Enneagram Bibliography

Enneagram Bibliography

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Muddied Roots, Psychobabble, Inoculation

Originally posted April 11th, 2007

April 3rd, Easter Sunday, 2021


The uncritical acceptance of claims from distant "authorized” sources of the Enneagram is simply sloppy thinking. Standing on shaky ground and appealing to authority to prove that one way is more "authentic" or “righter” points to nasty rivalry. In this essay I will examine some of the claims about the origin of the Enneagram that began to appear about 35 years ago, and have subsequently been repeated, embellished, and distorted. But first I will try to describe the context for Naranjo’s introduction of the Enneagram.


SAT, Berkeley, California 1971-1976 


When I joined SAT in 1973, most of us did not look on Claudio Naranjo as a guru. I was so wary of being branded as a Moonie that I only allowed myself to think of him as an extraordinary professor—not the Teacher of the Age, not an enlightened being, and certainly not an avatar. I was aware that he had had a profound insight, perhaps even an enlightenment experience that tied together long years of study and psychological investigation while he was working with Óscar Ichazo in Arica, Chile, and I was simply grateful to be present while he unpacked that inspiration. 


The number of people in the first SAT groups ranged between 35 and 50. We came from all walks of life; there were psychologists, a Jesuit priest and a Franciscan Friar, two seminarians, one former nun, a devotee of Swami Rudrananda, a rabbi’s wife, and one woman who’d been associated with the Gurdjieff Foundation; professors, several Phd.’s, two medical doctors, school teachers, at least one lawyer, more than a handful of psychology graduate students, body workers, therapists, a film-maker, a martial artist, a C-level New York fashion executive, Ravi Shankar’s mother-in-law, one professional journalist and a film distributor, but there were also carpenters, house painters and a French hippie. We were mostly white, gay and straight, a large proportion of Jews, one Muslim and a few asians. Claudio turned no one away.


We met on Tuesday and Thursday nights for 3 to 3 and half hours, with at least one Saturday day-long session a month plus several longer retreats each year. Claudio worked with us mostly in a group setting. His original presentations were dense; they required time to digest and put to use. His directions, or indications were for everyone but, particularly when he worked in the manner of Fritz Perls, he focused on the individual student and his or her fixation. He talked with us, asked questions, responded to our questions, returned us over and over to our own interior spaces where he thought we might profitably investigate, and, as he said to me, “discover a rich vein.” 


It was an oral tradition. There were no texts though there were Enneagram diagrams with simple notation which most of us used to scribble down our own observations. We all kept notes; we shared and compared them with each other. Detailed notes with full sentences were highly regarded, and there were several meticulous recorders. In addition to Claudio’s presentations, people also circulated Óscar’s proto-analysis from people who’d traveled to Arica Chile. I mention these notes because they became the basis of the wider study by the small group of Jesuits and other religious who began to use the Enneagram in Chicago under the tutelage of Bob Ochs, SJ and  Aubrey Degnan as well as the New Age audience who began to work with Helen Palmer. Enneagram literature did not start flooding the market for another 10 years.


We also promised not to speak about the Enneagram outside the group because, we were told, confidentiality was integral to self-discovery. We promised not to use certain ‘teachings’ until we’d received permission from Claudio. This was mainly intended  for work that we would do with others, although, in some instances, that promise included our private conversations with group members. The initial intent was not to protect materials and income as intellectual property, but it did set the stage for later lawsuits. Now that both Claudio and Bob Ochs have died, and so much material is already public, I feel no obligation to remain silent. 



Fact or hearsay about the Enneagon/Enneagram’s Sufi origins 


There was talk about the Enneagram originating hundreds of years earlier in a Sufi school, but I just nodded my head in agreement with a vague notion that there were, of course, esoteric roots. It made little difference. For me, like most of Claudio’s early students, the profound experiences of self-recognition proved the power of the teaching. 


Some did speak of “The Work” and “The School” in almost reverential tones which was an acknowledgement of the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff and its Sufi origins. Most of the written accounts of the Enneagram teaching in the West repeat the claim of an esoteric teaching handed down through the Naqshbandi Sufi School which was founded around 1380. The great light of Sufism in the West, Idries Shah, confirmed that the symbol, the nine-pointed figure, existed in the Naqshbandi line. The figure of the Enneagram is also found in the record of Mr. Gurdjieff’s teaching—which of course lends the authority from another respected source. 


