Few ideas go unchallenged at Hillsdale College. While the curriculum is based on certain core truths, rigorous conversation and debate is a staple on campus; students and faculty are committed to the earnest pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, when a perspective goes unchallenged for more than a moment, it stands out. It must either be universally accepted or be insufficiently interesting to inspire a refutation. I am not sure under which of these categories the Enneagram resides, but its recent rise to prominence on campus and in the pages of the Collegian indicates it has garnered many admirers for its usefulness in social, religious, and personal realms.
Unfortunately, the Enneagram is not worthy of admiration, especially not that of Christians. The founder of the ideology from which the contemporary Enneagram was formulated, Oscar Ichazo, confirmed as much in a January 2003 interview with Walter Effross. He also denounced “the misguided implication that the Teachings have a Catholic root.”
As for its diffusion into fringe Catholic circles, we have Franciscan friar and mystic theologian Richard Rohr to thank: his 1995 book “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective” was seminal in introducing American Christians to the Enneagram. It took a while for the Enneagram to rise to prominence among evangelicals, but recent works such as the book mentioned in last week’s Career Services event, “The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, have reached many looking for Christian self-help.
Now, many contend that the Enneagram to which they subscribe has nothing to do with the unchristian work of Ichazo. They would be entirely correct, though not in the manner they may expect.
In short, the Enneagram as it is known today is only a bastardization of Ichazo’s Arica School. There, Ichazo sought to “recreate not only what I consider the real interpretation of the Platonic-Peripatetic-Stoic-Neoplatonic traditions, but the methods and practices towards the attainment of true enlightenment, all by way of philosophical clarification and mystical transcendence.”
The nine personality types that are now synonymous with the personality system known as the Enneagram of Personality were disavowed firmly by Ichazo, who took legal action against author and Enneagram-popularizer Helen Palmer for her blatant misrepresentation of his teachings. Ichazo said: “I was at pains to separate myself and my work from this incredible parody that fits both the best comical and the best tragic script that anyone could imagine.”
The authenticity of the contemporary Enneagram aside, its core tenets are abhorrent enough to dissuade Christians from integrating it into their spirituality. It is founded in contradictions to key tenets of the faith and does not encourage the sort of self-reflection found in Scripture. Simply put, when one tries to reconcile Christianity and the Enneagram, they are left with a theologically grotesque hybrid that most resembles the Gnostic heresy.
We are blessed to be many centuries removed from the prominence of Gnosticism, but history tells us that heresies are not so easily defeated. The end of the Enneagram of Personality, when it is pursued in its fullness, is the discovery of one’s “True Self.” This True Self is desirable because, according to The Enneagram Institute (quoting Ichazo), “In essence, every person is perfect, fearless, and in a loving unity with the entire cosmos.”
One only needs to refer to the psalmist to understand this contradicts the doctrine of original sin and the nature of man’s flesh: “There is none who does good, not even one.” In the fifth chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul explains, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
On the contrary, The Enneagram Institute asserts the inherent goodness in man: “We do not try to force ourselves to be ‘virtuous’ — rather, as we relax and become more present and awake, seeing through the fear and desire of the ego self, these qualities naturally manifest themselves in the human soul.” When man’s fallen nature is denied, there is no need for the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus. Salvation is no longer by grace through faith; it becomes just a matter of getting out of our own way.
While there is much more to say about the compatibility of the Enneagram and Christianity, it is sufficient to recognize this contradiction as prohibitive. In its beginnings and its ends, it is nothing but an imposter of a fraud. While it may seem harmless to incorporate into career planning or dating, is it prudent to give any credence to an ideology so fraught with error? Even if it is merely a “low-resolution picture,” as Cron claims, is such an image worth referencing in making a decision about your career or your spouse? The answer is a resounding “no.”
Asa Hoffman is a senior studying politics.