What is the 'Enneagram' and why are Christians suddenly so enamored with it? (2023)

A system of personality types has quietly crept into Christian communities over the past quarter century. But some believers can be excused for their skepticism.

After all, the "Enneagram" is an ancient system of unknown origin with a strange name. It is full of sacred language, but it is not explicitly Christian in its orientation. It focuses on nine personality types arranged in a chart that resembles a pentagram. However, it is spreading like wildfire among a wide range of Jesus followers.

In 1990, Franciscan Father Richard Rohr effectively Christianized the system for Americans when he published “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective" in English. This sparked a growing interest that slowly crept into church pulpits and small groups. In 2016,christianity todaypublished "An Evangelical Guide to the Enneagram” after Intervarsity Press became the first evangelical publisher inrelease a book on the subject.

To understand why the Enneagram is so compelling, I spoke with Chris Heuertz, author of "The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth.” Heuertz is the co-founder ofgravity centerand was advised by such sages as Rohr and Mother Teresa. he drivesenneagram officesaround the world and is something of an Enneagram teacher, although I imagine he would resist that label. Here we discuss why the Enneagram is captivating so many Christians and how it responds to its critics.

RNS:Let's start with the basics. What is the Enneagram?

CH: The Enneagram illustrates the nine archetypal structures of human character, the nine wonderfully imperfect ways of being us.

What is the 'Enneagram' and why are Christians suddenly so enamored with it? (1)

(Video) How Do I Protect My Heart? | Jonathan "JP" Pokluda

Image courtesy of Zondervan

RNS: Wonderfully flawed?

CH: Yes. The Enneagram shows us the bundle of our ego coping addictions that we wrap around a childhood hurt so we don't have to be honest about the pain it caused us. Until we are honest about it, we lie to ourselves and others about who we really are.

The nine types of the Enneagram form a kind of color wheel that describe the basic archetypes of tragic flaws, sinful tendencies, primal fears and unconscious needs of humanity. Like a sacred map of our soul, the Enneagram is a model of character development that each of us carries throughout our lives, but that we don't unlock until we discover our type.

RNS: So this is an old personality type system, right? Where did it originate?

CH: The Enneagram is rumored to have appeared over 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt and over 4,000 years ago in prehistoric Korea. Popular Buddhism may have a version of the Enneagram. Many Catholic and Protestant scholars claim that it was developed by the desert mothers and fathers of the early church. And the Sufis of Central Asia also lay claim to their origins. We know that in the 1950s and 1960s, the Bolivian wisdom teacher Oscar Ichazo introduced thepersonality enneagram,which is what we commonly use today.

Even if it is a system with thousands of years of hidden history but only 60 to 70 years of application in its modern form, it is an exciting time to explore the possibilities of what is yet to be discovered. It is not an understatement to suggest that we misunderstand what we are working with.

RNS: Let's dig deeper. Explain the nine personality types of the Enneagram.

(Video) Ram Dass Full Lecture Compilation: Volume 1

CH: I first learned the Enneagram by aligning a distinct need with each of the numbers. These needs arose with the evolution ofFather Richard Rohr's early but groundbreaking work on the Enneagram. Here's a chart to explain:

as aThe need to be perfect
type twoThe need to be needed
type threeThe need to succeed
type fourThe need to be special (or unique)
type fiveThe need to perceive (or understand)
type sixThe need to be sure/truth
type you areThe need to avoid pain
type eightThe need to be against
type nineThe need to avoid

The Enneagram offers nine mirrors for self-reflection. These nine mirrors, if we choose to look directly into them, can help us shed our illusions that keep us away from home in the first place.

The Enneagram teaches us nine approaches to looking at the archetypal patterns of the human character structure. These patterns strengthen a type of psycho-spiritual-somatic muscle memory that shapes how we think, feel and act.

I often present the nine types of the Enneagram through what motivates them. They are arranged in this table:

Type One strives for principled excellence as a moral duty.
Twos seek generous love through self-sacrifice.
Type Three strives to gain grateful recognition for selected hits.
Type Fours strive for true identity discovery and authenticity.
Type Fives strive for decisive clarity through thoughtful conclusions.
Sixes strive for constant constancy and reliable loyalty.
Sevens strive for imaginative freedom to inspire independence.
Eights seek passionate intensity and unrestricted autonomy.
Nines strive for harmonious peace like congruent rest.