The existence of a distinctive figure only demonstrates the probability of Sufi origin, perhaps adopted by the Naqshbandi. It indicates nothing about the secret origin of any four Enneagrams—Fixations, Passions, Virtues, or Holy Ideas—that Ichazo introduced and Naranjo elaborated. 


What chance is there that this Enneagram has been passed down from an identifiable school, even as a secret teaching? Can we find traces of that secret? 


Mr. Gurdjieff’s use of the Enneagram 


G. I. Gurdjieff wrote: "The knowledge of the enneagram has for a very long time been preserved in secret and if it now is, so to speak, made available to all, it is only in an incomplete and theoretical form of which nobody could make any practical use without instruction from a man who knows." 


We know that Mr. Gurdjieff used the Enneagram, that he praised it, that he said that it expressed all the universal laws, that his students had a series of sacred movements that followed the directional lines of the figure. The picture at the top of this essay is that sacred dance. There is, however, no evidence in the primary sources about the Work that he used the Enneagram/Enneagon of Fixations, Passions, Virtues, or Holy Ideas. 


Gurdjieff’s pupil P.D. Ouspensky recorded comments about the Enneagram in his book, In Search of The Miraculous (1949), and another famous pupil, John Bennett, applied the Enneagram of Process to systems theory, organizational design, group dynamics, and psychotherapy. Neither of these sources, however, specifically point to protoanalysis or the system that Claudio or Óscar describe. 


Claudio was conversant with Mr. Gurdjieff’s work, his writing and that of his important disciples. For Claudio, Gurdjieff was the epitome of teacher as trickster, a role that Claudio loved. But he never claimed that he had been trained or authorized by any of Gurdjieff’s successors. 


But to my mind, the most interesting possible evidence that Gurdjieff might have used the Enneagram comes from some of the personal accounts of pupils in France and America. In Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Pupil's Journey, C. S. Nott describes Mr. Gurdjieff’s efforts with one student to identify her “chief characteristic” before she had to return to England. Mr. Gurdjieff directed her, but the struggle to identify the lynch pin in her personality was her task and only hers. It was, he said, the key to her self-remembering. Perhaps Gurdjieff used the 27 variations of a nine-pointed figure in his exploration, but again we have no evidence. If he did, you might suspect that he passed that knowledge to his chief disciples, but any “evidence” that he did is just a guess and, in any case, bears scant resemblance to either Ichazo’s or Naranjo’s use of the Enneagram. 


In Taking with the Left Hand, How the Enneagram Came to Market (1996), William Patrick Patterson who is an authorized teacher in the Gurdjieff lineage writes a blistering account of what he considers the current Enneagram enthusiasts’ misappropriation of the Gurdjieff work, some of which I found persuasive until he tries to locate the Source of the Enneagram in ancient Egypt. If we have to start digging back that far into a mysterious history to support self-analysis, the enterprise is hopeless, and we are lost.



The difference between Ichazo’s Enneagon and the work of Naranjo 


If I were to imagine a best case scenario, Ichazo, during that first Arica training, might have sensed that Claudio had an insight that he had to explore—a vocation in the classical sense of a path that he had to follow to the end—and that the work itself would be richer. However, I can find no evidence for my scenario in any of Óscar’s writings that are available to the public. 


Claudio referenced  Óscar’s talks on the Enneagon and protoanalysis given at the Instituto de Psicologia Aplicada (Santiago) in 1969, and Óscar finds no fault in Claudio’s report. 


There is also no evidence that Óscar had any contact with a Fourth Way teacher, at least one connected directly with Gurdjieff or any of his disciples. James Moore wrote an article on the dissemination of the Enneagram in South America. (I've published this essay by one of the second generation of Gurdjieff's students in the UK). He concludes, “Analogically Ichazo’s enneagram is to Gurdjieff’s what the New Guinea cargo-cults are to aviation. Ichazo’s 63 ‘domains, energies, divine principles, fixations, virtues, passions, and psychocatalyzers’ seem stuck around the symbol au choix like so many bird-of-paradise feathers.” 1 


An Enneagram teacher, Subhuti, who was an early student of Óscar, says that Óscar “denied that he got the Enneagram symbol from Gurdjieff….Actually, the truth was more mundane: he got it from his uncle’s library. In a 1996 magazine interview, Ichazo explained that when he was 12-13 years old, he inherited an esoteric library from his uncle Julio, who was a philosopher….Ichazo hungrily devoured these books, hoping to find reassuring answers for his paranormal states. He came across the Enneagram symbol while studying an ancient text from the Chaldean civilization, which existed around 600 BC, in what is now known as Iraq, and whose citizens appear to have been fascinated by numbers.”2


The Arica Enneagon, both protoanalysis and the way that a student worked with it, was quite different from Claudio’s understanding and practice. I knew several Esalen pioneers who had been in Arica with Claudio. They reported that Óscar typed people by looking at their faces: a slight elevation of an eyebrow or crinkle around the mouth was as clear an indicator as any standardized personality test.


[Ichazo had Jack Labanauskas take photos of himself and spent an hour or so pointing out features in his face that were rather obscure, to Jack, who studied bo-shin, Japanese yin-yang style facial medical diagnosis as part of macrobiotic study under Michio Kushi.

The next day Jack tested this theory by showing Óscar a bunch (40 or so) of self-typed enneagrammer photos; he insisted Jack put the type the individuals thought they were on the photo. Jack would have preferred Óscar would type them straight, and Jack could later compare. But cagey as Óscar was, he insisted. Ok so he agreed with about 40% of them as being typed accurately--not a very high % but definitely better than a casual 11% chance of blind guessing.  Jack later sent the same photos to an advanced student of Ichazo’s, who was presumed to be good at this, and he disagreed with Ichazo’s conclusions in more than 50% of the cases. So much for the reliability of this system. Even if Ichazo was 70-100% right, he was not successful in transmitting that skill to his students.] 


After a lot of discussion and comparison of typing, several of the people who had been in Arica with the first Esalen group concluded that Óscar used a different Enneagram, which he called the Enneagon.3


[A decade or two after Jack’s visit with Óscar, he started using enneagram instead of enneagon as if surrendering to the fact that “enneagon” did not manage to “neuter” enneagram and thus send all the enneagrammers flocking to Arica.] 


Óscar by his own admission had no dispute with Claudio’s Enneagram teaching, but by the same token, he did not authorize Claudio’s work. Óscar’s lawsuit was directed at Helen Palmer’s popularization, not Claudio’s work from which she derived her materials. (ARICA INSTITUTE, INC. v. Helen PALMER and Harper & Row Publishers is online). Claudio did not alter the derogatory names of the points that Óscar used to identify each fixation, though Helen created a whole new “kinder, gentler” lexicon. Was she just changing the names to refine a pedagogical technique or was this an attempt to avoid the intellectual property rights lawsuit that eventually transpired? Don Richard Riso and anyone else who feared Arica lawsuits also altered the names. 


But my question is whether the impulse to alter other things, a little here and there, to avoid charges of intellectual property theft distort the teaching? Did Helen wind up off base as Óscar claims? Here is what he had to say about Helen’s version of the Enneagram (and others who follow the Narrative tradition). “The work of the enneagram authors is plainly unscientific and without rational foundation, because it is based on dogmatic formulations as opposed to the Arica system, which under any measure is logical and scientific and is based on rational metaphysical propositions and ultimate theological truth.” 4 This statement can of course be disputed as Óscar can’t call his formulation scientifically provable and solid given that he himself claims to have created/originated many of the ideas. How can Mozart claim originality of his music as also being scientific, as the exact tunes were not recorded before? 


Óscar or his deputies typed the student while Claudio’s typing was conversational, investigating together with the person. Only after a period of study, Claudio typed you. If you thought you demonstrated the characteristics of a particular point, he might ask you to investigate that possibility. There were times when he just told you where to look. And he didn’t always get it right himself, and from time to time revised his analysis which is true in my own case.


Among the current variations of the Enneagram work, only Helen et al insist, as a “principle of the school,” that the participant determines which point he or she owns. It is often a promise in the “narrative” tradition that you will discover your type after one weekend workshop. Frankly Helen’s promise seems to me to be a sales pitch. Certainly early protoanalysis often seemed purposefully vague—sometimes your type was switched after several months or, as in my case, years of work. 


Does it actually really make any difference if you determine your type accurately after your first workshop? It just seems better if you wait until you have some understanding of the Enneagram and some inner experience of self-observation. Then you might have a fighting chance of being honest with yourself and becoming free. I was typed as point 7, Ego Plan, after one year in SAT and thought of myself as a Plan well beyond the group’s dissolution. More than 19 years later, Claudio re-typed me a 9. Although I’ve always appreciated the Enneagram’s power as a tool for self-observation, when I was typed correctly, it was like focusing a laser. 



Some really far flung theories 


I was sitting in the classroom when Bob Ochs, a well respected Jesuit, said that the Enneagram probably originated in the esoteric school that trained Jesus. This assertion is as unsupported as the claim that during Jesus’s lost years, the time between when he stood up and amazed the synagogue elder’s and his baptism by John, he was initiated and trained by an Indian guru. Yet not one person in the room challenged it, myself included. 


More recently in a pastoral letter warning Catholics about using the Enneagram as a tool for spiritual direction, the U.S. Catholic bishops' Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, state that "sin is indeed unhealthy behavior and can be combated by an improved understanding, but it is at its root a moral problem, so that repentance before God and one’s neighbor must be the fundamental response. Enneagram teaching thus obscures the Christian understanding of sin." They also cite numerological speculations of the Pythagoreans. Óscar also suggests this, possibly looking for some terms that he can copyright, or the ancient wisdom of the Chaldeans as possible origins of the Enneagram. Apparently Óscar loves arguments for authority as much as Catholics do.

[Or, any other movement/ideology that preceded towards more and more authority…. Which ultimately is a universal flaw in human nature that arises unless it’s consciously worked on to be avoided…. See current trends towards moving Covid from a medical epidemiological problem and using it as a tool to control populations into “wokeness” and obedience of authority… the same can be said of many of the “...isms” that are suffocating free speech and open mindedness in academia, schools and lately in censorship of ideas that mainstream media and the silicone social media find contrary to their preferred ideology] 


There is also speculation that the true origins of the esoteric teaching were the Jesuits or perhaps Russian Orthodox communities. Oh, what might have happened if the bishops had been fed that line? The Jesuits were in hot water anyway. (See my article "The Jesuit Transmission of the Enneagram.") 


What can you do with any of this material? What does it have to do with self-discovery? 


In my view, most of the speculation about the origins of the Enneagram falls into the ``best guess” category. It occurs to me that people who were raised in one of the religious traditions of the Book tend to seek a revealed Source as validation of their inner experience. I come from that tradition myself, and know how it feels. 


But let me suggest another route. After more than 30 years of meditation practice, I have come to rely on a system that is empirically based. A committed group of practitioners, over a long period of time, share their experience, write about it, compare with one another, and along the way develop a system, a methodology of self-inquiry that does liberate people from the conditions and painful vagaries of living, allowing us to experience a fuller life. It might be impossible for some, but for me, this is, as Claudio pointed out to me, “the rich vein.” This is where I try to focus my attention, and it also points me in the direction of being rigorous in my self-observation.


So, what are the signs and effects of this sloppy thinking? 


Most Americans would prefer to read a 600-word article in Psychology Today for their understanding of the Enneagram. Most people who attend an Enneagram workshop also seem to want to find out their type quickly. To me what seems to be lacking is an understanding of how to use the Enneagram and what practices support continuing self-exploration. 


I have a close friend who did a Masters in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica. While there were many things he appreciated about the program, his exposure to the Enneagram had to be of the 600-word variety. I have no specifics about the training of the person who presented the system in Santa Monica, but this is what my friend said to me, “Yeah, it is a great system. I once knew what number I am, but I forgot.” 


This Enneagram teacher inoculated my friend against the power of the Enneagram. Of course not everyone will be attracted to the Enneagram and the self-exploration that it might offer. But this path is not available to my friend now—it is very difficult to get around the part of the mind that tells you: “you don’t need to look there, you already understand that.” Throwing up that barrier has to be credited to the teacher’s account. 


Of the more than 150 books about the Enneagram that have appeared since 1980, most seem to be written to support the authors’ teaching credentials. The books also serve as promotional materials for their workshops and, at best, study guides. Most are not rigorous psychological studies, but rather present materials on prototyping with the practitioner’s particular spin. (I find Janet Levine’s approach rather interesting, and the books of Sandra Maitri are faithful to the work of the original SAT groups. There are of course others too that I am unaware of.)


Claudio once said that the power of the Enneagram is such that it remains compelling as a system even if misused. I seem to have survived mistyping. I also have no real objection to stealing material—this is the real world. But it does become problematic if and when the materials are used incorrectly.


Helen Palmer said, “Our research has found that there are far more 8's than Naranjo.”5 Claudio did speculate there were fewer 8’s among people who did the “Work” than in the general population. On the other hand Helen’s statement might just indicate that the narrative tradition has typed more people as 8’s, and they were mistyped. Some people from the narrative tradition type George W. Bush as an 8 on the evidence that he took us to war—Bush would be a “counter phobic 6” in Naranjo’s system. Ronald Regan was a nine because he liked his afternoon nap—Claudio typed Regan a 3. 


