NCCB Preparing Cautionary Note on Use of Enneagram

by Paul Likoudis


An article about a statement on the enneagram that is being prepared by the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine at the request of the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The article quotes from the draft document.

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The Wanderer


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The Wanderer Printing Company, November 2, 2000

Washington, D.C. --At the request of the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine is preparing a statement on the enneagram to serve bishops as "background information" to assess its use "as a tool of spiritual development."

A preliminary draft of the statement was sent to bishops by the director of the Committee on Doctrine, Fr. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., in July, with a request for comments, suggestions, and improvements.

When the final text is released, Fr. DiNoia said in a letter accompanying the preliminary text, "it will be accompanied by a brief notification, signed by the Doctrine Committee chairman. Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, advising that the theory and practice of the enneagram raises serious doctrinal concerns when employed as a methodology of spiritual growth."

For nearly two decades, the promotion of the enneagram in Catholic retreat houses, parish spirituality programs, and parochial schools, its use as a psychological screening test for candidates to the priesthood and religious life, have caused concern to many Catholics in the United States, Canada, and Australia, who instinctively recognized it as a New Age device that leads Catholics into a spiritual program of "self-discovery" saturated with the "secret wisdom" of ancient Sufis, gnostics, and one-world religion syncretists.

In 1991, Catholics United for the Faith published Australian linguist and Latinist Tim Pickford's devastating critique Evaluation of Enneagram Spirituality, which was based on his study of major "Catholic" books promoting it, such as ex-Jesuit Richard Riso's work Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, published by a New Age publishing house, Aquarian Press. (See The Wanderer, January 9, 1992.)

Pickford wrote that "acceptance of the enneagram, if not already a sign of apostasy, must lead to a loss of faith since it distorts the Gospel and contradicts Catholic doctrine, depriving the individual of a genuine Catholic language and setting in its place what has been most aptly termed as psychobabbling. What is most puzzling, however, is the continued silence of the Church's official teachers who know that this absurdity is being promoted and spread among our Catholic school teachers and priests."

Pickford was prompted to write his critique after the enneagram was introduced into the Victoria Diocese by three nuns, trained in the enneagram in Chicago in 1986, who, over the next four years, trained over 400 persons in the technique: 40% religious women, 30% lay women; 15% lay men, and 1% priests; (14% were not accounted for).

In the United States, one of the most influential promoters of the Enneagram is Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, whose books and audio cassettes are heavily promoted by The National Catholic Reporter.

Rohr, who founded New Jerusalem, an "alternative parish" in Cincinnati in the early 1970s, and the Center for Action and Contemplation, an "ecumenical center" in Albuquerque training "ministers of peace and justice," in 1987, is considered in Amchurch circles as "one of the Catholic Church's most compelling speakers." He is a frequent speaker at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress and at Amchurch homosexual confabs, such as New Ways Ministry's 1997 meeting in Pittsburgh.

(In "Coloring Outside the Lines" published in the May 22, 1997 edition of The Wanderer, Stephanie Block exposed Rohr's pro-homosexualist proselytizing and its link to his promotion of the enneagram.

("Fr. Rohr then went on [in his 1997 Pittsburgh address] to discuss personality archetypes. Rohr has been one of the leading proponents of the enneagram, a system of character assessment, and the following section of his talk revealed another system of personality typing which Rohr and his audience clearly found fascinating. The typologies have become an occult language in which hidden, secret ideas may nonetheless find expression: 'As you know . . . we've been given, by Robert Moore and others, [archetypes] for the male, and they still seem good to me, as much as I've worked with them: King, Lover, Warrior, Magician. [These archetypes] are now being worked with by gay men to see what exactly might be the shape of those same archetypes [for the homosexual]'. . . Rohr seeks to find the 'gift' that he believes there must be to homosexuality. 'So I see this -- and this applies to the lesbian woman, too -- this whole recognition in the homosexual person that I am a Man/Woman; I am a Male/Female; I am the inclusion; I am both. I have no doubt that eventually that will be seen, even in Western culture, as a tremendous gift'. . . Rohr discussed that in certain (pagan) cultures the homosexual was seen as possessing a special, spiritual position. 'Again, this is where I think the gay person has potentially great power. . . The homosexual person was very often the person who could be the spiritual shaman or the spiritually enlightened person'.")

Pickford also analyzed the books of other leading promoters, including Abbot David Gaerets of the Benedictine Abbey in Pecos, N.M., who boasts a doctorate in missiology from the Gregorian University in Rome; Maria Beesing, O.P.: Patrick H. O'Leary, S.J.; Barbara Metz, S.N.D. de N.; and John Burchill, O.P.

