(Taken from "The New Age: A Christian Critique" by Ralph Rath,
published by Greenlawn Press, 107 S. Greenlawn, South Bend, IN
Out of nowhere, the enneagram burst onto the Christian scene and
became very popular with publishers and retreat houses. The enneagram
is a circular diagram on which personality types numbered one through
nine are symbolically represented at nine equidistant points on the
circumference. The numbers are then connected by arrows in
significant patterns which point the way to health (integration) or
to neurosis (disintegration). Each human personality is said to fall
into one of these nine types.
The personality types and the animals symbolizing them are:
1. Perfectionist/reformer, terrier
2. Helper, cat
3. Status-seeker, peacock
4. Artist, basset hound
5. Thinker, fox
6. Loyalist, rabbit
7. Fun-loving/generalist, monkey
8. Powerful, rhinoceros
9. Peacemaker, elephant.
In an article in New Heaven/New Earth, Dorothy Ranaghan raised a
number of criticisms of enneagrams. To begin with, she had problems
with its origin in contemporary Sufism. (Sufism is a mystical
offshoot of Islam.) "There is much in the zeal, devotion and
asceticism of Sufis that is admirable," she wrote. "Yet, in contrast
to the contemplation and the yearning for holiness of the Muslim
mystics of former ages, contemporary Sufism, which claims over 40
million adherents, has become a mix of pantheism, magic and
rationalism with a belief in telepathy, teleportation, foreknowledge,
transmigration of souls and a denial of a personal God."
Ranaghan also had problems with some of the terminology which seemed
Christian, but was not. "Redemption, for example, does not mean,
among Sufis, the saving action of God in our lives, but "return from
ignorance." The very worst thing, according to Sufi doctrine, is "not
sin, but ignorance." "All Gnosticism flows from this premise,"
The goal of Sufism is to make a person whole and the enneagram chart
seeks to enable healthy integration of the personality as the path to
redemption. "Jesus can and does heal and restore sight to the blind
and hope to those who are cast down," Ranaghan wrote, "but brokenness
in mind or body is not necessarily an obstacle to holiness.
Furthermore, even the most authentic, self-discovered,
psychologically healthy, integrated and whole person on earth can go
In her book A Closer Look at the Enneagram, Ranaghan said the man
primarily responsible for transmitting the enneagram into the West
was George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, an Armenian occultist who lived in
Russia from 1877 to 1947.
He also had a great influence on the contemporary New Age movement.
Gurdjieff's writings, Ranaghan noted, are "filled with descriptions
of planetary influences, astral bodies, clairvoyant and telepathic
experiments, and with explanations of the true significance of occult
interests such as kundalini and the Tarot." For Gurdjieff, the
enneagram had secret powers not particularly allied to personality
typology. "The enneagram is a universal symbol," Gurdjieff believed.
"All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of
the enneagram it can be interpreted."
The enneagram seems very faddish. It seems to be the in thing.
Proponents seem so excited because they claim it comes from the
wisdom of the ancient Sufis, but they are hard-pressed to mention any
book from the Sufis that is generally accepted as a work of great
wisdom. (Sufis are known for having spawned the whirling dervishes,
who spin themselves into an altered state of consciousness.) The
enneagram symbol is often portrayed in promotional materials as
something magical and mystical in itself. Authors assure us that
there are only nine personality types. "The term 'enneagram' is
derived from the Greek word 'enneas,' meaning nine," a 1985 book
stated. "According to the enneagram system, there are nine, and only
nine, types of human personality."
I have personally challenged a number of enneagram proponents about
there being only nine personality types possible. Everyone I talked
to backed off. Some mentioned that the complete enneagram system
itself allows for flexibility in assigning personality traits to
people. A 1987 book agreed with this: "While the nine personality
types of the enneagram form discrete categories, you should not think
of them as iron-clad entities. You will find that the enneagram is
open-ended and extraordinarily fluid, like human beings themselves."
Furthermore, Christian proponents of the enneagram are sometimes
forced to encourage Christians to bend their Christian standards to
deal with their problems. "Progress in the enneagram seems to be
movement from one sin type to another sin type," Ranaghan wrote.
"Persons who are 2s (the 'nervous breakdowns' in the world) need,
according to Sister Mary Helen Kelley, to 'come to conscious
selfishness' for redemption. Sister Barbara Metz states that 'to come
to wholeness . . . the 6 (the loyalist) needs to walk into the
darkness of deviance and disobedience.'"
February 2, 1995 issue of "The Wanderer"
"Catholic Replies" by James J. Drummey
Q. Our parish Is holding an enneagram basic workshop. Just what is
that and how does our Catholic Church see it?-G.T.C., Indiana, and
A. For some good information about the enneagram, and its
incompatibility with Catholic teaching, see chapter five ("Occult
Roots of the Enneagram") of Fr. Mitch Pacwa's book Catholics and the
New Age (Servant Publications). Moral theologian Msgr. William B.
Smith has also cautioned Catholics about the dangers of the
enneagram. Writing in the March, 1993 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral
Review, Msgr. Smith said:
"The enneagram is a circular diagram on which nine personality
types are systematically represented at nine equidistant points
on the circumference. Lines connect various points to each
other. It is this diagram itself which is the enneagram, and it
is used as a psychological tool of self-discovery. Each of the
nine personality types (numbered I through 9) is described
negatively by some compulsion, fixation, or basic driving force
to avoid something unpleasant. This compulsion is seen as one's
basic psychological orientation. To discover your number, you
have to realize what you seek to avoid, what your compulsion
"The basic premise of the enneagram is that there are nine and
only nine personality types; this is simply given as true, it is
nowhere demonstrated as proven. To my knowledge, there are no
scientific studies to determine whether enneagram theory can be
integrated with other typologies; but that would not really
bother some advocates one way or the other.... The more you read
about it, the more it begins to resemble a college-educated
horoscope; and that is not compatible with Catholic doctrine or
"As a tool for spiritual direction, it seems to me most
deficient, even dangerous. The enneagram is really built on a
theology (?)-perhaps ideology-of self-renewal and self-
regeneration that is a far cry from (perhaps contradiction of)
the Gospel teaching: 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain
of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain
of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit' (John
"[Pope John Paul II said on Nov. 1st, 1982]: 'Any method of
prayer is valid insofar as it is inspired by Christ and leads to
Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).' The
enneagram is not the Way, nor is it the Truth, and on those
bases not truly compatible with-much less essential to-the Life
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