’ or ‘psychography’.41 Elsewhere he seems to credit Ichazo and his training at Arica, “To this awakening of a ‘clinical eye’ I owe everything that I was able to learn about personality types and personality in general from then on, and for the intellectual experience of an increasing coalescence of what information on the subject I acquired.”42 

Naranjo sites his ‘automatic’ writing while Ichazo has said that a person “may receive instructions from the higher entities such as Metatron, the prince of the archangels, who has given instructions to Ichazo.”43 It was the contradictory claims of origin between the two and specifically the supernatural claims of inspiration made by both men which would later become a problem regarding ownership for Ichazo, Naranjo, and Arica.

This debate of origin would only grow worse as students, both at Ichazo’s Arica and Naranjo’s SAT group, who had signed non-disclosure agreements began to ignore these and started to teach and write about what they had been taught. In an attempt to stem the tide Naranjo went so far as to say that if these techniques were used or published outside of his training they would lessen in effect, though Naranjo did not make those attending his public meeting sign a nondisclosure.  Naranjo’s teaching of the Enneagram led Arica to consider legal action against Naranjo but the fact the Naranjo told Ichazo that he credited Ichazo as the originator of the material the lawsuit never transpired.

The most well-known violator of this policy was Helen Palmer and litigation stemming from the claim of copyright infringement was eventually brought by Arica. Some of the other notables whom were taught by Naranjo were: Kathy Speeth, Robert Ochs, A. H. Almaas, and Reza Landman. Ochs is said to have taken the notes from these classes to Loyola University where he taught Jerome Wagner, Paul Robb, and Patrick O’Leary. The Enneagram: A Journey to Self-Discovery written by Beesing, Nogosek, and O’Leary was published in 1984 and was the first book of its kind to feature the nine-pointed star enneagram symbol. Other books quickly followed: Personality Types by Riso, The Enneagram by Helen Palmer; in response Naranjo published Ennea-Type Structures in 1990.

Much like what happened with Ichazo and Naranjo, attributions of conflicting origins were made by the various authors. Riso claimed a contemporary originship of Ichazo and Naranjo and not an ancient one as was claimed by Gurdjieff44 only to later change his position45; Speeth and Palmer claimed an ancient origin which was developed by Gurdjieff46 and the Sufis.47 Though Palmer does agree with Ichazo’s claim that he developed a “new tradition” apart from the context Sufi, Christian, and Gurdjieff into “an eclectic new age spiritual growth context.”48 No one can seem to agree if it is new or ancient, or new but ancient, or ancient but new.

Because of the violation of the non-disclosure agreement as mentioned above, Arica would bring a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement; and in an ironic and amusing turn of events the very people whom broke the non-disclosure agreement they signed with Arica later made their students also sign non-disclosure agreements which they summarily ignored and broke. The books which quickly followed began to remove Arica, Ichazo, and Naranjo as originators of the Enneagram while some sought to ‘Christianize’ it.


  • Sister Diane Myer in her book, Using the Enneagram: Paths to Self-Knowledge, wrote, “though the Enneagram in its ‘native form’ does not have Christian roots, I have found it a very easy process to baptize’ the Enneagram”, she mentions neither Arica nor Ichazo anywhere.
  • Wagner says that he only found fragmentary information regarding the Enneagram diagrams in the various Arica publications.49
  • Patrick H. O’Leary, Maria Beesing, and Robert Nogosek in The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery state the Enneagram was oral tradition until the 20th century but only credited Ichazo as the person who brought the Enneagram to public attention in Chile and the USA. They also discussed the ‘fixations’ in their book without crediting Ichazo.


Possibly in preparation for the coming lawsuit Ichazo began to deny Arica’s systems and teachings were derived from Sufism and Gurdjieff instead claiming he was “the only source of the Arica theory and method”50 and he called the claims that the teaching at Arica school had Catholic roots were “misguided”.51 As part of the court settlement Patrick O’Leary, Robert Nogosek, Barbara Metz, Maria Beesing, and John Burchill agreed in writing that Ichazo was the sole originator of the theory of the ego fixations and the system of the enneagons. Ichazo believed the growing authorship of books about the Enneagram was due in part to Arica haphazard publication of his works as a series of handbooks and handouts which made the diagrams and teachings seems like, “an old skeletal structure which demands a great deal of polishing and exploring in proper Western terms.”52 

Elliott Dunderdale, director of Arica during the time of the court case provides an interesting observation and insight; his view was that if authors were allowed to define and teach the Enneagram however they see fit that this may allow readers to misdiagnose and may “cause irreparable harm, obstruction, and retardation of the process and path toward self-realization.”