First Draft

The preliminary draft on the enneagram produced by the NCCB's Doctrine Committee acknowledges that "in recent years, a number of Catholics in the United States and in other countries have been experimenting with the enneagram and ideas derived from enneagram teaching as an aid not only for personal development, but also for spiritual development.

"Use of the enneagram at workshops, study groups, and retreat centers, however, has raised questions about the appropriateness of the enneagram as a means of Christian spiritual growth, mainly because of its association with esoteric and non-Christian belief systems. ...

"Furthermore, aside from the question of possible conflicts with Christian doctrine, there is also the more practical question of the accuracy of enneagram teaching from the perspective of modern science. While the enneagram system shares little with traditional Christian doctrine or spirituality, it also shares little with the methods and criteria of modern science."

After giving a detailed description of how the enneagram "works," and a summary of how it is used to evaluate personality types and is supposed to help people "learn to achieve greater personal balance and integrity," the statement recalls how the enneagram was popularized in the West by such figures as Georges I. Gurdjieff (ca. 1870-1949) and his student Piotr D. Ouspensky, and later by Oscar Ichazo in the 1960s.

Gurdjieff, the statement recalls, "was a Greek-Armenian who was born around 1870 in what is now the Republic of Georgia. Not satisfied with the Orthodox faith in which he had been brought up, as a young man he became fascinated with various kinds of supernatural phenomena, including communicating with the dead, magic, fortune-telling, and secret societies possessing great knowledge.

"He reports that this search for esoteric knowledge led him to study various religions and systems of ancient wisdom and to travel through many lands in search of it: central Asia, Tibet, India, and Egypt, including the cities of Mecca, Medina, and Bokhara (Uzbekistan), a center of Islamic mystical schools. He claims that at one point in his travels he gained admittance to a hidden monastery of a secret society that was founded in Babylon about 2500 B.C., the Sarmoung Brotherhood (or 'Samouni Brotherhood').

"According to the story related by Gurdjieff, he and a companion were led blindfolded on a 12-day journey from Bokhara to the secret Sarmoung monastery, where he learned esoteric knowledge, including sacred dancing. Gurdjieff developed his own synthesis of ideas drawn from the various sources he encountered in his travels and in his studies and began teaching his doctrines in Russia and Western Europe, by 1922 eventually settling in Paris, where he taught 'esoteric Christianity.'

"Although he did not include the enneagram in any of his published writings, Gurdjieff's students report that he taught that the enneagram is a symbol of the cosmos, 'a universal symbol' and thus a source of knowledge about the cosmos because of the mathematical laws it represents. . .

"Gurdjieff claimed: 'All knowledge can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted. And in this connection only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram makes books and libraries entirely unnecessary. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram'."

Oscar Ichazo, the statement reminds bishops, was "brought up as a Catholic . . .[and] began his exploration of esoteric knowledge as a teenager in the 1940s and at the age of 19 participated in a small group that met in Buenos Aires 'to share their knowledge of various esoteric consciousness-altering techniques,' including Zen, Sufism, the Kabbalah, and the teachings of Gurdjieff. In the 1950s, with some help from this group, he began to travel in the East, Hong Kong, India, and Tibet, studying martial arts, the higher yogas, Buddhism, Confucianism, alchemy, and I Ching. He returned to his native Bolivia in 1960 and began to teach a study group. In 1964, he went to his father's house to spend a year in solitude. At one point, he went into a 'divine coma' or a 'state of ecstasy' for seven days, from which he awoke with the conviction that he should teach what he had learned. Later he began teaching at the Institute for Applied Psychology in Santiago, Chile, but soon decided to establish an institute in the secluded setting of the remote town of Arica.

"In 1970, a group of about 50 Americans came to Chile to study for about nine months at Arica with Ichazo. After this, Ichazo decided to establish Arica Institutes in various cities in North America and moved his headquarters to New York.

"Ichazo's contribution to enneagram doctrine was the correlation of the nine points of the enneagram to nine basic personality types. . . Most but not all enneagram teaching in the United States relies on Ichazo's theory of nine personality types, which he developed sometime in the 1950s and 1960s. According to Ichazo, each person is born as pure essence, but in order to survive in the world is forced to develop a personality and at some time between the ages of four and six ends up choosing one of nine basic patterns of thinking, called a 'fixation,' which is also connected with a pattern of acting, called a 'trap.' This constructed ego is thus a source of unhappiness. In order to return to one's essence one must compensate for one's ego fixation by cultivating the pattern of thinking and acting opposite and complementary to one's ego by means of special exercises, such as meditation or the mystic hand positions employed by Buddhists (mudras).... "Ichazo claimed to have discovered the personality type meaning of the enneagram while in some kind of ecstatic state or trance under the influence of some spirit or angelic being: the Archangel Gabriel, the 'Green Qu,' 'Tub,' or Metatron, the prince of the archangels (the accounts vary).

