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Forming the Pearl 










The Enneagram is a nine pointed star that originated in the East more than 2000 years ago. The three main present day traditions of transmission have been through Gurdjieff (disseminated through Ouspensky, 1949, 1957); Ichazo, who founded the Arica Institute; and the Jesuits of Loyola University of Chicago (Riso, 1987). Gurdjieff was probably the first person to introduce the Enneagram system to the West and he based his work on creating conscious shocks to awaken consciousness to self awareness. (Jaxon-Bear, 1995).

Very briefly, the Enneagram offers a path or map to "know thyself" through the three centers of head, heart and gut which form nine basic personality types or character fixations (three for each center). "The Enneagram posits there are nine realms of experiencing, nine avenues of perceiving reality and responding to it, nine manifestations of the divine image, and nine distortions of this image" (Wagner, 1980, p. 1).

Each type has a basic way of experiencing, perceiving and acting within the world, a virtue or gift and a vice or fixation. This latter negative preoccupation is the placement of attention beneath any issues and becomes the access point for reaching higher states of consciousness (Palmer, 1988). This blind spot within oneself is the stumbling block and main source of strength, where the shadow is located (Jennings, 1995). All three centers are necessary to overcome addictions and fixations, in order to become a flexible and creative individual, living in harmony and love within the universe.

Each of the nine types has a continuum of three healthy, three average and three unhealthy subtypes which have been correlated with the DSM III-R (Riso, 1987). By discovering the vices or blocks that keep one from fulfilling destiny, one can follow the virtues leading to health and spiritual unfolding on the path of integration rather than the path of disintegration.

According to Tart (1986), essence is the uniqueness of each individual through the combination of physical, biological, emotional, mental and spiritual qualities and aptitudes which are potentialities at birth. These qualities are revealed when the right circumstances are created by oneself or one’s world, later in life. Between the ages of four and six, children's personalities begin to develop for survival in the world. At that time they become aware of the consciousness of the ego and begin losing the awareness of their essence.

One falls from essence into personality and then is driven by desire and fear in the ego consciousness where there is no peace or happiness until one returns to essence. This occurs when illusion or the artificially constructed social world collapses and the ego games are completely exposed and understood. In essence one is perfect and in loving unity with the entire cosmos, with no conflict within the individual between the head, heart and gut, or between oneself and others (Ichazo, in Keen, 1973). Essence is present when the ego fixation is not present and must be used to "wake up" rather than go deeper into trance. The desire for peace and happiness is expressed through the fixation. (Lehman, 1995).

Because the formation of personality or temperament begins from imbalance, one develops a preference for one center which results in the loss of awareness of one's true purpose and destiny. By "falling asleep" or losing awareness, a false self is created which adjusts and restrains its basic essence to accommodate the world (Hurley and Dobson, 1991).

Personality or ego is created from being caught in illusion and being asleep (in different kinds of trances) and must be dissolved as a dominant automatic center of control while its skills and knowledge are maintained at a higher level of consciousness. Tart (1986) states that false personality must die. This writer prefers the softer alchemical term "to dissolve", which implies transformation. Returning to the state of essence with knowledge from life experiences and understanding of oneself and others becomes the journey to "polish" one's essence by changing the basic fixation or vice, to its opposite or virtue.

"When the symbolized experiences that constitute the self faithfully mirror the experiences of the organism, the person is said to be adjusted, mature, and fully functioning" (Wagner, 1980, p. 16), living in their essence and able to accept the entire range of experiences without anger, fear or anxiety. Persons living in ego have"incongruence between the self as perceived and the actual experience of the organism (which) makes the individual feel threatened and anxious. They behave defensively and their thinking becomes constricted and rigid" (ibid).

The Three Centers: Gut, Heart and Head

Humankind has three major physiological systems in the body: the alimentary, circulatory and nervous systems. In 1942, Sheldon (in Wagner, 1980) called the human instinctual types: "viscerotonia, with its focal point in the gut; somatotonia, with its focal point in the musculature; and cerebrotonia with its focal point in the nervous system" (p. 43).

Ichazo (1972) called the centers the conservation instinct (gut), relation instinct (heart) and syntony instinct (head). Since then, others in the Enneagram field have given them different names, such as Hurley and Dobson (1991) who called them effective, affective and theoretical and later creative, relational and intellectual (1993). They stress the importance of all three centers and locate them in the three layers of the brain: the reptilian or physical brain, the mammalian or emotional brain, and the neocortex or thinking brain. These are the building blocks of the Enneagram, and a triune bonding of them is the "fourth way", emphasized by Gurdjieff (Ouspensky, 1957). This "fourth way" of spiritual enrichment from the teachings of Gurdjieff, combines the other three ways, to develop all three brains to work in a harmonious and equal way, through self-observation of the three instincts (Tart, 1986) or ways of being/doing both within oneself and in the outer environment.

Each individual, according to Gotch and Walsh (1996), has a number or character fixation in each of the triads. Everything exists through the intersection of the three forces of affirming, denying and reconciling. In order for change and transformation to occur, the three forces are each present in the three brained human forming nine character types. Change begins with the first force of affirming, then the second force of denying clashes with it, producing the third force of reconciling which causes the transformation of self understanding, self acceptance and self worth.

Metaphors of the Three Centers

Metaphors have been utilized to describe the characteristics of the three centers. For example, Tart (1986) retells an ancient Sufi tale of a carriage (body/gut), horse (emotions/heart) and driver (intellect/head). Some have a beautiful carriage, but a broken down horse and a drunk driver; others have a good driver, but a broken down carriage and a disobedient horse. When the master/mistress calls for the carriage, it has difficulty getting to the master or getting her where she wants to go. The master/mistress is one's inner/observer SELF. Gurdjieff (in Riordan, 1975) also uses the metaphor of a three story house, with the upper story containing the intellect, the middle story containing the emotions, and the lower story containing the instinctual, sexual and moving centers associated with the gut.

Another metaphor for the three centers and the journey to essence is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Scarecrow's head is stuffed with straw and he wants a brain so he can think: Tinman wants a heart so he can love again; Cowardly Lion is afraid of everything and wants courage and the will to act. They all go off on their own adventures with Dorothy and Scarecrow has all the ideas, Tinman cries a lot and keeps getting rusty, and Cowardly Lion takes brave action when it is called for. When they return, the Wizard fills Scarecrow's head with pins and needles so he will be sharp as a pin; gives Tinman a stuffed silk heart, guaranteed not to break; and gives Cowardly Lion a green bottle of courage to use when necessary. Dorothy meets them in the order that is necessary for her growth--head, heart and gut (Alegro, 1986).

This order of head, heart and gut is not in agreement with theories by Wright (1995) who believes that individuals move clockwise around the Enneagram starting from their dominant center. The movement is from gut, for example, to heart, to head, to gut, moving towards one's buried or repressed center. This writer believes that the movement around the Enneagram is specific and personal for each individual and the aspiration is to blend and balance all three centers so that they work in harmony.

O'Leary (1992-1993) proposes that each type of individual is grounded in their own center and has differential access to the other two centers, producing a certain percentage of gut, heart and head, with a larger percentage in the main center. The second or auxiliary center and the third or least dominant one produce variations in personalities.

The Lion/Gut Person

Gurdjieff (in Riordan, 1975) describes the gut person as moving and instinctive; using rote memorization and imitative learning; liking/creating primitive sensual art; following a religion of rites and ceremonies; practicing Karma Yoga or the yoga of action and is represented by the Fakir.

This instinct, which is the love of life, is located in the alimentary tract where the body system is expressed as a psychic function. These individuals tend towards panic if their survival is threatened. Analogical reasoning is used where comparisons are made and the self is measured against the situation. The ego is historical, remembers the past and forms expectations of the future. It is dominated by "shoulds" and "oughts" and by expectation. It asks "How am I?" or "Who am I?" (Wagner, 1980).

The "effective" center is symbolized by the mouth for inner understanding and spiritual intuition, and outer personal knowledge where goals are clearly acknowledged for effective change. This center creates motivation for the expenditure of energy and is the home of Divine Life. Its perception is direct, and it is concerned with expression and freedom (Hurley and Dobson, 1991).

The Tinman/Heart Person

The heart person is emotional; using knowledge of likes and dislikes; liking/creating sentimental art; following a religion of faith and love, and persecution of heresy; practicing Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of love and is represented by the Monk (Gurdjieff, in Riordan, 1975).

The heart instinct is located in the circulatory system, and is concerned with relationships and what others think about them. These individuals use analytical reasoning to understand others by knowing the composition of elements and how they function. Fear occurs when one does not understand another. The ego is one of image and preoccupation with what others think and asks "Who am I with?" because the ego's security depends on recognizing whether others are friendly or not and being able to identify with whom one is safe. The individual also invents an image which is then presented in relationships with others (Wagner, 1980).

