Enneagram in Sufism

Enneagram in Sufism

We shall show them Our signs upon the horizons and within themselves, until it is clear to them that it is the truth” (41:53) – the Koran

Each of the Nine Points is represented by one of nine saints who are at the highest level in the Divine Presence. They are the keys to unfold powers within the human being, but there is no permission to use these keys.” – Shaykh Abd Allah al-Faiz ad-Daghestani

“[I]f an idea is true, it belongs equally to all who are capable of understanding it; if it is false, there is no credit in having invented it. A true idea cannot be ‘new’, for truth is not a product of the human mind; it exists independently of us, and all we have to do is to take cognizance of it; outside this knowledge there can be nothing but error” – René Guénon

The enigmatic origins of the nine pointed symbol known as the Enneagram (ennea in Greek means “nine,” and gram means something “written” or “drawn”) have captivated and perplexed human individuals since its appearance in the modern West. There are fewer potent examples that so blatant exemplify esoteric knowledge being appropriated by popular culture as the case with the Enneagram. That the nine pointed figure of the Enneagram has entered into the mainstream illustrates its strange fate and perhaps the fate of all things of a transcendent nature: “[T]he enneagram was arguably the worst-kept secret in spiritual history.” The Enneagram has generated a great deal of speculation about its origins and no less its application, yet it for the most part remains veiled in its own secret as what is fact or fiction or even allegory is unknown. Although the Enneagram may be as old as Babylon and the following estimation exemplifies the various efforts to unveil this ancient symbol, still its origins are not made any more intelligible to contemporaries: “I concluded…that this symbol and the ideas for which it stands, originated with the Sarmān society about 2500 years ago and was revised when the power of the Arabic numerical system was developed in Samarkand in the fifteenth century”. (J.G. Bennett, “The Great Laws,” in Gurdjieff: Making a New World (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 293.

What fundamentally distinguishes the sacred from the modern perspective, not only with regard to the ancient symbol of the Enneagram but all traditional symbols is their origin in an atemporal and transpersonal source, in divinis, rather than a man-made source. It is the traditional understanding of symbols that will sanction the integral knowledge necessary to situate them beyond a purely psychological point of view. The sapiential traditions unanimously recognize that “symbolism is of ‘non-human’ origin”.


Although the Enneagram is a universal symbol and has been traced to several different origins, a primary source is found within Islamic esoterism. An imperative encounter that illumines a traditional source the Enneagram took place between Gurdjieff and Shaykh Abd Allah al-Faiz ad-Daghestani (1891-1973), who was raised and trained by his maternal uncle, Shaykh Sharafuddin ad-Daghestani (1875-1936) of the Naqshbandi Sufi order. It is this encounter along with other key Sufi works that not only contextualize the Enneagram or rather the Presence of God (wajh Allah) as it is traditionally known within Sufism (tasawwuf) but unveils its spiritual dimension. J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff’s disciple, also made the acquaintance with Shaykh Abd Allah al-Faiz ad-Daghestani. We cite some of this encounter in its length, in order to allow readers to see that the Enneagram or the wajh Allah is a spiritual symbol connected to a Divine revelation.

As soon as they met, Shaykh Abd Allah said, ‘You are in-terested in the knowledge of the Nine Points. We can speak on it in the morning after the dawn prayer [Fajr]. Now you eat something and rest.’ At the time of the dawn prayer [Fajr], Shaykh Abd Allah called Gurdjieff to come and pray with him. As soon as the prayer finished, the shaykh began to recite Surah YaSin from the Holy Quran. As he finished reading, Gurdjieff approached him and asked if he could speak of what he had just experienced. Gurdjieff said:

As soon as you finished the prayer and began to recite, I saw you come to me and take my hand. We were transported to a beautiful rose garden. You told me that this garden is your garden and these roses are your disciples, each with his own color and perfume. You directed me to one particular red rose and said, “That one is yours. Go smell it.” As I did, I saw the rose open and I disappeared within it and became the rose. I entered its roots, and they led me to your presence. I found myself entering into your heart and becoming a part of you.

