Stay away from this occultic tool:
Many Christians are getting into the Enneagram. They shouldn’t be. Folks may claim that this is just a personality test and self-discovery tool, that it has Christian roots, and that it is harmless, but all three of these claims are false, as I will explain shortly.
But for those not in the know, the Enneagram is simply a geometric figure, or diagram – a circle with nine points, meant to represent nine different personality types (ennéa is the Greek word for ‘nine’). While plenty of secular businesses and others make use of it, sadly some Christians over the past few decades have been promoting this as something quite useful for believers.
Indeed, consider two key evangelical publishers (Zondervan and IVP) that have been pushing this, as evidenced by the key ‘Christian’ books that enthusiastically promote the Enneagram:
-Heuertz, Christopher, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth. Zondervan, 2017.
-Rohr, Richard and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. Crossroad, 1999, 2001.
-Stabile, Susan, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. IVP, 2016.
Heuertz and Stabile are both students and disciples of Rohr. Worse yet, in 2020 Zondervan actually was going to release the “first-ever Enneagram film”: NINE: THE ENNEAGRAM DOCUMENTARY. See an update on this here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/christopher-heuertz-enneagram-zondervan-brene-brown-abuse-p.html
So far the only major full-length Christian critique of this is NOT from a major evangelical publishing house. It is this book:
Marcia Montenegro, Don Veinot and Joy Veinot, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret. MCOI Pub., 2020.
Because the roots of the Enneagram are actually in the occult and New Age spirituality, biblical Christians must be aware of what this is all about. Here I will mainly draw from the Montenegro and Veinot book, although a number of good articles and videos can also be appealed to, some of which I will list at the end of this article.
The authors are well-placed to discuss this matter. Montenegro had been heavily involved in occult practices and the New Age Movement (NAM) before becoming a Christian, and the Veinots have long been involved in ministering to those in cults and New Religious Movements.
In this very well documented volume, the authors explode the three myths I mentioned above, and others. As to this just being a simple personality test, they make it clear there is no psychological validity to it, and no solid social science evidence to support it.
Moreover, those behind it say otherwise. One of its main proponents, Richard Rohr has admitted to this: “The purpose of the Enneagram is not self-improvement, which would be our ego’s goal. Rather, it is the transformation of consciousness so that we can realize our essence, our True Self.”
Hmm, sounds just like the sort of stuff I used to read when I was into the NAM. It is all about self, self-realisation, and cosmic consciousness. This has nothing to do with either biblical Christianity, or ordinary personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs test. And even that has been questioned by some: https://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5881947/myers-briggs-personality-test-meaningless
As to the claim that this practice goes back to some fourth century church fathers, this is patently false. The authors carefully trace the lineage of this through to some well-known occultic and spiritist figures of the past 150 years such as George Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Claudio Naranjo. These names were certainly familiar to me when I was into the NAM.
Say the authors: “In summary, the origins of the Enneagram are in mysticism, occultism, and New Age. It has no origins in history prior to the early twentieth century. In fact, it is not based on empirically validated psychological theories or psychometric studies. It is based on the intuitive and occult-based mystical experiences of one man: Claudio Naranjo. The Enneagram is no more valid than Astrology, and… may be more dangerous.”
And as to the claim that this is harmless, and something Christians can get involved with, the authors show how very wrong this is. Simply consider the main ‘Christian’ promoter of this, Richard Rohr. He is a Catholic priest who has made it quite clear over the years that he has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. Indeed, simply consider his recent book, The Universal Christ.
It is about as heretical as you can get, pushing pantheism, universalism, self-salvation, and various bits of New Age mumbo jumbo. See here for one good critique: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/universal-christ-richard-rohr/
Consider just one area: sin. Anyone familiar with Eastern thought and New Age views knows that the main point is to understand that we are already one with God – indeed that we ARE God. Overcoming our false idea that we are somehow separate from God is a common teaching here.
And Rohr pushes the very same thing, claiming that sin is simply thinking we are distinct from God. But Scripture makes it clear that we are NOT God nor part of God. We are created beings who are separate from God both because we are created beings, and because we are fallen sinners. We do not find God by looking within – we find God by looking to Christ, and turning away from sin and self.
Conservative Catholics also are quite critical of Rohr. The authors quote one of them who says, “The Christ whom Rohr preaches is not the authentic Jesus … that the Church has proclaimed and safeguarded for 2,000 years with the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, Rohr remains an unreliable and spiritually dangerous guide for Catholic and non-Catholic alike.”
The authors have a chapter on whether something like the Enneagram can be ‘Christianised’ and whether God can redeem everything. They write:
God’s word is quite clear that God will redeem those who have trusted in Christ; and He will redeem creation – make a “new heaven” and “new earth” (see Revelation 21:1). However, He will not redeem other things, but rather cast them into the Lake of Fire: Satan’s angels, death, and those who have rejected him (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10, 14-14; 21:8).
Will witchcraft be redeemed? No.
Will sorcery be redeemed? No.
Will astrology be redeemed? No.
In truth, as the authors insist, the “Enneagram is not spiritually neutral. Having myself (Marcia) been involved in the occult practices of Astrology, contacting the dead, using divinatory tools (Numerology, Astrology, Tarot), and having spirit guides, I can say with 100% confidence that nothing that is a product of these practices or of New Age beliefs is beneficial for anyone; and it is always spiritually harmful at the least.”
Let me conclude with their closing paragraphs:
Rohr is a huge reason why and how the Enneagram came into the church – first in the progressive church and then in the church at large. Since then, it has gained rapid momentum due to books published, classes, seminars, and retreats taught by Rohr’s students and disciples….
If the Enneagram had stemmed from scientific, psychological studies, testing, and research and afterward had been used in the New Age, one could, perhaps, argue that Christians could still use it by going back to its original model. But there is no such model for the Enneagram. It originated with occult mystic George Gurdjieff, and it had no personality types. (Astrology also originally had nothing to do with personality.) Perhaps a final word from the Scriptures is in order:
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31).
For further reading and viewing
There are a number of good articles available on this. Here are just two of them. A good critique by Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.: https://www.equip.org/article/tell-me-who-i-am-o-enneagram/
And an article by Montenegro: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Enneagram.html
And these three videos are well worth watching. The first one provides a 9-minute overview from a Christian apologist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYKlUR-3Vxo
And this one features Montenegro taking a brief historical look at the Enneagram: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_jhVaxpswY
Finally, an hour-long interview Montenegro has with Alisa Childers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqh4XTDVboc