Falling Into the Enneagram
Todd Wilson, a pastor1Todd Wilson is cofounder and President of the Center for Pastor Theologians and the former senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois whose book, The Enneagram Goes to Church, has recently been released, tells how he discovered the Enneagram. He was on vacation and his sister-in-law Beth was with him and his family. Beth was reading an Enneagram book by New Agers Don Riso and Russ Hudson, Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Riso and Hudson are co-founders of the Enneagram Institute.2The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 2 I have read Riso and Hudson’s The Wisdom of the Enneagram and it is chock full of New Age beliefs.
It is troubling that Beth, who I assume is a Christian, could read a New Age book without sensing something, but it seems the Enneagram has acted as a blinding agent in the church. It renders many Christians not only blind to the facts but bypasses their critical and logical thinking. Wilson remarks that Beth’s book was “in tatters” and assumes it must have been “her third or fourth reading” of it.3The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 2
After that, Wilson and his wife “were devouring every Enneagram source we could get our hands on.”4The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 5 Wilson carries the credentials of a scholar with a Ph.D from Cambridge.5The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 3
The Enneagram and Essence
I looked through Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Riso & Hudson that Beth was reading using the Look Inside feature on Amazon, and I also did a search for “essence.” “Essence,” as I have pointed out before, is a key to understanding the purpose of the Enneagram. Once one identifies his or her Type, they understand the Type is the “false self,” or the ego (“ego” in the New Age is the false self, or part of it) they have constructed. Armed with that supposed knowledge, which is not taught in Scripture, they can work through what caused them to create that false self in order to transcend the ego and get to “Essence.” This is exactly what Riso & Hudson teach in several places in their book.
One statement is that the Enneagram is not merely a map of personality, but “points the way toward what lies beyond once we have transcended ego.”6Don Riso & Russ Hudson, Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery p. xviii On page 17, the authors write that the personality is the “learned or acquired part of a person’s behavior or identity,” while the essence is “the innate part of identity which needs to be addressed for real transformation to occur.” On page 475, the authors state that the “True Self” is “Essence” which is discovered after one is liberated from the “trap of the personality.”
What does that mean? It is the philosophy of the Enneagram that the Types are the false identities that are holding one back. Once one uses the Enneagram to figure out the false identity (the Type) and the false construct it represents, one is able to realize his or her Essence, the True Self. This Essence in the New Age is divine.
All Truth is God’s Truth Only Works When Something is True
A defense of the Enneagram in The Enneagram Goes to Church is found in the section, “All Truth is God’s Truth: Transposing the Enneagram Into a Christian Key.” Todd Wilson talks about something he learned in his “advanced philosophy class” he took at Wheaton as a freshman.7The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 13
Wilson claims the origins of the Enneagram are “shrouded in mystery” admits it is “heavily indebted to occultist thinkers such as G. I. Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo.”8The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 16 But the Enneagram’s origins are not shrouded at all. The origins are quite plain, publicly available and have been outlined in our book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret.
Wilson calls Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo “occultist thinkers” and he is right! So how does he deal with this? He states that the Enneagram is a “wisdom tradition” 9The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 16 as though this makes the occultism imbued in the Enneagram acceptable. Or is it that occultism can be seen as wisdom? It is hard to say because there is no explanation from Wilson for naming occultism as a “wisdom tradition.”
I know of no qualifications for calling the Enneagram a “wisdom tradition.” First of all, that category implies something with a great deal of age, something the Enneagram does not have. In terms of the Types, it is only about 50 years old (since circa 1970 when Naranjo added the Types via spirit contact). If one wants to credit Ichazo for the Ego fixations, then it goes back at the most barely ten years earlier to the early 1960s. Less than 60 years is not sufficient for the term “wisdom tradition.”
Secondly, there is no basis for saying there is enough wisdom in the Enneagram to use that term as a description since the Enneagram is in conflict with biblical teaching and from a secular standpoint has not even been validated in the field of psychology.
