The Spiritual Roots of Enneagram
Enneagram, or The Enneagram, is a method of spiritual enlightenment that has been transformed into a form of personality test that has become very popular in the past decade. It is described as “one of the most powerful and insightful tools for understanding ourselves and others” and as an “invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.”(1) Enneagram is not the only personality test on the market, but it does seem to be the only one that includes some form of spirituality. On the surface, Enneagram appears to be just another personality test, and it is attracting many people within church leadership around the nation. It has become common practice for church leaders to utilize different forms of personality tests to help others find their potential strengths, and subsequently utilize those strengths for the good of the organization. Meyers-Briggs has been one of the more popular styles of tests and some charismatic Christian denominations have also used similar questionnaires to help believers determine the spiritual gifts given to them by God. Generally speaking, these types of tests can be valuable for Christian believers, as long as they are not incorporating practices or beliefs that are against scripture. Descriptions of Enneagram include a lot of spiritual phraseology that can be very attractive to a spiritually minded person of any faith, but it also incorporates a form of spirituality that contradicts scripture; this should raise several serious concerns for any follower of Jesus.
The relatively recent history of Enneagram dating back to the 1960’s shows that the methodology is based on a philosophy that “contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy.”(2) Some have proposed that the Enneagram may date much further back into history, which could very well be true, but the model developed in the 1960’s is the foundation for the personality tests being used today. This current version of Enneagram was developed as a form of “inner work” that blended teachings on psychology, cosmology, metaphysics, and spirituality with the goal of transforming the human consciousness(2). This should be the first major concern for any follower of Jesus who is considering using the Enneagram as a form of personality test. Blending other religious practices into the teachings of Jesus is never a good idea. More importantly, the bible very bluntly tells us not to worship other Gods in Exodus 20:3. He is a jealous God, and incorporating a practice developed within other religions for any reason is essentially the same thing as worshipping another God because it puts that religions belief system in the place of God.
What should trouble us the most about the Enneagram methodology is that it has somehow seeped into Christian leadership circles. Books have been written that try to draw parallels between the Enneagram and Jesus, Christian magazines(3) are touting it as a tool that can bring healing, and churches have adopted the Enneagram as a form of personality test for their leaders. All of this without realizing that this methodology was created, not only apart from Jesus, but in direct contrast to what he offers. Supernatural healing from any source other than Jesus is demonic. Applying principles from Eastern Mysticism and other ancient belief systems is contrary to what God requires from us. He does not accept the idea of any other religious systems being intermingled with his requirements(4). We cannot allow our need for spiritual truth to be answered by a falsehood shrouded in truth.
One such book, written by Ian Morgan Cron, tries to draw a connection between this ancient system and Christian spirituality. Cron’s book briefly discusses some of the potential ancient history of the Enneagram, without any accurate sourcing, and glosses over the more recent history of how Oscar Ichazo blended in elements from multiple religions, before bringing the Enneagram to America in the 1970’s. He fails to disclose the deeper history of how Ichazo developed the Enneagram or the multiple religious ideologies he merged into it(5). Ichazo was a student of George Gurdjieff, a mystic spiritual teacher who taught others how to attain higher states of consciousness, and had regular contact with his spirit guides(19). It’s never a good idea to follow the teachings of someone who has a demonic spirit guide giving him advice. Early on, Cron quotes Brother Dave, a Monk he reached out to for advice, who described the Enneagram as something “full of wisdom for people who want to get out of their own way and become who they were created to be.”(5) In contrast, Proverbs 2:6 tells us that wisdom and understanding comes from the Lord. Cron also mentions that he didn’t know who he was, which led Brother Dave to encourage him to pursue the Enneagram. Followers of Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit, and we should be seeking him for the answer to who we were created to be. We don’t need encounters with the ancient Enneagram, we need encounters with the Ancient of Days.
Russ Hudson, the President of the Enneagram Institute, when discussing the Enneagram types, is quoted as saying “type isn’t a ‘type’ of person, but a path to God.”(6) This is directly contrary to the word of God. Jesus told us in John 14:6 that He is the only way to the Father. There is no other path to God. There is only one path to God, and that is through Jesus. Offering multiple paths to God is a common teaching in Hinduism as well as other Middle Eastern religions, because it allows people to live a lifestyle of their choosing and then pick a god that matches their choices(7). Christians are called to a higher standard. We don’t choose a God that fits our lifestyle. We change our lifestyle to match what our King requires of us.
Chris Heurtz, a Christian, and the author of The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, affirms this notion of multiple paths to God(6) and also teaches within his book that he considers the Enneagram to be sacred to the soul. Sacred is defined by Merriam Webster as “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity.” Christians should not hold anything in direct contrast to God as sacred. We are called to be set apart(8) as the temple of the Holy Spirit(9), not gravitate towards a mashup of teachings from other religious beliefs. Another recent article in Christianity Today(3), written by Pastor John Starke, states that “the Enneagram can enhance, not replace, our participation in the normal means of Christian grace and growth.” He goes on to state in this same article that “The Enneagram helps us see how fear might be controlling us, how shame might be motivating us, how guilt might be crippling us.” Once again, this is allowing a methodology to take the place of God. One of the roles of Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth(10), and as believers, we need to go to him to determine if we have any fear, shame, or guilt. God is the one who searches our hearts(11), not a mystical tool.
