George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff defined the Enneagram as follows:
“Speaking in general terms it must be understood that the enneagram is a universal symbol, therefore all knowledge can be contained within the diagram and consequently it can also be interpreted. Only what a man is able to put in the Enneagram can he hope to understand, what he cannot place within its’ structure, he will not be able to comprehend. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram and every time a man examines the laws contained within it he can learn something new, something he did not know before”
Thereby the enneagram can be said to represent the human self. It is an aid to self-knowledge and to a knowledge of others. I will now summarise how I understand it to do this.
On close analysis the enneagram consists of three geometric parts: a circle, a triangle, and a hexagon. These represent its primary constituents as thinking, feeling and moving centres. Notice that the circle, the triangle, and the hexagon are all closed loops or paths.
- The circle represents the Self as a whole.
- The triangle represents the division of the Self into Action, Emotion, and Thinking centres: Or, Body, Heart & Mind.
- The hexagon connects pairs of points on each side of the triangle.
These descriptive terms of the personality types may vary from anyone’s method of description, but in spiritual development this is a traditional way of dividing the human self. Different personalities may favour different combinations of these centres of the self or may favour an exclusive centre. The centres a person uses to achieve self-value determine their personality type. Personality type is the mode a person favours in interacting with the world, within groups and as a political identity. Understanding the external and internal dynamics of the enneagram gives a greater understanding of human behaviour as well as their origins.
A Summary of the Nine Archetypal Personalities:
A 1 Personality Types (Saturn) The Conformist
These types fundamentally seek the approval of others in all things. How their conduct and possessions appear to others is the main consideration in their life. It is how they achieve self-value. They believe they are good if they appear good to others. Questions of usefulness or justice are secondary considerations to them. Everything is done for the sake of appearance. Extreme point one personality types tend to be “goody-goodies.” Their “goodness” is often quite superficial and something of an illusion. They will sacrifice anything for appearances, including the welfare of those around them. They will pressure their children to marry for social position. Seeking approval and status governs their lives.
A 2 Personality Types (Venus) The Helper
These types seek to be in a loving relationship. Love justifies all, but this love is an inner or merely superficial experience and in extreme cases has nothing to do with what is really happening in the world. Expressions of personal sentimentality may be enjoyed while others may still suffer.
A 3 Personality Types (Sun) The Performer
These types seek recognition and attention from any public audience. In extreme cases, they undertake outrageous acts at the expense of others sensitivity and performed just for the sake of being noticed. To be appreciated, they must have some public exposure. They therefore do not like privacy and will work to destroy the privacy of others.
A 4 Personality Types (Moon) The Artist/Creator
These types seek to represent themselves their feelings, creative intuitions or in the things around them. When they can see themselves in a personalised environment, then the 4 is happy. Extreme number 4’s tend to place style above substance.
A 5 Personality Types (Mercury) The Thinker
These types seek understanding and excels in dealing with information. In extreme cases, a 5 type will seek information purely for its own sake. The number 5 will devote himself to obscure, erudite research that has no practical application in anybody’s life.
A 6 Personality Types (Earth) The Supporter
These types seek participation in groups and obtain a sense of self-value by such participation. The 6 type achieves a sense of self-worth by their experience of loyalty to the group. In extreme cases, a number 6 is a chauvinist who is really indifferent to the actual aims, conduct and worth of the group to which they belong.
A 7 Personality Types (Mars) The Adventurer
These types seek self-value by leading an exciting, dynamic life. In extreme cases, the hunger for excitement may lead to an aimless, unstable, and dangerous life. Persons who are satisfied with less dynamic environments are considered by the 7 to be sedentary, “in a rut,” or “stuck in the mud.” The number 7 types might easily exchange an exciting environment for any truly personal achievement.
An 8 Personality Types (Jupiter) The Leader
These types seek personal action and know that they have self-value because they are conducting very important business. However, their actions may be mere “busyness”. The number 8’s life may consist of an endless series of projects. These projects may in the end be useless and wasteful, but the 8 is satisfied because through them it obtains a sense that they have some control over the world.
A 9 Personality Types (Stars) The Peacemaker
These types seek friends and acquaintances. Talking and being with others determine their sense of self-value. Sociability is the 9 type’s standard of value. In extreme cases affability replaces real friendship. Such a person may never actually do anything for anyone but still be willing to sacrifice anything to maintain the peace. “Don’t rock the boat” is number 9’s motto.
Symbolism of the Enneagram:
The circle of the enneagram numerically represents ZERO or the item under examination in an uninterrupted, constantly changing process. The different points represent the various changes or steps in that process. However, within this process are contained what G. I. Gurdjieff termed “intervals” – that is points where an additional shock or impetus, change of direction were required in order for that process to continue and not regress into inertia. The numbers 3 & 6 correspond to these so-called “intervals”. Where the triangle and the hexagon touch the circle the Nine Points are formed. The points represent outlets of the self by which the self interacts with its own unique view of the world. Each outlet is therefore a portal for a specific kind of personality and preoccupation. This personality has an underlying constitution that depends on the centres of the self involved and its orientation. For example, Points 1 and 2 represent personalities that respond primarily with their emotions. Because the 9-sided figure of the enneagram makes clear the full range of human capabilities, it is a guide towards the fundamental features of human interaction and co-operation. However, every type of personality has its inherent “blind spot” presuming that their personality is fixed or “real” and in effect unalterable when in actual fact the human personality is quite malleable and can be trained to respond in a totally different manner. Examining and studying the geometric constructs and paths of the enneagram also makes it easy to understand the unavoidable range of personal responses, it is therefore a bridge for human understanding. When we know that people are inclined towards one principle in preference to another we can more readily accept that they must be different, and we are more able to tolerate their divergent goals. In an allegorical sense the enneagram will help each “blind man” to see the whole of the elephant so to speak.
The interaction of the nine points through the arrow lines defined on the enneagram give rise to two cycles which can be categorised from a psychoanalytic perspective as integration and disintegration. In the analysis of group dynamics each individual develops a definite preference for a specific type of experience, goal or perspective. This preference is linked to the individual’s personality type, and usually specialist skills are acquired according to each type. This natural tendency towards specialisation supports elements and circumstances surrounding any occurrence of human unity or disunity. They represent our passions and fixations and how they may lead us astray or alternatively transform our lives.
Human unity would be naturally supported because to achieve any group task, the full range of special capabilities of each type is required if any undertaking is going to succeed. Each type of personality will of course need to adjust their own ordinances and adapt to the views and perspectives of others.
1) Group standards need to be adhered to, and someone must see that this is done.
2) Mutual good will should be expressed, otherwise any task becomes a singular burden and is done with resentment and often poorly.
3) Humour is needed to overcome the stress and failure that are part of any undertaking. Joking and entertainment support esprit de corps and sustain morale.
4) The task must be done with style and personal expression, or general group interest flags.
5) The task needs to be pursued with patience, understanding and planning, or failures will be many.
6) People must openly support the leadership, otherwise nothing will get done.
7) In any real task, there are usually risks, and someone must courageously face these challenges.
8) Someone must be in control, make schedules, and attend to details.
9) And someone must see that everyone works together and must smooth out any personal differences.
If any of these areas is deficient, group experience and joint tasks or initiatives are unsuccessful and difficult. However, human disunity is also supported by the natural differences between personality types.
For example different types will experience the same incident in entirely different ways. The “objective” facts will be the same for all, but the “mental” or subjective facts will differ according to their own personality type.
For example, suppose a cat gets onto a road, and is then accidentally run over by a car, and is then subsequently killed. The thoughts uppermost in the mind of a 1 type will be questions of responsibility: Whose cat was this? Why did he let it get on the road? Was the driver negligent? A 2 type will express sorrow for the cat and sympathy for its owner. A 3 type will find this incident something to talk about and it maybe even a source of humour. A 4 type may focus on the apparent features of the event, the pattern and brightness of the blood on the road. There are creative potentialities in every event. A 5 type may likely think about the shortness of life, cat lore (9 lives), and the subjugation of all living things by the harbinger of death. A 6 type may consider notifying the owner of the cat and the disposal of the cat’s body. A 7 type will relish the excitement of a good accident. An 8 type will be thinking of how to control matters so that cats are not killed and fenders not damaged in future. And a 9 type will tend to think of how harmony may be restored between the cat owner and the car driver. If two persons of different type talk about this one accident, there may easily be a failure of communication and a difference of opinion.
Not only are persons of different type unable to experience the same “objective” facts in the same way, they are constitutionally unable to have exactly the same goals and directives in life. Each type, unless otherwise psychologically evolved, achieves self-value solely through its favoured type of experience and expression. Anything within the group dynamic that denies a personality type its favoured experience causes resentment, anger, and frustration to manifest. While anything that helps a type towards its favoured experience produces pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness. However, what should be borne in mind is a heaven for one type may in actual fact be a hell for another.
Team-Building & Operations
The majority of groups and societies are formed by individuals because they tend to represent either mutual ideals or shared interests and their joint aims and objectives would be to protect these or sustain and develop them further. Ideally, the minimum number of people required to initiate the group dynamic is three and if these three individuals have the capacity to adopt dual roles then the primal hexagon of six points is naturally formed. The assumption being made here is that many people have inherent skills linked to their personality type that they can contribute to the welfare and development of the group. That is in many cases a group may be formed or constructed from several individuals who have more than one specialised skill or perspective. The maximum number of people required is 9 or in some cases 12, again these are simply multiples of three that maintain the working dynamic of any fully active group. As a general rule they tend to form 3 mutually responsive triads that can be defined as active, passive and reconciling.
Generally speaking the majority of groups are formed often naturally as for example in a social context, sometimes coincidentally according to fate or destiny or artificially when one person decides to form a “group”. In the latter the single individual who forms that group may have a hidden agenda or personal subjective motive for doing so. One reason or motive maybe to appear in control as a self-appointed leader/boss. We often see this being played out on social networking sites such as Facebook. The more friends or supporters one acquires, the more responses one solicits and the more people respect or admire you. Indeed many people will use the group dynamic for purely egotistically purposes or simply for psychological reinforcement and egotistical reassurance. The human ego constantly seeks approval, gratification and consent and, will in many instances try to find that either within the group or from the leader themselves. Many people will therefore enter into a group situation without a thorough understanding of its implications or their unconscious motives for doing so. Some people consider that belonging to such and such a school or organisation entitles them to some kind of high status or that simply being there as a member that they have crossed the great abyss of ignorance. Loneliness may also be a spur or the need for support. Paradoxically others may actually reject the group dynamic thinking or believing that they can learn all they need without any assistance or that the answer may be found in books or observance of mere doctrines. Some may even think that they have attained a modicum of understanding and can therefore instruct and lead others to the ineffable light of understanding. Others still will undergo deprivation, hardships and devote themselves fanatically to some cause and become prey to their own obsessions and delusions. Others may join groups in the hope that the consensus of thought and feeling will, like a wave, carry them unheeded and without dint of any personal willpower to the ultimate goal. While some people will find friendship, perhaps seek sexual encounters and possibly a suitable marriage partner. Another number of people will seek refuge from the distress of certain conditions that have imposed trials and tribulations on them. In effect within the group dynamic true altruists are rare and the majority of people seek confirmation of their own desire nature and negative condition from those who are always eager to encourage or reinforce it. Others may seek commercial advantage, business contacts and some people may even attempt a form of bribery, corruption or emotional blackmail in the hope that their support and affirmation of some group or guru on condition that it may in turn give them all the material happiness they seek to be personally satisfied.
When tensions occur between the passive and active triads the neutralising qualities of the reconciling triad are crucial in resolving them and removing any obstacles that impede future progress. Furthermore what has been overlooked so far is that each type also has a negative trait:
• The Leader – Needs to rally support for group directives (Fixation).
People who do not have the respect and support of others make poor leaders.
• The Supporter – Needs a representative body with an erudite spokesperson (Passion).
People who are denied a voice and whose opinions are rejected soon go elsewhere for solutions.
• The Manager – Needs to plan and organise group activity (Fixation).
People who watch chaos and disorder being encouraged soon become disillusioned.
• The Enthusiast – Needs a good idea or project to promote (Passion).
People who are disposed to conform to the opinions of others will not be creative.
• The Administrator – Needs to ensure that things get done (Fixation).
People who are responsible dislike indifference, unreliability or lack of commitment.
• The Observer – Needs to have an objective overview of what is happening (Fixation).
People who watch while others participate lack personal initiative and commitment.
• The Advisor – Needs to circulate or provide good advice (Fixation).
People who procrastinate and deliberate too much are unable to take risks and take advantage of opportunities.
• The Arbitrator – Needs to smooth out differences and conflicts (Passion).
People who do not have the best interests of the group at heart harbour personal prejudices.
• The Sympathiser – Needs a worthwhile cause or ideal (Fixation).
People who judge solely by sentiment or mere appearance form poor alliances and lack focus.
The Ennneagram can be applied in many areas with some comprehension and imagination each point could be assigned an employment role or function within any group or company.
The Cycle of Integration:
1 The Conformist 7 The Adventurer: A person who defines themselves through the opinions of others grows by dealing with both the universal and objective problems of life.
2 The Helper 4 The Artist: A person who relates to others through affection tends towards overt sentimentality. This form of sentimentality is corrected when real personal differences are recognised and expressed, rather than blurred by misdirected or selfish emotions.
3 The Performer 6 The Supporter: The typical egocentricity of Performers is corrected if they support others instead of making brusque, superficial comments or reverting to public ridicule.
4 The Artist 1 The Conformist: The faults of creative types are corrected if they pay more attention to the opinions of other people. They may become so “original” that no one can understand them.
5 The Thinker 8 The Leader: Thinkers tend to plan and then never carry out any of their plans. They need to test the efficacy of their plans by implementing them.
6 The Supporter 9 The Peacemaker: A Supporter grows by stepping forward as an equal. No one should be merely a supporter without making any personal sacrifices for the sake of others.
7 The Adventurer 5 The Thinker: Persons who crave excitement and act on impulse become better persons if they would sometimes stop and think carefully what it is they are doing.
