Regarding the Enneagram

The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount:

>1.  Blessed are the poor in spir-it, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven;

>2.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted;

>3.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth;

>4.  Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled;

>5.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy;

>6.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;

>7.  Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God;

>8.   Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness's sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven;

>9.  Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you for my sake...


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The symbol above, called the enneagram, has received an unfairly bad rap from some Christian, in particu-lar, some Catholic, groups over the past few years.  The reason for this is that a number of popular books have been published proclaiming the enneagram to be a key to a system of human personality-type analysis, with each of the nine points above purported to be representative of a different personality type: creator, scholar, etc.  Religious groups, quite rightly refusing to lump all human character types into the grossly simplified schematics described in those books, are all too ready to excommunicate the symbol with the theory. 

That's too bad, because, as we shall see, the numbers nine, seven, and three, the key numbers of the ennea-gram, recur through and through the development of mankind's spiritual traditions....

The enneagram is not a tool for personality analysis, nor can the study of human types be reduced to nine categories.  The enneagram is a power for studying significantly related events.  The enneagram is in movement.  The enneagram shows the way to trans-forming hazard and risk into something spiritually meaningful.

The enneagram invites us to the power of a perspective that transcends logic.                          

The enneagram provides the context for acts that con-stitute an intentional gesture with the world of spirit, and those gestures are the only real magic.  All real enneagrams are intelligent.  




The original source in the West regarding knowledge of the enneagram was George Gurdjieff

and the best written dissemination of his teachings in general and on the enneagram in particular is still the book, 'In Search of the Miraculous' by Peter Ouspen-sky; it repeats verbatim many talks by Gurdjieff and it is, as far as I know, the only book on Gurdjieff's teachings to do so. 

On page 283, Gurdjieff begins to lead into his teach-ing on the enneagram with comments on how to und-erstand symbols and on his 'law of octaves:

"...a symbol can never be taken in a final and definite meaning.  In expressing the laws of the unity of end-less diversity a symbol itself possesses an endless num-ber of aspects from which it can be examined and it demands from a man approaching it the ability to see it simultaneously from different points of view.  Symbols which are transposed into the words of ord-inary language become rigid in them, they grow dim and very easily become 'their own opposites...'" (p. 283)

"At the same time the right understanding of symbols cannot lead to dispute.  It deepens knowledge, and it cannot remain theoretical because it intensifies the striving towards real results, towards the union of knowledge and being...." (p. 284)

On page 286, Gurdjieff launches into his teaching on the enneagram:

"The symbol which takes the form of a circle divided into nine parts with lines connnecting them together expresses the law of seven in its union with the law of three.  The octave possesses seven tones and the eigth is a repetion of the first.  Together, with two addition-al shocks' which fill the 'intervals' mi-fa and si-do, there are nine elements..... even this construction shows the inner laws of one octave and it points out a method of cognizing the essential nature of a thing ex-amined in itself." (p. 287 - 288) 

"The triangle 9-3-6, which unites into one whole the three points on the circumference not included in the period, connects together the law of seven and the law of three.  the numbers 3-6-9 are not included in the period; two of them, 3 and 6, correspond to the two 'intervals' in the octave; the third is, so to speak, sup-erfluous and at the same time it replaces the funda-mental note which does not enter the period..."              (p. 290)

"At this point in our reasoning it would be entirely right to raise the question: Why is one of the 'inter-vals' which is designated by the number 3 found in its right place between the notes mi and fa, and the oth-er, which is designated by the number 6, found bet-ween sol and la, when its righ place is between si and do?" (p. 290)

"The apparent placing of the interval in its wrong place itself shows to those who are able to read the symbol what kind of 'shock' is required for the pass-age of si to do." (p. 291) 


The next core teaching on the enneagram to consider is to be found in Vol. III of 'The Dramatic Universe' by John Bennett on pages 63 - 72; and 109 - 114:

"We have to go beyond the octad to find systems that can allow for uncertainty and hazard and yet reach a harmonious structure... The nine-term systems, by breaking into the completeness of the octad, enable us not only to represent but to study the working of structures as we meet them every day.  A simple way of looking at the situation is to picture the complete-ness of the octad disrupted by the entry of an alien element.  If this element cannot be absorbed into one of the eight terms, something must give way in order to restore the harmony..." (p. 63)

"The key to the problem of hazard consists in the combination of dynamism and coalescence which comes by joining the properties of the triad and the hexad.  This is obtained by joining a triad of transfor-mations to the hexad which we can represent in the form of [see enneagram image above] to obtain the symbol known as the Enneagram." (p. 65)

"The three processes AB, CD and EF correspond to the three points of the triangle 9-3-6.  They are the dynamism of the structure.  The inner construction corresponds to the six-pointed figure 1-4-2-8-5-7 which indicates the way in which the processes correct and reinforce one another to obtain self-renewal.  The first process AB enters the construction at the point 1.  It reaches its hazard-point at 3 where it meets process CD and the two continue through the points 4 and 5.  At 6 the second hazard is corrected by the entry of process EF.  The completion of AB occurs at the point 9 where the final hazard must be overcome."   (p. 68 - 69)

Mr. Bennett goes on to give excellent practical applic-ations of the enneagram to: the preparation of a meal for a community and the transformation of a candid-ate for a career into a master of that career in "the realization of beauty in sound." 