Forms of spiritual enlightenment, or spiritual self-discovery, have been around for thousands of years within Eastern religions, but those ideas rarely leave room for the God of the Bible. Those beliefs are focused on individual enlightenment, and pursuing higher states of consciousness, as a way of achieving the sought-after enlightenment. Followers of Jesus are also on a spiritual journey, but our pursuit is to be in perfect relationship with the God we serve as Jesus describes in the first few verses of John 15(12), and to allow Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Anything, any concept, any teaching, or any perspective, that is created out of belief systems created in other religions or which are contrary to biblical teachings should never be used by followers of Jesus(13). Allowing these perspectives a place of influence in our lives is an open invitation to deception. There is no middle ground here. Jesus taught us to be in the world but not of the world(14), and the same teaching is reinforced in James 4, where we are quite sternly told that being friends with the systems of the world makes us enemies of God(15).
The concept of the Enneagram methodology is certainly appealing. All of humanity needs a deeper understanding of who we are, because self-awareness shows us how we can impact the world around us in an effective way. Supernatural ideas are also naturally attractive to all people because we were created by a supernatural God, and we were designed to have a supernatural relationship with him. Our spirit is a major component of this relationship. But our spirit was never designed to be in relationship with satan, demonic forces, or even angels; our spirit was designed to be in relationship with our creator. The Apostle Paul makes a compelling point in 1 Corinthians 10(16) that idol worship is really the worship of demons. Adherents to religious beliefs that do not follow the God of the bible, are following and being influenced by, demonic forces. To that end, the follower of Jesus should never pursue ideas or supposed truths formed from the beliefs of other faiths. Our truth must always come from God. The Christian believers path to self-awareness is attained through intimate relationship with God where he teaches us about who we are and what we are called to do in our lives. Any method that contradicts biblical truths, especially those developed from other faiths, are incompatible with following Jesus.
In Old Testament times, the Israelites had a tendency to follow after the false gods that were worshipped by the nations with whom that they intermingled. Anytime Israel turned back to God, he always required them to get rid of anything associated with those false gods, and to not follow the ways or rituals of those beliefs. Asherah poles and altars are mentioned a lot in those conversations; they were designed specifically for the worship of those false gods, and there was never a time where God allowed them to stay, or allowed them to be implemented in worshipping him(17). The argument could be made that Christians can take something that was used for evil and redeem it for a good purpose. But this is only true when the original purpose of a practice was one that is approved by God. Redeeming the Asherah pole for a righteous purpose was never an option because it was originally created for an evil purpose.
I’ve never seen anything mentioned in the Bible that was originally created for an evil purpose that God allowed to be redeemed. We often see an imitation of the Gifts of the Spirit, listed in 1 Corinthians 12(18), used for purposes not in line with the will of God in areas such as fortune telling, Reiki, or access bars, but that doesn’t negate the use of spiritual gifts by a believer in relationship with Jesus. These spiritual gifts were created for a righteous purpose. That is the distinction here. We cannot, and should not, take practices formed in evil, and adopt them to our lives. Doing that is nothing more than attempting to mix the systems of the world with the Kingdom of God. We are called to influence the world, not the other way around. We can live a supernatural lifestyle, led by Holy Spirit, and discover all that he has for us without looking to methodologies formed in other belief systems.
The bottom line is this: The Enneagram is not compatible with the teachings of Jesus. Adding in a bit of Christianese or removing a few terms that sound a little too much like New Age, does not suddenly make it a spiritually healthy practice. Followers of Jesus must be on guard against anything that attempts to take the place of Jesus in our lives. Believers need to be on the lookout for this type of deception and look to God for revelation of the fullness of our identity in Christ. Putting anything else in the place of God is essentially a form of worship to someone other than God, and is an open invitation for demonic influence. That is not a road a follower of Jesus should ever walk down.
One final note–none of this is about legalism, forcing someone to adhere to the law, or violating the Christian principal of freedom. It’s about living a life of holiness that Jesus purchased for us. Our lives need to reflect the sacrifice of Jesus, and we need to live in a way that honors our King. Our freedom wasn’t designed for us to go back into bondage. The enemy’s goal is to kill, steal, and destroy; enneagram, yoga, reiki, etc. do not bring life, they put people into bondage.
1. About the Enneagram Institute, Retrieved from https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/about/
2. The Traditional Enneagram, Retrieved from https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/the-traditional-enneagram/
3. Starke, J. (2016) An Evangelical’s Guide to the Enneagram, Christianity Today, Vol 60. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/november/evangelicals-guide-to-enneagram.html
4. Exodus 34:14
5. Cron, M. & Stabile, S. (2016) The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
6. Merritt, J. (2017) What is the ‘Enneagram,’ and why are Christians suddenly so enamored by it?, Religion News Service. Retrieved from https://religionnews.com/2017/09/05/what-is-the-enneagram-and-why-are-christians-suddenly-so-enamored-by-it/
7. Edwards, Sachi (2016). Critical Conversations about Religion: Promises and Pitfalls of a Social Justice Approach to Interfaith Dialogue. College Park, MD: University of Maryland
8. 1 John 2:15-16, Col. 3:1-3, Rom. 12:1-2
9. 1 Corinthians 6:19
10. John 16:13
11. Psalm 139
12. John 15:1-8
13. 2 Corinthians 10:5
14. John 17:14-15
15. James 4:4
16. 1 Corinthians 10:20
17. Exodus 34:13-14, Deuteronomy 12:3-4, and Judges 6:25 are a few instances of this
18. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
19. Montenegro, M. (2011). The enneagram GPS: gnostic path to self. Christian Answers for the New Age. Retrieved from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Enneagram.html