A few years ago, I heard the word, Enneagram. Admittedly, it was new to me. I sat and listened to several conversing on what number they were. Number? What do you mean by number? As they carried on about what number they were, I wondered where this came from and how it became such a phenomenon under my nose.
As the conversations continued, others encouraged me to discover my own number.
Let me start by saying that this is in no way meant to shame anyone who has been involved in the Enneagram. Like anything new that someone introduces me to, I like to research the origins and gather facts before I rush headlong into it, especially if something inside me says to pause.
In the case of the Enneagram, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me not only to pause but steer clear. For the last few years, I have steered clear, not giving it much thought until recently.
I was at a women’s event, and the subject of the Enneagram came up again. There’s that word again. Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This personality test is still prevalent two years later. Would I continue to ignore it or dig deeper and discover why I was warned to stay away from it?
It’s time for research.
My love for the Lord and teaching have prompted me to take time and research this popular phenomenon. What is this, and where did it originate? Is it biblical or occultist? Why are so many infatuated with the Enneagram?
My purpose is to report what I have found in my investigation. My purpose is not to shame anyone who has taken the test. I am not here to degrade others who have fallen in love with the Enneagram. I wanted to look deeper into this phenomenon that has appeared to sweep through several Christian circles.
I have watched numerous videos from several YouTubers on the Enneagram. I have also surfed the web looking for information on its origin and creator. In the following paragraphs, I am going to share some of what I found. If I shared all of it, this blog would be thousands of words, and I know you don’t have time for all that.
You are welcome to do your own research if you aren’t comfortable with the research I have shared.
(I took the following information from various websites that discuss the Enneagram. The words in quotations and italicized below are not my own words.)
What is the Enneagram?
“The Enneagram of Personality, or simply the Enneagram, is a categorization tool that classifies human personality into a typology of nine interconnected personality types.
The symbol of the Enneagram is a figure composed of three parts: a circle, an inner triangle (connecting 3-6-9), and an irregular hexagonal “periodic figure” (connecting 1-4-2-8-5-7).”
Where did the Enneagram come from?
“Some proponents of the Enneagram attribute it to the Desert Fathers, Kabbalists, Sufi mystics, Pythagoreans, the Chaldeans, or other ancient groups. Claims for an ancient origin, however, have never been substantiated.
The earliest mention of the Enneagram is found in the writings of the Russian occultist P. D. Ouspensky, who attributes it to his teacher, the Greek American occultist Georges I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff considered the Enneagram a symbol of the cosmos but made no connection with it to personality types.
It was left to another occultist, Óscar Ichazo, to connect the Enneagram to personality. Ichazo claimed to have discovered the personality type meaning of the Enneagram when it was taught to him by the Archangel Metraton while he was high on mescaline.
One of Ichazo’s students, a Chilean-born psychiatrist named Claudio Naranjo (another occultist), was the first to connect the nine points of the Enneagram to nine basic personality types. (Naranjo also appears to be the one to connect the mention of the Enneagram by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to ancient sources.)”
Insight on Claudio Naranjo
Recently, I watched a Youtube video on Enneagram. Three women are discussing the Enneagram in the video. At one point, they play a snippet of a video showing four men talking to each other. One identifies himself as Claudio Naranjo, and he tells the other men in the video that he developed the personality types through channeled writing. Channeled writing is where you allow a higher power to create or guide the words you write. This is not the same as God inspiring the writers of the Bible. Channeled writing is not biblical.
Back to information from the web
“In the 1970s, students of Naranjo spread the Enneagram to various Catholic communities, especially in mystical and contemplative circles. Some of the promoters of the Enneagram include the former Jesuit Don Riso, the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr, and late Benedictine nun Suzanne Zuercher.
In 1997, Riso co-founded the Enneagram Institute, an organization that helped bring the Enneagram to a broader audience.”
Insight on Richard Rohr
In the same video I mention above, the three women discuss the teachings of Richard Rohr. They warn that Christians need to stay away from him because he is a false teacher. I never heard of the man, and I don’t know much about him other than what they discussed because of his ties to the Enneagram. I need to do more research to get a better idea of who this gentleman is.
Why are some evangelicals enthusiastic about the Enneagram?
“Although Catholics have been debating concerns about the Enneagram for decades (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine issued a statement in 2000), it has only become popular in evangelicals in the past few years.
While it’s impossible to say why it has become such a hot fad, there are few factors that may have lead to its use:
Like Myers-Briggs and astrological signs, the Enneagram allows people to convey a significant amount of information about their personality in a compact way for people who speak the same cultural code.
Some evangelicals find the Enneagram to be a useful tool for gaining “personality awareness” and for learning about people they don’t have a personal history with, such as members of a new church plant.”
Why are some evangelicals opposed to the Enneagram?
