Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Enneagram Part 4

After my diversion into the Enneagram for Hummingbird last week, I want to get back to the application for the people of God.  Again I am drawing primarily on the work of Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert — The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective. 

As I noted previously, I believe the strength of the Enneagram compared to the Myers Briggs Typology is the possibility of redemption which it offers.  As much as both systems are valuable for understanding ourselves and our world, what do we do once we have developed more fully that understanding?  Rohr and Ebert speak of root sins which accompany each type.  It is not all that popular to speak of sin in many circles today but I believe that is because of the moral implications which are attached to it.  Either people disregard sin entirely in the reductionist world of scientific atheism a la Richard Dawkins et al or believe that we should not call a spade a spade in the religious sphere and avoid looking at the log in their own eyes and rather condemn the speck in those terrible people across the street or the country or the other side of the world.  

Rohr/Ebert define sin as, “our primary emotional compulsion or mistaken attitudes.”  This perhaps is a little too much psychologizing but they define it further as ‘a separation or failure to reach a goal’ which is, to my mind’ more to the point.  Sin for me is primarily those things which separate us from God — as has been said elsewhere.  It can be moral sins but it can be in any aspect of life.  Much of sin is because of ego-based desire which puts ourselves ahead of God and God’s creation.  As Rohr/Ebert note the sins “promise advancement in life, but in reality they produce just what they are trying to prevent; loneliness, absurdity, emptiness”.  In effect it promises the world at the cost of our souls.  This mistaken attitude is the ‘false self’ which is Ego driven.  Rohr/Ebert identify a root sin for each type — these are based on the ‘seven deadly sins’ plus two additional ones — fear and deceit:

Type one — anger 
Type six— fear
Type two — pride
Type seven — intemperance (gluttony)
Type three — untruth (deceit)
Type eight — shamelessness (lust)
Type four — envy
Type nine — laziness
Type five — Avarice

Being a (I hope partially) redeemed nine I can certainly identify with the root sin of nines.  I find it very easy to avoid undertaking what I want to accomplish — such as writing this.  I also find it easy to fall into the couch potato mode of operating. 

The first step in redemption is to accept ourselves.  As Rohr/Ebert note God loves us unconditionally including our dark side which we want desperately to hide form the world and as much as possible form ourselves — ultimately without success.  Those aspect of ourselves which we do not acknowledge (our shadow in Jungian terms) come back when we least expect it to bite us in the backside.  The Enneagram is not a source of redemption.  The source of redemption is from the false self is a gift of God’s grace. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Enneagram —Part Three b

I have been following the antics of the three hummingbirds that come to our feeder.  They each have distinct personalities and I thought it would be interesting to try and determine their Enneagram types as a practical or – not so practical application of the theory.  I have consulted with the in-house expert on The Enneagram — Lorna — in drawing my conclusions. 

There is one dominant one who is very territorial.  He (I don’t know the sex but I call him male because of his aggressiveness) will drive away the other two when they try to feed even when he doesn’t want to feed himself.  At first I thought he might be a three as this type is defined by a need to be the winner — the top-dog or top-bird in this case.  The three has the need to succeed above all else.  If he is a three of course I would not be able to reason with him and encourage him to cooperate and not be a dog–in –the manger as is my wont as a nine. Threes are reluctant to accept criticism from others.  However, on reconsideration of this assessment and in consultation with my in-house consultant, I believe that our little take no prisoners guy is probably an eight.  Eights have the need to be against.  Eights fight as a way of making contact.  When eights are in power their subordinates often feel oppressed or pushed around.  I think we will have to call our little top-bird as an unredeemed eight.
The middle hummingbird seems to be unperturbed by the antics of the top-bird.  It doesn’t take too much notice and carries on after the top-bird has had its hissy-fit.  Lorna and I concluded that this one is probably a five — I definitely defer to her on this as she is a five and it takes one to know one.  The five has a need to perceive.  Fives go through life and gather what they can get — in the hope of filling up their inner vacuum.  The majority of hummingbirds are probably five’s on this basis.  As noted by Richard Rohr/Andreas Ebert, their capacity to express their feelings can remain underdeveloped.  Redeemed fives have a quiet inner power and tenderly emotional, loving, polite, hospitable and gentle. 

Our final little hummingbird is the bottom-bird.  It is completely cowed (birded just doesn’t seem right) by the antics of the top-bird.  It arrives when things appear peaceful and yet it spends most of its time looking around nervously rather than partaking in what is in front of it.  It will sometimes sit on the bench on the deck looking forlorn and wistful as the others feed.   When it finally does feel it’s safe to drink it doesn’t spend long on the activity and flies off before it is confronted by the mean, nasty top-bird.  My consultant and I have come to the conclusion this bird is a six.  The six has the need for security.  According to Rohr/Ebert, sixes easily succumb to self-doubt which makes them look ahead, fearful and mistrustful.  Their attitude is ‘the world is dangerous; you have to be on the lookout; I don’t have enough inner authority to be up to it, so I have to look somewhere outside myself’.  We were worried initially that this poor number five would not survive but it seems to be thriving despite itself.
In any case our three little types are not likely to change so we have to accept them as they are and hope they will all continue to be the part of God’s plan for our little corner of the world.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Enneagram Part 3

