The Enneagram and Richard Rohr

by | Oct 24, 2019 | Article | 0 comments

“In the most popular of all typologies—the astrological—we have seriously to ask whether its presupposition, that there is a correspondence between the courses of the stars and the patterns of human destiny, is at all tenable. . . All typologies have the disadvantage of necessarily neglecting the uniqueness, originality, and peculiar nature of the individual. There is no overlooking the danger of forcing oneself and others, for example, into the pigeonhole of a specific ‘sign’ and in that way freezing the individual in place once and for all.” – Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

“As I did before, today I wish that this book may have readers ready to dare to take the exciting and laborious path to self-knowledge and conversion. As I did before, I see a danger of a typological model like the Enneagram being misused to thoughtlessly force oneself and others into a schematic mold, and thereby not grow, but become fossilized.”  – Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

“I believe that the Enneagram can help us to find a deeper and more authentic relationship with God—even though it was not discovered by Christians.”  – Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

he Enneagram: A Christian Perspective written by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert dedicates a considerable amount of time and effort to proving the Enneagram has Christian roots. Our own History of the Enneagram and the conclusions we reach can be found at the bottom of this article. Richard Rohr is widely recognized as the man who single-handedly brought the Enneagram to the western church—first to the Catholics and then to the Protestants—and also as the singular force who helped its meteoric rise in popularity; we wanted to give him, using his own words, the opportunity to make the case for where he claims the Enneagram came from. We will also look at some of the claims made within the pages about how the Enneagram is used. 

The reason we will use this book in particular is because it aims to validate to the Christian the oft-claimed ‘Christian’ history of the Enneagram and also the biblical or historical Christian evidences for using it—that the Enneagram is different from astrology, numerology, or any other questionable practice of throwing darts at the wall to gain insight into ourselves and different in demonstrable ways. In our effort to use the most current information we will be citing from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective which was originally edited, expanded, and revised in 2001 by Crossroad Publishing Company and was reprinted in 2016.

A brief aside before continuing: because this is a continuation of the series on the history of the Enneagram, we won’t spend time going over Rohr’s views on other Christian issues like the atonement, who Jesus is/was, penal substitution, and the historicity of the Bible unless pertinent to the context; this information will also be provided and labeled in the links at the bottom. One last item, all quotes are from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective unless otherwise footnoted.

The preface of the book was written by the co-author Andreas Ebert who claims that the Enneagram does not derive from Sufi sources but rather has Christian roots; he writes, “Since the first edition we have become convinced that the Enneagram does not derive from medieval Islamic (Sufi) sources, but can be traced back, at least in part, to the Christian desert monk Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399) and the Franciscan Blessed Ramón Llull (1236–1315).” Because of these claims, we must necessarily take some time to compare Rohr and Ebert’s claims of origin; however, we will not go into great depth as these are both claims and individuals we have already covered in our Enneagram series (links below). Our interest rather is to determine whether these are indeed Christian sources, to confirm whether or not these are actually the origins of the Enneagram as Rohr and Ebert claim, and to see if they reach different conclusions of history than we did.

Almost immediately Ebert contradicts his claim of Christian origin, 

“The Enneagram arises out of a perspective of human psychic strivings, whose roots go back at least as far as the early monasticism of the Desert Fathers, perhaps even back to pre-Christian times (Pythagoras). Later, it was presumably passed on orally through the Islamic wisdom tradition of Sufism. Thus, although it seems to be genuinely Christian, it draws from preChristian sources and has had an influence on non-Christian mystical traditions. These mystical currents of the major religions come astonishingly close to one another in view of both the religious experiences that they transmit and the worldview that they formulate.” He then admits without equivocation, “I believe that the Enneagram can help us to find a deeper and more authentic relationship with God—even though it was not discovered by Christians.”

We should be able to stop right there, after all, one of the main advocates and teachers of the Enneagram in his book to Christians has included a statement from his co-author that the Enneagram is not Christian in origin.  But we will allow that statement to stand as evidence that only Ebert admits that this is his view and continue on to Rohr to see what he believes about the origin of the Enneagram. 