RNS: This isn't just another personality type system like Meyers-Briggs or something like that. You think the Enneagram is "sacred", right?

CH: One of my teachers, Russ Hudson, says, "Type is not a 'type' of person, but a path to God." I think it's sacred because, like a map of our soul, it's a compassionate blueprint of possibilities. The Enneagram is less about nine "types of people" and more about nine paths back to our true selves and nine paths to divine love.

If we cannot self-observe, we cannot self-correct.The Sacred Enneagramit helps us to self-observe, it helps us to tell the truth about who we really are, clearing ourselves of our delusions and illusions, so that we can locate the authentic source of our identity.

RNS: How does one align their Enneagram type with specific sentence types?

(Video) Webinar: Dr Mike Chupp - Overcoming your dark side in leadership

ChinThe Sacred Enneagram, I suggest that contemplative prayer practices be framed by three main postures: solitude, silence and stillness. I present nine unique contemplative prayer postures and prayer intention combinations that I believe perfectly align with each of the nine Enneagram types as these distinct paths to God.

What is the 'Enneagram' and why are Christians suddenly so enamored with it? (2)

Illustrations by Elnora Turner (do not use without permission)

RNS:all systemit looks strange and mystical. Why are so many Christians, even those in a state of overflight, drawn to the Enneagram?

CH: Because the truth of the Enneagram, that each of us is beautiful and loved by God, resonates in all of us. We also know the tragic truth of the Enneagram that many of us do not live out the gifts and grace of that truth.

Many people allow fragments of their identity to claim the entirety of who they believe they are. It just leads to an addictive cycle of our mental and emotional concerns. That's how we got lost. The challenge is to find your way home.

The Enneagram helps us begin an honest interrogation of the depths of our identity, of who we really are. When we accept our inherent beauty, we find the courage to examine what makes us beautiful, to honestly find the good and the bad, the shadow and the light. More than anything I've found, the Enneagram helps us do just that. Many other people, including Christians, are also discovering this.

(Video) 10 Prospects That Could BREAK Fantasy Baseball in 2023 ⚠️

NS: It's okay. But even many conservative evangelical Christians are drawn to it. Why?

CH: I wonder if the evolved evangelical is getting a little tired of the same old literal interpretations of Bible study? At least Catholicism can appeal to tradition and saints. I wonder if some evangelicals have become bored with what their tradition offers and therefore find a deeper, more contemplative system like the Enneagram appealing.

RNS: You recognize that other religions, such as Buddhism and Sufism, have used this system. What do you say to a Christian who says this is a non-Christian or even pagan system not to be trusted?

CH: Certainly anyone rooted in a faith community must appeal to their sense of truth as the landing place where their beliefs rest. But we know that truth is not limited to any one tradition. It is no scandal to claim that divine love reaches all of us, wherever we are and regardless of our response to it.

My feeling is that if other faith communities outside the one you are located in can access something that is true, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't trust it. Rather, it means you must learn to trust yourself and your own ability to discern how to relate to the truth. And that's exactly what the Enneagram offers: the tools and keys to grow in discernment as you learn to trust yourself and receive divine love.



1. Kris Vallotton | Spiritual Intelligence
(Global Awakening)
2. Sadhguru | Developing an Inclusive Consciousness | Talks at Google
(Talks at Google)
3. Beatrice Chestnut - Type 8 Enneagram Panel
4. How Men Can Keep Holidays Happy! | Getting Organized for Christmas | Christmas Planning Tips
(The Family Business with The Alessis)
5. Janette Blakemore, Rosemarie Morgan-Watson, Phil Dickinson - Enneagram Type 4 - The Romantic - IM
6. Together - Session 2
(Community Church Huddersfield)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Eusebia Nader

Last Updated: 04/18/2023

Views: 5725

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Eusebia Nader

Birthday: 1994-11-11

Address: Apt. 721 977 Ebert Meadows, Jereville, GA 73618-6603

Phone: +2316203969400

Job: International Farming Consultant

Hobby: Reading, Photography, Shooting, Singing, Magic, Kayaking, Mushroom hunting

Introduction: My name is Eusebia Nader, I am a encouraging, brainy, lively, nice, famous, healthy, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.