I strongly recommend that you read the above mater-ials before you tackle any other purported teachings on the enneagram.

Another book I recommend reading before you seriously tackle the challenge of understanding the enneagram is John Bennett's book, "Creative think-ing," published by  Bennett Books - it does not deal directly with the enneagram; but it does set out step by step a systematic method for arriving at an under-standing of a process, that goes beyond mere know-ledge - and you will need to use that kind of thinking to get anywhere with enneagram studies.         

Again, I advise you to spend considerable time with the above sources of knowledge before you look at the next two sources:

Next up for consideration is "The Intelligent Ennea-gram"  by A.G.E. (Tony) Blake.  Tony was one of the "brilliant young men" who studied with John Ben-nett.  Tony's book ranges all over the map of human experience in terms of context:  he looks at such div-erse events as the plot of the movie "Total Recall" and the Biblical Scriptures through the lens of his under-standng of the enneagram.  Sections of his book, such as Chapter 1 "The Symbol" and Chapter 2 "Over-view" show an extraordinarily strong grasp of Gurd-jieff's teachings on the enneagram:

"The triangle is not a process but a structure of inten-tion or will.  It is what is informing the process and giving it meaning." (p. 25)

"The completion of the main process depicted in the circle involves two extra processes combining with it."   (p. 28)

"The inner movement of the enneagram can be under-stood with the aid of any experience of intelligent act-ion.  All intelligent actions transform the situation in which they arise." (p. 35)

"The enneagram describes a pattern and a process, something invariant and something that changes in steps.  Think of the pattern as the basic plot of a dra-ma and the process as the action that unfolds it.... In the enneagram, the plot or the idea is not a thing but a relationship, and it appears in the form of the trian-gular figure.  The process, the action, or the work ap-pears in the sequence of steps around the circle.  The primary relationship expresses Gurdjieff's idea of the law of three: nothing can happen without three forces (active, passive and neutralizing)... All we need right now is the idea of the three as a primary logos, the core meaning that informs everything contained in the given whole.  The sequence of steps expresses his idea of the law of seven...the idea that seven quite different qualities or states have to be gone through to comp-lete an action...both steps in succession, in time and space, and steps in level of being or quality..."  (p. 39)

"The inner lines are the intentional aspect, independ-ent of environmental pressures and influences.  If we adopt the metaphor of the triangle as representing the will of the whole, then the inner lines are its inner life. The range around the circle is its outer life." (p. 42)

Throughout Tony's book are many astute comments on the enneagram and its many exponents, in particu-lar, on Gurdjieff and Idries Shah.

Unfortunately, there are also sections which are, in  my opinion, of highly dubious worth, such as, for ex-ample, his 'enneagram of filling a glass with water' on pages 99 - 103.  

The reason for this mix of what I consider to be bril-liance and baloney lies, in my opinion, within Tony himself.  Take a look at this web-page of Tony's for example:  if you follow the links at the bottom, you will find a great deal of interesting and intellectually stimulating material freely shared with the world by Tony.  But the main body of the page shows that Tony is quite capable of wandering off into outer-space where you and I can't follow him; nor are we likely to want to. 

I suspect that Tony is not surrounded by people who are in a position to effectively critique his ideas; and the result of always being surrounded by people who think you're wonderful is always bad; no human pow-er of judgment can survive it. 

Tony's site makes it clear that Tony works among 'peers;' the people who are, he suggests, among his teachers, all died some or many years ago.

Years ago, a long-time insider in the Gurdjieff tradi-tion told me John Bennett had once said of his long-time protege that "Tony's heart is still waiting to be touched [by the Gurdjieff teachings]."  When I read Tony's material,  I can't help wondering if that is still the case with him.

The most dangerous people in life are the fearfully well-intentioned and charismatic who operate without 'the second shock' applied to their ideas and their work - namely, a baloney-detector external to them-selves and their own egoism. 

To consciously fulfill this need for external and reli-able action against one's own egoism is one part of what Gurdjieff and Bennett call "intentionally bear-ing the unpleasant manifestations of others."