Rohr states, contradicting Ebert, that “Andreas Ebert and I again offer the Enneagram as a very ancient Christian tool for the discernment of spirits, the struggle with our capital sin, our ‘false self,’ and the encounter with our True Self in God.” But what makes it a ‘Christian’ tool if it was not discovered by Christians? As a possible answer for this Rohr goes on to say later, “the Enneagram was probably used for centuries to help spiritual directors train and refine the gift of ‘the reading of souls’ and the transforming of people into who they are in God.” The Enneagram, according to Rohr, transforms people into who they are in God; but what does the Bible say?

1 Cor 1:30-31, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”


Eph 4:17-24, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Col 1:21-23, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Titus 3:3-7, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Rohr’s view is at odds with these verses and seeks to include God ‘at some point’ after being situated correctly in the correct universe. He writes, “Only those who are situated correctly in the correct universe can read the situation with freedom and grandeur. Text plus full context equals genius. Only the true believer can trust that larger context, even to the point of including God. Then the believer is at a cosmic level of peacefulness: reality is good, the world is coherent, it is all going somewhere.”

“The Enneagram is not mathematics,” Rohr writes. Here one might claim he is either deliberately deceptive or massively ignorant; but a third possibility exists, one which is much more likely. As we discussed in the Ichazo and Naranjo article, the Enneagram can be taught to be whatever one wishes it to be; so Rohr can assert this claim while at the same time completely ignoring the fact that without math—without the repeating sequence of 1,4,2,8,5,7 and without the Law of Three and Seven—there is no Enneagram: no symbol, no lines of connection, no numbering scheme, and most devastating of all no nine sides and so no ‘Ennea’ (nine). 

In his very next statement, Rohr makes it clear that he has done exactly what all the contemporary promoters have done—he makes up his own version, “The Enneagram, I would like to suggest, is a parabolic form of teaching. It subverts our unconscious and truly ‘mythical’ worldview so that God can get in. That was the precise function of most of Jesus’ parables.” It is via the Enneagram, according to Rohr, through which conversion takes place and it is the ‘transfigured universe’ which is ‘the Truth’ not Jesus; he writes, “I am personally convinced that this transfigured universe is the only thing that Jesus means by ‘the Truth.’ This is the only Truth big enough to ‘set you free,’ which any little doctrinal or moral certitudes about anything cannot do.” 

Rohr makes another important claim which we must address before moving along to his history of the Enneagram; he says, “I again offer the Enneagram as another of the endlessly brandished swords of the Holy Spirit. The Enneagram, like the Spirit of truth itself, will always set you free, but first it will make you miserable!” A couple of things here: first is the notion that the Enneagram is one of the swords of the Holy Spirit; now there is, of course, the Armor of God and one part of that is the sword of the Spirit. But what is the sword? Hebrews 4:12 provides the answer, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Unless Rohr is saying that the Enneagram equates to the Word of God then it is not and cannot be “another of the endlessly brandished swords of the Holy Spirit.” The second concern would be Rohr’s belief that the Enneagram will set you free, the Bible states over and over again that only one person, Jesus, can set us free.

Rohr begins his own history of the Enneagram comparing it to other typology tools: astrology, temperaments, bodily fluids, fears, and personality; he states “The Enneagram is a very old typology that describes nine different characters. It shares with many other typologies the crude reduction of human behavior to a limited number of character types.” He then calls out Astrology in particular, “None of them is all-inclusive. None of them is the thing itself. In the most popular of all typologies—the astrological—we have seriously to ask whether its presupposition, that there is a correspondence between the courses of the stars and the patterns of human destiny, is at all tenable.” Rohr’s comparison and claim is something we ask you to keep in mind as we continue. Rohr continues, “All typologies have the disadvantage of necessarily neglecting the uniqueness, originality, and peculiar nature of the individual. There is no overlooking the danger of forcing oneself and others, for example, into the pigeonhole of a specific ‘sign’ and in that way freezing the individual in place once and for all. The discovery of regular patterns in human behavior has meaning only when at the same time the possibility of change and liberation from the pressure of determinacy comes into view. This possibility, I believe, is opened up by the Enneagram.”

