Gurdjieff and the Enigmatic EnneagramThe following article emerged out of a footnote to a larger investigation into the relationship between Dr. Carl Jung, neo-gnosticism, and the MBTI.
Who is George Gurdjieff, and why is he having such a massive indirect impact on our churches today? Why in particular are ‘post-charismatic’ Roman Catholics, especially well-meaning nuns, becoming caught up in his questionable practices?(1) The Rev. Dr. Robert Innes, Lecturer in Systematic Theology at St. John’s College: Durham, England, tells us that the man credited with bringing the Enneagram to the West is George Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian from what is now the Republic of Georgia. While still a teen, Gurdjieff became immersed in occultic practices such as astrology, mental telepathy, spiritism, table turning, fortune telling and demon possession. Gurdjieff claimed that while he was in Afghanistan in 1897, he visited a monastery of the esoteric Sarmouni sect where he learned their mystical Sufi dancing, psychic powers and the Enneagram.(2)
The massive popularity of the Enneagram in Christian circles, the 2nd most popular personality test after the MBTI (3), makes it well worth assessing what we are actually opening ourselves to. Advocates like Barbara Metz and John Burchill describe the Enneagram as "a sleeping giant, awakened in our times..."(4) Fr. Mitchell Pacwa SJ, Professor of Scripture and Hebrew at Loyola University, Chicago, has written a brilliant critique of Gurdjieff and the Enneagram, entitled "Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram".(5) Fr. Pacwa’s studies of ancient literature and archeology show that there is no hard evidence for the existence of the Enneagram in any form before Gurdjieff. Rumours of the Enneagram’s antiquity(e.g. pre-Muslim Christian influence of Persia, or Pythagorean or Platonic mathematics)(6) serve to give it an air of authority but have no proper historical basis. Perhaps most incredible is the unsubstantiated claim by Ted Dobson & Kathleen Hurley that there "are indications that several of the New Testament writers were familiar with and used the Enneagram."(7)
The heart of Gurdjieff’s Enneagram teaching, which he described as esoteric Christianity, is numerological divination. Dividing one by three yields the decimals .3333, .6666, .9999 - the points joined by the triangle in the figure. Dividing one by seven yields the decimal .142857: a recurring number which contains no multiples of three and the digits of which correspond to the oddly-shaped six pointed figure. It seems that the Enneagram’s relation to these mystical numbers (three and seven) was held to give it a truly cosmic significance.(8) Gurdjieff taught that "all things in life work on two laws --3 and 7". All psychological laws fall within the law of three -- as within Gurdjieff’s three alleged personality centres (path, oth, & kath), and all material things fall within the law of seven.(9) Each human being on earth is claimed to have one, and only one, of the nine Enneagram numbers.(10) Enneagram teaching holds that God has nine different faces, corresponding to the nine patterns of the Enneagram.(11) Robert J. Nogosek, C.S.C., wrote a book along this line entitled "Nine Portraits of Jesus: Discovering Jesus Through the Enneagram" (Dimension Books), claiming that Jesus, being sinless, had all nine Enneagram personality types.(12) Beesing, Nogosek, and O’Leary also teach that each of us has one of nine different totems [Enneagramic animals]. In the ‘christianized’ version of the Enneagram, a #2 "helper" personality can be redeemed from being a cat into becoming an Irish setter, and then receives the Enneagramic colour of Red.(13)
Gurdjieff’s work led to the formation of the New-Age cult, Arica, founded by his disciple Oscar Ichazo. It was Ichazo and his colleague Claudio Naranjo (an instructor at the Esalen Institute) who together developed the Enneagram in the 1960’s as an indicator of personality in its current form.(14) Naranjo merged the Enneagram with 9 of Freud’s 10 personality defense mechanisms. Fr. Pacwa notes that Ichazo claims to receive instructions from a higher entity called ‘Metatron, the prince of the archangels’. Ichazo’s students are guided by an interior Master, the Green Qu’Tub.(15) Ichazo and Naranjo taught the Enneagram in the 1970’s to Fr. Bob Ochs SJ who then taught this ‘secret wisdom’(16) at the Loyola Seminary, from which it spread heavily within the Roman Catholic and Anglican communities. Gurdjieff’s role in the Enneagram was covered up by Ichazo, saying that he had "been ordered by his source not to reveal the name of the person or being who gave him the Enneagram."(17) Moral Theologian, Msgr. William B. Smith commented that "the more you read about it, the more it begins to resemble a college-educated horoscope...As a tool for spiritual direction, it seems to me most deficient, even dangerous."(18)
Barbara Metz, SND, and John Burchill, OP, recommend the Enneagram as a way of engaging in "kything prayer". Kything Prayer can be done with any other person, present or absent, dead or alive, whose Enneagramic reading ‘moves against your numerical arrows’. The key is to "let your center find itself within the person with whom you are kything" and to "Picture yourself within the [other] person." An alternative form of Enneagramic kything is to "invite the other person’s spirit into themselves."(19) One may very well ask how appropriate it is for Christians to be inviting the spirits of the dead into themselves. Does this not slide into occultic channeling/mediumistic practices that are clearly forbidden by Holy Scripture?(20) Is it enough for Enneagram advocates like Jim Scully of Pecos Abbey to say "that ‘occult’ and ‘satanic’ are not synonyms? God told me back in 1979 that the greatest issue facing the Church in the 1990’s would be the deception of inter-faith syncretism. Maybe it is time for us as Anglicans and Christians to truly wake up and repent of our syncretistic mixing of Christ and the occult, of good and evil, of truth and deception, of light and darkness.