The Buffalo Law Review also makes a keen observation saying that, “Ironically, the demise of the ‘oral tradition’ argument encouraged other enneagram authors to assert intellectual property claims for their own creative efforts in this area.”53 In short, this lends the Enneagram to become anything which a particular author claims it to be; it is no longer, nor needs to be, tied to its origin or to its original claims. We can use Don Riso’s book, Understanding the Enneagram, and his website as an example. In his book he writes that the contents, “are the result of the original work of the authors, and no body of Enneagram material has been passed down in a preexisting ‘oral tradition’ in the public domain,”54 Riso then claims a distinction between the traditional Enneagram which can only go back to the 1960’s and a more ancient Enneagram dating back to the Sufi’s.55 Riso writes on his website, “Propagating this vague, romantic view of the enneagram’s Sufi lineage has been harmful to those of us engaged in doing original work with it, who are seen as merely transmitting an existing body of knowledge that is in the public domain.”56 What Riso is getting at here is that the Enneagram no longer needs to be tied to the oft claimed teaching that it was the Sufi’s who handed down the ‘ancient oral tradition’ of the Enneagram to Gurdjieff and Ichazo, nor does anyone need now claim it to be ancient. The Enneagram, by being stripped of its ‘ancient oral tradition’, is therefore what Riso (or anyone else for that matter) now teaches the Enneagram to be—it is whatever he says it is and means whatever he says it means as we will see. The Enneagram of personality becomes a wild-west show.  

Anyone can now claim ‘original work’ as Riso does here, “The problem is that those who are doing original work are seen as merely transmitting an existing body of knowledge that is in the public domain, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example. Many teachers and writers felt that they could therefore help themselves to the work of others with impunity.”57 Riso here claims originality while failing to admit he himself has stolen the Enneagram. He says later that the major teacher of the Enneagram now state, “the personality types as we now know them do not exist in an ancient ‘oral tradition.’”58 This doesn’t appear to be the case though and evidence suggests that a too fine a line was being drawn and that this line between ancient oral tradition and ancient tradition has in fact become blurred—it seems many want to have their cake and eat it too.


  • The Center for Action and Contemplation (Richard Rohr): This blog post provides a brief introduction to this ancient personality tool and a compilation of different resources created by Father Richard Rohr, the Center for Action and Contemplation, and others.59 
  • The Enneagram Institute (Don Riso): The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions. For these and other reasons, many early Enneagram enthusiasts have mistakenly attributed the system of the nine types to Gurdjieff or to the Sufis because of Gurdjieff’s use of some Sufi techniques. This has led to the widespread and erroneous belief that the Enneagram system has been handed down from the Sufis or from some other ancient school as an ongoing “oral tradition.” While it is true that Ichazo drew on his knowledge of a number of such traditions, the actual combination of those traditions connected with the Enneagram symbol is purely his creation. Thus, the “Traditional Enneagram” only goes back to the 1960’s when Ichazo was first teaching it, although the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists)—all traditions that stretch back into antiquity.60
  • Helen Palmer (bestselling author of numerous Enneagram books): Recorded during one of Helen’s Palmer’s rare live teachings in Boulder this past spring, this 9-hour workshop helps to awaken the ancient wisdom of the Narrative Enneagram in your own life while enriching it with the unique insights and perspectives revealed by the Integral approach.61
  • Ian Morgan Cron (Bestselling author of Enneagram—The Road Back to You): Ian is also a student and teacher of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that identifies nine types of people and how they relate to one another and the word.62
  • Suzanne Stabile (Bestselling author of Enneagram—The Road Back to You and The Path Between Us): The Enneagram has been an oral tradition for centuries.63 The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system.64 
  • Russ Hudson and Don Riso (from The Wisdom of the Enneagram): It is true that the Enneagram symbol is ancient, dating back some 2,500 years or more. Likewise, the roots of the ideas that eventually led to the development of the psychology of the nine types go back at least as far as the fourth century A.D. and perhaps further.65 


Riso goes on to claim that, “Indeed, most of what we now know as the Enneagram personality types is the result of thousands of hours of work by individual authors using a wide variety of methods to gather and develop their material. For better or worse, there have been no Sheiks ringing our doorbells to deliver manuscripts from Afghanistan. Until there is a direct, proven source to guide us, we must look to ourselves to discover what the Enneagram reveals about human nature. While we must be respectful of such ‘traditional teachings’ as there are from Ichazo and Naranjo, even these are not ‘written in stone,’ as it were. Many of their ideas were simply early formulations as they groped their way into the creation of the modern Enneagram.”66 Here he fails to credit Gurdjieff and his Law of Seven and Law of Three, Ouspensky and his Fourth Way, and diminishes both Ichazo and Naranjo from whom much work was stolen.