Through your spiritual power I was able to ascend to the knowledge of the power of the Nine Points. Then a voice, addressing me as Abd an-Nur, said, “This light and knowledge have been granted to you from the Divine Presence of God to bring peace to your heart. However, you must not use the power of this knowledge.” The voice bid me farewell with the salutation of peace and the vision ended as you were finishing the recitation from the Quran.’

Shaykh Abd Allah replied: ‘Surah YaSin was called “the Heart of the Quran” by the Holy Prophet and the knowledge of these Nine Points was opened to you through it. The vision was by the blessings of the verse, “Peace! A World (of salutation) from a Lord Most Merciful.” (36:58)

Each of the Nine Points is represented by one of nine saints who are at the highest level in the Divine Presence. They are the keys to untold powers within the human being, but there is no permission to use these keys. This is a secret that, in general, will not be opened until the Last Days when the Mahdi appears and Jesus returns.’

It is through Laleh Bakhtiar’s (b. 1938) ground-breaking research grounded in spiritual hermeneutics (ta’wil) consisting of a three volume work on the Enneagram entitled God’s Will Be Done72 that has resuscitated and recontextualized the traditional origins of the Enneagram within Islamic spirituality. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. 1933), one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, Religious and Comparative Studies in the world today, writes the following regarding Bakhtiar’s contribution in reviving the traditional Enneagram:

Dr. Bakhtiar is to be congratulated in clarifying an aspect of Islamic spirituality as imbedded in spiritual chivalry and many basic metaphysical and cosmological doctrines of Islamic esotericism, as well as in bringing out the full meaning and spiritual import of the Enneagram. Her work, therefore, possesses not only a scholarly significance but also a practical one for those who are making practical use of the Enneagram and who are in quest of means to achieve moral and psychological healing. The book also conveys the very significant message that traditional techniques, doctrines and symbols, while always possessing an innate value which issues from their very nature grounded in the Truth, reveal their full meaning and efficacy only within a living spiritual universe although they can also be transmitted from one such universe to another.

Bakhtiar’s efforts have also brought to light the integral psychology found within the Enneagram symbol, which corresponds to the traditional psychology found within each of the Divinely revealed traditions. Although the Enneagram contains a sacred psychology, it is fundamentally a method of spiritual transformation.

It is the confusion of levels, primarily the muddling of the psychological domain with the spiritual domain that contemporary Enneagram proponents typically overlook or misunderstand. To solely translate the Enneagram into a psychological system or a codification of personality types, not only undermines this sacred symbol but undermines its spiritual dimension. Limiting the Enneagram to the psychological level, disavows its psychological efficacy as every integral psychology is attached to a spiritual tradition, if this were not so, it would not be a psychology in its true sense.

The human psyche is subordinate to what is higher than itself and this for the most part was undermined by the foundations of modern psychology and psychiatry that has cut itself off from the sacred with the events that transpired through the so-called Age of the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. A predominant danger to which personality type theory all too easily lends itself to is psychologism the reduction of the Spirit to psychological criterion. This reductionism in many ways defines the contemporary spiritual scene and is especially the case with New Age thought, yet is no less also visible within modern psychology.


The process by which esoteric or spiritual knowledge is translated and moreover lowered to psychological criterion indicates the secular mentality that dominates our age. With this said, one can see as there are abundant examples of how traditional symbols such as the Enneagram can be usurped within the fold of a materialistic psychology.

Why is it important to unearth one’s particular ennea-type? Palmer presents two reasons for this, which in and of themselves are noble goals given the militantly secular era: “The reason for discovering your own type is so you can build a working relationship with yourself.” And, “The second reason to study type is so you can understand other people as they are to themselves, rather than as you see them from your own point of view.” Focusing on ones “typology” or “fixation” is a recent phenomenon and bears no resemblance to the traditional use of the Enneagram. A core problem with the contemporary interpretation of Enneagram personality types is that it all too easily lends itself to view all individuals through the enneatype lens, limiting them to a static personality type, which is really the false identification with the empirical ego and not an individual’s true identity. This kind of psychologism or “typism” is endemic to the Enneagram of personality types and is a testimony to its functioning primarily on a psychological level, obscuring what is higher:

The Enneagram authors have made the grave mistake of making this theory into a typology of nine “personality types” as tools for ego aggrandizement, instead of a method of ego-reduction and final transcendence of the lower ego that, in fact, is like a sickness that has to be cured and transformed, in order to become completely developed human beings in a state of self-liberation.