I am continuing to explore the Enneagram Typology this week.  I am drawing on the perspective of Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert in their book The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.   As I noted previously, I am finding the Enneagram system to be particularly interesting and helpful as it goes beyond a being simply a system of personality types.  Typology can be very helpful in understand yourself and the world.  It can also be very helpful, in my experience for those who do not fit the norms of society I being comfortable with themselves e.g. introverts in an extroverted culture.  The Enneagram typology goes beyond that and help us understand how we can move beyond our ego- based position in the world into a mature and integrated position in the world.
In exploring the approach taken by Rohr and Ebert today I want to look at the concept of sin.  In their understanding, the Enneagram system relates a sin to each of the nine Enneagram types.  First it is important to examine how Rohr& Ebert understand ‘sin’.  In their theology sin means ‘missing the mark’ which is the root meaning of the Greek word for sin – hamartia.  Sinning in this sense means falling short of the target or in other words not following the path that God intends for you.  When this happens – which it inevitably does - we separate ourselves to a lesser or greater extent from God.  As Rohr/Ebert note “Sins are attempts to cope with or enhance life with unsuitable means.”  We chose – consciously or unconsciously – this way of responding to a situation because we need to maintain our present position in life.  As noted elsewhere the ego is determined to maintain the status quo even if it is not beneficial to us in the long run. 
In the enneagram typology there are nine traps or sins we fall into – one for each type.  These are the seven traditional deadly sins of Catholic Christianity; pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, unchastely, plus fear and deceit.  The root sin of each type is:
1                    anger
2                    pride (presumptuousness)
3                    deceit (untruth)
4                    envy
5                    avarice
6                    fear
7                    gluttony (intemperance)
8                    lust (shamelessness)
9                    sloth (laziness)
For the individual to mature and in my understanding to become the person God intends them to be, these sins must be redeemed and transformed into a positive approach to God’s world.  I will explore more of this journey next time. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Enneagram Part 2

Last week I wrote about my current interest in the Enneagram typology which I was introduced to in the Spiritual Direction Program I have just completed.  The Enneagram Typology is a personality type system similar to the Myers Briggs Typology which I am more familiar with.  Both systems identify people within a system of types.  I am an INFJ – an introverted – intuitive – feeling – judging type in the Myers Briggs.  Similarly I have self-identified as a nine which is sometimes classified as the Peacemaker type in the Enneagram typology. 
Today’s topic is the Enneagram system so for the sake of brevity I will restrict my comments to it.  The Enneagram system has nine types which each have characteristics as well as subcategories such as wings which are the types next to you in the system.  It is presented as a circle – or wheel with nine at the top.  Below is a diagram with the common classification of each type e.g. nine= peacemaker.
As I noted the classification system is often presented as shown above with a name such a peacemaker which is characteristic of the type.  Richard Rohr does not use this classification system but rather uses a system which identifies the overriding ‘need’ of a person in each type as shown below.
                1 The Need to be Perfect
                2. The Need to be Needed
                3. The Need to Succeed
                4. The Need to be Special
                5. The Need to Perceive
                6. The Need for Security
                7. The Need to Avoid Pain
                8. The Need to be Against
                9. The Need to Avoid
The typology systems can be helpful in understanding yourself and others.  You are able to better understand and accept yourself and others.  Much of what I read about the ‘nine’ type resonated with me and affirmed what I knew about myself.  For example a nine avoids conflict and have decided to keep their anger to themselves.  They also try to understand both sides of a situation.  As Rohr notes the pitfall of the nines is lethargy and comfort. 
It can be used as a type (no pun intended) of parlour game to figure out what type a personality in the news is.  For example my guess is that Rob Ford, the current absentee mayor of Toronto, is a three.  As Rohr notes unredeemed threes first and foremost deceive themselves.  They have no longing for depth – Ford is currently not engaging in treatment for his alcohol and drug problems while he is one leave of absent to be in treatment.  The immature threes can believe their own lies and the pitfall of threes is vanity which means that secondary things like packaging are more important than essential. 
However, the Enneagram goes beyond mere characteristics and helps people learn how the ‘sins’ of their types can be converted and they can mature into more complete and positive human beings who use their energy in ways that God intended rather than to maintain the ego based position in life.  The root sin of the nines is laziness which resonates with me as I have a tendency to veg out and have to work not to fall into that mode of being.
I will leave it there for this edition and I intend to explore the how Enneagrams can help people to attain conversion and maturity through the grace of God.  If you want to peruse this in more depth I would recommend Enneagram; a Christian Perspective by Rorh and Andreas Ebert or sign up for Rohr’s Daily Meditations in which he is currently exploring the Enneagram.  I can be found at

THe Enneagram Part 1

I am now official Spiritual Directors and have the certificates to prove it.  It has been a wonderful two years for me and I have learned a lot and benefitted from the process not just in learning tools and techniques of the trade (so to speak) but also in experience and appreciation of God’s activity in my life and in the lives of others.
As part of the last Intensive we were given a good introduction to the Enneagram system of personality types by Radah Lion who did a marvellous job channelling each to the Enneagram types.  I was actually given a book on the topic a few years ago but never really got engaged by it as it seemed like another personality type system like the Myers Briggs.  In any case now that I have a better introduction to it I can see the potential benefits of it.  I am currently reading “Enneagram; A Christian Perspective" by Richard Rohr.  As Rohr notes it is not a system of self-improvement which would serve the ego position (our False Selves in which our egos are striving to maintain at all costs.  The goal is to move beyond the perspective of our egos and through God’s grace to be transformed more closely to our True Selves that God intends us to realize. 
I intend to continue to explore the Enneagram system in more depth and can see the potential application in Spiritual Direction as well as in my own life.  More on this later.  Peace,