Welcome to Enneagram South Africa


How You Can Use the Enneagram

The purpose of the Enneagram is self-knowledge that can be used to further your spiritual growth, and your understanding and compassion of others. This system can be applied for analyzing and influencing unconscious strategies and behavior of not only people but also organizations, cultures, and countries.

back to the top




The word Enneagram is from the Greek and means "nine points". The original teaching may go back as far as 2500 B.C. to the kingdoms of Babylonia, and the wisdom school of the Sarmoun Brotherhood. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was passed on to Islamic mathematicians who incorporated it into their mystical teachings. Traditionally it has been a part of the secret oral tradition of the Sufi Brotherhoods, being revealed only in part to any but the masters.

Because the Enneagram has been a secret oral teaching, no written records of it exist until it's introduction to the West. The earliest appearance in the historic record dates to a Greek man named Georges Gurdjieff (1866-1949). He was interested in the meaning of life and traveled around North Africa and Asia learning various spiritual traditions. Allegedly, one of these was called 'The Work' which supposedly had been passed down from teacher to pupil for thousands of years. The Work made such an impression on Gurdjieff that he made it his life mission to teach it to the western world.

Gurdjieff was initiated into the use of the Enneagram by his Sufi teachers, and he alluded to it as a device which he used to recognize his student's aptitude for certain types of inner life training. Gurdjieff did not transmit the Enneagram to his students in full, making reference to the fact that it was not yet the right time for it to be revealed. His students did however, study the mathematical properties of the Enneagram, and used it's symbology in non-verbal movement designed to teach the rhythm of process through the physical body.

The evolution of The Work into the Enneagram of today is attributed to a Chilean named Oscar Ichazo, the founder of the Arica Institute. He received training into the system by Sufi teachers in Afganistan and incorporated it into his system of human development. In the 1960s, Ichazo developed a theory of nine personality types corresponding to the nine points of the Enneagram (although he claims total originality of this concept). In 1971, Ichazo brought his teaching from Chile to the United States, where John Lilly and the Chilean psychologist Claudio Naranjo encountered it at the Esalen Institute. Naranjo reframed the Enneagram into the language of modern western psychology and taught his system (called the Enneagram of Fixations) in America during the 1970s. Through Naranjo, a Jesuit priest named Bob Ochs introduced the system to his community, where, as the "Sufi Numbers" it is widely taught and used as a tool for spiritual development, prayer, and living in community.

In the 1980s, Naranjo's Enneagram of Fixations was popularized as a psychological profiling system by authors Helen Palmer and Don Richard Riso. Don Richard Riso is a former Jesuit who learned the system through his order, and after leaving the Jesuits, developed material on it's secular, psychological aspects. Helen Palmer was a student of Naranjo who has pursued the aspects of attention and intuition for the types.

Because this system is best taught orally, there are many other teachers who can only be found through word of mouth.

Today, the Enneagram is widely used in clinical psychology and corporate America and is also very popular among Jesuit and Catholic priests.


back to the top



Discovering and Influencing Your Unconscious Strategies

We all born as Essence, but somewhere in early childhood you develop a defensive strategy to deal with whatever is missing or lacking in your environment. This strategy is characterized by a "chief feature", also called a compulsion, a fixation, or a preoccupation. Because this feature is defensive, it essentially negative and interferes with the expression of your essential Essence.

For most of us, this strategy is largely unconscious, manifesting itself as a continuing, recurring motivation for behavior. Because it is defensive, and largely unconscious, it blocks your psychological and spiritual growth. The purpose of the Enneagram is to help identify your unconscious strategy, the problem it creates for you, to heal it and address your deeper needs. It is only through honestly confronting the ways in which you interfere with your own development that you can be freed of these neurotic patterns. It offers the way through, and out of fear, anger and depression.

This is an intuitive system, and most likely when you encounter your unconscious strategy you will feel on this level. Listen to your heart.

back to the top



Structure of The Enneagram

The Enneagram is composed of a circle enclosing a triangle and a star, creating a nine pointed figure. The triangle represents the mystical law of Three, the Trinity, which identifies the three forces necessary for creation. These are the creative, preserving, and destructive forces.

After the creation of an event, the law of Seven comes into play (octaves), represented by the star. This represents the progression of events as they materialize in the world. Gurdjieff's work on the Enneagram referred to these mystical properties. Most of the modern work on the Enneagram focus instead on the psychological and spiritual aspects of the Enneagram as they manifest themselves in individuals.

back to the top



Types of Personality Defined

The inner figure of the Enneagram contacts the circle at nine equidistant points. Each of these points represents a type of personality.

Each point has three sub-types. We have three primary areas of relationship, and one of them is our weak point, where we have been damaged. These are:

Sexual - intimate and other one on one relationships.

Social - relating to the group.

Self-preservation - relating to your personal survival.

Although you have concerns in all of these areas, one will predominate.

Each number is also affected by the number on either side of it. These are referred to as the "wings". The wings of 9 are 1 and 8. Your personality will have some access to the traits of these neighbors, leaning more to one side than the other. Thus, a 9 can manifest it's wing in 1 either lightly, or strongly, but the basic type of 9 will always dominate the personality.

The Enneagram is also organized into Triads. Points 2,3, and 4 are in the image triad. Points 5, 6, and 7 are in the fear triad. And points 8, 9, and 1 are in the anger triad.

Each triad also has an intuitive mode, or center. Points 2, 3, and 4 are emotionally intuitive. Points 5, 6, and 7 are head, or mentally intuitive. And points 8, 9, and 1 are gut, or body based in their intuitions.

Points 1, 2, 3, 4 are conformist, points 5, 6, 7, 8 are non-conformist, and 9 is ambivalent.

There are also three distinct self concepts:

Points 8, 2, and 5 see themselves as bigger than the world. Points 3, 6, and 9 see themselves as needing to adjust to the world. Points 1, 7, and 4 see themselves as smaller than the world.

The preferred modes of behavior are:

Points 8, 3, and 1 are aggressive, they move against people. Points 2, 6, and 7 are dependant, they move towards people. Points 5, 9, and 4 are withdrawing, they move from people.

back to the top



Dynamics of Your Personality

The series of arrows moving along the lines of the Enneagram represent the dynamics of your personality. Your personality is not static, but experiences both growth and degeneration. Thus, the model of the Enneagram is one of motion.

As your personality disintegrates, you move with the arrows into what is called the "stress space". This movement presents the breaking down of the defensive strategy through stress. If you are a 7, you will go to point 1 when your defenses are stressed. In your stress space you will typically manifest the worst aspects of that type.

Conversely, as your personality integrates, it moves into it's "heart space", moving against the entropic flow of the Enneagram. In your heart space you will manifest the higher qualities of that strategy.

back to the top



  • "The Enneagram", Wagner, Dunne, Dobson & Hurley, 1984
  • "What's My Type", Hurley and Dobson, 1993
  • "Tom's Enneagram Page", Thomas Chou, 2001
  • David Daniels
  • Helen Palmer