“Evangelicals who favor the Enneagram tend to be younger and either do not know or downplay its history. They consider it just another personality typology, like Meyers-Briggs. In contrast, evangelicals who oppose the Enneagram tend to be older and associate the Enneagram with the occult or with the Catholic spirituality movement.
Those who oppose it are likely to have first seen books on the Enneagram in the bookstore’s New Age sectiontore (now they are more likely to be in the Self-Help/Psychology section). The symbol also is reminiscent of the pentagram, which is associated with various occult groups, from Wiccans to Satanists.”
Is the Enneagram an accurate or useful test of personality?
“Determining the plausibility of the Enneagram is difficult since there is no standard test or method for determining the personality types.
Most Enneagram tests rely on the Barnum effect, a psychological phenomenon that occurs when individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them (more so than to other people), despite the fact that the description is actually filled with information that applies to almost everyone.”
Should Christians be using the Enneagram?
While the Enneagram is itself not ancient, typological personality classifications have been around since the era when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
During that period, the Greek physician Hippocrates was advancing his proto-psychological theory about the “four temperaments.” The “father of medicine” identified four fundamental personality types—sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic—that he believed were influenced by the four humors—blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
While doctors no longer attribute our temperament to our bodily fluids, the idea that our personalities can be mapped to basic categories has lived on. (In the late 1960s, Tim LaHaye, the best-selling co-author of the Left Behind novels, sold a million copies of a book that claims our temperaments were still best classified as sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.) Throughout the ages, Christians have latched on to such typologies, so it’s not surprising evangelicals would be attracted to the latest variation.
Shouldn’t we be concerned with its origin?
Still, it raises the question of whether we should be concerned because of the Enneagram’s occultist origins.
We definitely should be concerned when the Enneagram is being used, as many Catholics have, as a form of Gnostic-based numerology. We shouldn’t be seeking divination from a tool that was developed by someone who claims it was handed to him in a vision from what sounds suspiciously like a demon.
When the Enneagram is used simply as a diagnostic tool or for personality classification, the question becomes less clear. Despite its origin story, there may be enough of the Enneagram that remains useful (or at least non-harmful). If that’s the case, we should leave the issue up to the conscience of the individual Christian.
“However, we should be proceeding with caution and treat the issue like Paul treated meat sacrificed to idols (Rom. 14:14-23) if using the Enneagram causes our “weaker brothers” to stumble. If they begin to think New Age-oriented tools of “self-discovery” are also legitimate, we should be willing to abandon the enneagram altogether.
“If the Enneagram were another version of What Color Is Your Parachute? or Strengths Finder, that would be fine,” Kevin DeYoung says. “But it has been, from its inception (whenever that was), infused with spiritual significance. And therein lies the danger.”
Evangelicals concerned about the Enneagram should probably worry less since it’s likely a mostly harmless fad that will fade away in a few years. And evangelicals enthralled with the Enneagram should probably wonder why they’re spending so much energy on a tool that has about as much scientific validity as the four humors theory of Hippocrates (and Tim LaHaye).”
Christian book publishers
One of the videos I watched mentions Lifeway and Zondervan, both Christian book publishers/distributors. Both of these companies sell books on the Enneagram so that Christians can order books on this subject directly from them. One has to ask if they investigated this personality test’s origins before they agreed to represent them. Even if they discovered all this information after the fact, it’s a little late to pull down something that has gained popularity and lose revenue. Or is it? As of today, both are still selling these items.
I could share a lot more research with you, especially from the Enneagram website dedicated to this personality test. Still, as I mentioned earlier, this blog would be a lot longer. As I mentioned when I first started writing, you are welcome to research this topic for yourself, especially if you identify as a number.
Some final things to consider.
Who are you, and what is your identity in Jesus?
How does God see you?
Does the Lord see your personality as a number?
Who does the Lord say you are?
The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are more than just a number on a triangle that a couple of guys made up. If you are a believer, you are a child of God, and he loves you no matter what a personality test says.
Because this test appears to have started from spiritual origins that are not biblical, it raises a red flag for me, and it should for the believer, but as they mention above, that is up to you.
Again I reiterate, I am not here to shame anyone who loves this personality test. I am not here to throw water on your deep conversations with friends about what number you are. It has been bothering me for quite some time, so I decided to research the topic myself from multiple sources to verify its validity.
Based on what I found, I am going to pass on the Enneagram.
YouTubers who discussed the Enneagram:
Melissa Dougherty; Allie Beth Stuckey; Missionary Spencer Smith
Watch the videos to gather your own information so you can form your own opinion.
1 Timothy 4:7; Hosea 4:1; Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:9-11; Isaiah 8:9-20; 1 John 4:1
I pray the Lord guides you and gives you wisdom.