"The training offered at Ichazo's Arica Institute includes preparation for and means of contacting various higher beings, such as Metatron, with whom Ichazo himself has been in contact. One of the aims of training offered at Ichazo's Arica Institute is to put the advanced student into contact with an interior master, the 'Green Qu,' 'Tub,' which is expected to occur at some point in their development. . .

"Concretely speaking the enneagram authors start from the point of a 'belief,' which they make into a 'dogma,' because they accept it irrationally and in full without any analysis or criticism as if it would be a divine truth, unquestionable and final."

The draft document's conclusion states: "An examination of the origins of enneagram teaching reveals that it does not have credibility as an instrument of scientific psychology and that the philosophical and religious ideas of its creators are out of keeping with basic elements of Christian faith on several points. Consequently, the attempt to adapt the enneagram to Christianity as a tool for personal spiritual development shows little promise of providing substantial benefit to the Christian community. . .

"The attempt to make use of the enneagram also shares the principal difficulty involved in adapting any non-Christian wisdom, whether psychological, philosophical, or religious, within a Christian framework -- that of making sure that this doctrine does not become the criterion by which Christian beliefs will be judged. The ever-present temptation is to conform Christian belief to the doctrine, as if it were an absolute norm.

"Unfortunately, at least in the enneagram literature that has been published so far, distortions of Christian belief are common, even in the books that are most popular among Catholics and that are sometimes written by members of religious orders. Even if some of these authors do not appear to be acting out of a deliberate strategy to reinterpret Christianity in a way that is incompatible with traditional Catholic beliefs, their writings nevertheless often distort Christian beliefs in a way that makes them conform to enneagram doctrine.

"For example, in enneagram teaching sin is often redefined in terms of the characteristic limitations of a particular personality type. . . Since every personality type has its intrinsic limitations, sin becomes something at least in part inevitable. Personal responsibility for sin becomes very difficult to explain in this theory. A second problem is a consequence of the first.

"If sin is the (inevitable) result of one personality type, then the solution to sin is to be found primarily in compensating for one personality type by following the prescriptions of enneagram teaching. The remedy for sin becomes first of all a matter of greater knowledge rather than reform of the will. According to Christian teaching, sin is indeed unhealthy behavior and can be combated by an improved understanding, but it is at its root a moral problem, so that repentance before God and one's neighbor must be the fundamental response. Enneagram teaching thus obscures the Christian understanding of sin.

"An important factor contributing to confusion about Christian teaching in books on the enneagram is the fact that beginning with Gurdjieff and Ichazo what enneagram proponents have taught has always been a syncretistic mixture of elements from various sources, mostly types of esoteric knowledge, such as Sufi mysticism, the Kabbalah, and astrology, though more recently it has also been correlated with the psychology of Jung, Freud, and others. Thus when contemporary enneagram teachers attempt to relate the enneagram to Christianity and Christian ideas are added to the mixture, a clear sense of the fundamental priority of Christian beliefs is easily lost."


The NCCB's belated recognition that the enneagram is a threat to sound Catholic spiritual formation opens up the possibility that the American bishops will have to undertake a similar, if not harder, and more comprehensive, examination of the vast influence of Carl Jung in supposedly Catholic spirituality programs.

As a Canadian Anglican, the Rev. Ed Hird, past national chairman of Anglican Renewal Ministries in Canada, wrote in March 1998, Jung, the enneagram, and the Myers-Briggs personality test -- which almost all dioceses use to evaluate potential seminarians and "pastoral leaders" -- are all connected, the latter two intimately connected to Jung's work to deconstruct traditional Christianity.

In a report titled, Carl Jung, Neo-Gnosticism, and the MBTI, Rev. Hird wrote:

". . .Through listening to the tapes by Leanne Payne and Dr. Jeffrey Satinover from the 1995 Kelowna Prayer Conference, I came across some new data that challenged me to do some rethinking about the Jungian nature of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator)....

"Currently, approximately two and a half million people are 'initiated' each year into the MBTI process. According to Peter B. Myers, it is now the most extensively used personality instrument in history. There is even a MBTI version for children, called the MMTIC (Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children), and a simplified adult MBTI-like tool for the general public, known as the Keirsey-Bates Indicator. . . One of the key questions for the ARM Board to settle is whether the MBTI is an integral part of Jungian neo-gnosticism, or alternately, that it may be a detachable benevolent portion of Jung's philosophy in an otherwise suspect context.

