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The Enneagram and Prayer: Discovering Our True Selves Before God – B. Metz and J. Burchill O. P.

April 22, 2016

TEAPMyers Briggs was developed for education so many spiritual directors are now saying that the Enneagram is a better tool for spirituality.

Some claim that it is “a very ancient Christian tool”. However, a decade earlier…it was believed that the enneagram “had its roots in Sufi mysticism. But …the enneagram is genuinely Christian, dating at least to the desert Fathers, with pre-Christian sources.”

I’m not sure – Gurdjieff had a lot to do with it. I am all in favour of learning from the wisdom of other faiths and not claiming that Christianity is the sole repository of truth but there are limits and a degree of discernment is necessary.

I’m also not sure because I am not alone in discovering that I fit 3 or more of the 9 types – am I well-balanced or simply confused and lacking in self-knowledge?

The enneagram is a circle [with points numbered 1 to 9], meant to symbolise the Cosmos and the ‘one-ness’ that comes from a monist perspective. The Sufis are monists, believing that we are all one with each other and with the universe, and at the same time pantheists, believing that the universe is god. Inside the circle is a triangle and it connects up the points of the 9, the 3 and the 6; and it symbolizes God.

But it’s God inside the cosmos, not the cosmos inside God. So not really Christian.

However, this book is helpful in explaining that different types of people relate to different styles of prayer – with the head, with the heart. Some find it difficult simply to sit and be still and have to learn how to deal with a restless mind. It talks of ‘kything’, which is often what we mean when we tell someone that we are ‘thinking of’ them. It involves centering and then thinking about the other person, sending vibes as it were – very Buddhist but also a good way for Christians to intercede and thereby avoiding telling God what solution we want for that person’s needs.

The final section has ‘Scripture For Number’ whatever with headings like ‘Sinfulness to pray through, Giftedness to be rejoiced in and prayed through.’ These consist of lists e.g. ‘being stingy with my time’ followed by a Bible reference. I tried to work through these and found them somewhat trite.

A further ‘health-warning’: The 3rd February 2003 Vatican Document on the New Age, “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’” included the enneagram in its list of New Age psycho-spiritualities. In fact, it speaks more about the enneagram than it does about any other New Age practice.

According to the Document, “Enneagram [from the Greek ennea= nine + gramma= sign] refers to a diagram composed of a circle with nine points on its circumference, connected within the circle by a triangle and a hexangle. It was originally used for divination, but has become known as the symbol for a system of personality typology consisting of nine standard character types. It became popular after the publication of Helen Palmer’s [1989] book The Enneagram, but she recognizes her indebtedness to the Russian esoteric thinker and practitioner G. I. Gurdjieff, the Chilean psychologist Claudio Naranjo and author Oscar Ichazo, founder of Arica. The origin of the enneagram remains shrouded in mystery, but some maintain that it comes from Sufi mysticism.”

The Document explains, “Even if it can be admitted that New Age religiosity in some way responds to the legitimate spiritual longing of human nature, it must be acknowledged that its attempts to do so run counter to Christian revelation. In Western culture in particular, the appeal of ‘alternative’ approaches to spirituality is very strong. On the one hand, new forms of psychological affirmation have become very popular among Catholics, even in retreat-houses, seminaries, and institutes of formation for religious. At the same time, there is increasing nostalgia and curiosity for the wisdom and ritual of long ago, which is one of the reasons for the remarkable growth in the popularity of esotericism and Gnosticism […] John Paul II [in Crossing the Threshold of Hope] warned with regard to the ‘return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age. We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead to a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing [the long condemned heresy of] gnosticism- that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words… in distinct, if not declared conflict with all that is essentially Christian’.

An example of this can be seen in the enneagram, the nine-type tool for character analysis, which when used as a means of spiritual growth produces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith.”

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