The Enneagram: Should Christians Use It?
Since August of 2019, the Enneagram has been a hot topic around my house. Before August I had never actually heard of the enneagram. The only reason I started researching it was because of an email my mom sent me titled, “Why Christians Should Avoid the Enneagram.” I was intrigued. The content of the email was a simple Youtube link. That video compelled my curiosity to dig deeper into this unknown topic.
As I began my research and conversations with users, one consistent theme kept coming up: the lack of knowledge concerning its origin. Let me be candid for a moment. I am not saying that I research everything I use to determine whether I should or should not use it (although I probably should more often). For some reason, this topic instantly captivated me. When I see something sweeping through at a rapid pace and the adoption rate is extremely high, yes, by default, I am a skeptic and I do the research before adoption.
After the research, advice, and discussions with others (both those for and against), I firmly believe against the use of the enneagram. Furthermore, I believe it has no place in the Christian life. Before you suddenly stop reading because you disagree, pump the brakes. Read through the rest of this post with the understanding, my goal is not to convince you to take “my” side, rather provide information. Below I will do my best to break down my research and thoughts into three parts.
Part 1: What is the Enneagram?
The “Enneagram (of Personality)” as defined by Wikipedia is derived “from the Greek words ἐννέα [/ennéa/, meaning “nine”] and γράμμα [/grámma/, meaning something “written” or “drawn”] which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.” (1) This is, of course, the textbook response. The more common and simplistic answer is it’s a test or typing that arguably describes your personality.
The enneagram seeks to define your personality and why you behave in certain ways. It is supposed to aid in how you respond and interact with others around you. It is designed to reveal opportunities for personal development and how to understand others.
Part 2: A Brief History of the Enneagram
There are claims for an ancient origination of the enneagram. However, none of those claims can be substantiated. The earliest mention of the enneagram has been found in the writings of P. D. Ouspensky, a Russian occultist. He attributes his teacher, Greek-American and occultist, Georges I. Gurdjieff, who himself made no connection to personality types, yet regarded the enneagram as a symbol of the cosmos, a “universal symbol.”
The enneagram as used today to define personalities is credited to Oscar Ichazo, a Bolivian occultist. Ichazo claims to have discovered the meaning of the personality type meaning when it was taught to him by the Archangel Metraton whilst he was “in a divine state of presence” AKA high on mescaline. Ichazo later founded the Arica Institute in Chile before moving to the States, but not before conceiving “Enneagram of Personality.”
It was in the late 1960s a student of Ichazo named Claudio Naranjo, an occultist as well, officially connected the enneagram to nine basic personality types. It was not until the 1970s that students of Naranjo began spreading the use of the enneagram to the Jesuit and Catholic communities and institutions in North America. One of the most prominent adopters of Naranjo’s teachings was a former Jesuit, Don Richard Riso, who, in 1995 co-founded the Enneagram Institute, which in turn catapulted the enneagram to larger audiences.
Part 3: Should Christians Use the Enneagram?
The origins of the enneagram are enough to make me want to stay away. It has been shrouded in darkness from the beginning. Passed down from one occultist to another with each one adding their “divine” spin on it. I don’t have enough faith to believe something born out of darkness can be redeemed by man and useful in the Christian life. I believe God and He alone has that power and I have yet to see any remote evidence that He has done so with the enneagram.
From a scientific perspective, the understanding of personality types is considered pseudoscience. Meaning all of the personality types were completely made up and there is no scientific basis for their validity. This is the primary reason for the downfall of the Myers-Briggs test. At inception, the MB test was unbelievably accurate and was used in both personal and corporate settings as a way to better connect with those around us. It wasn’t until decades later that it was debunked, dethroned, and labeled as useless.
I do not believe the enneagram in any form has any place in the Christian life. From both a spiritual and scientific perspective. One of the more saddening and frustrating phrases I’ve heard from enneagram users is, “I finally know who I am [my personality].” As a Christian why do we need the enneagram to define ourselves to us or those around us? I understand from the team-building perspective it is seen as beneficial to identify how people learn and operate so a leader knows how each team member excels. However, I would offer up a counter thought. For centuries people have been building successful families, companies, and empires without the use of the enneagram. How did people succeed without the enneagram? What makes it better than its failed predecessors? Is it simply a fad too that will fade with age or until something even better replaces it?
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.Matthew 7:15
Darkness has a way of sneaking into our lives; wolves masquerading as sheep. I believe that the enneagram is one of these wolves. It seems innocent enough, a useful tool, but user beware, do a little reading on the people who created it and their ambitions and it’s apparent how distorted their view of who they were and who they could become truly is. Not to mention how Biblically unsound their teachings are.
- Do you use the enneagram? If so, have you done any of the research surrounding the origins?
- What happens when your personality type no longer matches you?
- What happens if the decision is made to eliminate a (your) personality type or perhaps add a new type?
I’ll reiterate my point from above. My goal is not to sway you to my side of the discussion. I only desire to provide information and make sure you have more details before jumping in on using the enneagram.
In addition to the links in the text, below are some other references to consider reading: