Was ist das Enneagramm?

I butcher German, … and Portugeuse, … and, now that I think of it, even English! That’s what I tend to do, I tend to disregard the rules of a language and just steamroll forward until my meaning is understood. I don’t mind looking the fool for trying as long as it get’s me what I want, be it the beer at the bar in Sao Paulo Brazil, or to find out if the toilette is private and in the room or communal and in the hall as I’m making reservations for a room in some castle on the Rhine in Germany. If you don’t “Sprechen ‘zee’ Englisch” then I will butcher your precious language to get what I want. And what I want right now is to explain what Process Enneagram is, so call me the butcher and bear with me as I cleave away and lay bare some chunks of meaning from the body of knowledge called Process Enneagram.

How to begin? Well let’s start with what Process Enneagram … isn’t. For starters, given the subject of my opening paragraph, I think it best to make it clear that it is not a language. You can not go up to the barista in any country, that I know of, and start talking One’s and Two’s and Shock Points and end up with a cup of coffee in the Nine. That is to say, you can’t get a cup or coffee by talking about the Enneagram, but you will follow the Enneagram to get a cup of coffee every time. If you are in Munchkinland and the coffee is in the Emerald City then the Yellow Brick Road is the Enneagram, and you will follow it. Not literally of course, but you will go from a state of relative rest, in relation to coffee, to a state of wanting some coffee, and then you will go through some process to actually achieve said cup of coffee, and this process will follow a pattern and that pattern is the Process Enneagram.



It’s not a pattern of particular events, like say, on the way to get a cup of coffee you will first meet a talking Scarecrow who will now follow, follow, follow, you, but there will be a pattern to the events that lead you to  the goal, in this case a cup of coffee. You will not see this pattern because you are experiencing the process from the first person, you are embedded in the process, and in order to see the pattern you would need to become objective to yourself, to remain still inside even as you experience the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that the getting of a cup of coffee might entail, but how to experience your life objectively is a topic best left for another post. In this post we are not just talking about coffee here either, oh no, were talking about … everything … from brushing your teeth to forming a major multinational corporation, and from the process of writing a story to the contents of the story itself. Every single thing you do follows the Process Enneagram all the way through if you reach your goal, and every single time you are thwarted in reaching your goal it is because the Process Enneagram was interrupted, or went into a loop, basically, you veered off the Yellow Brick Road.

For a 30,000 ft view of Process Enneagram let me draw your attention to the following two book descriptions from amazon.com. I have not read either of these books and I only chose them from the myriad books out there on the Enneagram because they were footnoted in an article I read which I will reference later, and instead of doing in depth research and actually reading them I am going to simply draw conclusions from a brief description of them. Recall my earlier description of my relationship with foreign languages … Ich bin butcher. (only, to speak like me, you pronounce “butcher” with a thick German accent to cover up the fact that its not actually the word for butcher in German, which is metzger, but to say it correctly would not serve my purpose here which is to point out that in the pursuit of knowledge, I am not a chef, I do not delve deeply into the understanding of each intellectual ingredient, savoring its history and richness of meaning, I just cleave off huge chunks that look tasty to me at the time, I am a butcher of knowledge 


Now where was I? Sorry, I guess I’m a distracted butcher … ooh, that sounds like a good comedic sketch, like a Monty Python sketch, it could be called The Distracted Butcher, cleaving off bits of his customers as he turns, wielding knives, from one to the next, distracted. Reminds me of Dan Ackroyd doing Julia Childs in that classic SNL skit.


Uh, there I go again, where was … oh yes, Process Enneagram, book description, right, here we go.

The first book description from amazon.com that I’ll reference is for A.E.G. Blakes The Intelligent Enneagram

[quote]At last, an enneagram book that explains the full potential of this mysterious nine-pointed symbol, with applications reaching far beyond personality typology. The enneagram, an ancient diagram first popularized by G. I. Gurdjieff, represents the evolution of any process and is thus a remarkable tool for analyzing and understanding many different areas of endeavor.

