The Enneagram is the personality fad of today. It’s everywhere, and especially within Christian circles. Some love it; some roll their eyes at it; and some still may not know what it is.
I have been personally studying the Enneagram for the past three and a half years and believe it to be a unique personality typing system. Of course, there are many other personal and professional typing methods available—Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, StrengthsFinder, and DiSC profile, to name a few. Still, I’ve not yet found a tool as helpful in understanding not just the what or how of one’s personality, but also the why. It gets into the nitty-gritty of the motivation behind why we live and view life the way we do. This creates a helpful framework of understanding self, as well as understanding others. I’ve found it so unique that I have made it part of the curriculum in a leadership class I teach.
One book that I have recently revisited is Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram, by the Calhoun’s and Loughrige’s. Alongside Chris Heuertz’s The Sacred Enneagram, it is one of my favorite’s thus far. I particularly enjoy the emphasis of utilizing the Enneagram for spiritual formation. Not that the Enneagram is some intrinsically Christian tool. But it is a tool nonetheless, one that I believe can help with understanding self – how one was created, what pains (and trauma) we are dealing with, all in order to connect with our loving Creator and find wholeness.
For starters, this book assumes that the reader has some grasp of the Enneagram. If you need an introduction, such can be gained from the Enneagram Institute’s website or by listening to this Liturgist’s podcast episode.
The text begins by centering on the Enneagram Triads, which sees three Enneatypes grouped together around a “center” – body, heart, and head. Or some might say gut, heart, and head. It goes something like this:
- Eights, Nines, and Ones function from the gut, or instinctual center. They refer to it as GQ or gut intelligence.
- Twos, Threes, and Fours function from the heart, or feeling center. They refer to it as EQ or emotional intelligence.
- Fives, Sixes, and Sevens function from the head, or thinking center. They refer to it as IQ or head intelligence.
You can visualize this through the diagram below, which comes from Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram, p5.
Yet, the Calhoun’s and Loughrige’s do not approach the Enneagram from the traditional model of integration and disintegration – how each type moves toward a second type in health and then toward a third type in stress. The Traditional Enneagram helps explain the lines that run through the middle (see the picture just below, from p6 of their book). For example, I am a One and I move toward a Seven in health and a Four in stress.
The above model provides good insights, so I am not saying we throw that out the window. Still, the authors offer the Harmony Enneagram as a more helpful theory of understanding self. This model “reimagines the connecting lines to create three balanced triangles” (p6). They continue, “The Harmony Enneagram takes the music of your automatic intelligence—be it head intelligence (numbers Five, Six, Seven), heart intelligence (numbers Two, Three, Four), or gut intelligence (numbers Eight, Nine, One)—and integrates the voices of the other two intelligences” (p6). This is detailed in the figure below, also from p6.
So, as a One (gut intelligence), I connect to the Four (heart intelligence) and Seven (head intelligence). It allows for me to find integration into each of the areas of gut, heart, and head. This emphasis allows for better health and balance.
Now, according to the traditional model, my Enneatype as a One already connects to the Four (in stress) and Seven (in health). However, an Enneatype such as the Two never connects with the head intelligence. In the usual framework, the Two moves toward the Eight (gut) in stress and the Four (heart) in health. However, the Two is already found within the heart intelligence grouping (like the Four). What about the head? The Harmony Triads allow for the Two (heart) to connect to the Five (head) and Eight (gut). Furthermore, for someone like myself as a One, rather than seeing the Four as where I moved when I am unhealthy, I am instead encouraged to draw upon the good gifts of the Four, connecting me to health within the heart intelligence.
This, the Harmony Triads, is the overall framework set forth in Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram.
And, from that foundation, the authors then take us on a journey to consider how each Enneatype can be spiritually formed in light of their Harmony Triad. There are stories, Scripture, practices, questions, prayers, and other tools to help the reader know self, know God, heal, and grow.
If you have an appreciation for the Enneagram and you would like to see how it could be utilized in spiritual formation, I recommend you grab a copy of this book. A second suggestion is that you also work through the text slowly. Perhaps it could be read quickly, even in a few days. But that may miss the whole point of the gift the Calhoun’s and Loughrige’s have given us in this book.