Nine faces of the Soul through the lens of Christianity
“Incredible!” — It was my spontaneous reaction to what my friend had told me. She spent a romantic evening in a luxury restaurant. The world seemed a wonderful place for a while, but after the discussion of their favorite interests, her boyfriend’s face turned frighteningly serious and he asked: “Don’t you think it would be most honest of us to reveal as many negative character traits as possible before we get too involved with each other? “I believe it would,” she answered. “So what's your Enneagram type?” he went on. “Ennea what?” she smiled. “Oh, you haven’t heard of Enneagram?”
She hasn’t. And so he explained. Then she told me and I found it so fascinating that I read an inspiring book, which is worth sharing with others.
Interest in Enneagram has grown hand in hand with the popularity of the New Age, esoteric teachings, numerology, and astrology. Among numerous esoteric books concerned with this question, The Enneagram: A Christian perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert (translation Enneagram: Devět tváří duše by Alena Pávková) takes up a unique position because it views and addresses the topic of Enneagram through the lens of Christianity.
What is the Enneagram and how can it help?
Enneagram is a circular diagram on which certain personality types, numbered from one to nine, are presented through psychological analysis and description. It has been in existence for more than 2000 years and it draws on ancient philosophies, especially Sufi mysticism.
The Ennea is derived from Greek number “nine”, and gram means “model”. This number is said to uncover the hidden motivations of what a person does consciously or subconsciously. The result of an Enneagram type leads to a person's “true self”, which is always hidden behind a “false self”. As Nietzsche puts it, “One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self: of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be mined.”
In the first place, the Enneagram enables us to get to know our true self, exposing the real motivations of our actions. Moreover, the Enneagram increases self-knowledge and teach us how to get on with others without much difficulty. Simply, it is an essential guide to one’s personal growth and transformation.
The centre of our intelligence and Nine Personality Types
The centre of our intelligence is said to be in the head, the heart and the stomach, which respectively stand for our thoughts, emotions, and instincts. Therefore, a person whose intelligence is in the head tends to be more rational, a person with the heart centre is more emotional and a person with the stomach centre acts rather instinctively. Furthermore, within each centre there are three personality types, which altogether make nine.
First, there is no magic or numerology hidden in the Enneagram. Second, there is no better or worse type, each type is like a lens through which we experience our life. The challenging thing of the Enneagram is to learn how to look through other people’s lenses, experience their world and become more tolerant of differences between ourselves and others. Nine personality types within the system include the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Achiever, the tragic Romantic, the Observer, the Doubter, the Dreamer, the Leader and the Diplomat.
If you think a person cannot be defined by just one type, the book will show you it is possible. Actually, even if you identify yourself with more characters, one particular type prevails over the others. Once you have determined your number by “self-assessment or rather the discovery of aha!” you’ll understand what your greatest deficiency is and why your behavior follows a certain pattern. Not only may you solve the mysteries of yourself and your friends but you may also discover e.g. the root of your partner’s shyness or his/her love of antiquarianism.
When and why does our type begin to exist?
You may wonder why your friend/colleague is a careerist, a social-climber or a pedant. Basically, there are many reasons why we develop particular characteristic traits. It has to do with our infancy, family environment, hereditary factors, experience and education. Let’s take first three types as an example.
A parent who is a perfectionist, all-knowing and demanding, very often ends up making his or her child a perfectionist. This child was many a time told to be “a good little boy/girl”, and so he or she willy-nilly sought for perfection. Children who are loved conditionally and praised only if they help others may develop the personalities of the giver because only if they give and help, they will be noticed and loved. A child who was encouraged to become more independent and self-reliant and who was admired for excellent grades and results will learn that his or her merit means achievement and material success.
How does the Enneagram work in our relationships?
When we make friends or enter a more serious relationship with someone, sooner or later we have to expose our true identity. And it is a real crucible. That is why we prefer to hide our inner selves and wear various masks. We fear that “if he/she knew who I really am, he/she would certainly leave me”.
The Enneagram may affect your relationships in a positive way because you will try to honestly confront your own faults and the faults of others. Only after you have named your own shortcomings, you can cope with them; you can be more compassionate with other people’s weaknesses and understand their own ups and downs, positives and limitations. The Enneagram works as a model for realization and understanding of one’s fears and strengths.
After having finished the book I thought: “How horrific to learn about myself! What a complicated path to a more mature understanding of others!” I strongly believe it is an eye-opening book on a sincere search for an authentic life. Lao Tzu says, “He who knows others is learned. He who knows himself is wise.”
Why should(n´t) you read this particular book?
The Enneagram: A Christian perspective was written in a highly witty and personal manner by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert who were not afraid to unmask their own types. Another plus of the book is that the authors by no means make the impression that the Enneagram is the right key to everything. Interestingly, the spiritual aspect of the book is provided by Ebert, a German Protestant and Rohr, an American Catholic. However, the fact that there are two different traditions and much critical questioning of both (which I personally found insightful) may be for someone too liberal and too questionable to bear.
If you believe the Christian perspective is not for you, indeed, there are numerous series of books concerned with the Enneagram, e.g. The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Other in your life by Helen Palmer, The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels and Virginia Price, Personality types and The Wisdom of Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, The Enneagram Advantage by Helen Palmer and Paul Brown, Enneagram transformation by Don Riso, Are you my type? Am I yours? by Rene Barron and Elizabeth Wagele, The Enneagram of Parenting by Elizabeth Wagele and many others.
However, you needn’t be a Catholic or a Protestant to understand the message of this book. If you are interested in a new perspective of yourself and moreover like inspiring comments on complex characteristics, this Enneagram book is a must. Moreover, it is definitely a read for those who are fascinated with the symbolism of colors and animals. Ultimately, you will get to know some amazing facts about the greatest personalities of all ages.
The Enneagram: A Christian perspective combines the useful and the pleasant, provides spiritual significance and a potential for a person’s transformation. It appeals to each personality and calls for something profound and more meaningful than a stereotypical life.