Rohr begins his history by defining what the word means and laying out a description, “The Enneagram, from the Greek words ennea (=nine) and gramma (=sign or figure), is represented as a circle. On the circumference of the circle, there are nine points, each one forty degrees distant from the other, numbered clockwise from One to Nine, with Nine at twelve o’clock. Points Three, Six, and Nine are connected by a triangle; points Two, Four, One, Seven, Five, Eight (and Two) by an irregular six-pointed star. Each one of the Enneagram numbers refers to a certain state of energy; the transitions between the conditions are fluid. The connecting lines point to the dynamics between specific points of energy.” This was pointed out earlier but it bears repeating here, Rohr states the Enneagram is not mathematics yet this cannot be the case because without math there are no numbers, no lines, and no name.

We agree with Rohr’s statement that, “There were no known written sources from which one might have shown that it really was an ‘ancient wisdom teaching,’ as most of the Enneagram’s adherents claimed,” and here as well, “that the Enneagram was first presented in the West by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff in 1916—and then as a comprehensive symbol of the harmonic structure and inner dynamism of the cosmos, not as a typology of character.” We also agree with Rohr that Oscar Ichazo developed (at least in part) the Enneagram fixations and that Ichazo claims Sufi influence; however Rohr’s statement that Ichazo had “visions of angels” is a claim which not only is not supported by the evidence but one that is a direct contradiction of Naranjo’s testimony regarding Ichazo who stated he received instruction from Metatron and the Green Qu ‘Tub. At this point, Rohr and Ebert give the ‘supposed’ history of the Enneagram which we will not cover here precisely because of the conclusions Rohr and Ebert draw: that it is impossible to trace a reasonable path much past the 4th century and Evagrius Ponticus.

Rohr and Ebert then begin with the ‘desert fathers’ and specifically Evagrius Ponticus. They state that Evagrius “developed a list of eight—or even nine, in one passage from the text De vitiis quae opposita sunt virtutibus (On the vices opposed to the virtues)—vices or distracting ‘thoughts’ that impede the way to God and to passionless peace of heart.” The eight vices Evagrius uses are [as they would be on the Enneagram] 1) anger, 2) pride, 3) vanity, 4) envy, 5) avarice, 7) gluttony, 8) lust, and 9) laziness. Missing is 6) fear. To Rohr and Ebert’s credit they admit this is a problem—8 instead of 9—saying, “Even though Evagrius does mention nine vices in one passage, it’s still obvious that he did not systematize the vices as the ‘Enneagram of the fixations’ that Oscar Ichazo developed in the 1970s.” Troubling after this admission is their claim that, “It seems rather that Evagrius understood a prototypical form of the Enneagram symbol in Gurdjieff’s sense as a symbol of the order and dynamism of the cosmos.” They seem to want this to be evidence for the veracity of the Enneagram while admitting just before that it doesn’t quite fit; in fact, just a bit later we find, “In summary, we can say that Evagrius developed a psychology of character based on eight (and in one exceptional case, nine) evil ‘thoughts’ or passions. . . But there is no hint in this that Evagrius himself linked together a teaching on the vices and the cosmic symbol. The Enneagram of the fixations would be a new creation by Oscar Ichazo in the twentieth century. Thus it would be an exaggeration to maintain that the Enneagram as we know it goes back in toto to the Desert Fathers.”

Much like with our own research Rohr and Ebert concluded that the search for origin must move on, and move on to Ramon Llull.

Llull drew many diagrams but his most famous one is known as the “Dignities of God” and he desired to use this diagram as a tool for Christians to reach Jews and Muslims. Llull wanted a tool that would open a dialogue of unity rather than separation between these religions. His figures did have nine points, he did talk about virtue and vice, but they conclude like we did that similarity doesn’t equate with origin. And so they move on to Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo. Rohr and Ebert fairly fly through these men’s history as it relates to the Enneagram and add nothing new to what we have already written about in previous articles. Rohr and Ebert state that, “the form of the Enneagram of fixations that is best known today goes back, as mentioned, to Oscar Ichazo. He claims that he learned the system from Sufi masters in Pamir (Afghanistan) and that he had come across Gurdjieff’s writings even before then . . . The psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, adopted Ichazo’s model and developed it further.” Left out is the fact that Naranjo in an interview stated that he received the Enneatypes of personality which he wrote about via automatic writing and taught these unaware many times via automatic speaking, “Much of what is now in the Enneagram literature came to me by automatic writing. . . But there was that quality even in my speech, as if I didn’t know what would come out of my mouth during a session.”1 [Automatic writing or psychography is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.]2

