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History and Development of Enneagram


Modern Man lives his life in sleep [. . .] and in sleep he dies.

   — George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.

To begin one's journey through the Enneagram of Personality is to understand that a person doesn't know who they are, and what their true motivations are. And to know the self, one must be willing to awaken to the self. And to be willing to awaken to the self is to acknowledge that awakening is a difficult, lifelong and solitary journey catalyzed by the environment. With these principles as foundations of the Enneagram of Personality, we discover that it is, therefore, not just a set of descriptions attached to a symbol, but a characterological tool designed to aid in self-observation and self-discovery, and not to be used as badges for self-delight, or self-validation.

The Enneagram of Personality blossoms when a person understands the fundamental structures of the types. But due to the proliferation of the Enneagram, a need to streamline its ideas has introduced some noise that distracts from truly understanding,  therefore, truly using it as it was intended. 

Since Claudio Naranjo was deeply influenced by, and heavily incorporated, Gurdjieff's ideas; and Óscar Ichazo claimed to have been aware of, and to have sourced his conception from, most of the same places as Gurdjieff, we cannot talk about the Enneagram of Personality without mentioning Gurdjieff's Enneagram of Process. Although Gurdjieff refused to clearly disclose the origins of the Enneagram symbol (which Ichazo has attributed to the Pythagorean schools and Platonic mathematicians), his teachings from his "Fourth Way" have also been foundational to understanding the Enneagram of Personality as it is known today.

Gurdjieff and the Enneagram

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (d.1949), a Russian philosopher & mystic, who was born in the city of Kars, the capital of the then Kars Oblast, of the Russian Empire, now in modern day Turkey espoused that most traditional religions could be classified under one of 3 categories: "the 'way of the fakir,' which centres on mastery of the physical body; the 'way of the monk,' based on faith and religious feeling; and the 'way of the yogi,' which concentrates on developing the mind."[7] He, as such, taught that there was a "Fourth Way," which, under the supervision and direction of a teacher, demanded a person work on all three categories at the same time, awakening them to who They really are.

To illustrate his teachings to his students, he introduced them to the Enneagram symbol, which he taught them was constructed on the union of two laws: 

  • The Law of Three: signifies that all things in the cosmos, regardless of their magnitude, are a result of the unity of 3 different and opposing forces: the active or positive, the passive or negative, and the neutralizing forces. Man is not aware of the third force because he is blind to the realness and wholeness of his reality. It is represented by the equilateral triangle, with points 9-3-6 uniting it with the Law of Seven. The Law of Three is the principle that all trinities in spiritual and religious ideologies are based upon.
  • The Law of Seven: signifies the disruptions and deviations of vibrational forces and phenomena through time & space. These disruptions and deviations prevent the linearity of phenomena, as a result, preventing the stagnation or end of processes in the cosmos. It is represented by the points 1–4–2–8–5–7, a cyclic number, on the Hexad symbol. The direction of the connection between the points is obtained by dividing the integers, representing a whole experience, into Seven parts: 1/7; 2/7; 3/7 etc etc. The Law of Seven is established on the same principles as the Pythagorean Octave.

With the circle enclosing all points at 9 symbolizing the totality and uninterruptedness of whatever is charted and studied on the symbol. The Enneagram symbol, as a whole, illustrates the complete existence of a phenomenon.

Gurdjieff further demonstrated his teachings and the dynamism of the symbol to his students through specific "dance" movements that replicated the symbol. And throughout the understanding and application of the Enneagram, it is noticed that these laws are constantly in play. A person can chart any given experience on the symbol, to study or to perceive the relationship between the essential character of the experience and the temporal manifestation of said experience. Not only is the symbol a crypograph, but it is an active state within each human being. To understand the Enneagram, therefore, is to experience the Enneagram.

Gurdjieff taught his students that every Man is born number one, number two and number three. With Man number one being identified with the Body (the moving centre), Man number two being identified with the Heart (emotional centre) and Man number three being identified with the Mind (intellectual centre). According to him, Man is overidentified with one of three psychic centres, therefore, is deeply imbalanced and incapable of attaining his full potential. He further asserted that Man is asleep (unconscious) to his essential self—his essential motivations—and isn't aware of the separation of who "he is" from who He really is. As Jeanne de Salzmann, one of his students, says, "Man remains a mystery to himself." 

As such Gurdjieff's teachings are deeply rooted in the idea that Man lives his life in a passive state to his Personality, and that his Personality is an overcompensation, a psychological structure created by Man, to not only interact with his environment, but to shield himself from truly being aware of his degradation of consciousness. Man's Personality obscures Essence, while paradoxically working to regain it, which he has lost. He taught that Man must awaken to the separation, by being present and active in the dialogue between his Personality and his Essence.

 We are not what we imagine ourselves to be.

 — Pyotr Ouspensky.

But in my contacts with the world, an image of "I" is formed at the same time as the contact. I am attached to this image because I take it as being me. I try to affirm and protect it. I am the slave of this image.


