History of the Enneagram

The history of the Enneagram system of personality types is somewhat mysterious and controversial. Elements of the Enneagram and related teachings about psycho-spiritual growth can be found in many of the world's major mystical spiritual traditions, including esoteric Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Sufism.

The Enneagram symbol was first brought to the attention of the modern world by G. I. Gurdjieff, the originator of a school of spiritual work near Paris in the 1930s. Although Gurdjieff used the Enneagram diagram to describe possibilities of human development, his concept of the diagram was related to the symbolic communication of ancient knowledge and the "self-work" process through which individuals can acquire insight rather than to the categorizing of personality styles.

Oscar Ichazo, in assigning personalities to each of the nine positions on the Enneagram diagram, originated the Enneagram of Personality as we know it today. He articulated the personality types and their central motivations, features, and concerns. From the 1960s on, Ichazo taught a program of self-development work based on the Enneagram that he called "protoanalysis." He later founded the Arica Institute, originally based in Chile. The contemporary Arica School offers trainings around the world in various aspects of Ichazo's work.

Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean-born, American-trained psychiatrist who had explored theories of personality extensively, studied with Ichazo and took Ichazo's teaching and further developed it, articulating the nine types in Western psychological terms. Naranjo then brought his understanding of the Enneagram system to Berkeley in the early 1970s, where he taught it to students in the context of his own program of self-development work.

Based on material first taught by Claudio Naranjo, Helen Palmer, Don Riso, Russ Hudson, and others published the first widely-read books on the Enneagram in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
 

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The Enneagram helps turn the light of awareness onto those features of our personality that operate automatically, not only keeping us "asleep," but so often getting us into more trouble, more conflicts, and increasing our suffering and that of others. - Don Riso


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