This bit about “goes back to Ichazo” and his learning it “from the Sufi masters” is important because Rohr and Ebert, along with Susan Stabile, Ian Cron, Don Riso, Russ Hudson, and just about every other Enneagram promoter all make the claim that the Enneagram3 is ancient yet Ichazo says that he received the enneagons in a vision from the archangel Metatron and were discovered not invented,4 but later when faced with a court case over origin looming he claimed, “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.”5 Ichazo also denies Sufi influence when he states that the system he developed and taught is not, “from some obscure Sufi sect or from anyone else.”6

The problem is the inconsistency of the claim of ‘ancient’ unless of course one defines ancient as fifty-or-so years. You see, Rohr and Ebert cannot point to Ichazo while making the statement that the Enneagram is based on some ancient wisdom when Ichazo says that he came up with it. 

But that isn’t the biggest problem Rohr and Ebert face; what is truly problematic is this: “It has been shown that the Enneagram is compatible with the Christian tradition of spiritual counseling and human leadership as well as with diverse psychotherapeutic approaches . . . But in the present state of affairs the Enneagram does not claim to have been ‘scientifically’ corroborated. Clinical studies are under way in the United States, but they have not yet been generally recognized.”

Minor historical differences aside, when comparing Rohr and Ebert’s history to our own research and subsequent articles we find agreement, and if everyone did their job this is to be expected; however, one point which was not agreed upon is the conclusion reached. While we found the evidence pointed to a clearly pagan and occult origins and, therefore, to an unbiblical practice, Rohr and Ebert arrived at the conclusion that the Enneagram is what transforms and converts regardless of the history.

A brief aside here regarding something about which we at Theology Think Tank had privately theorized but could not confirm until now was whether or not the Enneagram, Ignatius Spirituality, and Christian Mysticism (i.e. Spiritual Formation and the Spiritual Disciplines/Exercises) were going to be connected together at some point. Rohr confirms our suspicions these fit together hand-in-glove and do so necessarily. Rohr writes,

“Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Jesuits, developed a method for spiritual direction that is highly sensitive, both intellectually and psychologically. His Exercises lead to a way of practice. They discover the cases in which the soul is trapped and instruct the exercitant in the ‘discernment of spirits,’ of those inner and outer voices and impulses that continually influence us. The discernment is carried out in three steps: One has (1) ‘to sense the various stirrings that occur in the soul’; (2) ‘to recognize them,’ that is, to understand their origin and goal and to make a judgment on them whether they lead constructively to the meaning-goal of my life, or destructively lead away from it; and (3) to take a position toward these stirrings, that is, to accept them or reject them. The goal of the Exercises is to find ways to Christian freedom. This is made possible through a personal relationship with Jesus in which we are able to hear Christ’s call to our life and are ready to enter his service. The Enneagram is a related tool, and in some ways a still more precise tool, for reaching this goal. That is one of the reasons why a series of retreat masters have begun to introduce the Enneagram alongside the traditional Ignatian Exercises.” 

The term people have coined for this union of the two practices is “The iEnneagram.”

History aside we will now look at the various claims Rohr makes about the Enneagram. We will only use one of the Enneagram numbers for brevity, but note a similar type of thing could be done for subsequent types.

Rohr tells us what his breakdown for each type will contain: an overview, a dilemma, symbols, and finally conversion and maturation. He begins this discussion of types with a sort of disclaimer, 

“The main part of this book is made up of the profiles of the nine Enneagram types. These are rough sketches, sometimes caricatures. Exaggeration serves to make the outlines stand out boldly, like woodcuts . . . To each type a series of animals is traditionally assigned. Real or generally recognized essential traits of these animals match the nature of each of the types. Certain nations also stand for individual characteristics of the types. This is not intended to stir up ethnic prejudices. Rather the purpose is a playful approximation to each form of energy, and hence this should be taken with a grain of salt. Symbolic colors, biblical figures, saints and personalities from history, literature, and the current world scene will likewise be mentioned, so that the picture may become more colorful and may take on flesh. These examples correspond to the authors’ subjective estimate and make no claim to be authoritative. On the contrary, we would like to stimulate our readers’ imaginations, to make their own voyages of discovery in the polyvalent world of symbols and to find their own illustrative material for each energy. It would be stimulating, for instance, to use the Enneagram to give names to the forces at work in fairy tales or to relate certain styles of music and dance to the nine energies.” 