The first requirement for self-knowledge is a change in my opinion of myself, which can only come from actually seeing things in myself that I have not seen before.


I need to see myself as a machine driven by the processes that appear—thoughts, desires, movements. I need to know myself as a machine—to be present while I function as a machine. Who am I in life? I must experience it, have a more conscious impression of it.

— Jeanne de Salzmann.

A person can't change their Personality, but they can, with competent direction, be present to the automatic machinations that are constantly ongoing.

You know nothing in yourself, if you knew you would not have that feature. And people certainly see you in the way I told you. But you do not see how they see you.

—George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff did not, however, teach his Enneagram, as a personality system, but as a "universal hieroglyph" that represented the unification of universal laws.

Ichazo and the Enneagram

The first person who used the Enneagram symbol as a chart of the human psyche in a quest to understand human psychospirituality was Óscar Ichazo (1931—2020), a Bolivian philosopher, whose various source studies included the Kabbalah, Neo-Platonic philosophy and the works of the Christian Monk (& one of the Desert Fathers), Evagrius Ponticus, from which he conceived his ideas on human psychospirituality. He subsequently charted these ideas on various Enneagram symbols to understand the nature of Man's psychological & ego-structure, as well as his obstacles to being conscious, and his path to achieving enlightenment. He, as such, devised the Passions, Fixations, Traps, Virtues and Holy Ideas, which have become the crux of the Enneagram of Personality.

The fixation establishes an endless cycle, that starts in it and finishes in it, and this forms our character. This character becomes so obvious to  our friends that very soon our reactions are predictable.

— Óscar Ichazo

He also introduced the idea of the Tri-fixations and of the Instincts, much detailed than the Instincts mentioned by Gurdjieff, and much similar to the 3 centres of intelligence, and incorporated them into the manifestation of Personality. Ichazo taught at the Arica Institute that there are Nine interrelated constituents of Personality, and that a person is deeply fixated at one of the nine points on the symbol. But that "To be continuously fixated in just one part of ourself stops our possibility of growing up as individuals. In order to become responsible for ourselves in an objective way, rather than in a subjective unilateral position, we have to AWAKEN ALL THE NINE POSITIONS that objectively exist in our basic, fundamental consciousness." This awakening of all the Nine positions he termed "the supreme enlightenment."[1] 

Naranjo and the Enneagram

After being disillusioned by neurophysiology, Claudio Naranjo (1932—2019), a Chilean psychiatrist, got involved with Gurdjieff's "Fourth Way". Because of his association with the "Fourth Way" he got wind of, and was introduced to Óscar Ichazo and his Arica Institute, through whom he learned (& was deeply fascinated by) Ichazo's detailed and operationalized "view of personality that seemed congruent with"[4] the "Fourth Way," which he had presented as Protoanalysis. 

[...] this degradation of consciousness is such that in the end the affected individual does not know the difference, i.e., does not know that there has been such a thing as a loss, a limitation, or a failure to develop his full potential.

— Claudio Naranjo.


The fall is such that awareness comes to be blind in regard to its own blindness, and limited to the point of believing itself free.

— Claudio Naranjo.

During this time, he accepted that human behaviour could be represented on a circumplex model, and conceived that neurosis was a result of a rigidity of (& disturbance in) character structure, as Horney proposed, and not a nuclear struggle between consciousness and unconsciousness as Analytical psychology proposed. Synthesizing Gurdjieff's teachings, and Ichazo's ideas, as well as psychological and psychoanalytical literature and observations (especially from Karen Horney's theories & observations and Object-relations theories), he posited characterological structures that are analogous to the natures of the disorders represented on the DSM. He subsequently charted these characterological structures in agreement with Ichazo's Ego-fixation and Passion representations on the Enneagram symbol, solidifying the Enneagram of Personality as it is known today. 

Through Naranjo, the concept of the defense mechanisms, as it is known now, which work in service of the passions & the fixations, as well as his ideas for the Instincts and for integrating the Instincts with the Enneagram Types (which are remarkably incongruent with Ichazo's ideas) were added to the Enneagram of Personality. His take on the Instincts were popularized by American psychotherapist, Beatrice Chestnut in 2013.

A derivative from the Greek charaxo, meaning to engrave, 'character,' makes reference to what is constant in a person, because it has been engraved upon one, and thus to behavioural, emotional and cognitive conditionings.

— Claudio Naranjo.


The nine characters in the view presented do not constitute simply a collection of personality styles: it is, rather, that of an organized set of character structures, in that specific neighborhood relationships, contrasts, polarities, and other relations are observed between them. These relations are mapped according to the traditional geometric structure called an 'enneagram.'

— Claudio Naranjo.


The map of the psyche offered on the following page is a graphic variant of the view of personality offered by Oscar Ichazo and is, in several ways, similar to that offered by Gurdjieff.

— Claudio Naranjo.