Finally we come to it: Riso admits the Enneagram is whatever one wishes to make of it, “Moreover, we can see that no single teaching method is more authentic or more historically sanctioned than any other. While the panels are useful as a way of introducing people to the system and giving beginners some concrete impressions of the types, they also have major shortcomings and only one or two major teachers even use the panels consistently. In short, it is clear that a variety of approaches to both teaching and learning the Enneagram is best. Russ Hudson and I are continually attempting to develop the Enneagram in new and useful directions and to present our findings in the [sic] clear and accessible books. Rather than look to the past, we continue to look to the future to see what clarity we can bring to Ichazo’s and Naranjo’s early ideas, as well as to the new ideas and practical applications we have developed ourselves.”67

Helen Palmer attributes Naranjo as the one who truly understood the Enneagram though she also learned of the Enneagram from Gurdjieff, “I only saw the nine types worked once. It was rather clumsy. . . Claudio was the Rosetta Stone. He brought it into a contemporary venue.”68 She recognized the similarities between Gurdjieff and Ichazo: the seven deadly sins, ego and essence, and the three centers; but more interesting was that she, by these similarities, seemed to intuit that Ichazo copied from Gurdjieff, “The reason I was so excited about hearing about the Arica training was that Ichazo was using basic Gurdjieff concepts. One of those concepts was the elucidation of the basic Enneagram diagrams” and more pointedly here, “I am accused of plagiarizing materials that clearly do come from the Gurdjieff tradition . . . but [are] apparently claimed by Ichazo as original ideas of his own. He doesn’t say he is using the framework of the Gurdjieff material.”69 She published, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life, in 1988 attributing the nine psychological types to, “an immense amount of material that never was developed through either man, but came through my many, many interviews of people with whom I work and from whom I take their stories.”70

It seems that the Enneagram is fated to become a free-for-all of source, meaning, rights, and practice; and although Icahzo and Naranjo may have had differing claims about the authorship and inspiration of the Enneagram which they created, they do agree with this assessment. They both stated in rather terse and in no uncertain terms their concern over what the Enneagram became under its new authorship. Ichazo in the article entitled, Interview with Oscar Ichazo, laments the current state of the Enneagram and he says of the contemporary promoters and authors, “[T]hey have created an unending labyrinth over the descriptions and suppositions of each type with no other foundation, except for the wit of their own opinion. No wonder the contradictions amount, and there is no way they will ever get into any agreement”71 and later in the same interview, “the types that have become popular are ‘mind games,’ with rather no foundation whatsoever.”72 Naranjo’s view is very similar to Ichazo’s, “I see the movement as pervaded by a combination of greed and arrogance and by a great disrespect toward the sources of the knowledge.”73

In an article in favor of the Enneagram from Relevant Magazine entitled, The Rise of the Enneagram, they write, “Ask 100 devotees of the Enneagram what it is and you’ll get 100 answers, most of them bespotted with vague language and words that don’t seem to mean much of anything, and several definitions contradicting one another so violently you wonder if these people are talking about the same thing. It’s a personality test. A path to wholeness. A way to process your trauma. Perhaps that is a strength of the Enneagram. The fact that it can be so many different things to so many different people. But if the Enneagram’s multitudinous uses have helped it become all things to all people, it’s also in danger of trivializing it and diminishing its full potential.”74

We can see now how pedestrian the Enneagram has become and just how rightly placed Ichazo’s and Naranjo’s concerns were:


  • Use the Enneagram to find the best job.75
  • Use the Enneagram to find a spouse.76 77
  • Use the Enneagram in marriage.78
  • Use the Enneagram to find out what type of sports fan you are.79
  • Use the Enneagram to find a book.80
  • Use the Enneagram to create a book character or to improve how your characters interact with one another.81 
  • Use the Enneagram to discover what type your favorite Bible character is and which one of them you are (though note there are no examples of Judas, or Satan, or those types of characters).82
  • Use the Enneagram to discover what type your favorite movie or book character is and which one of them you are.83 


If you have even a rudimentary understanding of how the Enneagram is supposed to work and what is required, you know the last few examples cannot be accurate. Proponents of the Enneagram must answer the concerns raised in this article. How does a fictional character answer the questions? How do we know with any certainty how these characters would necessarily answer the questions in order to get an accurate Enneagram type? What we see happening is that people are randomly attributing answers to and then ascribing a type to a favorite character based on the desire to be like their favorite character—pop-cultural self-aggrandizement at its finest and its worst.

