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.