Rohr plays the word association game: he applies recognizable properties or characteristics to a corresponding Enneagram number; he applies to biblical men and women a trait based on limited data from the biblical text and places a number on them (he does the same for movie and book characters); he applies types and numbers to countries, animals, and colors based on no empirical data but rather based on vague intuition or whim. 

Before we begin, there are a few quotes from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective we would like you to keep in mind as we do this. 

  • “The older and more mature we get and the closer we come, let us hope, to God, the Center, the more we will move toward the redeemed side. To do that, by the way, we don’t need to know the Enneagram. The Enneagram articulates something that spiritually mature people have always intuitively grasped and practiced.” [So why use the Enneagram?]
  • “Unlike other authors we dispense with giving the nine types binding names as well as numbers. The classification by numbers makes it clear that we are not dealing with evaluations.” [While he does not name the types, the descriptions he provides matches the type names used by other authors and promoters.]
  • “Many people are afraid that such systems lead people to pigeonhole one another. To be honest this undeniably will happen when one first gets to know the Enneagram.” [He then spends much of the rest of the book doing exactly this.]
  • “In the most popular of all typologies—the astrological—we have seriously to ask whether its presupposition, that there is a correspondence between the courses of the stars and the patterns of human destiny, is at all tenable. . . All typologies have the disadvantage of necessarily neglecting the uniqueness, originality, and peculiar nature of the individual. There is no overlooking the danger of forcing oneself and others, for example, into the pigeonhole of a specific ‘sign’ and in that way freezing the individual in place once and for all.” [How then is the Enneagram different from Astrology in this aspect?]

As mentioned above we will only be doing one of the nine numbers to keep this as short as possible.

Type One:  

Rohr’s first sentence here, despite claiming they would dispense with ‘binding names,’ is, “One’s are idealist.” There is nothing wrong with this claim other than the fact it matches with what The Enneagram Institute names One’s as and seems an odd start for an author trying to differentiate himself and his Enneagram from others.

Rohr then immediately begins to assign traits; he in effect is pigeon-holing what One’s are contrary to what he says you should not do but similar to what he says Astrology and other typographies do as noted above. He writes that One’s are often: gifted teachers, motivated, have difficulty accepting imperfections, try to be model children, anal retentive, compulsively punctual, dutiful, seldom tell jokes (or forget the punchline), keep a detailed diary, if they have a hobby it is a practical one, they have a ascetical bent, they are angry at an imperfect world, they instantly reject accusations, feel pressure to do ‘good works’, immature One’s may have repressed sexual wishes, neurotic One’s preach morality but live immorally, unhealthy One’s are hypocrites, they live with unacknowledged and repressed anger, are nature lovers, rational, balanced, that all One’s live close to the edge of self-righteousness, they have a hard time making important decisions, are stuck in the past, are hypersensitive, and they can forgive but are bad at forgetting. 

These are broad claims which much like the other typographies could be applied to just about anyone at any point under any situation or circumstance; in other words, none of these traits or characteristics can be said to definitively or by empirical evidence apply only, or even more, to One’s.

Rohr discusses what ‘fruit of the Spirit’ each has. We think it is important to compare what Rohr says are fruits of the Spirit to what the Bible says. 

Rohr’s Enneagram Fruit of the Spirit Bible’s Fruit of the Spirit
Cheerful Tranquility Love
Humility Joy
Truthfulness Peace
Balance Patience
Objectivity Kindness
Courage Goodness
Joy Gentleness
Innocence Faithfulness
Decisive Action Self-Control

Rohr assigns animals, symbols, and colors to a type: “The animal assigned to the unredeemed One is the yelping terrier. Ants and bees symbolize the industriousness of the One. They are constantly busy with building up and maintaining the ideal commonwealth. Bees test all flowers and keep from everything only the best, the honey. The symbolic nation of the Ones is Switzerland. Cleanliness and order, a virtually ideal democratic commonwealth, precision watches, strict neutrality (both sides are right!), peaceableness and at the same time a flawless defense system—the list of Swiss ‘virtues’ could go on and on . . . The color of One is silver. Silver is a cool, sober, and clear color. It represents moonlight, which gets its brightness from the sun (the highest ideal). Like the mild silvery glow of moonlight, the redeemed One stands for change and growth.”

