So how does the statement, “All truth is God’s truth” apply to something like the Enneagram? It cannot do so because there are no grounds to believe there is any worthwhile truth in the Enneagram. What lies at the root of the Enneagram are teachings of Gnostic, occult, and New Age teachers and information from spirits. In fact, the information for Types came from spirits. As noted earlier, Wilson acknowledged the heavy indebtedness to “occultist thinkers.”
Falling Into the Enneagram
Todd Wilson, a pastor1 whose book, The Enneagram Goes to Church, has recently been released, tells how he discovered the Enneagram. He was on vacation and his sister-in-law Beth was with him and his family. Beth was reading an Enneagram book by New Agers Don Riso and Russ Hudson, Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Riso and Hudson are co-founders of the Enneagram Institute.2 I have read Riso and Hudson’s The Wisdom of the Enneagram and it is chock full of New Age beliefs.
It is troubling that Beth, who I assume is a Christian, could read a New Age book without sensing something, but it seems the Enneagram has acted as a blinding agent in the church. It renders many Christians not only blind to the facts but bypasses their critical and logical thinking. Wilson remarks that Beth’s book was “in tatters” and assumes it must have been “her third or fourth reading” of it.3
After that, Wilson and his wife “were devouring every Enneagram source we could get our hands on.”4 Wilson carries the credentials of a scholar with a Ph.D from Cambridge.5
The Enneagram and Essence
I looked through Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Riso & Hudson that Beth was reading using the Look Inside feature on Amazon, and I also did a search for “essence.” “Essence,” as I have pointed out before, is a key to understanding the purpose of the Enneagram. Once one identifies his or her Type, they understand the Type is the “false self,” or the ego (“ego” in the New Age is the false self, or part of it) they have constructed. Armed with that supposed knowledge, which is not taught in Scripture, they can work through what caused them to create that false self in order to transcend the ego and get to “Essence.” This is exactly what Riso & Hudson teach in several places in their book.
One statement is that the Enneagram is not merely a map of personality, but “points the way toward what lies beyond once we have transcended ego.”6 On page 17, the authors write that the personality is the “learned or acquired part of a person’s behavior or identity,” while the essence is “the innate part of identity which needs to be addressed for real transformation to occur.” On page 475, the authors state that the “True Self” is “Essence” which is discovered after one is liberated from the “trap of the personality.”
What does that mean? It is the philosophy of the Enneagram that the Types are the false identities that are holding one back. Once one uses the Enneagram to figure out the false identity (the Type) and the false construct it represents, one is able to realize his or her Essence, the True Self. This Essence in the New Age is divine.
All Truth is God’s Truth Only Works When Something is True
A defense of the Enneagram in The Enneagram Goes to Church is found in the section, “All Truth is God’s Truth: Transposing the Enneagram Into a Christian Key.” Todd Wilson talks about something he learned in his “advanced philosophy class” he took at Wheaton as a freshman.7
Wilson claims the origins of the Enneagram are “shrouded in mystery” admits it is “heavily indebted to occultist thinkers such as G. I. Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo.”8 But the Enneagram’s origins are not shrouded at all. The origins are quite plain, publicly available and have been outlined in our book, Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret.
Wilson calls Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo “occultist thinkers” and he is right! So how does he deal with this? He states that the Enneagram is a “wisdom tradition” 9 as though this makes the occultism imbued in the Enneagram acceptable. Or is it that occultism can be seen as wisdom? It is hard to say because there is no explanation from Wilson for naming occultism as a “wisdom tradition.”
I know of no qualifications for calling the Enneagram a “wisdom tradition.” First of all, that category implies something with a great deal of age, something the Enneagram does not have. In terms of the Types, it is only about 50 years old (since circa 1970 when Naranjo added the Types via spirit contact). If one wants to credit Ichazo for the Ego fixations, then it goes back at the most barely ten years earlier to the early 1960s. Less than 60 years is not sufficient for the term “wisdom tradition.”
Secondly, there is no basis for saying there is enough wisdom in the Enneagram to use that term as a description since the Enneagram is in conflict with biblical teaching and from a secular standpoint has not even been validated in the field of psychology.
Wilson goes on to talk about wisdom literature and how some books of the Bible are wisdom books. He quotes Richard Foster as saying that Proverbs and Ecclesiastes contain “the stored treasure of human insight.”10 Wilson uses Foster’s quote to say the Enneagram is “stored treasure of human insight into how people work.”11 He continues by writing that we should think of the Enneagram as “a longstanding conversation” and “a collection of wise insights into personalities and interpersonal dynamics.”12
There are two issues with this idea. First, the Enneagram is not “longstanding,” as pointed out already with the description of “wisdom tradition.”
Secondly, the Enneagram is not about getting insight into personalities per se. In fact, Richard Rohr, whose book introduced the Enneagram to the church, and who has discipled many of the more popular Enneagram authors in the Christian market, has said it is not a personality test. New Ager Russ Hudson has said it is not a type of person but a path to God. The Enneagram was explicitly designed, once the Types were added via automatic writing, for the person to realize that their Type, or personality, is a false construct. One is to work through this so they can uncover the Essence, which is the True Self. The Essence transcends the ego (false self) and one can then be liberated from the false self by using the Enneagram and realizing his or her Essence, as explained in the Riso-Hudson book.