Some History

The Enneagram symbol can be dated as far back as 2500 BC. The Enneagram symbol points to the Essential in all, the Unity of All. The word derives from the Greek “ennea” meaning ‘nine,’ and “grama” meaning ‘point.’ The symbol itself represents the One-ness of all, and has been used as a teaching device over the ages. Each of the 9 points in the symbol is a manifestation of a specific aspect of the Whole, One.

I understand that the Enneagram of Personality Types was first brought to light by Oscar Ichazo in Arica (South America). He had studied with George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, with whom the Enneagram was a part of a much larger spiritual and essential learning. The Enneagram of Personality Types was a small aspect within Ichazo’s teachings. A student of Ichazo’s, Claudio Naranjo, a California psychiatrist, further studied and developed the Enneagram of Personality Types. Others have since further researched, written and taught about the Enneagram of Personality types: people such as: Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, Tom Condon, David Daniels, Kathleen Hurley and Theodore Dobson, Sandra Maitri, Helen Palmer, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, Jerome Wagner, to name only a few. For the curious reader who is keen to gather more information and understanding I refer you to the book of A.H. Almaas (A. Hameed Ali), “Facets of Unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas“, and to the Diamond Approach for an in depth look at the Enneagram from the perspective of using it as a tool to further spiritual enquiry and spiritual development.

A Brief Description

The Enneagram of Personality Types is a tool that points to the Essential aspects in all of us. Each one of the nine points is a manifestation of how the Essential can manifest through us and within us. Or to say it in a different way, each of the 9 points on the Enneagram of Personality Types represents a different ‘flavour’ or ‘colour’ of Essence. It is as though Essence shines through the prism of the entire psyche and divides itself into nine different aspects, or colours of light. Each aspect or ‘colour’ is no less ‘light’ than the other, and in order to experience the peace and the unity of who we are, (i.e., all of this Light,) we need to be in touch with all 9 aspects and qualities of this rainbow of colours. That is, in order for us to know and appreciate the Essential of who we are, we must experience the divine aspect and qualities of each aspect of the divine Light. Each personality type has a specific ‘gift’ of ‘light colour’ that it brings to the whole of Us.

If we become identified with a particular ‘flavour’ or colour, we place emphasis on maintaining it, and we move away from the direct awareness and experience of the light itself. This is the grasping of our personality, it is our identification with our ego. This identification and movement to ‘hold onto’ a particular ‘flavour,’ identity, feeling, thought, or story moves us away from the recognition of That which we are.

Each personality type then, also represents a different ‘flavour’ of how we might become identified with the flavour/colour of personality type and its strategies. So, each type points to specific ‘blocks’ or ’snags’ that interfere with the recognition of the peace and unity that we are.

The Nine Personalities

The Enneagram of Personality Types points us to maps that can aid us in the integration and growth of our personality, such that we can live more and more consciously from the Essential aspect. Eventually however, the Enneagram of Personality Types points us to a ‘point of no return’ in which we appear to have the choice of living in service to our Essential Nature, or the ‘choice’ of continuing the relentless spiraling within the discomfort of being a captive of the personality and therefore, of being caught in our compulsions; addicted to wanting, trying harder, not feeling frightened, resentful or trapped.

The specific personality types are given numbers, one to nine. These numbers do not refer to a ranking order. The numbering is simply a way of identifying specific personality types without using judgmental language. In an effort to provide some qualitative sign posts, most authors and teachers of the Enneagram of Personality Types have coupled a descriptive word with each number (for example, the Five (5) is sometimes known as “The Investigator”). Because each type ranges in its behaviours so significantly, these descriptive terms are mostly only general guidelines, and often describe only an average or functional level of awareness and development. The descriptive terms are never quite specific enough to point to the entire range of functioning for any specific type. I use the descriptive terminology of Don Riso and Russ Hudson (Don Riso & Russ Hudson brief biographies).

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Most of us are not a ‘pure’ personality type. (In fact I wonder if a tendency toward a ‘pure’ personality type actually can exist within our complex human-beingness.) We will have a tendency to be a particular type (say a One) with a little of the (for example Two ‘flavour’). This is a One personality type with a Two Wing. The basic tendency of this personality is toward One-like behaviours and beliefs, with some Two-like ways. The ‘One with a two wing’ personality will have a tendency to be mostly One-like, but may take on the ‘overtones,’ or flavours of a neighbouring number. Wings can only be the neighbouring number. (You can not, for example, be a One with a Eight wing. It is only possible for a One to have a Nine wing or a Two wing.)


Personality; Stress and Integration

As human beings we are not static. The lines linking certain personality types with others indicate movement. We do not change our personality type, but we do move into what appears to be other personality behaviours when we are experiencing a high degree of stress (disintegration), or when we are at peace and comfortable (integration). The movements of the lines with arrows represent our changing dynamics, our movements toward integration and disintegration.

Integrative movement moves as follows: 9 to 3 to 6 to 9…and 1 to 7 to 5 to 8 to 2 to 4 to 1 to 7…

An example of an integrative movement would be when the One is feeling at ease and comfortable, may become light-hearted and spontaneous, like a highly effective or average functional Seven. This does not mean that the One changes personality, it just means that when the One is at ease or at peace, the tendencies of the more functional aspects of Seven tend to spontaneously arise within the One.

Disintegrative movements are represented by the lines and arrows that point the opposite way. Such as 9 to 6 to 3 to 9…and 1 to 4 to 2 to 8 to 5 to 7 to 1…

So, when the organized, purposeful and goal oriented One is experiencing a fair amount of stress, his/her behaviour may become more ‘four-like.’ That is s/he may become more withdrawn, self focused, easily affected, and reactive, and feel a need to repeatedly process information and experience. The Four point is the One’s point of disintegration. When a personality moves to its ‘point of disintegration’ it usually is done at the same level of development. The personality type itself does not reflect our level of self awareness or the degree of ‘peace’ we experience. Within each personality we have nine levels of development.


Personality and Development

All the work we do is spiritual, we are all spiritual beings. Irrespective of our personality type, and irrespective of the degree to which integration and self awareness has occurred, when we are attending to our self awareness, we are always on the ‘path’ of further integration. Each personality type has 9 basic levels of development. The graphic below of the 3-D aspect of the Enneagram of Personality Types hopefully helps to clarify this.

Within each type of the 9 specific personality types there are 9 different developmental levels of functioning. Our levels of functioning are not static. We do however tend to have a general ‘home base’ in our level of functional development. How each personality moves in the world and behaves is therefore, in large part, also related to the general level of functioning of that person. Developmental levels 1 to 3 are the Highly Effective Functioning levels (which Riso and Hudson refer to as “Healthy”), levels 4 to 6 are the Average Functional levels (which Riso and Hudson refer to as ‘Average”), and levels 7 to 9 are the increasingly Dysfunctional levels (which Riso and Hudson refer to as “Unhealthy”). When we are functioning within the Highly Effective Functioning range we function effortlessly, with simplicity and there is a solid awareness of an easy and peaceful ‘fit’, an “at-One-ness.” When we are within the Average Functional range, we are able to move about our tasks and complete them well enough. The sense of easy simplicity and peace is less, and there is a sense of trying, or pressure; there is an effort that is applied. When we are functioning in the Dysfunctional range, our behaviour, while it is attempting to be functional and help us ‘feel better,’ not only does not succeed in its intention, but increasingly leads us to feeling ‘worse,’ and feeling less peace, less freedom, less love. Riso and Hudson have estimated that most of our society functions at the levels of 6 and 7.

Ken Wilber refers to levels of development in his seminal works and writings. The Enneagram points to these levels in a personalized manner. With such specificity, we can then know more readily what it is that we need that will point us to the clearer and clearer realization and direct experience of who we are.


Knowing Your Type

I refer the reader to the Free Riso & Hudson Enneagram Personality Test (RHETI).
Click here to take the test right on this site

Further tests are available on the Enneagram Institute website and also in the books of other authors.

Here are some questions to consider when identifying your type:
1. Think of what you value. If you had one year to live, what would be of most value to you now? What would you be in search of?
Refer to the Enneagram Personality Types Workshop Handout and compare your answer to the “In Search of:” title.

2. What is life about for you? What is your purpose in life?
Refer to the Enneagram Personality Types Workshop Handout and compare your answer to the “Sees Purpose in Life as:” title.

3. How have you learned to survive, to “make it” in this world?
Refer to the Enneagram Personality Types Workshop Handout and compare your answer to the “Wrong Turn:” & “Compulsive Style:” titles.

4. What do you tend to do when you are experiencing a lot of ’stress?
• do you tend to withdraw? (as a 4, 5, or 9)
• do you tend to move out into the world & assert yourself? (as a 3, 7, or 8)
• do you tend to pay attention to an ‘inner committee’ or guidelines? (as a 1, 2, or 6)

5. When conflict is present, what is your first tendency?
• do you tend to be emotionally reactive? (as a 4, 6, or 8)
• do you tend to immediately look for the problem and attend to it, fix it? (as a 1, 3, or 5)
• do you tend to believe that it will all work out for the better? (as a 2, 7 or 9)


Enneagram of Personality Type Names of Riso and Hudson

Enneagram with Cartoon Images – ©2004 Penny J. Whillans.  All Rights Reserved.

Descriptions of the Personality Types in General

Here are notes from handouts that I have provided in some of my workshops. They briefly describe each Enneagram Personality Type. You may wish to refer to the questions I have suggested in the previous section entitled “Knowing Your Type” to more readily identify your Enneagram Personality Type*. I also refer you to the previous section, “Knowing Your Type” for the Free Riso & Hudson Enneagram Personality Test (RHETI)

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* This information is a précis of information gathered or researched by Don Riso & Russ Hudson.
© 1997-2004. The Enneagram Institute. All Rights Reserved.