From here Rohr works with fictional characters in books: Lucy from Charlie Brown is the caricature of an unredeemed One. This idea of caricature is important, especially because of where it is placed. Until now none of the claims have been said to be exaggerations or caricatures so then Rohr must believe his previous statements about One’s are factual claims up to this point: what their general or specific attributes are, what animal, symbol, or color is represented, what their spiritual gift is, and so on; these must all be considered to be Rohr’s serious observation and assessment of them. (It should be noted that whenever Rohr is comparing to or describing a caricature he says so.)

Rohr moves from caricature to truth claims—or are they subjective claims? We don’t know for sure because he does not make a distinction ever between what he can objectively prove and what he claims might/could be the case; he simply makes declarative statements. Examples of this are Rohr’s claims that Paul is a One because Paul sometimes leaves the impression of being a little arrogant and dogmatic; he writes later, “Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), the founder and first general of the Jesuits, belongs to the saints who were Ones”; and here, “Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian and reformer of Protestant theology after the First World War, was a One.” 

Our question, if these 200 or so pages which detail all the types, numbers, colors, animals, nations, gifts and so on are all subjective claims, would be, “What does it matter and what does it prove?” And if these are objective claims then we would ask, “Where is the evidence, other than Rohr saying so, and why is Rohr pigeon-holing people if he says we cannot and should not?” If the reasoning is, as Rohr hints at, ‘to free the imagination,’ then it seems the whole point of the book (and then the Enneagram by extension) is so that people are now freed to imagine what type an animal, color, or country could be; or who are cool, hip, and ‘spiritual’ people that fit into the reader’s type: affirmation by association. Is this useful? Is this really all the majestic and mystical Enneagram has to offer?

How Rohr assigns people an Enneagram number from bits and pieces cobbled together from biography (Ignatius), letters they wrote (Paul), or theology they taught (Karl Barth) without their ever taking a test, without ever being evaluated as an entire person. All of this is done by Rohr’s own admission subjectively. The result of this subjectivity is, therefore, catastrophic: the Enneagram loses it supposed efficacy and power; like the great and powerful wizard of Oz, the Enneagram is revealed and laid bare—a powerless symbol, masked by smoke-and-mirrors, operated and manipulated by a portly man behind a green curtain. 

Rohr also spent some time in the beginning of his  book stating the Enneagram is better than other typographies because it invites us to change—specifically pointing to the presuppositions of Astrology, “that there is a correspondence between the courses of the stars and the patterns of human destiny, is at all tenable,” however, he never quite proves how the Enneagram is different in its presuppositions regarding numbers, types, and how these affect us. Instead he spends around 200-pages listing general statements about what each type is like: 

Physical attributes: Five’s often wear glasses, many Three’s are physically attractive, and women in the Bible are mostly Two’s while John is also a Two.

Relational issues: Four’s are jealous, Two’s are hyper-sensitive, many Nine’s report that in their childhood they were overlooked or somehow ‘lost.’

What they are drawn to or shy away from: Many Eight’s like to hunt or fish, Seven’s avoid pain.

What their strengths and weaknesses are: Jonah the ‘unwilling prophet’ is a Nine [though Rohr writes the book of Jonah is parable not history].

Inconsistencies: In the first publication Mother Teresa was a Two but now she is an Eight.

These are no different from the claims and observations which could be made by similar typographies like: Four Temperaments, Briggs-Meyers, and Astrology, or those developed by Ernst Kretschmer and Carl Jung.

Rohr claims that the Enneagram is the only typography which invites us to change and that this is what distinguishes it from other systems; yet psychologists and psychiatrists the world over have a whole array of tests which they give and then use the results to help the patient to change. Now you might say that his argument is that the Enneagram ‘invites’ us rather than being a tool which can be used to help us therefore it is different. 

