What is the Enneagram

The Enneagram is an ancient tool for personal understanding, development and transformation. It is a system that can provide data that helps us understand that we need to go beyond our habitual responses in order to better understand and relate to others. If we know the Enneagram type of ourselves and others we are dealing with, we have an idea of how people might function in different situations. This is because we all behave automatically at times, in response to the influence of our personality when we are not paying attention. The more self-aware we are, the less our habbits affect our thoughts, feelings and actions Understanding this predictability increases our understanding of others, leading to greater tolerance and forgiveness and less blame. It also helps others understand us and helps us develop greater self-awareness and be more forgiving of ourselves when we go off track.

“Ennea” is the Greek word for “nine” and grammos means ‘point”. Its symbol is a nine-pointed star around a circle. The symbol has its own mathematical derivations and internal significant connections.

The Enneagram Symbol

Background to the Enneagram

The Enneagram symbol has roots in antiquity and can be traced back at least as far as the works of Pythagoras. There has been a recurrent theme in Western mystical and philosophical tradition—the idea of nine forms. This idea was discussed by Plato and further developed in the third century by the Neo-Platonic philosophers, particularly Plotinus in his central work, The Enneads. These ideas found their way from Greece and Asia Minor southward through Syria and eventually to Egypt. There, it was embraced by early Christian mystics known as the Desert Fathers and these ideas are found in the work of Evagrius Ponticus, or Evagrius of Pontus, a Christian mystic who lived in 4th century Alexandria. He developed a comprehensive list in AD 375 of eight evil thoughts or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behaviour springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation. This list was later distorted and came to be known as the Seven Deadly Sins.

G. I. Gurdjieff is credited with making the enneagram figure commonly known. Gurdjieff stressed that man must foremost study himself. Know Thyself, normally ascribed to Socrates, actually originates from the earliest recorded teachings. However Gurdjieff did not develop the nine personality types associated with the Enneagram that we know today. These are claimed to be principally derived from the teachings of Oscar Ichazo and later Claudio Naranjo. Numerous other authors, including David Daniels, Helen Palmer, Russ Hudson, Don Riso, Richard Rohr and Elizabeth Wagele, also began publishing widely read books on the Enneagram of Personality in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Three Intelligences

There are three different energy groups or Intelligences around the Enneagram circle. They represent gut instinct, feeling and thinking perspectives. Each one has its own special, intelligent, filter through which its members view the outside world of things, events and people. These filters provide incredible insights that may not be picked up by members of the other groups at all, or perhaps not till much later. These insights help us to survive and thrive in the world, but unfortunately, they sometimes throw us off track and we damage ourselves, key relationships and others in the process, often without realising.

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