Key to understanding the psychological interpretation of the spiritual traditions is found in the following statement by American psychologist Robert E. Ornstein (b. 1942), disciple and key representative of Idries Shah: “As the esoteric disciplines of other cultures become accessible to the [modern] West, they emerge as psychologies.” Ichazo also frames the Arica system in an analogous psychological fashion to appeal to the contemporary mindset, “Protoanalysis follows the same path as the real ancient spirituality, and it is a modern presentation…of all human potentialities in order to become actualized.” Palmer also echoes this process: “The [Enneagram of personality types] system was being developed as an esoteric psychological tool.” We might recall a similar statement made by Chö-gyam Trungpa (1939-1987), an early teacher of Vajrayāna or Tibetan Buddhism in the West, who said: “Buddhism will come to the West as a psychology.”

While Sufi psychology or “science of the soul”, like Buddhist psychology, has increased in its popularity, both have had attempts to distil them from their exoteric traditions. In regard to Sufism this is not only unfortunate, but a distortion of its central message which cannot be cut off from Islam as all Sufi orders are linked through an unbroken “chain” (silsilah) back to the Prophet himself. Within Buddhism, some of the highest level teachings and or practices are often offered to Western audiences with little or no commitment or even assessment of individual qualification. Analogously the appeal to coopt Sufism or Buddhism or any of the divinely revealed traditions and solely acknowledge them as a form of modern psychology is erroneous. This process can be very slippery and one needs to read between the lines to perceive the more nuanced versions of this rooted psychologism: “My intention is not to ‘reduce’ totally the phenomena of the esoteric disciplines to psychological terms, but simply to begin the process of considering these aspects of the traditions which fall within the realm of a modern psychological analysis.”

And what about that which does not lend itself to empirical verification through the five senses? The human psyche and Spirit itself lie outside the empirical order. Does this mean that the spiritual traditions that contain a less recognizable psychological dimension will be excluded according to the likes of modern psychology? There are many unfortunate implications underlying this logic and how it then proceeds to understand the subtle realm of the human psyche and what is beyond it.

While contemporary psychology as an autonomous science separate from religion and philosophy began with the emergence of modernism which occurred through the Enlightenment, it is erroneous to presuppose that the sapiential traditions did not have an implicit, if not an explicit, integral psychology within themselves, even if they did not name themselves “psychology”. In the premodern world the human psyche was always and everywhere viewed through the lens of spirituality, starkly contrasting today’s materialistic science that no longer acknowledges the reality of the human soul, now exchanged for a more scientifically acceptable term “mind” speaks to the secular outlook that views psychology or the “science of the soul” through a truncated and inverted viewpoint.

The notion that modern psychology offers something “new” or “superior” than the psychology of the traditions, has to do with the incompre-hension as to what it means to be human in its most complete sense and this is a direct reflection of the eclipse of authentic spirituality in the con-temporary world. Palmer personifies the thought process that mirrors what has been termed the “psychological impostor,” a seduction that misunderstands the fullness of spirituality and its corresponding integral psychol-ogy which is evident within the “enneagram community”:

Gurdjieff was a contemporary of Freud’s; there was no psychology then, except in the minds of a very few physicians in Europe. I hardly think he could have had any possibility of organizing the material in the way that is now possible in our generation, with all of its public availability of psychological understanding. There was no psychology at that time, so the most that could be done was to recognize in some clumsy fash-ion the chief feature and bring it to a student’s attention.

The ancient maxim of “Know thyself” was not born with Freud or modern psychology for that matter, but is attributed to the timeless truths that exist everywhere. Rather than approaching the human psyche through the eye of modern science, we would be better off to pay close attention to the sacred science underlying the statement of Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173): “If the mind would fain ascend to the height of science, let its first and principal study be to know itself.” Although each spiritual tradition possesses a corresponding psychology they are integral so long as they are contextualized within the given spiritual tradition.

It is all too often forgotten by contemporaries that the human psyche or soul is subservient to the Spirit and this is why many are duped by New Age views suggesting that that they are synonymous with each other. The following provides an example of leveling a spiritual symbol to a psychological one: “The [Enneagram of personality types] teaching can help us to recognize our own type and how to cope with our issues, understand our work associates, lovers, friends, and to appreciate the predisposition that each type has for higher human capacities such as empathy, omniscience, and love.”

