Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Be the Book

Note: This was originally published on 8/12/08.

This be the book that caused all the ruckus. It's out of print, but you can buy a used copy here. Published in 1984, The Enneagram: A Journey of Self Discovery, by Maria Beesing, Robert Nogosek, and Patrick O'Leary, was the very first text on the Enneagram of Personality ever published.
When O'Leary talked about the genesis of this book at the recent IEA conference, what he said surprised me. He said the book grew out of a series of workshops he and Maria Beesing were teaching. They were trying to figure out what kinds of exemplars to use to illustrate the types. They tried characters from Shakespeare, but the students weren't familiar enough with them; they tried characters from television and the movies and ran into the same problem; finally, they settled on figures from the New Testament.
Nogosek was a student of theirs. He took detailed notes, focusing on the figure of Jesus in the discussions. Eventually, O'Leary, Beesing, and Nogosek wrote the book around those notes.
The way O'Leary told the story made it seem as if the book only incidentally became Christian in focus. This is the book that says, as I am fond of quoting:

"In beginning this Enneagramic journey into the self what is being asked is the willingness to acknowledge oneself as a sinner... The discovery of one's type will also point out a lack of faith on a deep level. Underlying the compulsion of each type is a way of defending the self which is selfish and disruptive of bondedness with others. As a strategy for self-protection it is a chosen way of 'self-salvation.'... This is, of course, a mistake. Through the discovery of one's Enneagram type there can be awakened a whole new sense of needing salvation..."

And then, the book goes on to show you how each type sins and makes a failed attempt at self-salvation. The last part of the book is devoted to demonstrating how Jesus avoided the traps of each of the types. It is, by far, one of the most Christian things I have ever seen, heard of, or read about. And I live in the Bible Belt.
By the way, does anyone know why this book is out of print? It seems like there would be quite a bit of demand for it.

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