Enneagram Part Two: Heart Center
A Fair Witness
Sunday, March 1, 2020
In traditional Christian teaching, Thomas Aquinas and other scholastic philosophers said that people normally do not consciously choose evil, but they choose something that appears good inside of their framework. We have to expose our frame of reference early on if our spiritual journey is to go anywhere. Our egos naturally put together a construct that explains why the things we’re doing are necessary and even good. That is why it is so essential to “discern the spirits” (see 1 Corinthians 12:10). We need support to distance ourselves from our illusions and rationalizations and see them for what they are. To unmask our false or separate self, we need to install a kind of “inner observer” or “fair witness.”
At first that sounds impossible, but after a while it becomes quite natural, especially with the help of a tool like the Enneagram. Our “inner observer” becomes the part of us that’s brutally honest with ourselves—not only in the negative sense but in the positive, too. For example, “You really love God and long for God. You are good. Stop treating yourself so brutally. Have compassion for yourself. You are a child of God.” This helps us to distinguish moralizing from authentic morality, shame from appropriate guilt, false pride from genuine strength. Through the lens of the Enneagram we have greater self-knowledge and the ability to let go of what only seems good in order to discover what in us is really good.
Let me use myself as an example. Type Ones are idealists and perfectionists. They want the world to be perfect. They get irritated—most of the time in secret—because the world isn’t perfect. At the same time, they are geniuses of perception: they see more clearly than others what is out of line. It can be hell for themselves and others to live with this gift. When Ones remain fixated on “perfection,” they become hypercritical nags, people whose presence eventually gets on other people’s nerves. Too much of any good thing usually becomes something bad. This is true of all nine types: any excess turns gifts into curses.
As long as we cling to our prejudices and identify with our preconceived views and feelings, genuine community is impossible. We have to get to the point where we can break free from our feelings and thoughts. Otherwise in the end we won’t have emotions or ideas; they will have us.
Sometimes we meet people who are free from themselves. They express what moves them, and then they take a step back. They play an active part in things, but they don’t think they have a corner on the truth market. Without this kind of “inner work,” of simultaneously putting ourselves forward and taking a step back, community is doomed to failure. Learning this is really hard work. I probably can’t expect it from politicians, but I do expect it from people who know God. It’s the work of detachment, self-emptying, and “fasting” from the need to be right—the disciplines taught by all great religions. This is what makes someone “conscious.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001, 2013), 28-29, 30.