The Fascinating Origins of the Enneagram

The book The Sacred Enneagram was requested as a Christmas present. I bought it and flipped through it and noticed the section entitled, The Contested History of the Enneagram.  Contested?  As in Questioned?  Challenged?  Disputed?  Yep.  So I did some research on this contested history and here are the parts that the author, Christopher Heuertz, left out:

The enneagram first came into being from George Gurdjieff, an esoteric teacher. Scholars have verified this. He died on 10-29-1949. That means it isn’t ancient.  For decades there were no words attached to this design. He wrote that it was a diagram of “cosmic reality” – that you could see the universe in it because it had mystical meanings (nothing to do with personality tests or types).

The second person to promote it was his mentee, P.D. Ouspensky.  Just the design.  These two made up meanings to go with the design during dinner parties.  Ouspensky wrote about Gurdjieff’s ideas (which he called The Fourth Way) and these beliefs influenced the New Age movement.

Then, Oscar Ichazo promoted the design.  Heuertz says that Ichazo had a religious school.  However, people who have come out of the New Age movement say that Ichazo’s school in Arica, Chile was an Occult school! He also did not use the enneagram for personality typecasting, but he did claim contact with two spirits who gave him ideas about it and how to use it.

Next came Claudio Naranjo, a New Age pyschiatrist who was introduced to it from the Occult school in Chile. He’s the one that added the personality types.  On a 2010 video of him being interviewed, he admits that he made up the personalities on the enneagram.  He also admits that he and Ichazo made up the idea that it was ancient!  Even more amazing, on this video he says that the bulk of his work on writing down the personality types mainly came from AUTOMATIC WRITING, which is channeling a spirit through writing.  It is believed that these spirits are fallen angels.  Naranjo holds to a “new age” religious view.   (Watch this video, and around the 3:45 mark you will hear these things from his own mouth!)

Naranjo brought his enneagram ideas to Esalen, which was a New Age think tank in California in the 1960’s, where people got naked, took LSD, and beat on drums. (Source: Dr. Ronald V. Huggins)

New Agers and New Age psychotherapists told their followers the enneagram would uncover their true, “divine Self.” Glorification of Self is extremely important in the New Age (they believe man is from God and has a divine Self).

Guess who was also at Esalen? The Jesuit priest, Robert Ochs. He took Naranjo’s work, used it, changed it to fit his theology, and gave it to priests in the Catholic Church (though the Church never endorsed it).

Richard Rohr learned it from one of those priests, and wrote one of the most popular books on it in the 1990s. Sadly, Rohr has many heretical views regarding God, Christ, sin, creation, man, and salvation, plus he believes that all religions lead to heaven.  He teaches a false Jesus and a false Christ, and says that Jesus was not the “Universal Christ” who he believes was “bigger” than Jesus (see the Universal Christ).  Rohr, unfortunately, has been greatly influential in our biblically-illiterate churches.

Next is Alice Fryling.  She said that the enneagram is based on ancient writings from Ponticus.  But Ponticus’ writings have been thoroughly searched and there is no mention of the enneagram.  (See The Enneagram GPS: Gnostic Path to Self.)

In the 1980s the enneagram’s popularity exploded with the blessing of Helen Palmer, a popular New Age writer and teacher. Oh, and she’s also “an intuitive.” Let me translate: that means she’s a psychic.

David Daniels also wrote a book on it, and he is also New Age.

Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile did a popular book – and Rohr was her mentor.  Cron and Stabile are adamant that the enneagram is more than just a fun tool. “The true purpose of the Enneagram is to reveal to you your shadow side and offer spiritual counsel on how to open it to the transformative light of grace.” New Agers use many of our same Christian words – but they have different meanings as to interpretation of these words.  

Christopher Heuertz follows Richard Rohr, and in his book thanks him and three other New Agers.  Critics have said that his book is full of anecdotal fallacies.

For a very scholarly look at the writings of Christopher Heuertz, I suggest you read this lengthy and in-depth post by Dr. Kenneth Berding a professor at Biola University, Talbot School of Theology: The Not-So-Sacred Enneagram. He goes through the book extracting Heuertz’s own words and holds them up to the light of Scripture.

Under the heading Biblical Interpretation, Dr. Berding says, ” There’s no space for details here, but in the handful of times that Mr. Heuertz mentions or quotes from the Bible (36 55-56, 72, 98-99, 186-187)—and, truly, he rarely uses the Bible—he never once apprehends, in my opinion, the author’s intended meaning of the passages he mentions. Rather, like Philo of old who interpreted the Bible through Greek philosophy, or Bultmann, who read it through the grid of existentialism, Mr. Heuertz has overlaid the biblical text with his own interpretive grid, the grid of Enneagramic mysticism. Accordingly, he reads the Bible symbolically and allegorically."

The first paragraph of Dr. Berding’s Summary says: “Christopher Heuertz is promoting many false doctrines in his book ‘The Sacred Enneagram.’ I write this with great grief and deep sorrow. ‘The Sacred Enneagram’ is full of incorrect and misleading religious assertions. His teaching does not match what the Bible communicates regarding sin, salvation, sanctification, and probably also other core doctrines such as the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the atonement. He portrays the Enneagram as sacred, powerful, searching, alive. He mixes false religious ideas together with Christianity, and seems unconcerned about the Enneagram’s syncretistic origins."

Here’s a very concise look at The Fictions and Facts of the Enneagram.

I think Marcia Montenegro (in her article “What About the Enneagram?”)   sums it up perfectly: 
“Despite there being not a shred of evidence for it, some supporting the Enneagram are trying to claim these so-called Christian origins.  At the very least, this is misleading.  There is nothing Christian about the Enneagram or its use.  Its origins are pagan and its purpose as a personality assessment tool was at the hands of some dubious esoteric psychologists (see CANA article on the Enneagram GPS).  That it may seem accurate can be explained by confirmation bias and other factors. 
“Millions of people also think their zodiac sign is spot on, so does that make zodiac signs credible?  There is no objective basis for the Enneagram historically, as a personality assessment, or for being Christian.

“Since the Enneagram is false in nature, it means that Christians who recommend it are promoting a false idea and a false method for self-evaluation. How can Christians proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ while accepting a false tool?”
I just thought you should know the truth about the enneagram’s origins, since it is so conveniently left out by the people who promote it. The enneagram seems innocent, and horoscopes seem like fun, but both are false, New Age tools that will lead you into confusion, instead of clarity.

John 14:6 says: Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (NLT – New Living Translation)

May God bless you as you pray and ask God to lead you to the truth.



  1. That's an eye opener Janine, as I had always associated enneagram with personality tests, your article has given me insights that open up a whole new level of understanding. With the further reading links that you have suggested, I feel really empowered to pursue on my quest of researching further to unravel mysteries from your mention about cosmic reality. Cheers! and do check out for wedding trends!

  2. I just followed you and pinned this interesting post.
    PS: Hope you like to follow back. Tks.


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