In order to determine if this is the case we need to ask what Rohr means by ‘invitation’ because he says his and Ebert’s definition is different from what most Enneagram literature says it means: a ‘holy idea.’ Rohr explains the invitation of the Enneagram when he writes, “The term ‘invitation,’ which we have chosen, emphasizes on the other hand that we understand the call to freedom primarily as an offer from God and not our own doing.” 

Understand what Rohr states here: the idea behind the term ‘invitation,’ in his own words, is a call to freedom which God offers. Period. Now does Rohr mean that the Enneagram was given to us as a tool by God and therefore God’s invitation of freedom is accomplished by the Enneagram? It would seem so; the Bible though disagrees and offers something else entirely. However, if Rohr means that the offer of freedom both extends from God and is found in Jesus alone, then we couldn’t agree more.

John 8:36, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” 

Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

The Enneagram doesn’t offer freedom but rather slavery to a symbol, to its numbers and the types contained within them; whereas the obedient Christian finds freedom and confidence in the fact that, “He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Change that does not rely on oneself or a symbol—this is true freedom.

Moreover, Rohr does not differentiate with regard to how the invitation of the Enneagram is distinct from or better than the Holy Spirit’s or the Bible’s invitation to change; nor does he clearly explain how the Enneagram changes us other than the Enneagram identifies our false self or areas of sin; but other typographies according to Rohr do this as well. The Bible could not be clearer about what changes us—grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and the power of the Bible in our lives: 

Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

In contrast Rohr’s Enneagram is a parody of itself: it is claimed to be a precise, sacred, and powerful spiritual tool which leads to transformation and conversion but in practice it is a tool to which anything can be subjectively applied in any manner one wishes to reveal what, by Rohr’s own admission is something you most likely already knew and is a tool you don’t need which hasn’t been shown to work:

“The older and more mature we get and the closer we come, let us hope, to God, the Center, the more we will move toward the redeemed side. To do that, by the way, we don’t need to know the Enneagram. The Enneagram articulates something that spiritually mature people have always intuitively grasped and practiced.”

“But in the present state of affairs the Enneagram does not claim to have been ‘scientifically’ corroborated. Clinical studies are under way in the United States, but they have not yet been generally recognized.”

The Bible on the one-hand is God-breathed and written under the direction of the Holy Spirit, its authorship and historical accounts are verifiable, and its origin is traceable and knowable; while the Enneagram on the other has no such divine inspiration, its history is unknown so its claim to ‘ancient wisdom’ is unverifiable, and its ‘Christian’ influence is highly questionable because it was ‘found’ by a man steeped in the occult and later expanded upon by others via drug-induced comas, eastern meditative practices and trances, automatic writing, and spirit guides.

With this in mind we believe only one question and comment remains and we end with it:

“What does the Enneagram offer or promise that Jesus and His word do not?” 

The answer, of course, is nothing; therefore, the Enneagram is pointless: a useless doctrine of man which enslaves.

Previous Articles on the Enneagram:

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.

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.

The Enneagram: A History (Part Two): This article looks at the background and teachings of Gurdjieff, and also the Law of Three and the Law of Seven.

The Enneagram: A History (Part Three): This article looks at the two men, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, who most influenced the Enneagram of Personality.

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.

What is Spiritual Formation?

Silent God, Silent Man: With so many eager to jump on the Spiritual Formation bandwagon, few have stopped to ask the serious questions: where did this movement come from? What are its philosophical and theological origins? Is Spiritual Formation really just discipleship, or is there something subtler and more subversive at play? Silent God, Silent Man tackles all of these issues head-on and explores the intimate relationship between Spiritual Formation and mysticism, Gnosticism, universalism, postmodernism, and radical ecumenism. Thoroughly documented and clearly presented, Silent God, Silent Man lays out in detail the warning signs both in your spiritual walk and in your local church and provides you with the tools you need to discern the truth in troubling times.


  1. (transcript)
  4. John C. Lilly and Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” in Transpersonal Psychologies, ed. Charles T. Tart (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 341
  5. Oscar Ichazo, “Letter to the Transpersonal Community,” The Arican: International Journal of Arica Institute, No. 5 (Autum 1991), p. 10
  6. Letter to the Transpersonal Community, Arican, Teachings Of The Great Telesmatta, 1991

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