"To use a visual picture, is the MBTI the 'marijuana,' the low-level entry drug that potentially opens the door to the more hard-core Jungian involvement, or is it just a harmless sugar tablet? To get at this question, I have broken my analysis down into smaller, more concrete questions.

"1) Is the MBTI actually connected with Carl Jung?

"The Rev. Canon Charles Fulton, president of ERM (Episcopal Renewal Movement), commented in a June 17, 1996 letter that 'we have certainly had some concerns over the MBTI over the years and its Jungian nature.' Rev. Fred Goodwin, rector of National Ministries for ERM, commented in a September 18, 1996 letter that '... we [ERM] no longer use the MBTI in our teachings . . . we've not included it in the last couple of years -- believing that there are many other models and issues that need to be discussed with clergy and lay leaders.' In Isabel Briggs-Myers' book Introduction to Type (1983), she comments that the MBTI is 'based on Jung's theory of psychological types.' In the book People Types and Tiger Stripes written by Jungian practitioner Dr. Gordon Lawrence, he states that 'the [MBTI] Indicator was developed specifically to carry Carl Jung's theory of type (Jung, 1921, 1971) into practical application.' In the Grove Book on personality indicators, Robert Innes comments that 'Carl Jung's psychology lies behind . . . the MBTI'. . .

"After reviewing the statistical evidence relating to the MBTI, however. Dr. Paul Kline, professor of psychometrics at Exeter University, commented that 'there has been no clear support for the eight-fold categorization, despite the popularity of the MBTI.' Mario Bergner, a colleague of Leanne Payne in Pastoral Care Ministries, observed in a July 2, 1996 letter that 'of all the different types of psychological testing, forced choice tests (such as the MBTI) are considered the least valid.' More specifically, Bergner noted that 'the validity of the MBTI is at zero because the test is based on a Jungian understanding of the soul which cannot be measured for good or bad'....

" 'Jung's direct and indirect impact on mainstream Christianity -- and thus on Western culture,' says Satinover, 'has been incalculable. It is no exaggeration to say that the theological positions of most mainstream denominations in their approach to pastoral care, as well as in their doctrines and liturgy -- have become more or less identical with Jung's psychological/symbolic theology.'

"It is not just the more liberal' groups, however, that are embracing the Jungian/MBTI approach. In a good number of evangelical theological colleges, the MBTI is being imposed upon the student body as a basic course requirement, despite the official Jungian stance that 'the client has the choice of taking the MBTI or not. Even subtle pressure should be avoided.'

"While in theological school, I became aware of the strong influence of Dr. Paul Tillich on many modern clergy. In recently reading C.G. Jung & Paul Tillich [written by John Dourley, a Jungian analyst and Roman Catholic priest from Ottawa], I came to realize that Tillich and Jung are 'theological twins.' In a tribute given at a memorial for Jung's death, Tillich gave to Jung's thought the status of an ontology because its depth and universality constituted a 'doctrine of being....'

"So many current theological emphases in today's church can be traced directly back to Carl Jung. For example, with the loss of confidence in the missionary imperative, many mainline church administrators today sound remarkably like Jung when he said: 'What we from our point of view call colonization, missions to the heathen, spread of civilization, etc., has another face -- the face of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry -- a face worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen.'

"In speaking of Buddhism and Christianity, Jung taught the now familiar interfaith dialog line, that 'both paths are right.' Jung spoke of Jesus, Mani, Buddha, and Lao-Tse as 'pillars of the spirit,' saying, I could give none preference over the other.' The English Theologian Don Cupitt says that Jung pioneered the multifaith approach now widespread in the Church....

"In light of our current Canadian controversies around 'Mother Goddess' hymnbooks, it is interesting to read in the MBTI source book. Psychological Types (Carl Jung, 1921), about the 'Gnostic prototype, viz, Sophia, an immensely significant symbol for the Gnosis.' Carl Jung is indeed the grandfather of much of our current theology....

"My recurring question is: 'Do we in ARM Canada wish to be directly or indirectly sanctioning this kind of teaching?' Symbolically, the MBTI can be thought of as a 'freeze-dried' version of Jung's Psychological Types (1921). Since PT teaches extensively about Jung's archetypes and collective unconscious, it seems clear to me that to endorse the 'freeze-dried' MBTI is ultimately to endorse Jung's archetypal, occultic philosophy."

Rev. Hird's questions -- and answers -- should be of interest to officials of the NCCB's Doctrine Committee.

(The Rev. Ed Hird is rector of St. Simon's Anglican Church, North Vancouver, British Columbia. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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