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Knowing Ourselves

Enneagram: Week 1

Knowing Ourselves
Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Enneagram is a dynamic system for self-knowledge and spiritual transformation. It is a wonderful tool that can help us see and let go of the false self—which masks the image of God within us—and allow us to live from our True Self—the unique manifestation of Love that God intends us to be. It seems we are most defended against that which we most deeply know to be true, our original blessing. This ontological belovedness and okayness is hard to trust because this true mirroring has invariably been distorted, denied, or even betrayed. The Enneagram serves as a very helpful mirror to reveal our egoic habits that keep our authentic self from thriving.

Although the Enneagram is an ancient tool, with roots in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, it was neglected for centuries. I first learned about the Enneagram from the Jesuits who brought it to America during the early 1970s. The Jesuits discovered this tool for their gift of spiritual direction. It is used in “the reading of souls” to help people rediscover who they are in God. When used in conjunction with a regular practice of contemplative prayer, the Enneagram can be powerfully transformative. It can open us to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and insight, love and grace. In the next two weeks of Daily Meditations, I will barely scratch the surface of the Enneagram’s potential to help us live to our fullest God-given identity. [1] But you will see that it very much continues our theme for this year, which is love.

The Enneagram describes nine different personalities, each of which covers a broad spectrum from “immature” to “mature,” or “compulsive” to “redeemed.” It is more about recognizing “energies” than it is about describing precise traits. People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but its real goal is to let people out of their self-created boxes. It makes us aware of our root sin, our passion, our particular trap or blindness that prevents us from experiencing reality holistically and honestly. These passions were called the seven “capital sins” by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, although predictably he missed the most common ones in Western civilization, which are fear and deceit. You can’t see as sin what you have idealized as virtue.

Freedom from our habitual trap comes through some in-depth experience of Love, be it a sudden overflowing, hitting the bottom and being lifted up, or the gradual opening through contemplative practice. At some point many people wake up and begin to realize, however tenuously, their own True Self, a one-of-a-kind reflection of God’s love in the world. There’s a part of us that has always been in union with God. Gradually we learn more and more to trust our deepest soul and draw our life from that Source. We learn how to live more consistently from this true identity of original blessing, who we are in God and who we will be through eternity. Then we know that any notion of heaven is not just later, but has begun here and now.

Gateway to Silence:
Open me to Presence.

[1] Although the best way to learn this oral tradition is by listening to a true teacher or spiritual director—so you can pick up the “energy” of your type—I hope this brief introduction will inspire you to go further with the Enneagram. I highly recommend Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson’s book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram. Additional resources, including a free personality test, are available from The Enneagram Institute.

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001), xvii-xviii, 29, 40;

Richard Rohr, The Enneagram and Grace: 9 Journeys to Divine Presence (CAC: 2012), disc 1 (CD, MP3 download); and

Richard Rohr, The Enneagram as a Tool for Your Spiritual Journey (CAC: 2009), disc 4 (CD, DVD, MP3 download).

Is the Enneagram new to you? Are you wondering, what is the Enneagram? How can the Enneagram help me? Which number on the Enneagram am I? Does the Enneagram work? This is just one post in a two-week series about the Enneagram. Click here for an introduction to the Enneagram and links to additional reflections and resources on the topic.

The Enneagram Diagram. CAC archives.
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