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The enneagram (sometimes Fourth Way Enneagram or enneagon) is most known as a pseudopsychological personality profile system – but is supposedly also a means to represent all knowledge. It was created by George Gurdjieff, an Armenian mystic who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of his larger spiritual teaching called the "Fourth Way."
“”Speaking in general it must be understood that the enneagram is a universal symbol. All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted. And in this connection only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram he does not understand. For the man who is able to make use of it, the enneagram makes books and libraries entirely unnecessary. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram. A man may be quite alone in the desert and he can trace the enneagram in the sand and in it read the eternal laws of the universe. And every time he can learn something new, something he did not know before.
|—George Gurdjieff, quoted in In Search of the Miraculous:294
The Fourth Way is said to be a form of Christian mysticism. It is also influenced by theosophy, eastern religious philosophy, existentialism, and more. While formally recognizing the Christian god, it claimed that only extremely difficult "work on the self" under the direction of a great teacher like Gurdjieff himself could lead to salvation.[note 1] It had a very elaborate woo cosmology, with similarities to other Western esoteric teachings.
Gurdjieff considered the shape of the enneagram to be sacred because it could supposedly explain all things in the Universe. Thus, the original use of the enneagram extended far beyond just being a way to categorize personality.
During the 20th century, the enneagram became popular in personality profiling and marketed by people who dropped the rest of Gurdjieff's Fourth Way woo. The enneagram as it has been popularized today was developed based on Gurdjieff's original idea by a couple of figures from the Human Potential Movement, Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo.[note 2] Sometimes it is presented as a straight, "serious, scientific" personality test and at others it comes attached with whatever brand of mysticism the woo-meister is peddling. It often appears on New Age sites or those vaguely spiritual self-help texts. Occasionally, it will be used as an actual personality test by ignorant employers.
According to the enneagram of personality, every personality type has a different basic desire, basic fear, temptation, vice, and virtue. Because of the pseudoscientific nature of the test, different words or attributes will sometimes be used for the more minor categories, but the basic desires and fears are constant in most instances of the test. These nine types are (listed as type name: basic desire, basic fear):
- Reformer: integrity, evil
- Helper: unconditional love, unworthiness of love
- Achiever: value to others, worthlessness
- Individualist: uniqueness, commonality
- Investigator: competence, uselessness
- Loyalist: safety, isolation
- Enthusiast: experience, boredom
- Challenger: autonomy, loss of control
- Peacemaker: stability, annihilation
It's easy to see that the divisions are rather arbitrary, with a large dash of vagueness and overlap between the categories. Like any personality test, the more vague it is, the more susceptible to the Forer effect it is. The enneagram is not generally considered to be of any value by mainstream psychologists.
- Salvation in terms of life after death, and a good life at that, rather than either ceasing to be shortly after death or living on as an "immortal thing".
- Oscar Ichazo was the founder of Arica, and Claudio Naranjo provided much of the material added to the Hoffman Quadrinity Process on top of Bob Hoffman's early Spiritualist version.
- In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky