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What is the Enneagram? How can the Enneagram help me? Which number on the Enneagram am I? Does the Enneagram work?

The Enneagram: A (Very) Short History

The Enneagram is old. It has roots in several wisdom traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Seven of the nine Enneagram types are associated with the “capital” or “deadly” sins which originated with the Desert Fathers. But it was not until the late 1960s that Oscar Ichazo began teaching the Enneagram as we know it today. From Ichazo’s school in South America, a group of Jesuits learned the system and brought it back with them to the United States. Richard Rohr learned about the Enneagram from this group and was one of the first people to publish a book  about it in English.

The Enneagram gained popularity as a tool within spiritual direction. Today it is widely taught as a way of understanding personality, addiction, relationships, and vocation.

The Enneagram: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The Enneagram is a dynamic system. It was developed primarily in an oral tradition, in the context of relationships between students and teachers. A “dynamic system” is one that recognizes that humans are far too complex and nuanced to fit easily into simple categories; it supports the evolving, maturing human journey.

The Enneagram is not a strict law or code. Its categories are not meant to bind or restrict you to a certain way of being and living. People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but it actually works to free people from their self-created boxes.

The Enneagram is a powerful tool for self-discovery and spiritual transformation. But it shouldn’t be your only tool. The Enneagram is most helpful when used in conjunction with other practices like study, meditation, spiritual direction, and life in community with others.

The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Yes, there are tests and quizzes  that help you identify your primary Enneagram type, but that is often just the first step. This tool is meant to help you over a life-long journey.

While self-discovery is important, it is not the Enneagram’s final objective. The Enneagram’s purpose is to help us uncover the traps that keep us from living fully and freely as our True Self so that we will use our unique, authentic gifts for the good of others and the world.

The Enneagram: 9 Personality Types

The Enneagram is divided into nine distinct personality types. As you read the descriptions of each, you may discover that you feel deep resonance with one or many of the different types. In fact, all of us have a little bit of each one inside us.

Below are short summaries of the nine types with a link to a reflection by Richard Rohr where you can learn more about each number.

The ONE

Role: Reformer
Virtue: Serenity
Vice: Anger and resentment
Basic Desire: Goodness, integrity, excellence
Further Reading: Without prayer, love, and nature, ONEs can scarcely imagine cheerful serenity and patience, but remain aggressive idealists and ideologues.

The TWO

Role: Helper
Virtue: Humility
Vice: Pride
Basic Desire: To give and receive love
Further Reading: TWOs are redeemed from themselves the more they experience God as the real lover and realize that their puny love can only consist in sharing in God’s infinite love.

The THREE

Role: Achiever
Virtue: Authenticity
Vice: Deceit (especially self-deceit)
Basic Desire: To feel valuable
Further Reading: THREEs need endless successes and feedback to reassure themselves against a very honest and realistic insecurity.

The FOUR

Role: Individualist
Virtue: Equanimity (appreciating life just as it is)
Vice: Envy
Basic Desire: To be uniquely themselves
Further Reading: The essence of the FOUR is the mystery of our true identity. It feels oceanic, deep, unfathomable, mysterious. FOURs live for beauty, intimacy, and depth.

The FIVE

Role: Investigator
Virtue: Non-attachment (not clinging and not avoiding)
Vice: Avarice (for knowledge and for personal privacy)
Basic Desire: Mastery, understanding
Further Reading: The essential core of the FIVE is the soul’s capacity to be illuminated and to illuminate, to make things clear.

The SIX

Role: Loyalist
Virtue: Courage
Vice: Fear
Basic Desire: To have support, guidance
Further Reading: The original blessing of the SIX is the quality of awakeness . . . that gives you an unshakable courage to take your place and walk your walk in the world.

The SEVEN

Role: Enthusiast
Virtue: Sobriety (a sober joy despite life’s difficulties)
Vice: Gluttony (an insatiable quest for new experiences and options)
Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content
Further Reading: SEVENs are people who radiate joy and optimism. Their motto is “More is always better.” Mostly they are gluttonous for fun and options.

The EIGHT

Role: Challenger
Virtue: Innocence (or mercy)
Vice: Lust (an addiction to intensity)
Basic Desire: Self-protection
Further Reading: Losing the sense of divine Presence makes EIGHTs feel vulnerable, deflated, and dead. The ego tries to force life into feeling real and alive again.

The NINE

Role: Peacemaker
Virtue: Decisive action
Vice: Sloth (lack of focused energy)
Basic Desire: Wholeness, peace, harmony
Further Reading: NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. Love changes everything; love resolves everything.

Jeremy Berg is the founding pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Mound, Minnesota, and Professor of Theology at Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy is completing his doctorate in New Testament Context under Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary in Chicago. He holds a M.A. in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary (2005) and B.A. from Bethel University (2002). He and his wife, Kjerstin, keep busy chasing around three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

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