By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Note: The following article emerged out of a footnote to a larger investigation into the relationship between Dr. Carl Jung, neo-gnosticism, and the MBTI.
Who is George Gurdjieff, and why is he having such a massive indirect impact on our churches today? Why in particular are ‘post-charismatic’ Roman Catholics, especially well-meaning nuns, becoming caught up in his practices? The Rev. Dr. Robert Innes, Lecturer in Systematic Theology at St. John’s College: Durham, England, tells us that the man credited with bringing the Enneagram to the West is George Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian from what is now the Republic of Georgia. While still a teen, Gurdjieff became immersed in occultic practices such as astrology, mental telepathy, spiritism, table turning, fortune telling and demon possession. Gurdjieff claimed that while he was in Afghanistan in 1897, he visited a monastery of the esoteric Sarmouni sect where he learned their mystical Sufi dancing, psychic powers and the Enneagram.
The massive popularity of the Enneagram in Christian circles, the 2nd most popular personality test after the MBTI, makes it well worth assessing what we are actually opening ourselves to. Advocates like Barbara Metz and John Burchill describe the Enneagram as “a sleeping giant, awakened in our times…” Fr. Mitchell Pacwa SJ, Professor of Scripture and Hebrew at Loyola University, Chicago, has written a brilliant critique of Gurdjieff and the Enneagram, entitled “Tell Me Who I Am, O Enneagram”. Fr. Pacwa’s studies of ancient literature and archeology show that there is no hard evidence for the existence of the Enneagram in any form before Gurdjieff. Rumours of the Enneagram’s antiquity(e.g. pre-Muslim Christian influence of Persia, or Pythagorean or Platonic mathematics) serve to give it an air of authority but have no proper historical basis. Perhaps most incredible is the unsubstantiated claim by Ted Dobson & Kathleen Hurley that there “are indications that several of the New Testament writers were familiar with and used the Enneagram.”
The heart of Gurdjieff’s Enneagram teaching, which he described as esoteric
Christianity, is numerological divination. Dividing one by three yields the decimals .3333, .6666, .9999 – the points joined by the triangle in the figure. Dividing one by seven yields the decimal .142857: a recurring number which contains no multiples of three and the digits of which correspond to the oddly-shaped six pointed figure. It seems that the Enneagram’s relation to these mystical numbers (three and seven) was held to give it a truly cosmic significance. Gurdjieff taught that “all things in life work on two laws –3 and 7”. All psychological laws fall within the law of three — as within Gurdjieff’s three alleged personality centres (path, oth, & kath), and all material things fall within the law of seven. Each human being on earth is claimed to have one, and only one, of the nine Enneagram numbers.
Enneagram teaching holds that God has nine different faces, corresponding to the nine patterns of the Enneagram. Robert J. Nogosek, C.S.C., wrote a book along this line entitled “Nine Portraits of Jesus: Discovering Jesus Through the Enneagram” (Dimension Books), claiming that Jesus, being sinless, had all nine Enneagram personality types. Beesing, Nogosek, and O’Leary also teach that each of us has one of nine different totems [Enneagramic animals]. In the ‘christianized’ version of the Enneagram, a #2 “helper” personality can be redeemed from being a cat into becoming an Irish setter, and then receives the Enneagramic colour of Red.
Gurdjieff’s work led to the formation of the New-Age cult, Arica, founded by his disciple Oscar Ichazo. It was Ichazo and his colleague Claudio Naranjo (an instructor at the Esalen Institute) who together developed the Enneagram in the 1960’s as an indicator of personality in its current form. Naranjo merged the Enneagram with 9 of Freud’s 10 personality defense mechanisms. Fr. Pacwa notes that Ichazo claims to receive instructions from a higher entity called ‘Metatron, the prince of the archangels’. Ichazo’s students are guided by an interior Master, the Green Qu’Tub.
Ichazo and Naranjo taught the Enneagram in the 1970’s to Fr. Bob Ochs SJ who then taught this ‘secret wisdom’ at the Loyola Seminary, from which it spread heavily within the Roman Catholic and Anglican communities. Gurdjieff’s role in the Enneagram was covered up by Ichazo, saying that he had “been ordered by his source not to reveal the name of the person or being who gave him the Enneagram.” Moral Theologian, Msgr. William B. Smith commented that “the more you read about it, the more it begins to resemble a college-educated horoscope…As a tool for spiritual direction, it seems to me most deficient, even dangerous.”
Barbara Metz, SND, and John Burchill, OP, recommend the Enneagram as a way of engaging in “kything prayer”. Kything Prayer can be done with any other person, present or absent, dead or alive, whose Enneagramic reading ‘moves against your numerical arrows’. The key is to “let your center find itself within the person with whom you are kything” and to “Picture yourself within the [other] person.” An alternative form of Enneagramic kything is to “invite the other person’s spirit into themselves.”
One may very well ask how appropriate it is for Christians to be inviting the spirits of the dead into themselves. Does this not slide into occultic channeling/mediumistic practices that are clearly forbidden by Holy Scripture? Is it enough for Enneagram advocates like Jim Scully of Pecos Abbey to say “that ‘occult’ and ‘satanic’ are not synonyms? God told me back in 1979 that the greatest issue facing the Church would be the deception of inter-faith syncretism.
Maybe it is time for us as Anglicans and Christians to truly wake up and repent of our syncretistic mixing of Christ and the occult, of good and evil, of truth and deception, of light and darkness.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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