At this point in time, Tony is widely considered by many to be the "expert" on the enneagram.  In my opinion, if you are new to the field, you should give Tony a very wide berth until you have acquired some knowledge and discrimination from the traditional sources I have given above.** [see end of 'current literature review' for April 14, 2009 update on Tony Blake and his book.]

Next on our list is the recently re-published "Ennea-gram Studies," a collection of early efforts to grapple with the enneagram by John Bennett and some of his students, including Tony Blake, in the early seventies.  It's reasonably priced and includes Mr. Bennet's mat-erial from the Dramatic Universe.  It is available through Bennett Books 

 This brings me to the end of the current literature review.

**My comments above on Tony Blake's book, 'The Intelligent Enneagram,' and on Tony himself consti-tute the sum total I had made as of April 14, 2009.  On April 13, Tony Blake sent me an email in response to my review on this page, among other things.  I am herewith responding only to his comments about my remarks above on him and his book.  I have relaxed my rule about not printing defamatory comments about others, because I think Tony's untoward re-marks about two highly respected individuals, Mary Cornelius and Idries Shah, say more about Tony than they do about his intended targets.  I will respond in detail to those comments and others in his email on my spaceslive blog, within, I hope, the next 24 hours; and when I have done so, I will publish herein the link to that blog-post.  [April 17 update:  the link is at the end of this section.] Here, then, is Tony's email in full; and my response as regards his book follows: 

"Dear Marnie 

Your review is pretty bad and I guess it may partly be because you do not have a scientific background.  Those who do recognise the significance of the cup of water example, because in science one looks for the very sim-plest cases to clarify phenomena.  It was a pleasure for me to have in JGB a guide who was well-versed in science and had attempted to transform the work ideas into physics!  I never knew Mary [Mary Cornelius] very well and felt her husband to be a bit of a nut-case.  (I think she had a 'thing' for JGB and settled on George [George Cornelius] as a second-best.)  Still, they were both great fun.  Your point about my connection with the Gurdjieff work is interesting because it is true I am not a main-liner or believer though, I hope, endlessly appreciative of G's [George Gurdjieff's] genius.  Perhaps another factor is that I never got on with the women in the G-JB [Gurdjieff - John Bennett] line.  Elizabeth used to remark on it.  As Dushka [a daughter of Gurdjieff] said to me the women never felt comfort-able with the men's concerns with ideas.  I celebrate the diversity of people who find meaning in G's ideas.  As G said, 'In the fourth way there are many teachers'. [sic]  Each has his own line.  As JGB [John Godolphin Bennett] remarked to me once, each has his own style and for example Shah [Idries Shah] treated the work as a joke.  I'll try and remember and pass on your comment to Karen.  Best" 

And here is my response with respect to his comments on my review above of his book:

Dear Tony:

Here is my response with respect to your suggestions that I am unable to appreciate the 'brilliant simplicity' of your "pouring a water of glass of water enneagram example" on account of, one, my defects as a scientist, and two, my membership in the "G-JGB line of wom-en" who "were never comfortable with the men's con-cerns with ideas" - your suggestion, in other words, that I am critical of some of your ideas because I am a stupid woman:

Your "example of pouring a glass of water" is invalid, in my view, because it lacks basic elements of an en-neagram:  it lacks three mediums of action; it lacks three elements which are transformed; it lacks three scales of events.  It lacks three fundamental elem-ents which give meaning to an enneagram:  transformation, shocks and hazard. 

Let us compare it with John Bennett's example of the kitchen enneagram [from Vol III of "The Dramatic Universe"]:

The first medium of action is the kitchen, which enters the enneagram at point 9.  The second medium is the foodstuffs, which enter the enneagram at point 3.  The third medium of action is the community which will eat the meal prepared.  It enters the enneagram at point 8.  The kitchen fufills its purpose for being.  The foodstuffs are transformed into an edible meal.  The plan of the meal is realized into existence.  The meal is transformed in the digestive systems of the eaters.  Hazard enters at every step in the kitchen enneagram, most particularly with the entry of the foodstuffs at 3, with the dependence of the plan's realization on the skill and experience of the cooks at 6, and with the capacity of the community to appreciate the meal at 8.  The kitchen enneagram relates different scales of events in a meaningful totality of transformations:  the kitchen, the foods, the meal, the community.  As Bennett says: "In the preparation of a meal, three distinct processes occur: The kitchen itself is brought into activity and fulfils the purpose of its existence.  The raw food is prepared and transformed into a state of suitable for human consumption.  A meal is planned, brought into existence and shared by the community." [The Dramatic Universe, Vol. III, page 69]

Where is all of that in your "enneagram" of one person pouring a glass of water, Tony?  [and not even the act of drinking the water, or metabolizing it - pfft!]  You have, for your nine points around the en-neagram, the following:

"9/0.  opening tap.  1.  water flows.  2.  adjusting flow  3.  THE GLASS  4.  glass fills  5.  compare actual and desired  6.  THE DRINK  7.  adjusting flow  8.  desired level."

