Do you like personality tests?  Do you find them revealing?  Ever wonder about the science used in developing these tools and how accurate they are with those who utilize them?

Richard Rohr utilizes a personality tool, called the Enneagram, and it is becoming increasingly more popular in both Roman Catholic and more recently, within Protestant and Evangelical groups including with some popular authors, seminaries, church leaders and pastors.  We will look at this subject as a part of our continuing series on RICHARD ROHR – a major proponent of the Enneagram.

Like previous postings, to be transparent, let me look at my own denomination’s view – the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).  Any guesses on how the C&MA views the Enneagram and its use?  Any takers?  Anyone…….?  Well, as far as I know, there is no official position on using this tool across the denomination.  But, as stated in my previous posting, at a local C&MA Western PA District prayer conference in September in Mars (on our planet) PA, a talk entitled “Restoring Garden Intimacy” contained references t12072660_849557615142937_2925865984476851803_nRICHARD ROHR and the ENNEAGRAM.  The C&MA seemingly continues to progress further down the path of new age and contemplative mysticism – which is unfortunate.  On several occasions over the last few years, leadership at various levels within the C&MA have taken steps down this path.  More disturbing, the C&MA Bible colleges and Alliance Theological Seminary are accelerating down this path – teaching and equipping future leaders of the C&MA.

From the last posting, looking at Rohr’s theological chart, one can easily see all of the “stuff” included in what he believes.

What is the enneagram?


From the Enneagram Institute, it is stated that “the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism (Kabbala) Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy”.

A definition from the  Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions:

Enneagram (»astrology; »occult). A circle divided into nine equal points. The ennegram is rooted in the Kabbalist (see »Kabbala) tradition, astrology, and »divination. The numbers are linked to personality types. The enneagram has come into popular usage among many people today; there is a growing number of books written about how to understand and use it.


From within Roman Catholicism, it is commonly promoted by so-called ‘spiritual directors’ as a recommendation to measure spiritual growth.  However, many others sources refer to “the Enneagram as a popular NEW AGE tool which has found its way into Catholic practices, including parish classes and in retreat programs.”

Catholic Dan Burke states that:

In America and abroad the enneagram is a very popular system of personality types.  Strictly speaking, the enneagram is a circle marked with nine points (ennea means “nine” in Greek, and gram means “line drawing”). Inside the circle two figures connect the nine points, a triangle and an oddly shaped six pointed figure. However, by “enneagram” most people mean a personality typology system based on this drawing. In workshops people learn that only nine personality types exist and that every person fits into one of them. Each type is a personality compulsion, a wrong or even “demonic” way of behaving. Once a person identifies his or her type (usually classified by a number on the enneagram), then he or she can learn how to improve or avoid getting worse spiritually.

The enneagram is particularly popular among Catholics, with parishes and retreat houses offering workshops across the country. Rarely are teachers or participants aware of its occultic origins, though this should be a source of real concern for the Christian Church. Echoes of a false, gnostic theology are heard in enneagram teachings, though its occult roots are unknown. The lack of scientific research into the enneagram system leaves it open to abuse even by people who reject or know nothing of its occult background.

Many Catholic sources speak out against using the Enneagram while there are many which utilize it as a tool in their spiritual formation classes.  Historically, it’s use has received strong warning from the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Inter-religious Dialogue – stating that the its use introduces ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith,”(Sec. 1.4)

Some of these concerns include the following:

(1) SOURCE:  The first reason to avoid use of the Enneagram is because of where it came from – the occult.  Burke states –

The enneagram came from the Sufi religion and was introduced to the west by an Armenian occultist named George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who lived in Russia from 1877 to 1947. He attended the seminary as a boy but left at the age of 13 to pursue the occult, in which he was deeply involved for the rest of his life. During his travels through Egypt, India and Tibet, he came across a group of Sufis (Muslim mystics) who lived in Central Asia, from whom he learned the enneagram. They had been using it for fortune telling through numerology and as a symbol of the nine stages of enlightenment rather than the nine personality types ascribed to it in the west. Gurdjieff believed the enneagram was a universal symbol containing secret powers, and it was he who brought the symbol to the west.

Oscar Ichazo, a Chilean occultist, later adapted the enneagram to its present use after learning it from one of Gurdjieff’s disciples. Ichazo is responsible for developing the system of nine personality types that it now contains.

Ichazo’s history is even more disturbing than Gurdjieff’s. “At the age of six he began having out-of-body experiences, which led to his disillusionment with the church,” writes New Age expert and former enneagram enthusiast, Father Mitch Pacwa. “He could not accept Catholic teaching on heaven or hell because he had been there and knew more about it than Christ and the Church.”

Ichazo was involved in Oriental martial arts, Zen, Andes Indian thought, shamanism, yoga, hypnotism and psychology. He claims to have received instructions from a higher entity called “Metatron, the prince of the archangels.” He and his followers claim to contact lower spirits through meditation and mantras, and to be guided by an internal master, known as the Green Qu’Tub, who makes himself known when they reach a sufficiently high stage of development.

