Updated: May 28
I didn't know much about the enneagram. When I first seen it appear in my YouTube feed, I didn't think much of it, another occult symbolism video I thought, and kept on scrolling. I paid it no attention what-so-ever and I had no idea this symbol was part of some new Christian trend people were getting into. That all changed a few days ago after seeing a post on twitter asking for help in determining whether or not the enneagram and what is being said about it, in an accompanying short video clip, is something Christians should be a part of.
Naturally, I was curious, so I searched for the complete version. The full video is an hour long presentation by a Husband & Wife team Pastor Darrin & Amie Patrick at Liberty University. The stated goal of the presentation is to equip you to think critically about the enneagram so that you can use it well.
"There are probably some of you that have some pretty significant concerns about the enneagram...is this Biblical? ...or that there is some weird spirituality around it" - Amie Patrick
All of this is in the first two minutes of the video and serious alarm bells are going off in my head and this isn't even started yet. When the presenters are talking like this, it's not a good sign of things to come. There is a need to persuade all throughout the introduction. They need to persuade you, that you, need to think critically despite your concerns, as if to say thinking critically in this instance, is to not jump into Christian conspiracy mode and run a mile just because of the way the enneagram looks. Normally I might tend to agree, that the knee jerk conspiracy conclusion isn't something people should get into a habit of doing. However, in this instance, a complete rejection of the enneagram in knee jerk fashion might just be the ticket this time, acting as a protective measure, because you really don't want to let this in your churches.
Who Is George Gurdjieff?
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, popularly known as G.I. Gurdjieff, a famous mystic and spiritual teacher, is believed to have born on January 14, 1866. His date of birth is, however, not confirmed but the conjectures range from 1866-1877.
Gurdjieff is said to have born to a Greek father and Armenian mother in Alexandropol. He got his name, Gurdjieff, on the account of Muslim people around Georgia addressing the Georgian people as “gurdjis”. Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep", but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline "The Work" (connoting "work on oneself") or "the System". According to his principles and instructions, Gurdjieff's method for awakening one's consciousness unites the methods of the fakir, monk and yogi, and thus he referred to it as the "Fourth Way".
Though Gurdjieff never put major significance on the term "Fourth Way" and never used the term in his writings, his pupil P. D. Ouspensky from 1924 to 1947 made the term and its use central to his own teaching of Gurdjieff's ideas. After Ouspensky's death, his students published a book titled The Fourth Way based on his lectures.
Ouspensky had written and published a number of articles. In 1917 he updated these articles to include "recent developments in physics" and republished them as a book in Russian entitled A New Model of the Universe. The work, as reflected in its title, shows the influence of Francis Bacon and Max Müller, and has been interpreted as an attempt to reconcile ideas from natural science and religious studies with occultism in the tradition of Gurdjieff and the new age satanic religion of Theosophy, something that Ouspensky got into nearly 20 years prior.
Gurdjieff's teaching addressed the question of humanity's place in the universe and the importance of developing latent potentialities—regarded as our natural endowment as human beings but rarely brought to fruition. He taught that higher levels of consciousness, higher bodies, inner growth and development are real possibilities that nonetheless require conscious work to achieve. In his teaching Gurdjieff gave a distinct meaning to various ancient texts such as the Bible and many religious prayers. He claimed that such texts possess meanings very different from those commonly attributed to them. "Sleep not"; "Awake, for you know not the hour"; and "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within" are examples of biblical statements which point to a psychological teaching whose essence has been forgotten. Of course this statement from Gurdjieff is typical among mystical new ager's who often misinterpret scripture in ways that suits their cosmic feelings. Sadly, many who claim to be Christian interpret the Bible in this way and claim "it's spiritual". I would hope that the information thus far is enough to set off a red flag, but we'll continue.
Due to the restrictions placed on citizens by the Bolshevik revolution, Gurdjieff moved to Paris where he established his first institution in 1922 to share his mystical experiences and teach occult spirituality to the common people. The institution, “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man”, was where Gurdjieff’s ideas blossomed throughout Europe and into the Americas under the title of esoteric Christianity, a form of Christianity that focuses on Gnostic doctrines and the awakening of the “Christ-self”. Two years later, there was a second learning center established in New York in 1924. However, as World War II came about, Gurdjieff’s teachings were strained due to the stresses of war, resulting in him retiring to write books on his disciplines instead. These books include Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, Life is Real Only Then, When “I Am”, and In Search of Being: The Fourth Way to Consciousness.
What Gurdjieff taught was a repackaging of old pagan religions and practices from the ancient mysteries with a substantial focus on occult doctrines. The Enneagram was taught to be a symbol of the cosmos and could be used to better understand the vastness of the universe through numbers, otherwise known as numerology, a form of divination. One of the disciples of Gurdjieff, John Bennet wrote in his book Enneagram Studies, “enneagram is more than a picture of yourself, it is yourself….the enneagram is a living diagram and…we can experience ourselves as enneagrams…[during a lecture session on the enneagram, Bennet] felt myself going out of myself and entering the diagram”
Today the enneagram has become popular with many Christians who are traditionally from a background of faith, that rejects all occult teaching, whether it be the new age or Gnosticism. It is these Christians, however, that are embracing the enneagram and claiming that there has been considerable departure from Gurdjieff's teaching and use of the enneagram is merely "personal development" by way of a personality test which will tell you which "type" you are. Each personality type corresponds to a number 1 through 9 represented on the symbol itself and the user answers questions with the eventual result ending up in a number according to your personality.
Although this test seemingly is harmless, it is a new and repackaged version of the Zodiac and it's star signs and crucially, a careful examination of Gurdjieff's work, we see that the enneagram test of today is about personal development, or in Gurdjieff's words it is "the work". It took some time and changing along the way to its modern use, most notably by a man called Oscar Ichazo the leader of a New Age cult following in Chile known as the “Arica School”. According to the Enneagram Institute, what was taught at this school was “a vast, interwoven, and sometimes complex body of teachings on psychology, cosmology, metaphysics, spirituality, and so forth, combined with various practices to bring about transformations of human consciousness.” It is from Ichazo’s teachings that the modern-day systematic use of the Enneagram was developed and based upon, attributing personalities as well as positive and negative behaviors to each of the nine numbers.
Going back to the video I talked about at the start of the blog, unfortunately, Pastor Darren & Amie Patrick, do not inform anyone of any of this throughout their presentation. The closest they come to this, is a short statement about how the enneagram is not like a pentagram and point out how the enneagram is just a 9 sided shape in reference to what the name means. Sorry, but I thought, the pentagram is just a name for 5 sided shape? What makes 5 more evil than 9?
Perhaps they are ignorant. Perhaps when they urge the audience to think critically, they should have done so themselves when they first came across the enneagram. I can't see how any Christian can justify using this enneagram personality test if you know about it's history and where it came from, who used it and who promoted it.
Christians get will get caught up in this in attempting to find out who they are. Our identity, however, is in Christ, not the Enneagram.