Let us compare that with John Bennett's 'kitchen enneagram:'                                                                 
"1.  The kitchen prepares.  The cooks arrive.

2.  The meal is planned and the tasks are allotted.

3.  The raw foodstuffs are assembled.

4.  The food is cleaned and prepared.

5.  It is put on the fire or otherwise changed.

6.  The plan of the meal emerges.

7.  Sauces are made.  The dishing up begins.

8.  The meal is taken to the dining room and served.

9.  It is eaten and enjoyed."  [The Dramatic Universe, Vol. III, page 70.] 

In my view, it doesn't take a lot of inner discernment to see that fundamental elements in Bennet's classic example of the 'kitchen enneagram' are missing in Tony Blake's 'pouring a glass of water' "example."  I have concerns about the validity of other "examples" given by Tony in his book; but I feel that the one a-bove shows most clearly the defects in his reasoning and in his ability to 'be' what he knows. 

I am persuaded by his email that Tony has paid the price for setting himself up as a Teacher.  His knowledge has far out-stripped his understanding, in my opinion. 

Here is the link to the rest of my comments on Tony's email:  A link, a parable and some updates 



         "A motionless enneagram is a dead symbol."          - George Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous


The Story of the Capture of Loki the Liar  , drawn from Old Norse pagan mythology, embeds a strategic principle of war that cannot be directly expressed in words.  It requires for its expression what Gurdjieff calls 'the language of being:' symbols or myths.  One of the story's most important aspects addresses the concept of 'scale,'  as it applies to what is possible in the takedown of an adversary.

    Loki with his fishing net, photo, courtesy of          Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland 

In his new book, "The Realized Idiot," Bruno Martin, a long-time teacher in Germany of the "Gurdjieff-Method," sketches out some suggestions for working with the Gurdjieff teaching called "The Science of Idiotism" in connection with the enneagram.  I recently queried Bruno further about his remarks on the enneagram and Idiotism.  Here is his reply in full:

Dear Marney,

Now I come to answer your question. I think my explanation on page 81 is a possible way to play around with the enneagram. Here you put idiots 1-3 at point 1, 4-6 at point 2 and 7-9 at point 4 and so on, leaving the points 3, 6, 9 of the triangle for the idiots 19, 20, 21 (seeing them as different aspects of higher development). The interconnections in the hexad can be as I suggested shortly on page 81. This would be the conventional use of the enneagram. Maybe it’s not clear enough as I only sketched the idea.

 But I rather prefer following Anthony Blake’s suggestions concerning G.’s concept of Man no. 1, Man no. 2, Man no. 3 and so on.

In this case we should introduce a 0 (zero) or starting point at point 9/0. On the zero-place we put Man no. 1 or the first three idiots; Man no. 2 (at point 1) would subsume the following idiots 4, 5, 6 and Man no. 3 (at point 2) would subsume idiots 7, 8, 9. This makes more sense actually because then Man no. 4 (three-centred being, idiots 10, 11, 12) would be placed on point 4. On point 5, Man no. 5 we would have idiots 13, 14, 15 and on point 7 (Man no. 6) we would have idiots 16, 17, 18. On point 8 there would be Man no. 7 showing one of the three aspects of higher development as shown by idiots 19, 20, 21.

Make a drawing for yourself.

The driving energy on the points of the triangle would be on point 3 influence from the outer world or energy, on point 6 influence from the inner world or consciousness/being and on point 9 influence from the spiritual world, the Real I.

 So, if you make interconnections you can see that Man no. 1 at point zero only is still on the basic ground of starting to work at oneself (hopeless, compassionate and squirming idiots surely are!). Real work starts with point 1, striving to get to point 4, Man no. 4. Idiots on point 2 (idiots 7, 8, 9) also are working for more integration, but already with some intellectual understanding. At point 2 you are getting or must get help from point 8 otherwise you don’t get further in the circle to point 4.

 You see, this is a more dynamic view of development.

 My suggestion in the book (I think I should omit) is a more static one in parallel to the know enneagram typology.

 As I said, the book is “work in progress”.

 I hope I could explain more clearly how to go about with using the enneagram for the idiots. If something is still unclear, please let me know.

 Best wishes


 I have also reviewed Bruno's book, the Realized Idiot, on my new blog on the George Gurdjieff and related Fourth Way teachings on spiritual development:  Fourth Way Literature Reviews