Another principal player in the advent of the enneagram in the west was Chilean, Claudio Naranjo, who brought it to the popular New Age community known as the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

From Esalen, Naranjo established a nationwide network of small Enneagram groups. Among his early students was Father Robert Ochs, S.J. by whom Father Pacwa was taught at Chicago’s Loyola University. From there, it quickly spread to seminaries and the general public.

(2) SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY:  Sometimes referred to as “JUNK SCIENCE”.  In spite of the fact that the enneagram has been subjected to little or no serious scientific scrutiny, it is being used to help people deal with personality disorders.  “Unlike some ‘personality type indices’ the enneagram remains untested by any scientific study,” writes Christopher Rees for Homiletics and Pastoral Review. “Like Sufism, the ‘dynamisms’ adopted in each Untitled copyof the nine ‘types’ depends on which guru or shaikh you prefer. There are as many ways of constructing groups and interpreting the enneagram as there are gurus. So the only apparent similarity the enneagram shares with behavioral sciences is its lack of a paradigm.”

Because the Enneagram has descriptions that read like those for esoteric systems like tarot, astrology, biorhythms, etc., advocacy of the enneagram is even more problematic for Catholics, Rees writes.

“. . . The Gnostic [salvation through knowledge] roots manifest in all enneagram systems guarantee that enneagram systems can never be reconciled with the Sacred Deposit of Faith.”

The mixture of so many non-Christian and occult elements in the enneagram, combined with its lack of scientific validity, should warn people away from its use.  “No tests, no standards, no board of examination exists, so most enneagram ‘experts’ have that title through self-declaration and workshop advertising,” writes Father Pacwa.


Marcia Montenegro, (Christian Answers for the New Age) states –  

“the reference to Christianity undoubtedly refers to what is sometimes called ‘mystical’ or ‘esoteric Christianity’……………The fact that the origin of the Enneagram is spiritual, that is purpose is spiritual, and that it was passed down through teachers of cryptic spiritualities, should clearly indicate that its validity as any sort of tool to understand self or truth is questionable at best.”

When researching the history of the Enneagram, one finds a convoluted syncretic mixture of various mystic beliefs.  Early history shows that the Enneagram was considered an occultic tool.  This type of Christianity was a forerunner to the NEW AGE and in actuality is a GNOSTIC distortion of Christianity.  It is not that surprising that this tool is having a resurgence because our culture, in many ways, practices NEW AGE beliefs without necessarily calling them NEW AGE practices.  Terms such as YOGA, KHARMA, SILENCE & SOLITUDE….etc., are common place not only in society but in the church today.

The Enneagram is claimed to lead followers into SELF-AWARENESS and self-understanding where all aspects of the self are integrated leading to an understanding of true Self.  The Self (capitalized) is considered to be divine – by most who teach the Enneagram. 

This introduces concepts that Gnostic-based, Eastern and New Age views.

Montenegro makes some strong statements that should catch our attention becuase of the potential outcome on someone’s walk –

A simple investigation into the Enneagram reveals that its theories of personality are based on esoteric teachings and an occult worldview. The clear origin and purpose of the Enneagram is to initiate a Gnostic spiritual awakening to one’s alleged true divine Self, which is in itself an occult initiation. This is the claim and goal of virtually all occult and New Age teachings. The purpose of such initiation is a shift in consciousness, a change in the way one views reality — God, the world, others, and self.

Occult initiation can be found in many non-Christian systems, desired or not. In Yoga and certain forms of meditation, it is the awakening of the Kundalini, the alleged serpent-like power at the base of the spine; in Reiki, the teacher “awakens” or “activates” the purported healing energy within the student; in Eastern meditation, it involves being given a mantra (a word or phrase to be repeated in meditation); Eastern gurus give their followers shaktipat, which supposedly confers grace and arouses the Kundalini; and the altered states of Eastern and New Age based meditations will certainly lead to occult awakening.

Occult initiations also occur spontaneously — and unbidden — if the person is involved in Eastern, New Age, or occult practices. An occult initiation may culminate in meeting one’s “spirit guide,” a disembodied being who is supposedly one’s spiritual teacher. ****

The Gnostic initiation or awakening is the occult counterfeit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His regeneration of the believer upon faith in Christ. This regeneration, called by Jesus being “born from above” (John 3:3; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17), is supernatural, life-giving, and from God. Gnostic or occult awakening is the kiss of death. Though it appears to open a door onto a shining vista, its light is artificial and it brings the person only into bondage. The true light is Jesus Christ: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46, KJV).

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:8-10 (NASB)

There is much more that could be said about the Enneagram. But for the sake of concluding this introduction to this practice, one has to ask – why would a Christian want to expose themselves to any influence coming from the Enneagram?  Why does the leadership in the church not properly vet new practices with God’s word to ensure they are not misleading congregants in their personal walk?  With the C&MA, I find myself questioning the direction of church leadership more and more as they continue to introduce Christians to these speakers teaching these practices.  It is not just the C&MA – there are many other Evangelical churches that are further down this path and many don’t even realize it.

Additional information can be viewed at these sites:


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