To this end the Enneagram has indeed remained about self although not the way it was envisioned; it is now almost solely a narcissistic view of self rather than the joining of all self or consciousness into a cosmic union. Therefore, no longer are the lines of connection between the numbers important, no longer is the Enneagram a tool by which the mysteries of the cosmos are revealed; even the labels around the Enneagram have no real meaning because you could make up your own.  For instance, why can’t the 6 be the Achiever instead of the Loyalist; why can’t the 9 be the Investigator instead of the Peacemaker? Why have the interconnecting lines running through the Enneagram at all other than they say you need them? Why only 9 personality types or why not use one of Llull’s diagrams to give you more? 

Because of this, I believe the more important question now becomes not, “Who’s Enneagram are you doing?” but instead, “Why not make up your own?”

The tragedy of all this, of course, for fans of the Enneagram, is they have no idea that the so-called Enneagram ‘experts’ are only ‘experts’ because they are making the Enneagram up along as they go, and these new ‘originators’ cannot be called to task because there is no objective measure by which the validity of their claims can be judged. The meanings: the wings, the types, the direction of movement, the lines, and even the numbers are based off of nothing more than someones say-so; you’d be better off asking a loved one—spouse, best friend, or family member—what they see you struggling with. The answers may surprise you, though I doubt it. You see, the reality is that we all already know our strengths and weaknesses, the areas in which we struggle or excel; all it takes is some honesty—the Enneagram is not needed. 

Beth McCord, founder of Your Enneagram coach,  says, “[The Enneagram] is the tool to help bring transformation. The Gospel is the transformation.” [Source] Here she is only half-right; Romans 8:13-14 tells the whole truth, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The Enneagram is not needed.

But by far the gravest danger is the view held by Russ Hudson, co-founder and president of The Enneagram Institute and co-author of several bestselling enneagram books with Don Riso, “The Enneagram is less about nine types of people and more about nine paths to God.” 84 This is anathema to what the Bible states: that there is only one way to God and that way being Jesus. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”; we read in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”; and then Jesus in John 14:6 says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 

If no other evidences (either in this article or the preceding ones) has convinced you to avoid the Enneagram, then the claim of “paths to God,” in and of itself, should be conclusive proof that the Enneagram is indeed another gospel—based on the doctrine of men who seek to teach there is another path to God. There is nothing—there is no thing—which can redeem the Enneagram or by which Christians can be told they can reclaim it. Instead, and quite bluntly, the Bible instructs us about what to do with such things and the teachers who teach them:

Romans 16:17-18, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” 

Notice in the above verse that it is not the person pointing out the false teacher who is causing the dissension but rather the person teaching the false doctrine.

1 Timothy 1:6-7, “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

Richard Rohr writes in, The Enneagram as a Tool for Transformation, his daily blog on Sunday, May 25, 2014:

“The Enneagram is used for the discernment of spirits, to help us recognize our False Self, and to lead us to encounter our True Self in God. The Enneagram was originally intended to help spiritual directors train and refine the gift of reading energies, or ‘the reading of souls,’ and support the transforming of people into who they are in God” 

“We overcome our evil not by a frontal and heroic attack, but by recognizing it, naming it, and letting it go. The Enneagram works by insight. Once we see our False Self for what it is, we are no longer attached to it, and it no longer blocks us from realizing our inherent union with God.”

“The whole Enneagram diagram is called ‘the face of God.’ If you could look out at reality from nine pairs of eyes and honor all of them, you would look at reality through the eyes of God—eyes filled with compassion for yourself and everyone else!”

In Rohr’s book, The Enneagram, he writes, 

“It [the Enneagram] is concerned with change and making a turnaround, with what the religious traditions call conversion or repentance.”