Riso and Hudson also stress the commonalities between the Enneagram and modern psychology: “The Enneagram’s remarkable properties will become even more evident when we compare it with the typologies of Karen Horney, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and the pathological categories employed in psychiatry…. [W]e hope to indicate that the Enneagram is…consistent with modern psychological systems”.

The tripartite structure of the human microcosm, found within all of the sapiential traditions consists of Spirit/Intellect, soul and body. We must be therefore cautious when statements are made emphasizing the importance of psychological inquiry over spiritual practice, for it is spiritual practice that assists in the integration of the human psyche into its Supreme Identity and not the other way around: “The way we get to our essential nature is not primarily through spiritual exercises but through psychological work to penetrate parts of the personality that are connected to underling essential aspects of ourselves. Psychological inquiry leads to spiritual realization. Meditation supports this inquiry and sharpens it, but the psychological work is inseparable from the spiritual practice.”

While many of the contemporary approaches appear to embrace the psychology found at heart of all spiritualties, they operate on several false assumptions, which when viewed more rigorously from the perspective of the perennial philosophy are seen to be antagonistic in essence to the very mystical dimension that they seek to align themselves with.

First off, the inner dimension or esoterism cannot exist without the outer dimension or exoterism; to only acknowledge esoterism is erroneous and that is precisely what New Age pseudo-spirituality seeks to do—to strip religion of religion—so that it can then declare as true whatever it wishes.

Secondly, to say that esoterism presents itself as a spectrum of “psychologies” is very misleading as well because spirituality is higher than the psychological domain and to suggest that it is really psychology as such is the same mistake that C.G. Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist made by reducing spirituality to psychology, which is the definition of psychologism.

Thirdly, the general paradigm for the so-called “traditional esoteric psychologies” is viewed through the lens of New Age spirituality which is neither “traditional” nor “esoteric”, and is thus an attempt to postulate a spiritualized modern psychology in a way that is antagonistic to its very premise.

That many within humanistic and transpersonal psychology attrib-utes valid Sufism to the controversial figure Idries Shah is definitely problematical; again while Shah popularized Sufism in the West, he is not a valid source of traditional Sufism. We can see here how Shah accommodates his ideas to the secular mindset rather than that of tradition; no matter how subtle his approach may at first appear the end result is always the same: the undermining of tradition, which is a hallmark of New Age spirituality: “We may call Sufi ideas ‘a psychology’, not because this term adequately describes Sufism, but because nowadays ‘wisdom’ is not a popular word.” Shah himself quotes an unnamed “Sufi” to the effect that Sufism began as psychology, later became associated with religion, and has now become psychology again. “So, if you are looking for spirituality which requires such insights [psychological], you have to look at the ‘reduction’ by the great classical Sufi masters, not by me, for I am no innovator in this respect. If, too, you imagine that the Sufis are not to be regarded as ‘spiritual’ because of their insistence on psychology…you are out of luck again...” In answer to a final interview question posed to Shah: “For the sake of humanity, what would you like to see happen?”, he radically deviates from that of traditional Sufism or any integral spiritual tradition by throwing the Saints and Sages of all times and places under the bus, leaving any evaluation of them to the whims of modern psychology:

What I really want, in case anybody is listening, is for the products of the last 50 years of psychological research to be studied by the public, by everybody, so that the findings become part of their way of thinking. At the moment, people have adopted only a few. They talk glibly about making Freudian slips and they have accepted the idea of inferiority complexes. But they have this great body of psychological information and re-fuse to use it.