Another friend who has studied the Enneagram insists that he is a “Palmer-Riso” 8. He would be, however, a classic 9 if Claudio typed him. Though not easily agitated, there was an edge in his voice when he said: “I’m no ass kisser.” Through most of his remarkable career, he has been of service to others as a peace-maker who resolves very difficult conflicts with grace and ease. Yet, because he finds Sloth so un-masculine and un-American, he undervalues the roles in which he excels, and misses the chance of being honest with himself. In my view, this is an example of Enneagram typing becoming Ego massage oil. Inept hands have stripped away the power of the Enneagram.


Esoteric schools don’t have secrets because their knowledge bestows power that they don’t want to share. The secrets hide themselves. They do not manifest their power until they get inside a person and change their being. I think that the closest analogy to the new Enneagram system might be the Tibetan idea of torma, a teaching that remains hidden until it is ripe. (Buddhists had to devise a way of authenticating their teaching innovations and developments in the Mahayana and Vajrayana long after the Buddha’s death.) 


Most people who proclaim the Naqshbandi source of the Enneagram usually haven’t got the slightest idea who or what the Naqshbandi’s history or their spiritual traditions are. Or at best they only possess hearsay knowledge. Enneagram practitioners didn’t go off to get a Phd in Islamic studies—they got an MSW so that they could take their psychological wares to the marketplace. 


Mr. Patterson, you might as well locate the Source in King Tut’s tomb. When people go to a museum and see a 5,000-year-old sarcophagus embedded with gold and lapis, the secret remains safe from esoteric tampering. A mummy can’t stand up and speak unless the teacher casts a magic spell. 


I have not answered my own questions concerning the value and use of the “new” Enneagram tradition. There is no answer. But I have shown that most speculation about the origins of the Enneagram only supports a “best guess.”


Donovan Bess was at 60+ SAT’s oldest member. He had been a reporter and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for most of his career. He was curious, engaging, interested in others, as well as being a seasoned self-observer. I liked him enormously. He died in Luxor when he was 81. After a day that included riding a camel and exploring the temples, he went back to the hotel with his longtime companion and died. She reported that he simply smiled and stopped breathing. 


I am not seeking to prove that the Enneagram has roots in the cults of Egyptian gods or demonstrate its authority as a sure predictor of behavior, but I have felt its power in my own life. If I were looking for evidence that the Enneagram is a powerful tool in the discipline of self-exploration, Donovan pointed a clear direction in the way he lived his life right up to last hours and minutes. 





1 “The Enneagram: A Developmental Study.” First published in Religion Today: A Journal of Contemporary Religions (London) V (3), October 1986-January 1987, pp.1-5. 

2 “The Enneagram Wars” by Subhuti, published in Osho News, OCTOBER 21, 2017

3 In my research I discovered speculation that Ichazo renamed the Enneagram “Enneagon” for copyright purposes. 

4 “Letter to the Transpersonal Community” by Oscar Ichazo. 

5 Personal notes. 

© Kenneth Ireland, 2007

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Enneagram Wars

[I am posting this article by Subhuti from the Osho News. I found it very interesting.] 


OCTOBER 21, 2017

Subhuti writes in detail on how a method for enlightenment ended up in court. “The Enneagram’s deepest value lies within the context of meditation. That is the turning point, at which self-understanding becomes spiritual transformation.”

enneagram tug of war

Leaving Arica for Pune

By the time the bullets started flying, I had left the battlefield. I had bid farewell to Oscar Ichazo, creator of the modern Enneagram system. I had written a bitchy letter to his staff at the Arica School in New York, arrogantly informing them I was no longer interested in being an Arica trainer and was off to India to complete my spiritual education.

This was 1976. A couple of years earlier, I’d been an enthusiastic, gung-ho ‘Arican’. I was convinced Arica was going to save the world. Oscar had warned us of a great darkness that was about to fall on humanity and we, as little Arican light bulbs, would be its shining saviours.

Nice, spiritually romantic idea. But there were a few problems: First, the darkness didn’t fall. Second, humanity wasn’t interested in being saved. Third, the light bulbs didn’t work. So, when an old girlfriend of mine came back from an ashram in Pune, India, wearing orange clothes and glowing with energy, I was ready to be seduced. Just kissing her was an orgasmic experience.

If she hadn’t been leaning out of a train window while I was standing on the platform, and the train hadn’t started moving, I think we’d still be kissing today. Anyway, I received her energy transmission. I got the message, passed from mouth to mouth: something wonderful and slightly scary was going on in Pune. I had to go and check it out.