8 The Leader 2 The Helper: The faults of bossy leaders are corrected if they have more sympathy with people. Yet empathy is an essential prerequisite of helping, while sympathy is connected with subjectivity not objectivity.
9 The Peacemaker 3 The Performer: The person who tries to hide in the herd often grows by sometimes unexpected recognition and thereby stepping to the front.
The Cycle of Disintegration:
1 The Conformist -X-> 4 The Artist: A person who is disposed to conform to the opinions of others will not be creative.
2 The Helper -X-> 8 The Leader: A person who is influenced by sentiment makes a poor Leader.
3 The Performer -X-> 9 The Peacemaker: A person who is always on stage makes a poor Friend.
4 The Artist -X-> 2 The Helper: Sentimentality does not produce great works of art.
5 The Thinker -X-> 7 The Adventurer: Thinkers tend to act according to plan or theory. This is a poor practice in dynamic situations that require attention to (unexpected or spontaneous events) such as the environment. Thinkers are poor risk-takers.
6 The Supporter -X-> 3 The Performer: A person who is disposed to carry things out will not have the creativity and passion that a good Performer needs.
7 The Adventurer -X-> 1 The Conformist: An Adventurer can never by happy in the strait jacket of orthodox views.
8 The Leader -X-> 5 The Thinker: A Leader who thinks too much fails to display conviction.
9 The Peacemaker -X-> 6 The Supporter: A person who automatically demands equality is a poor Supporter.
The equilateral triangle is made up of points 3, 6, 9 which correspond to Heart, Body & Mind respectively. Whilst at each point of the vertices there is potentially a conjunction of three properties, however only two of these can interact effectively at any one time. If a third element is introduced the mutual interaction destroys all positive interactions.
At each of these 3 points are 3 individual vertices of interaction with any 2 of the other above mentioned qualities. Therefore the 3 points of the equilateral triangle also represent the state of energy equilibrium between these 3 complexes in a mutual or antagonistic manner each according to their positive or negative orientation.
Positive Interaction between MIND + HEART occurs at point 9 (Right Thinking).
Positive Interaction between BODY + MIND occurs at point 3 (Right Feeling).
Positive Interaction between HEART + BODY occurs at point 6 (Right Action).
Negative Interaction between HEART + MIND occurs at point 6 (Wrong Action).
Negative Interaction between MIND + BODY occurs at point 3 (Wrong Feeling).
Negative Interaction between BODY + HEART occurs at point 9 (Wrong Thinking).
The personalities located at 3,6,9 are the socially oriented types at the points of balance of any two centres. Persons who possess such constitutions relate to the world socially. They define themselves in terms of a group:
3 Socially over : Performer/Entertainer/Leader.
6 Socially under: Follower/Supporter/Participant.
9 Socially with : Comrade/Companion/Peacemaker.
A Performer needs to use his/her HEART and HEAD. A performer needs understanding (wit) and passion to inspire the audience.
A Supporter needs to use his/her HEAD and BODY. A Supporter must understand and act. A Supporter achieves self-value through facilitating achievement in others.
A Peacemaker needs to use his/her BODY and HEART. Friendship requires emotion and action. The Peacemaker achieves self-value by togetherness or forming partnerships.
- Points of the Hexagon:
The hexagon makes points 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8. Each of these points has two properties: A Favoured Centre and Orientation or channel through which it manifests itself.
- The Favoured Centres:
These Points are organised into pairs on each side of the triangle. Each side of the triangle represents the centre favoured by personalities on that side.
Point 1 and 2 are on the HEART side and represent persons (selves) who, when matters are serious to them, act mainly through their Feelings.
Point 4 and 5 are on the HEAD side and represent persons (selves) who, when matters are serious to them, act mainly through their Intellect.
Point 7 and 8 are on the BODY side and represent persons (selves) who, when matters are serious to them, act mainly through their Instincts.
- The Orientation and Direction of Energies:
The first Point in each pair represents an outward orientation. The second Point in each pair represents an inward orientation. Favoured Centre and Orientation combine to produce the personality types associated with the distorted hexagon:
Point 1: going out. Gains a sense of self-value from the love, respect, or approval of others. Therefore, this type fulfils others’ expectations and rules: Formalist, Stickler, Perfectionist, Conformist, Traditionalist.
Point 2: going in. Gains a sense of self-value from experiencing love within: Befriender, Fosterer, Nurse, or Helper.
Point 4: going out. Gains a sense of self-value by creating objects of appreciation: Artist or Creator.
Point 5: in. Gains a sense of self-value by instilling organisation or order: Thinker, Organiser or Planner.
Point 7: going out. Gains a sense of self-value by being where the action is. Seeks physical thrills or exciting circumstances: Adventurer, Risk-taker, “Go-getter”, “Live-wire.”
Point 8: going in. Gains a sense of self-value through independent action. The Leader or Boss.