Modern psychology is also confused as to what Personality is. Due to modern psychology’s difficulties in discerning levels of Reality, it tends to view the relative personality or empirical ego as a definitive human iden¬tity, rarely acknowledging the ultimate nature of Personality in divinis. These can be summarized as follows: the confusion of the Absolute with the relative, the Vertical with the horizontal, the Spirit with the psychic, the Intellect with reason, the Self with ego and the Personality with individuality. The integral psychology informed by the perennial philosophy recognizes two forms of human identity, one relative and one Absolute without blurring or confusing these two distinct dimensions. Most if not all approaches to the contemporary understanding of the Enneagram delineate the distinction between personality and Essence. In singling out the relative dimension of personality the transcendent dimension of Personality is ex-cluded. In solely addressing the Absolute dimension of Essence the relative dimension of an individual essence is excluded. Although this might appear as an unnecessary semantic nitpicking, the precise meaning of these terms as they are understood in their traditional context is of utmost importance. Modern psychology is in many ways confined to the relative, as the notion of identity is caught in the psychic realm: “[I]dentity comes about through the projection of an unconscious association by analogy with the object.” In contrast, we recall the following which speaks to the fullness of human identity: “‘Inwardly’ every religion is the doctrine of the one Self and its earthly manifestation, as also as the way leading to the abolition of the false self, or the way of the mysterious reintegration of our ‘personality’ in the celestial Prototype”.

There cannot be an effective Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) without taking the relative and Absolute criteria of human identity into consideration, and that is why the DSM, now in its fifth edition published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), remains as a sort of caricature of itself. The psychological interpretation of the Enneagram, like the DSM, is a categorical classification that divides personality characteristics into types consisting of defining features. As what is higher than the human psyche can alone establish integral individ-uality, it may not be surprising that the DSM concerns itself with human pathology, which is apparent in the ensuing: “Personality traits are enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal con-texts. Only when personality traits are inflexible and maladaptive and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress do they constitute Personality Disorders.”

In an analogous way, the Enneagram has come to occupy a similar function as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) created by Katharine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers (1897- 1980). It was C.G. Jung who was the key catalyst for the MBTI, as Katharine Cook Briggs came across Jung’s book Psychological Types in 1923 when it was published into the English language. She entered into written correspondence with Jung and met with him personally when he came to the United States. Those who use the MBTI overlook the fact that Jung’s contribution to psychology, while appearing to be more inclusive than his master Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), whom he parted ways took the reductionistic trajectory of Freud to a new acme by psychologizing re-ligion itself. This misreading of Jung’s work within modern psychology and spirituality endures into the present: “The major exception was Jung: his idea of the collective unconscious was an opening into the spiritual dimensions of our existence.” Well intended individuals also hold this onto this problematic belief regarding Jung: “Carl Jung gave us a model of psychological transformation that is based upon the Western psyche.” We recall a most insightful reflection on the so-called ‘collective consciousness,’ existing in some way in or below the psychism of all human individuals, to which he [C.G. Jung] believed he could attribute the origin both of symbols themselves and of their pathological parodies indiscriminately. It goes without saying that this term ‘unconscious’ is altogether inappropriate, and that what it serves to designate, to the degree that it can be said to have any reality, comes from what psychologist call more commonly the ‘subconscious,’ that is, the totality of the inferior prolongations of consciousness.

One must question the utility of a psychological theory that begins and ends with a truncated outlook on what the human psyche and human individual is.

If Jung, one of the central architects of transpersonal psychology, who also influenced humanistic psychology including perhaps the whole of modern psychology, mistook and confused the domain of the Self—the nexus of the human individual—it then raises vital questions to the legitimacy of fourth “force” psychology. “I have chosen the term ‘self’ to designate the totality of man, the sum total of his conscious and unconscious contents. I have chosen this term in accordance with Eastern philosophy”. Jung makes a decisive error in conflating the Self with the ego: “The self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man.” And we can-not underestimate the import of the Self for—“the ‘Self’ represents one of the profoundest, potentially most integrative, insights that modern psychology has so far achieved.” However, the “Self” which modern psychology speaks of is not the Self or Ātmā that is known in the Hindu dharma. And yet when looked at in a historical context this deviation is not a recent error, but a long and complex process that has taken place since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment that has led up to the development of modern science and its byproduct modern psychology.

In light of the Enneagram of personality types and its system of codifying these traits, we might present a few of Jung’s comments and reflections on the import of developing the personality, the “ultimate aim and strongest desire of all mankind is to develop that fullness of life which is called personality.” While this remains rather vague, Jung reveals in more detail what he means by his notion of personality in the following:

The achievement of personality means nothing less than the optimum development of the whole individual human being…. Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of ex-istence coupled with greatest possible freedom for self-domination.

