Friday, August 8, 2008

A Fairly Clear History of the Modern Enneagram

Continuing with the IEA conference, Mary Beth and I next attended a session called Historical Evolution of Enneagram Theory. This was probably my favorite session of the conference. The speaker was Patrick O'Leary. Here is part of his bio:
"Patrick H. O'Leary, M.S., M.Div., co-authored the first Enneagram text, The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery, in 1984... O'Leary integrated his studies in environmental biology, physiology, psychology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), individual counseling, spiritual direction and organizational development into his understanding of the Enneagram. He began offering various seminars on the Enneagram in 1972."
O'Leary is both a scientist and a theologian (he is a 3 and as is typical, seems to have changed course many times throughout his life, but in this seminar, he was emphasizing his scientific point of view.) As such, he attempted to trace the history of the development of the modern Enneagram using evolution as a metaphor. (i.e., ideas were passed from person to person in a "genealogy" and "tested by the environment" via lawsuits, etc.) I tried to follow the main thread of this "genealogy", but at times, O'Leary sketched out some interesting offshoots that "became extinct." I will not discuss those here, as my goal in recounting his presentation is to clarify the events leading up to the Enneagram materials and schools that are available now.
O'Leary was an interesting speaker in that he could provide a first-hand account of events that I have only read about. He noted that he had met all of the key figures (other than Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) in the development of the modern Enneagram. Here is the history, as O'Leary recounted it:
The first important figure was G.I. Gurdjieff, a mystic who gathered ancient wisdom. Gurdjieff had the Enneagram symbol, but was concerned primarily with cosmology (an attempt to explain all things), not psychology. Although he did develop "the work" -- a system of spiritual transformation, he never applied the Enneagram symbol to psychology. We only know about Gurdjieff second-hand, primarily through P. D. Ouspensky.
According to O'Leary, Oscar Ichazo learned about the Enneagram from a Gurdjieff group. (This point was disputed by an individual in the seminar; I will write more about this issue later.) Ichazo then took a group of disciples to Arica, Chile. An American group of 60 people (known as "Chile Peppers") also came to study. The Arica Institute, which still exists, was formed in Chile. It was Ichazo who first connected the Enneagram to psychology. He added the fixation/ passions and virtues to the diagram.
One of those who studied with Ichazo was Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo is a psychiatrist and he connected the Enneagram to modern psychological understanding. Interestingly, it was he who added the arrows connecting points 3, 6, and 9 on the Enneagram diagram. These arrows were not present in any earlier version of the diagram and ran in the opposite direction of the ones we see now (indicating the directions of integration and disintegration for the primary types). When asked about the arrows later, Naranjo said they were "a doodle."
Naranjo left the Arica study group before the teaching was complete and went to Esalen in California. He began teaching in the San Francisco Bay area and Helen Palmer learned from him. Naranjo was using panels of exemplars of the types, which Palmer observed. Today, she is the primary practitioner of this method of teaching.
Robert Ochs, a Loyola University professor, also studied with Naranjo. In 1971, Ochs taught a graduate class on Religious Experience. Patrick O'Leary and Jerome Wagner were students in that class. As student questions along the lines of "Who am I?" and "Why do I have problems relating to others?" began to emerge, Ochs began to talk about personality types 1 - 9. The material was compelling. Religious Experience II became a course in the Enneagram.
O'Leary described a great excitement about the Enneagram among these students. Much like myself and Mary Beth, they had hundreds of acquaintances in common, and thus, hundreds of exemplars of the types to study and discuss.
O'Leary noted that Ochs did not want the information about the Enneagram to be disseminated casually. However, he did decide to open the teaching up beyond the Loyola campus by offering a class over spring break in 1972. A group of Jesuits from Milford, Ohio attended. This group included Richard Rohr (author of The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective and Experiencing the Enneagram) and Maria Beesing. Another group of Jesuits, these from Toronto, were also in attendance. Don Riso learned about the Enneagram from them. Later, Riso would found The Enneagram Institute and bring in Russ Hudson as a co-teacher.
(Note: See the comment thread concerning the accuracy of the previous paragraph.)
From studying with Ochs, O'Leary had produced a series of handwritten notes. He was also doing some counseling and using the Enneagram types in role play with clients who then asked about how he came to his understanding of personality. O'Leary's notes began to be photocopied. Some of the people who got ahold of them were missionaries, and in this way, knowledge of the Enneagram spread around the world.
Eventually, O'Leary joined with Maria Beesing and began teaching a series of workshops. Robert Novosek was a student who took detailed notes. Together, the three of them wrote the book The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery. (Here, we have the 3 - 6- 9 arrows in their current form.) Published in 1984, this book was the first to bring the Enneagram to the public at large. (I will have much more to say about the surprising history of this book in a later post.)
In 1988, the Arica Institute sued for copyright infringement. In 1990, the suit was dismissed with prejudice and the writers were ordered to acknowledge Ichazo's contribution.
Riso and Hudson published their book Personality Types in 1987. Palmer followed with The Enneagram in 1988.
Today, we have three major schools of Enneagram thought in the United States: (1) Helen Palmer teaching with psychiatrist David Daniels on the West Coast, (2) O'Leary and Beesing in the Mid-West, and (3) Riso and Hudson on the East Coast.
At first, these authors. teachers did not communicate much with one another. However, this changed in 1994, when Palmer invited them all to attend an Enneagram conference in Stanford. 1500 people met there. The IEA was founded shortly thereafter, in 1995.
O'Leary went on to talk about "mutations" to Enneagram theory that are still needed. In particular, he talked about the need for more intuitive ways to self-discover type. With this, I heartily agree.


Anonymous said...

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest not a Jesuit. He is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He and Russ Huson are offering a conference "Laughing & Weeping: The Enneagram as a Tool for Non-Dual Thought" December 31, 2008 - Jan 3, 2009 at the Hotel Albuquerque. More info can be found at

Cindi said...

Thanks for the clarification. I would have sworn that O'Leary said that Rohr was among the Milford Jesuits. Perhaps he just heard about the Enneagram from them and was not at Och's spring break class? Maybe I missed a link in there.
The conference looks interesting, and I am a big Russ Hudson fan.

bear said...

I could swear that at a training I attended, Riso said he first encountered the enneagram by reading those pages that were circulated around, not by attending a class. It was a while ago however, and I could certainly be wrong about that.

I've always been under the impression that both Ichazo & Gurdjieff may have been taught by some of the same people. During Riso/Hudson's training 1 workshop, Russ does an evening of history lessons, and if I'm remembering correctly, posits that both of them were taught by the Sarmoun brotherhood (at least I'm pretty certain G. was). It does appear by all accounts I've ever heard that Ichazo & G were never in direct contact.

I've heard from a couple of different reliable sources that Ichazo's a 9. If you google his picture, you'll find that seems most likely to be accurate.

Cindi said...

Yeah; I think I have conflated two steps into one on this. The spring break class happened in 1972 Chicago , but in Personality Types Riso says he encountered the e-gram in 1974 in Toronto via written notes. I think what happened was some Toronto Jesuits went to the spring break class and brought their notes (or a copy of Ochs' notes) back to Toronto, where Riso encountered them. Thank you for clarifying.
As for Ichazo, he types himself as a 9 and he may well be, but he seems to be playing out a 5-ish storyline here. Note also that Ichazo's version of the types aren't quite the same as what we think of based on say Riso/Hudson or Palmer.