A few weeks later, when I arrived at the ashram, I sat in front of Osho and he asked me how long I was going to stay. I heard myself reply “For ever.” Ooops! I hadn’t meant to say that, I still don’t know why I did, but it turned out to be true. I’d found the door to shunyata, divine emptiness, as well as sexual liberation, ecstatic celebration and chaotic meditation.

The combination was irresistible.

Fourteen years and many adventures later, I was sitting in the Pune ashram’s cafe, drinking a cup of chai, when someone handed me a book titled Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life, by Helen Palmer.

“My God, I used to teach this stuff!” I exclaimed, thumbing through Palmer’s detailed description of the Enneagram’s nine personality types.

“Why don’t you teach it here?” asked the book’s owner. So I got together with another ex-Arican, who’d conveniently kept all his notes, and we did.

The legal battle between Helen Palmer and Oscar Ichazo

Meanwhile, back in New York, Helen Palmer and Oscar Ichazo were locked in a legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. It’s ironic that a method for enlightenment should become a cause for combat. But then again, when you look at the world’s religious history, it’s not surprising. So much blood has been shed in the name of spiritual truth.

The Arica Institute, with Ichazo’s blessings, accused Helen Palmer of copying his Enneagram doctrine and infringing his copyright, requesting the American courts to block distribution of thousands of paperback copies of her book. The courts refused, saying that copyright law did not cover most of what Ichazo was teaching. The secrets of the Arica school had escaped into the public arena.

Oscar was upset, Helen Palmer was happy and the Enneagram mushroomed into a New Age phenomenon, generating hundreds of ‘experts’, scores of trainings and dozens more books. In a way, it was Oscar’s fault. He should have published his own book back in the early 1970s, when he had the whole system to himself.

But, alas, the Bolivian-born mystic, whose native language was Spanish, had a complex and difficult way of expressing himself and was never able to write a decent book in his whole life. There was another, more profound reason, why Oscar was distressed. Whether his methods were effective, or not, Ichazo was a genuine mystic. He wanted to help people become enlightened.

He knew that the ego blocked the path to cosmic consciousness and believed that the Enneagram’s description of nine ego-fixation points could dissolve this basic obstacle. In other words, as Ichazo explained to us, if we could see the ego clearly enough, in its raw, naked form, it would collapse, opening an inner space for the manifestation of our Divine Essence.

Poor Oscar! He obviously had no idea how stubborn and adaptable the human ego can be. The ego is the all-time survival expert – I speak from personal experience.

Ego Plan, Type Seven

For example, when I was informed by an Arica trainer in New York that I was Ego Plan, Type Seven, my ego took a massive hit. For a while, I was in a kind of daze, shocked to my core at this revelation of how my ego functioned.

It was a powerful experience. But pretty soon, like other Aricans whom I knew, my ego had recovered from this knock-out blow, climbed back off the floor, and was again in business. After all, I had a new identity. Now I was an Arican, a Plan, feeling spiritually superior to the rest of our sleepy humanity and happily giving Enneagram sessions to everyone around me.

But, as I say, Oscar was a mystic and his intentions were good. He’d wanted to keep the Enneagram system secret, because he knew it worked best as a tool for ego-reduction within the intense atmosphere of a closed school.

Helen Palmer, on the other hand, was no mystic. She’d made sociological studies of the nine personality types, describing their difficulties and making suggestions how to smooth out the rough edges. It was the exact opposite of what Ichazo had intended. He wanted to destroy the ego. Palmer was telling people how to improve it.

But how did Palmer get hold of the Enneagram in the first place?

Come to think of it, how did Ichazo get hold of it?

Let’s back up and take a look.

Where does the Enneagram come from?

The Enneagram, as many people know, is an ancient symbol. It was brought to the attention of modern Europeans by George Gurdjieff, the Armenian mystic, who claimed it represented the laws of the universe. He used the symbol mainly in music and dance. He also asserted that every individual possessed a “chief characteristic”, but at no time did he mention nine personality types or try to relate these types to the Enneagram symbol.

Gurdjieff had visited many Sufi schools as a young man – documented in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men – so it was assumed he’d learned the symbol from them. Now it seems more likely that it was taught to him, as a boy, by his tutors, who were esoterically-inclined monks, belonging to the Greek Orthodox tradition of the Christian faith.