Wilson goes on to talk about wisdom literature and how some books of the Bible are wisdom books. He quotes Richard Foster as saying that Proverbs and Ecclesiastes contain “the stored treasure of human insight.”10The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 17 Wilson uses Foster’s quote to say the Enneagram is “stored treasure of human insight into how people work.”11The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 17 He continues by writing that we should think of the Enneagram as “a longstanding conversation” and “a collection of wise insights into personalities and interpersonal dynamics.”12The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 18
There are two issues with this idea. First, the Enneagram is not “longstanding,” as pointed out already with the description of “wisdom tradition.”
Secondly, the Enneagram is not about getting insight into personalities per se. In fact, Richard Rohr, whose book introduced the Enneagram to the church, and who has discipled many of the more popular Enneagram authors in the Christian market, has said it is not a personality test. New Ager Russ Hudson has said it is not a type of person but a path to God. The Enneagram was explicitly designed, once the Types were added via automatic writing, for the person to realize that their Type, or personality, is a false construct. One is to work through this so they can uncover the Essence, which is the True Self. The Essence transcends the ego (false self) and one can then be liberated from the false self by using the Enneagram and realizing his or her Essence, as explained in the Riso-Hudson book.
Amazingly, Wilson seems to know all this. He proposes that Christians can “transpose” the Enneagram’s original teachings into a Christian context. So, for example, instead of looking for the Essence, we see ourselves made in God’s image.13The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ pp. 21-22 But does anyone need the Enneagram for that? More crucially, how can this be read into the Enneagram?
Wilson takes the New Age idea that we are sleepwalking through life and need to awaken and tries to turn it into realizing our fallen nature and need for the new birth.14The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ pp. 22-23 But if the argument is to use the Enneagram for the church, then a true Christian does not need to know he needs the new birth, they have already been born-again. For unbelievers the need for the new birth isn’t the Enneagram it is the gospel message that God has already given the church to preach to the world. One wonders if Todd Wilson has unwittingly turned from Sola Scriptura via his embrace of the Enneagram?
Wilson moves on to quote Helen Palmer for the explanation of humility.15The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 23 Helen Palmer is the quintessential New Ager and psychic. She therefore has no way to understand biblical humility. Whether Wilson is aware of who Palmer is or not, I am not sure. Having been delivered out of the New Age, I am appalled at a New Ager being cited for an explanation of humility. Humility for a Christian should be defined how God defines it, and there are plenty of passages that do that (for example, Luke 14:11; Romans 12:10; Colossians 3:12; Philippians 2:3-11; James 4:10).
True Self/False Self
Wilson goes on to talk about the true and false selves in the Enneagram, then states that the Christian is called to put on the “new self.” However, Wilson says that using the Enneagram’s paradigm of the true/false self can help the Christian in a “moral renewa.l”16The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ pp.24-25 But the new self in Christ has nothing to do with the Enneagram or with the Enneagram’s true/false self. God supernaturally transforms Christians into the new self, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The self is regenerated by the Holy Spirit and conforms Christians to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This is the process of sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit working in believers. This is in opposition to the Enneagram which calls for a discovery of essence or the True Self which, according to the Enneagram, was never separated from God.
Furthermore, any valid “moral renewal” can only be based on God’s character as revealed in Scripture. And any such renewal comes about through sanctification, not through the man-based pagan standards of the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a deceptive substitute for God’s word and for the Holy Spirit as a guide to renewal.
Nor can the Enneagram help with seeing “the contours of sin” as claimed by Wilson. 17The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 25 Why not? Because the concept of sin in the Enneagram is not the biblical concept. Ichazo’s view of the seven deadly sins he incorporated in the Enneagram (he had to add two more to make nine) is that they are false constructs of the self, resulting from fears, hurts, conditioning, and the like. This is also the view of Richard Rohr and his disciples, whose teachings make up a large part of the Enneagram’s tutelage in the church.
Nevertheless, Wilson states that although it takes a lot of work to transpose the Enneagram into a Christian context, it is worth it because it is “such a rich resource” for understanding personality.18The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 26 According to whom? The Enneagram is not psychologically valid according to any independent or peer-reviewed testing.19“Is the Enneagram Institute’s RHETI® version 2.5 Scientifically Validated?”
