Christianity and the Enneagram: The Enneagram’s History

Picture of book by glasses and a watch

Another area that brings up concern for people considering the enneagram is the history of it. This is one area that does have a lot of murkiness but again, there is a reason for this fact. For much of history, learning was passed down through oral traditions. This was very true for the enneagram. Many people think of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo in the late 1900’s, who did a lot of work with developing the modern enneagram, when they consider enneagram origins.

However, the teachings of enneagram topics, though not exactly like our modern teachings, seem to have dates possibly as old as the time of ancient Babylon in 550 B.C. Throughout history, it seems to have been passed down predominantly through oral tradition which obviously makes it harder to find writings of it. Additionally, even to the present day, it has often been encouraged to keep the knowledge of the enneagram secret and choose to pursue personal growth rather than accumulate a following or stereotype people as many personality tests do. One of the leaders of our modern understanding of the enneagram, Father Richard Rohr, said that when he learned about it, he was told to keep it a secret, although this always bothered him.

While the history is much more ancient than often realized, even including connections to Pythagerous, it also may be more Christian than previously thought. There are writings from the early Christian Church Father’s like Evagrius of Pontus that seem to refer to the enneagram or an enneagram type of understanding. Furthermore, there seems to be some Jewish oral traditions on the enneagram, even around the time of Jesus as well as the enneagram potentially being utilized in the medieval churches.

At the end of the day, the history is too murky to say exactly what the origins of the enneagram are or to trace its development clearly to the present day. However, it can be stated that the origin of the enneagram is ancient in history and has been used by a wide variety of people to grow. But this can still leave Christians with an icky feeling, which takes me to my last point. And as I said in my first blog post, found here, there is value in knowing ourselves better and gaining deeper understanding of why we do what we do.

Can Sacred Truth Be Found in Secular Places?

Acts 17:16-34 is one of my favorite stories of Paul. Paul was on a missionary journey. While he was waiting for a few days in the city of Athens for some of his friends to meet up with him, he did what he always did, he began teaching. He not only taught in the synagogues (Jewish churches of the day) but he also taught in the marketplaces of the Greeks. He taught with specificity to the culture he was in and was actually invited by Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to come up to the Areopagus and share his teachings. In his sermon to them he quotes some of their poets and references one of their altars and says that they both point to Jesus. Paul does not view the Areopagus, the altars, or the “pagan” poetry as threats to his beliefs or to Christ but actually shows how God and truth can be shown even in these places.

Paul showed what I think we Christians need to know, that the sacred can be found in the secular. This is true in our world around us and specifically with the enneagram. While the enneagram may have some Jewish and even Christian origins it also may not. However, even if it does not, it can still be used for good and to push us closer to Christ. If it is not actively against Christianity, then it may be an opportunity for growth.

The Bible is God’s word, but God is not restricted to its pages and He may be calling us to grow in Him, even through “secular” things. Please know that what I am saying is that we are still called to test our hearts and the teachings around us. And always hold to God and His Word as the ultimate authority. But maybe we can consider other opportunities for growth, even in the “secular” world as well?


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