At this point, we find ourselves in historical regression, because the next question is: where did these monks get the symbol? They seemed to have inherited it from a group of early Christian mystics, living in Egypt, called the ‘Desert Fathers’, who may, or may not, have linked the Enneagram symbol to the so-called Seven Deadly Sins, adding two more for good measure, making nine in all: anger, pride, deceit, envy, avarice, fear, gluttony, lust and sloth.

This, however, is not the beginning of the story. The Desert Fathers, being mostly Greeks, may have picked up the symbol from the teachings of Ancient Greeks like Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus. However, even if all this is true, Oscar Ichazo denied that he got the Enneagram symbol from Gurdjieff, so there was no clear line of continuity.

So, where did he get it? For a while, all kinds of exotic rumours buzzed around the Arica School in New York. My favourite one went like this:

Oscar had undertaken a dangerous solo pilgrimage through remote areas of the Hindu Kush Mountains, in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, meeting with secret Sufi schools and receiving their sacred knowledge.

Actually, the truth was more mundane: he got it from his uncle’s library. In a 1996 magazine interview, Ichazo explained that when he was 12-13 years old, he inherited an esoteric library from his uncle Julio, who was a philosopher.

Since he’d been having frightening, out-of-body experiences from the age of six, Ichazo hungrily devoured these books, hoping to find reassuring answers for his paranormal states. He came across the Enneagram symbol while studying an ancient text from the Chaldean civilization, which existed around 600 BC, in what is now known as Iraq, and whose citizens appear to have been fascinated by numbers.

For example, the Chaldean system of numerology is considered to be more accurate, with more mystical depth, than Pythagorean numerology. So it makes sense that an intrinsically mathematical symbol like the Enneagram would be embraced as part of their metaphysics. And where, might one ask, did the Chaldeans get the symbol?

Nobody knows and we cannot ask them, because in 536 BC, Cyrus the Great crushed their little realm, adding it to his ever-expanding Persian Empire.

Oscar Ichazo, Helen Palmer and Claudio NaranjoOscar Ichazo, Helen Palmer and Claudio Naranjo

Oscar Ichazo, the Theosophical Society and channelled revelations

Meanwhile, returning to the twentieth century, Oscar Ichazo, studying in his library, also found evidence of the symbol in the teachings of certain Sufi schools and in the more recent Theosophical movement. By the age of 18, Ichazo had joined a group of Theosophists in Buenos Aires who discussed all kinds of esoteric issues, including Gurdjieff’s secret sources and the meaning of the Enneagram symbol. Ichazo soaked up all this information like a sponge and by his mid-twenties possessed a vast store of knowledge.

As a culmination, the placing of nine ego types on the Enneagram symbol seems to have come to Ichazo through personal revelation. In other words, he channelled it, attributing his illumination to a couple of disembodied entities: the Archangel Metatron, and a Sufi entity, the Green Qutub.

This sounds bizarre, if we envisage these entities to be blond-haired angels flapping their golden wings amid white puffy clouds. But to Ichazo, these were states of consciousness. Metatron represented a function of higher mind, which gave Ichazo the blueprint of his whole Arica system, while the Green Qutub personified surrender to divine will and receiving baraka, the energy of divine grace.

So far, so good. But, as is often the case with mystics, problems began for Ichazo when he started to teach his knowledge to others. As long as he confined himself to esoteric groups in South America, things went pretty well. But, in 1970, he invited a group of Americans from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, to participate in a three-month training in the town of Arica, Chile. This, by the way, is how Oscar’s school got its name, because it began with the training in this obscure city.

Among those who answered the call was Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean-born psychiatrist who was living and working in the United States.

Enters Claudio Naranjo

Naranjo was bearded, brainy and hungry. He was no ordinary psychiatrist. He’d trained in Gestalt Therapy with Fritz Perls, dabbled in psychedelic drugs and was obsessed with contacting the elusive “Sarmoun Brotherhood” whom Gurdjieff said possessed great secrets of human transformation.

Astonished by the range of Ichazo’s knowledge, Naranjo was convinced the Bolivian knew the whereabouts of this mysterious Sufi school. But, alas, as far as we know, Naranjo never got the brotherhood’s postcode from Oscar.

After the training in Chile, Ichazo flew to New York and set up his new school in the middle of Manhattan. I still remember the address: 24 West 57th. We called it ‘GHQ’, short for ‘general headquarters’, the hub of a growing network of Arica branches that spread through the US and Europe.