On another day he writes, The Purpose of the Enneagram Monday, May 26, 2014

“The primary goal of any spiritual tool is union with God/Truth, and then we get united with ourselves in the process! . . . The Enneagram, like the Spirit of Truth itself, will always set us free.”

Biblically none of these claims add up. Sanctification is the process by which God through our obedience to Him daily makes us holy; the Enneagram seeks to make us holy through the process of self-discovery, self-help, and self-reliance; in other words, the Enneagram, not God, decides what to change or not to. Justification, in the Bible,  is the cleansing us of our unrighteousness by faith, acceptance, and trust in Jesus, in short: salvation; however, the Enneagram proponents teach justification by no particular means, that is to say, if we think back to what Hudson claimed about the “nine paths to God”, that there is no one pathway to justification.

Galatians 1:6-9, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

The word accursed, mentioned twice in this passage,  means anathema and carries with it the idea of something or someone devoted to or offered to God but without the hope of being redeemed, someone or something which is doomed to destruction and is abominable. These verses are not directed only at leaders, teachers, writers, promoters, or pastors. No, these verses are directed at anyone who preaches a different gospel. If you are promoting the Enneagram then these verses are directed at you.

In case you missed the previous articles they are listed below in the suggested order:


  1. The Appeal To Intent: An Antidote This article asks what role affinity plays in the desire to teach something as having value when the evidence shows otherwise.
  2. The Enneagram – A History (Part One) This article looks at the supposed ancient history of the Enneagram and how the Enneagram got its lines and numbers.
  3. The Enneagram – A History (Part Two) This article looks at the background and teachings of Gurdieff, and also the Law of Three and the Law of Seven.
  4. Current Article
  5. The Enneagram: The Appeal To Moral Neutrality This article disputes the idea that the Enneagram is a morally neutral tool that can be used for good or ill.