Like the I Ching hexagrams or the kabbalistic Tree of Life, the enneagram is an ingenious device providing access to a higher order of information and can lead us to new and creative ways of thinking and problem-solving. Drawing on the teachings of John Bennett, a major interpreter of the Gurdjieff Work, the author shows how using the enneagram can enhance our powers of intuition, our capacity to see situations holistically, and our ability to find connections between different regions of knowledge and experience. After discussing in detail the fundamental ideas woven into the symbol, the author applies the insights in the enneagram to a series of topics ranging from the solar system to sex, from science fiction movies to the Lord’s Prayer.[/quote]

The above proclaims that the Enneagram is “…a remarkable tool for analyzing and understanding many different areas of endeavor” and goes on to say that the “…author applies the insights in the enneagram to a series of topics ranging from the solar system to sex, from science fiction movies to the Lord’s Prayer.” Well, there’s a broad range of topics to be sure! It even mentions movies, and one of the foci here at Saint Carnival is the application of Process Enneagram to story telling, specifically to story telling in movies. But the Enneagram itself covers a much broader range than movie plots. If you pull back much further than 30,000 feet, if you pull back, say, to the edge of existence, pull all the way back it appears as though the Enneagram … governs the universe. We’ll take a look at that word, govern, in just a bit, so don’t get your rosary all up in knots or your magic underwear in a bind, just please read the next description.


The second is from the book description at amazon.com for John G. Bennett Enneagram Studies

[quote]Gurdjieff first introduced the enneagram to his pupils in 1916. It was presented as a universal symbol for understanding how a process in time could become organized to become an evolutionary event. Such a process is no longer “in” time but creates its own time and becomes relatively immortal as a living structure. Compiled from conversations that took place between John Bennett and his students at the International Academy for Continuous Education in England from 1971 to 1974, and with independent contributions from some of his pupils, Enneagram Studies is a unique collection of lucid explanations and applications of this universal symbol. From the transformation of the Biosphere to the setting up of a scientific experiment; from manufacturing to aesthetic development; from the preparation of a meal to “The Sermon on the Mount,” the enneagram is shown to be a key to understanding the very structure of intelligence itself.[/quote]

“… the enneagram is shown to be a key to understanding the very structure of intelligence itself.” Like the previous quote that’s a pretty bold statement. And given the ages of these tomes, and that the Enneagram dates back a lot farther than them, it leads me to two questions.

1) If Process Enneagram is so all powerful, so all knowing, so pervasive, so much a part of the fabric of existence, then, as a Catholic, need I be wary of it? Is this symbol a graven image?

2) If it is true, then why isn’t it more popular?

As for the first question the answer is no, you do not need to fear for my immortal soul, nor yours should this line of research intrigue you. For you see, although the symbol of the Enneagram can indeed be carved and stood up and looked upon, it is not worshiped. I suppose it’s possible that some people at some point may have believed that the symbol held power and put hooded robes on and danced around the symbol  holding candles and chanting for the Enneagram to cause some outcome to occur, and if one was to do this then one would indeed would be guilty of idolatry. But you would also be guilty of being, and looking, silly, which would be your warning, for pride goeth before the fall, and, had you pranced around in robes with candles chanting your pride would have certainly … goneth.

But let’s delve into that first question a bit more, let’s talk  now about the word I earlier said I’d talk about later. What did I mean when I said that the Process Enneagram … governs the universe? For that matter, what does govern mean?