The "affective" center is represented by the ear for inner understanding and spiritual intuition and outer personal knowledge. It is the center of desire and the home of Divine Love. There is a concern with mastery of process and understanding of the stages of human development which lead to wholeness and maturity (Hurley and Dobson, 1991).

The Scarecrow/Head Person

The head person is the thinking type; using logical reasoning and literal interpretations; liking/creating intellectual, invented art; following a religion of proofs and arguments; practicing Jnana Yoga or yoga of wisdom and is represented by the Yogi (Gurdjieff, in Riordan, 1975).

This instinct is represented by the central nervous system and is concerned with being in harmony with one's whole environment and life situation. Empathetic reasoning is used where there is attunement to the situation and an ability to put oneself in the other's place, which allows a sense of connection and knowing what to do and how to act. The syntony instinct asks "Where am I?", is very practical and wants to do rather than listen to the other two centers (Wagner, 1980).

The "theoretical" center is symbolized by the eye for inner truth of the nature of reality and outer knowledge and information of things outside oneself. It is the center of ideas and mystic unveiling and objectivity. It masters conscious objective awareness of the self and universe and is the home of Divine Light (Hurley and Dobson, 1991).

Harmony Among the Three Centers

The key to liberating change and transformation is through harmony and cooperation among the three centers. According to Wagner (1980), healthy persons are secure in the gut center with a sense of their own existence and identity, in the heart center through inner reality matching the outer image, and in the head center through being in touch with their own inner authority. However, what usually occurs is that one of the centers becomes dominant, because the individual feels more comfortable with using that center and does not pay attention to the input from the other two centers which are subordinate.

Gurdjieff refers to his teachings as "the 'Fourth Way' to differentiate it from the ways of the Monk (emotional path of love), the Fakir (instinctive path of action), and the Yogi (intellectual path of knowledge and wisdom), which are also paths of conscious evolution and transformation that concentrate on different facets of the individual. "The Fourth Way deals with all of these dimensions at once, seeking to create a balanced individual whose inner work of transformation occurs in the midst of his or her daily activities" (Nottingham, 1991, p. 19). All three centers are enriched through balance and harmony so that each center performs in a relevant manner according to the particular time and space of being/doing.

The various art styles of each type are more complex than the classifications of Gurdjieff of the gut person liking or creating primitive sensual art, the heart person creating sentimental art, or the head person creating intellectual invented art. Much of art history categorizes art into primitive, romantic or classical styles. This would place the gut person into primitive and action styles of painting, the heart person in the romantic styles and the head person in the classical style.

As art theory and research have indicted, there are two basic ways of making art that are based on right or left brain predominance, and Lowenfeld suggests a third style that is more visceral or haptic (1957). Perhaps there is a fourth way that balances the three centers and the three instincts of the triune brain of (1) moving, self preservation and instinct (reptilian); (2) emotion/feeling, nurturing and socialization (limbic); and (3) intellectual, communication and symbolization (neo-mammalian); through synergy, balance and harmony, and the transcendence of the challenges of each point on the enneagram.



How Nine Children Eat an Ice Cream Cone

Type Two: They make sure everyone else has an ice cream cone first. Meanwhile their ice cream melts or they run out of cones. (Heart center)

Type Three: They make a big fuss over eating their ice cream cone so everyone notices them. (Heart center)

Type Four: Maybe the ice cream cone will make them feel better, they sigh, as tears come to their eyes. (Heart center)

Type Five: They watch and make notes of how others are eating their cone and what kind of ice cream they have, and their pencil gets sticky with ice cream. (Head center)

Type Six: They check with the group and get a consensus as to which flavor they should get and how to eat the ice cream cone. If they are a conforming six, they will need group support. If they are a rebellious six, they will do the opposite of what others want or are doing. (Head center)

Type Seven: They decide to get balloons and party favors to go along with the ice cream which they thoroughly enjoy. (Head center)

Type Eight: They get ticked if they don't get their ice cream cone first and may then refuse to eat it or start an argument. (Gut center)

Type Nine: They don't want to care one way or the other, whether they have an ice cream cone or not. Let's not get excited over this. (Gut center)

Type One: The ice cream scoop has to be perfectly formed with no defects in the cone before they will eat it. They make sure they lick all the drips so their hands stay clean. (Gut center)

Connie Livingston-Dunn,  PhD



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