The Enneagram as a Wisdom Tradition
Wilson acknowledges the Enneagram “is not a Christian tool.”20The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 26 Yet he writes that we can “wrestle with the truth claims of the Enneagram” to see if they “comport with Scripture.”21The Enneagram Goes to Church in Google books, at https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Enneagram_Goes_to_Church.html?id=zaH9DwAAQBAJ p. 27 Why? His answer is, “at the root of the Enneagram is a wisdom tradition.” This circles us back to the problem that the Enneagram has no basis for being classified as a wisdom tradition. It seems to beg the question since no foundation exists for the Enneagram as a “wisdom tradition.” There is no need to “wrestle” with any truth claims, either, since no basis whatsoever has been given for them. In fact, as has been pointed out, the Enneagram is not biblical or considered valid in the professional field of psychology.
So how does the statement, “All truth is God’s truth” apply to something like the Enneagram? It cannot do so because there are no grounds to believe there is any worthwhile truth in the Enneagram. What lies at the root of the Enneagram are teachings of Gnostic, occult, and New Age teachers and information from spirits. In fact, the information for Types came from spirits. As noted earlier, Wilson acknowledged the heavy indebtedness to “occultist thinkers.” The two men most responsible for what comprises the Enneagram teachings were not only occultist thinkers but occult practitioners who were in contact with familiar spirits, a source forbidden to the people of God. The man who could be called the next most influential teacher on the Enneagram, as far as it how it influenced the church, is Richard Rohr, who is a heretic.
The reasons it seems to work are the very same reasons astrology appears to be true. Millions of people believe they fit their zodiac sign. Tens of thousands who have had their birth charts done, which would be roughly the equivalent of an Enneagram reading (though more complex), believe that the chart has specifically pegged who they are and what their life is about. There are factors that cause this such as confirmation bias, the Barnum-Forer Effect, subjective validation, self-deception, and others.22For a fuller treatment of this see Jay Medenwaldt’s, “The Enneagram, Science, and Christianity – Part 2”
Wilson’s attempt to Christianize the Enneagram assumes several things. First, an underlying assumption is that Scripture is insufficient in training for a life of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-11; 2 Peter 1:3-11).
Second, it assumes the biblical prohibitions against embracing occultism, false teachers and false teachings no longer apply. Scripture not only forbids using these methods but forbids consulting those who practice them (Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 1 Chronicles 10:13; Isaiah 8:19-20). Using a diagram with information that the founders of the Enneagram have openly admitted comes from spirit contact, and is the primary source of the Types, is akin to consulting a Spiritist.
Third, it assumes Christianizing the terminology and pasting Bible verses to the practices converts falsehood into a God honoring practice. We can test this against something that I suspect Wilson would reject out of hand. Astrology is widely practiced and believed by millions to be accurate. It is an occult form of divination, forbidden in God’s word, and is roundly rejected by Bible teaching churches. If someone attempted to convert the concepts of astrology into biblical truths by changing the meanings of the planets and zodiac signs would Christians embrace it? Even if they did strip it of all of its concepts and teaching leaving only stars and planets would it still be astrology or just a galactic star map?
In the same way, even if one replaces the New Age meanings of the Enneagram with biblical ideas, is it still the Enneagram? More importantly, if it can be changed so readily to mean something utterly opposite to its original purpose, then there is no basis to it to begin with. This effort to Christianize an occult pagan tool demonstrates there is no truth, objective, biblical or otherwise, at the heart of the Enneagram.Ω
Before trusting Christ, Marcia Montenegro was a professional astrologer and was involved in Eastern and New Age practices for many years. Through her ministry, Christian Answers for the New Age, Marcia speaks around the country and on radio, and writes on New Age and occult topics. She has a Masters in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC, and serves as a missionary with Fellowship International Mission, Allentown, PA. Based in Arlington, VA, she is the mother of an adult son and author of SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, (Cook, 2006). She is also co-author of Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret (MCOI Publishing, 2020) with Don and Joy Veinot You can find her online at: CANA or on Facebook at Christian Answers for the New Age
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