: to exercise continuous sovereign authority over

: to control, influence, or regulate a course of events, i.e  to control the speed of (as a machine) especially by automatic means


For an English major this may come as no surprise as they are used to using small, delicate implements to dislodge the minutiae of meaning, but for me, the knowledge butcher, well let’s just say that like Brandon Fraser in the Mummy I too would would have tossed aside Rachael Weisz’s small excavation tools in favor of my trusty sledgehammer. And in so doing I would have missed that second meaning to the word govern, “…regulate a course of events”. I first came across this use of the word when a U-Haul rental guy explained to me that I needn’t worry about speeding tickets on my upcoming cross country moving trip while driving the U-Haul because it had a governor installed in it. And indeed he was correct, for not only did I not get a speeding ticket on the 3000 mile journey, I also had the discomforting experience of the truck lurching slower, as gravity tried to drag it faster, down hills.


So the Process Enneagram is a sort of universal governor, not in the God like sense of the first meaning of the word, as in it does not exercise continuous sovereign authority, but in the second definition, as a passive regulator of a course of events. One does not have faith in the Process Enneagram no more than one has faith in any mechanical apparatus. One does not pray to the Enneagram symbol or for it to do something for you, no more than one prays to the stairs on the stairway to heaven, or to the yellow brick road’s yellow bricks.

Now for question number two. If the whole Process Enneagram governs the universe theory is true then why isn’t it more popular? Indeed. Where are the world class Enneagram Institutes spinning out Process Enneagram guidelines for the various things we humans do? Why isn’t the rule of law crafted around the delineating factors of it? Why aren’t we taught as youth to recognize what stages of the process we, and everything we engage in, is at at any given moment?

Law: “The party of the first part was only contractually obligated to see this particular endeavor through to the Five, they are under no obligation to supply the Six. Case dismissed.”

Psychiatry: “You appear to be stuck in the Four in terms of your relationship with eating, let’s work on your relationships and see if we can’t get you moving into a Five.”

Engineering: “If the Eight is reached, at which point there will be more than the maximum allowable cars on the bridge at one time, then collapse is inevitable, we must engineer in a way to limit the number of vehicles so the Enneagram cycle that leads to collapse does not complete itself.”

Music: “There are to many notes Heir Mozart!” “Please assure his Majesty that there are just as many notes as needed, as the piece follows the Process Enneagram all the way through precisely.”


And now indulge me for just a moment as I delve a bit deeper into why the Process Enneagram is not more widely seen and known, allow me to delve, just a bit mind you, into the religious. Why don’t we smoothly traverse our lives, effortlessly transitioning between the stages of the Process Enneagram? Why do we constantly falter, doubt, and derail? Because we are fallen.

From the day that Adam failed to say “Eve, put the fruit down” and instead partook of it’s earthly delights, from that day and through every generation to this day, we have been born into a derailed world that immediately seeks to derail us from the true path. It is my assertion that that true path, Gods will for us, whatever it may be, will follow the Process Enneagram number by number, around and around, our life’s journey unfolding like a DNA helix from conception to death and ever onward. And that in our fallen state we will stumble and fail, veer and careen, but if we were able to look back and see only the strands, moments, and segments of our lives that were true to Gods will then all the missteps would melt away and our lives would appear as an unbroken path.


In salvation we are promised that God will provide us with a light unto our feet, without that light we are lost. This is why we can’t see the Process Enneagram in our lives, this is why we constantly abuse the definition of insanity and keep trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result. We are unaware of our fallen state, each of us blind conductors of our lives, and almost all of our trains are off the tracks, but we don’t know it. The Process Enneagram is not popular because we cannot see it in the state we are in.

Well I hate to leave you on such  a deep note as that, but that’s all the chops and cuts this butcher has for now.



  1. Very inventive and helpful, Eric. We’ve discussed some of this before, but it’s great to see it documented concisely.

  2. I believe another possible Catholic objection to the Enneagram is if it were used, like the zodiac, as a fortune-telling or seeing-the-future device. As you make clear, though, the Process Enneagram is only useful in retrospect. We can look at where we’ve been, see a pattern, and learn something about the time or our behavior. A ouija board, deck of tarot cards, or magic conch shell the Process Enneagram is not. Spongebob and Patrick would find the whole thing rather boring.

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