Meanwhile, Naranjo had returned to Berkeley, California, where he began to develop psychological profiles of the nine ego fixation points. He also began to give lectures on the subject. Oscar Ichazo was not happy about this. He’d already criticised Naranjo on several occasions for being overly intellectual and was worried that his precious Enneagram would now be distorted. As it turned out, Naranjo’s eagerness to adopt the Enneagram as his own brainchild was nothing compared to the predatory instincts of the people who attended his lectures.

Helen Palmer, Bob Oakes, Almaas and Faisal

Among those present at Naranjo’s discourses were Helen Palmer, a Jesuit priest called Bob Oakes, Hameed Ali (who adopted the pen name A H Almaas) and Faisal Muqaddam. All of them would catch the Enneagram ball thrown to them by Naranjo and run with it, developing their own systems, writing their own books, offering their own trainings.

Later, Naranjo would complain to journalists that his precious ideas had been stolen by these people without giving him credit. How ironic! Naranjo, it seems, was incapable of seeing how he’d done exactly the same thing to Ichazo. Indeed, Naranjo even went so far as to claim that it was he, not Ichazo, who’d developed the psychological dimension of the Enneagram.

This is simply untrue. Back in 1974, when I was participating in a training at the Arica Institute in New York, we were given psychological profiles of all nine types as part of our instruction, coming directly from Ichazo. Certainly, Naranjo developed these profiles further, fleshing out the psychological aspects of each ego fixation, while Helen Palmer provided an even broader view of each type’s behaviour and attitudes. But the source of all this was unquestionably Ichazo himself.

For this reason, it seems to me that Oscar could have won the court case, if he’d been a bit more street savvy. But in some ways he was his own worst enemy. When asked by the court to describe his Enneagram theory, he replied, “It is not a theory. It is a fact.”

“Well, you can’t copyright a fact,” the court replied. Case dismissed.

Enneagram books

New books on the market, by Naranjo, Helen Palmer, Don Riso

In reality, of course, it was a theory. But Ichazo was so insistent on asserting the objective reality of his precious system that he ended up shooting himself in the foot.

In 1990, Naranjo published a book about the Enneagram system, titled Ennea Type Structures, consisting of a dense labyrinth of psychological terms, mixed thickly with Christian theology. His book didn’t do well in the marketplace for the simple reason that few people could understand what he was talking about.

It was Helen Palmer, publishing around the same time, who blew the doors to the mainstream wide open and successfully introduced the Enneagram to the general public.

Meanwhile, a Jesuit student called Don Riso had beaten everyone in the race to the book stores. He’d read Bob Oakes’ notes from Naranjo and promptly wrote his own book, titled Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery.

With these two books, penned by Palmer and Riso, the modern Bibles of the popularized Enneagram faith were born. Each step away from Ichazo had diluted the power of the system, making it tamer and more palatable, and when an amusing book, illustrated with cartoons, titled The Enneagram Made Easy was published by two of Palmer’s students, the social sanitization process was complete.

Meditation is beyond psychological, philosophical and spiritual concepts

Only a Disney movie about the nine types would now render it more cosily impotent. Which brings me back to that moment in the cafe, in Pune, in 1990, when someone handed me Helen Palmer’s book and suggested I should start teaching the Enneagram in the ashram. I had no problem with it. After all, I’d learned the system from Ichazo, so I had the original teaching in my hands. More importantly, I now had a much wider spiritual context in which to place it.

Osho was giving us a vision of spirituality that went beyond anything devised by Ichazo: a vision that began in meditation and ended in No Mind. In other words, one can study everything that Ichazo, Naranjo, Almaas, Faisal and Palmer have to offer in the way of psychological, philosophical and spiritual concepts, and still come up short.

Why? Because, as Osho explained many times in his discourses, the ultimate spiritual experience lies beyond anything the mind can conceive. It is beyond the realm of thinking. It is beyond the realm of self. It is an experience of silence, emptiness, infinite space.

Try writing a book about nothingness. Even the inventive creativity of those who have plagiarised Oscar Ichazo’s Enneagram system would have a hard time doing that. To me, the Enneagram is a handy tool for self-understanding and that’s why I continue to teach it. It has helped me get to know my personality and is a useful way of watching my mind, as it jumps through its usual hoops.

I can recommend it to anyone. But its deepest value lies within the context of meditation. That is the turning point, at which self-understanding becomes spiritual transformation.

SubhutiSubhuti gives workshops about the Enneagram all over the world and also gives individual online Enneagram sessions. Contact: anandsubhuti (at) yahoo.com

More articles on the Enneagram, also by this author on Osho News