RHETI and the Enneagram

But Naranjo wasn't the only one working with and on the Enneagram of Personality in the 1970s. In 1974, Don Richard Riso (1946—2012), an American Jesuit seminarian, got introduced to the Enneagram of Personality, through Jesuit priests who had learned from Naranjo and his SAT groups. Riso subsequently got interested in the system and began studying and working with (& on) it. His lasting contribution is his introduction of the concept of the Levels of Development. He had since collaborated with Russ Hudson to refine his ideas; together, they founded the Enneagram Institute to continue their research on the system.

In recent times, more people have had significant contributions to the theory, two of such people: Katherine Fauvre, who refined Ichazo's tri-fixations concept, and introduced the tritypes; and John Luckovich, who, in 2021, introduced his refined ideas on the Instincts and its integration with the Enneagram types.

The Enneagram

All Nine points on the Enneagram symbol, therefore, represent Nine distinct relationships to the Body, Mind and Heart, with the 9, 6 and 3, serving as the 'Pure', 'Primary' or 'Neutral' points on the symbol in the centres, respectively. As such, the Enneagram of Personality studies Nine basic interrelated ways a person's essential nature is manifested, and how they use their Personality to achieve Essence, and paradoxically, obscure it. 

The Enneagram of Personality is not a "fixed body of knowledge," and as with all theories there will always be work on it. Through comprehensive and consistent studying and working with it, however, it is observed that at its core, it is a map of the relationship between a person's Essential nature and their Personality.[2] 

As a typology, the Enneagram of Personality, therefore, is a study of Nine basic ways of Being, or, simply, Nine basic and distinct character structures—Nine basic natures, and Nine basic unconscious reactions to & conscious interactions with the environment, which aren't tailored to personal experiences. With each character's problems signifying an overidentification with either the Body, Mind or the Heart:

  • 8, 9 and 1 represent an overidentification with the Body, therefore, are dealing largely with  Rage; 
  • 2, 3 and 4 represent an overidentification with the Heart, therefore, are dealing largely with Shame; and 
  • 5, 6 and 7 represent an overidentification with the Mind, therefore, are dealing largely with Anxiety.  

Upon further study, it is noticed that these general triadic problems create specific problems for the individual type structures in each centre. Despite the deeply unconscious nature of these problems rooted in the type structures, the distinct fruits they bear are clear to those willing to truly observe.

The Enneagram and Personality

Most people are aware of their personality as a combination of mannerisms that makes an individual unique, but throughout the course of the development of the Enneagram, it has been established that Personality is an ego-structure—a psychological structure, which a person has become overidentified with, falsely designed to regain Essence, while shielding them from the wounds caused by their degradation of consciousness, a consequence of their interactions with their environment. It is a crystallization of unconscious emotional disturbances and cognitive distortions, into inveterate patterns that keep them functional in (and tethered to) their temporal environment. 

These emotional disturbances are the passions, and the cognitive distortions are the fixations. Personality, therefore, is the psychological structure of the Enneagram Type, a product from a person's Essential nature, and their interactions with their environment. 

As such, the more "fixated" a person is, the more preoccupied by, and entrenched in their overidentification with the Personality they are, the more psychologically imbalanced they become.  As they get more psychologically imbalanced, their Personality structure becomes more rigid.

Essence, however, is a person's Essential nature, and what each character, as represented at each point on the symbol strives to achieve, paradoxically, through Personality. This creates a fissure between the Personality and the Essence, because the Personality is resistant to seeing its own conditioning. 

When structurally adequate, a person experiences the quality of Essence—and at their worst, it is the quality they lose.  Given that a person's normal state of being, is a state of ignorance of their Essence, especially as it relates to their Personality, the goal of the Enneagram as a tool for self-discovery, therefore, is to awaken a person to (as such become aware of and present to) the true motivation  behind, and the nature of, Personality and to subsequently find a balance between the Essential nature and the Personality, as well as a balance between the 3 centres.

The Enneagram and You

Looking over the history and development of the Enneagram, it is observed that its core philosophy remains: a person is asleep to their true motivations. For this reason, their journey through the Enneagram begins when they have acknowledged their lack of consciousness. When this has been acknowledged, the person begins to study (both the fundamental type structures and the self), and begins to pay attention to how the Enneagram unfolds within them. Despite how arduous and lifelong this exploration is, if a person is successful, they become less "rooted in the Personality and rested in Essence,"[2]—they become less identified with their Personality, therefore, becoming active in Essence and in the dialogue between their Essential natures and their Personality.


[1] Ichazo, O. (1991). "Letter to the Transpersonal Community."

[2] Luckovich, J. (2020). "The Enneagram."

[3] Luckovich, J. (2021). "The Instinctual Drives and the Enneagram."

[4] Naranjo, C. (1994). "Character and Neurosis: An Integrative Study." 4th ed. Gateways / IDHHB, Inc.

[5] Ouspensky, P. D. (1949). "In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching." Harper Paperback.

[6] Riso, D. R., & Hudson R. (1996). "The Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-discovery." 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Company.

[7] de Salzmann, J. (2010). " The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff." 1st ed. Shambhala.

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