Reverend Ed Hird, Past National Chair,
Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada
Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church, North Vancouver, BC
(1) Theodore E. Dobson, who was a R.C. charismatic priest well-known for his inner healing books, has co-written an Enneagram book with Kathleen V. Hurley entitled "What’s My Type?" Dennis, Sheila, & Matt Linn, also well known in the Roman Catholic charismatic sphere for inner healing, strongly endorsed Ted Dobson’s book, saying "This is an encyclopedia of information about the Enneagram. We are a One, a Six, and a Seven." (Front Inside Cover). David Geraets, OSB, Abbot of the Pecos R.C. Benedictine Abbey and self-described post-charismatic, comments that Hurley and Dobson "give us fresh and invigorating insight into the Enneagram." (Front Inside Cover).
(2) Robert Innes, Personality Indicators & the Spiritual Life, Grove Spirituality Series, Cambridge, p. 12; "Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram", Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, S.J; Christian Research Journal, Fall 1991, p. 14ff; Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele (The Enneagram Made Easy, Harper Collins,1994, p. 1) say that "The Russian mystical teacher G.I. Gurdjieff introduced it to Europe in the 1920’s ..."
(3) Robert Innes describes Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram as "the two indicators most widely used by Christian groups..."(p.3) Baron & Wagele hold that "Many of the variations within the nine [Enneagram] types can be explained by relating the highly respected Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to the Enneagram. This will increase accuracy, give greater breadth to the system, and lead to a more finely tuned understanding of ourselves and others. (p. 7, 136-149) Suzanne Zuercher, author of "Enneagram Spirituality" (Notre Dame:Ave Maria Press, 1992, p. 157) "places the whole of the Enneagram within a basically Jungian framework." (Robert Innes, op. cit., p. 14)
(4) Barbara Metz, SND, & John Burchill, OP, The Enneagram & Prayer, Dimension Books, p. 11
(5) Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, op. cit., p. 14ff
(6) Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele, The Enneagram Made Easy, Harper Collins, San Francisco,1974, p. 1: Baron & Wagele claim that "The roots of the Enneagram go back many centuries. Its exact origins are not known but it is believed to have been taught orally in secret Sufi brotherhood in the Middle East." Dobson & Hurley hint that the Magi (Wise Men) who visited the baby Jesus brought the Enneagram, teaching that the Magi were "Wisdom seekers from ancient Persia who were probably the originating or at least the first organized caretakers of the Enneagram." (p.182) Dobson & Hurley also allege that Pythagoras, the 6th century B.C. mathematician, "learned the Enneagram in Persia before founding his school..." (p. 183)
(7) Dobson & Hurley, p.3
(8) Robert Innes, Personality Indicators and the Spiritual Life, Grove Spirituality Series, Grove Books Ltd., Cambridge, p. 13
(9) Margaret Anderson, The Unknown Gurdjieff, London: Routledge, p.71-72.
(10) Dobson & Hurley, p. 15: "It is important to remember that each person has one, and only one, Enneagram number."
(11) op.cit., p. 151.
(12) Robert Nogosek, Nine Portraits of Jesus, p. v
(13) Maria Beesing OP, Robert Nogosek CSC, & Patrick O’Leary SJ, p. 120.
(14) Innes, op.cit, p. 13
(15) Lilly & Hart, Transpersonal Psychologies,‘The Arica Training’, p. 341
(16) Hurley & Dobson: Again and again they refer to the Enneagram as "secret wisdom" (p. 1, 9, 14, 136, &167). Claudio Naranjo claims that Fr. Bob Ochs and others promised not to teach others the Enneagram, but that they broke their promise of secrecy. "The Enneagram-- Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone", Audio Tape recorded at the Association of Christian Therapists, Feb. 1990, San Diego; The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the occult as: kept secret, esoteric...from the Latin word celare: to hide.
(17) "The Enneagram: a Critique", St. Clair McEvenue, Catholic Insight, July/August 1996, p. 10 Beesing, Nogosek, & O’Leary, authors of "The Enneagram: a Journey of Self-Discovery" (Dimension Books), claim that Oschar Ichazo was taught "the Enneagram in La Paz, Bolivia, by a man whose name he pledged not to reveal" (p. 1) See also "Psychology Today", Sam Keen, Vol. 7, No. 2, July 1973, p. 64".
(18) Msgr. W.B. Smith, The Homiletic & Pastoral Review, March 1993
(19) Metz & Burchill, op. cit., p. 107; p. 109: "The person does not need to be physically present (Barbara was in Kenya when I kythed with her), nor need the person be living."
(20) See Lev. 19:31, Lev 20:6, Deut 18:10-11, 1 Chron 10:13, Jer 27:9-10, Acts 16:16-24, & Rev 22:15
The Reverend Ed Hird
Past National Chair, ARM Canada
Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church
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