  1. A.H. Almaas, “A Brief History of the Enneagram,” in Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas (Berkeley, CA: Diamond Books, 1998), p. 3
  2. (William Patrick Patterson, Struggle of the Magicians (Fairfax, CA: Arete Communications, 1996)
  3. C. S. Nott, Journeys Through This World (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1978), 90.
  4. William Patrick Patterson, Struggle of the Magicians (Fairfax, CA: Arete Communications, 1996), 194
  5. Marie Seton, “The Case of P. D. Ouspensky,”
  6. Setting The Record Straight by Jack Labanauskas and Andrea Isaacs
  7. “Letter to the Transpersonal Community” by Oscar Ichazo
  8. “Letter to the Transpersonal Community” by Oscar Ichazo
  9. “Letter to the Transpersonal Community” by Oscar Ichazo
  10. “Letter to the Transpersonal Community” by Oscar Ichazo
  11. John C. Lilly and Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Tart (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 341.
  12. Sam Keen, “A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ichazo,” Psychology Today (July 1973), pp. 64, 67.
  13. John C. Lilly, Cultural Implications Of The Chile Experience (Big Sur Recordings 1971) (Tape 4390)
  14. Claudio Naranjo, “Acknowledgement,” to Ennea-Type Structures: Self-Analysis for the Seeker (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB, Inc., 1990), p. viii.
  15. Claudio Naranjo, “A Report to the ‘First International Enneagram Conference,’” Enneagram Monthly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1996), p. 16.
  16. OM C. Parkin & Boris Fittkau, The Distorted Enneagram:The Gnosis Interview with Claudio Naranjo, GNOSIS (Fall 1996) at 20, 21
  17. Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (1988)
  18. Arica Inst., 761 F.
  19. Oscar Ichazo, Interviews With Oscar Ichazo 175 (John Bleibtrau ed., 1982)
  20. Arica Inst., Inc. v. Palmer, 970 F.2d 1067, 1070 (2d Cir. 1992).
  21. Ichazo, Letters to the School
  22. Oscar Ichazo, “Letter to the Transpersonal Community,” The Arican: International Journal of Arica Institute, No. 5 (Autum 1991), p. 106.
  23. OM C. Parkin and Boris Fittkau, “The Distorted Enneagram: The Gnosis Interview with Claudio Naranjo,” Gnosis, No. 41 (Fall 1996), p. 22.
  24. John C. Lilly and Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Tart (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 341
  25. John C. Lilly and Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Tart (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 341
  26. OM C. Parkin and Boris Fittkau, “The Distorted Enneagram: The Gnosis Interview with Claudio Naranjo,” Gnosis, No. 41 (Fall 1996), p. 22.
  27. Ichazo, Transpersonal
  28. J. Walter Driscoll, Gurdjieff: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1985), p. 89.
  29. Interviews With Oscar Ichazo (John Bleibtrau ed., 1982)
  30. Oscar Ichazo, “Letter to the Transpersonal Community,” The Arican: International Journal of Arica Institute, No. 5 (Autum 1991), p. 93.
  31. Sam Keen, “A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ic- hazo,” Psychology Today (July 1973), p. 64.
  32. John Bleibtreu (ed.), Interviews with Oscar Ichazo (New York: Arica Institute Press, 1982), p. 176
  33. Oscar Ichazo, “Letter to the Transpersonal Community,” The Arican: International Journal of Arica Institute, No. 5 (Autumn 1991), p. 104
  34. Letter to the Transpersonal Community, Arican, Teachings Of The Great Telesmatta, 1991,
  35. OM C. Parkin and Boris Fittkau, “The Distorted Enneagram: The Gno- sis Interview with Claudio Naranjo,” Gnosis, No. 41 (Fall 1996), p. 22.
  36. Claudio Naranjo, “A Report to the ‘First International Enneagram Conference,’” Enneagram Monthly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1996), p. 16.
  37. Claudio Naranjo, “A Report to the ‘First International Enneagram Conference,’” Enneagram Monthly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1996), p. 16.
  38. OM C. Parkin and Boris Fittkau, “The Distorted Enneagram: The Gnosis Interview with Claudio Naranjo,” Gnosis, No. 41 (Fall 1996), p. 22.
  39. Sam Keen, “A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ichazo,” Psychology Today (July 1973), p. 24.
  40. Claudio Naranjo, “Acknowledgement,” to Ennea-Type Structures: Self-Analysis for the Seeker (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB, Inc., 1990), p. viii.
  41. “The Origin of the Enneagram: Claudio Naranjo Speaks,”
  42. Claudio Naranjo, “Forward,” to Character and Neurosis: An Integrative View (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/ISHHB, Inc., 2003), p. xxx
  43. John C. Lilly & Joseph E. Hart, The Arica Training, in Transpersonal Psychologies 329, 332 (Charles T. Tart ed., 1975)
  44. Don Richard Riso, “Romancing the Enneagram,”
  45. Don Richard Riso, “Enneagram Interpretations and Contributions,” Discovering Your Personality Type: The Enneagram Questionnaire (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), p. 117.
  46. Kathleen Riordan Speeth, “Who Was Gurdjieff?” in The Gurdjieff Work (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1989), p. 9
  47. Helen Palmer, “Background of the System and an Introduction to Type,” in The Enneagram (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p.
  48. Helen Palmer, quoted in Oscar Ichazo, “Letter to the Transpersonal Community,” The Arican: International Journal of Arica Institute, No. 5 (Autumn 1991), p. 111.
  49. Jerome P. Wagner, A Descriptive, Reliability, and Validity Study of the Enneagram Personality Typology 2 (1980)
  50. Oscar Ichazo, Letter to the Transpersonal Community, Arican, Teachings Of The Great Telesmatta, 1991
  51. Oscar Ichazo Interview with Professor Effross, (2003)
  52. Owning Enlightenment
  53. Ibid
  54. Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson, Understanding The Enneagram
  55. Ibid
  56. Don Richard Riso, Romancing the Enneagram, at;
  57. Ibid
  58. Ibid
  66. Don [Richard] Riso, Romancing the Enneagram, at
  68. Richard Smoley, Why the Enneagram?An Interview With Helen Palmer,GNOSIS, Summer 1994
  69. Palmer Testimony
  70. Ibid
  71. Oscar Ichazo, quoted in Andrea Isaacs and Jack Labanauskas, “Interview with Oscar Ichazo,” Enneagram Monthly, Vol. 2, No. 11 (November 1996), p. 18.
  72. Oscar Ichazo, quoted in Andrea Isaacs and Jack Labanauskas, “Interview with Oscar Ichazo,” Enneagram Monthly, Vol. 2, No. 11 (November 1996), p. 18. See also Oscar Ichazo, Letters to the School (New York: Arica Institute Press, 1988).
  73. OM C. Parkin and Boris Fittkau, “The Distorted Enneagram: The Gnosis Interview with Claudio Naranjo,” Gnosis, No. 41 (Fall 1996), p. 23
  84. Ibid

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