And then Jung paradoxically reframes this process and suggests that it is an impossible feat: “Personality, as the complete realization of our whole being, is an unattainable ideal.” In emphasizing the diversity of human individuals, which all sapiential traditions unanimously acknowledge and hold to be true, Jung appears to lose sight of Unity in diversity repudiating the vertical or transcendent dimension of human identity:

Through the study of all sorts of human types, I came to the conclusion that there must be as many different ways of viewing the world. The aspect of the world is not one, it is many—at least 16, and you can just as well say 360. You can increase the number of principles, but I found the most simple way is the way I told you, the division by four, the simple and natural division of a circle.

In reviewing these points we can see the general leveling of Spirit to accommodate a psychological or horizontal point of view on human identity. To what extent Jung’s work has influenced the Enneagram of personality types we do not know; nonetheless there is a shared psychological outlook between the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram of personality types.


It is regrettable that New Age proponents and others within contemporary spiritual and psychological circles exclusively endeavor to excavate their own Enneagram “type,” rather than realize that their personality at any moment could be any one of its nine “numbers.”

The quest of the Enneagram is to become a “Zero,” and this occurs when the empirical ego or false personality dissolves into the Supreme Identity.

It is spiritual practice as prescribed via a Divinely revealed tradition that liberates the Enneagram from the throes of the psychological domain. The higher in fact includes the lower and this is why only what transcends the human psyche can situate it in its rightful place. Bakhtiar informs readers that according to Sufism, the quintessence of the traditional Enneagram is the goal of becoming a Zero. The following is taken from a conversation between Bakhtiar and a revered representative of the Naqshbandi Sufi order: “One day Shaykh Hisham [b. 1945] said that he would tell me a secret about the Sufi Enneagram: The zero point in the center symbolizes the egoless person.” This is an important key to the mystery surrounding the traditional application of the Enneagram for it reveals that the traditional Enneagram is working on a transpersonal level and not trapped in the cul-du-sac of the empirical ego. For this reason we are in need of integral metaphysics and not what modern psychology haphazardly identifies metaphysics with: “‘Metaphysical’ has for us the psychological connotation ‘unconscious.’” Integral metaphysics informs us through gnosis or transcendent knowledge of the deeper implication of Zero: “Primordial unity is nothing other than Zero affirmed” or “Non-Being is metaphysical Zero”.

The quest of the human journey is to reintegrate into our primordial nature (fitrah), the “image of God” (imago Dei), Buddha-nature (Bud-dha-dhātu) or the Self (Ātmā), our true identity in divinis and this is what Zero denotes. As conveyed in the Tao Te Ching (XIX), “Realize thy Simple Self. Embrace thy Original Nature.”

It is the Zero at the center of the Enneagram that is most sought-after as it reconciles all polarities, transcending the horizontal domain of the psychological world: “At the central point, all oppositions inherent in more external points of view are transcended; all oppositions have disap-peared and are resolved in a perfect equilibrium.” Zero thus correlates to Being and Non-Being, in so far as Non-Being contains Being within it-self:

If we…define Being in the universal sense as the principle of manifestation, and at the same time as comprising in itself the totality of all the possibilities of manifestation, we must say that Being is not infinite because it does not coincide with total Possibility; and all the more so because Being, as the principle of manifestation, although it does indeed comprise all the possibilities of manifestation, does so only insofar as they are actually manifested. Outside of Being, therefore, are all the rest, that is all the possibilities of non-manifestation, as well as the possibilities of manifestation themselves insofar as they are in the un-manifested state; and included among these is Being itself, which cannot belong to manifestation since it is the principle thereof, and in consequence is itself unmanifested. For want of any other term, we are obliged to designate all that is thus out-side and beyond Being as ‘Non-Being’, but for us this negative term is in no way a synonym for ‘nothingness’


Bakhtiar informs us that in order to utilize the Enneagram in its traditional context it requires futuwwah or spiritual chivalry indicating continuous spiritual warfare upon the false identification with egoism. The prophet Muhammad refers to two different types of jihad or “holy war”. The one more commonly known yet no less misunderstood and abused is that of the “lesser holy war” (al-jihād al-asghar) which seeks to protect the lovers of God through social or military efforts. The second is the “greater holy war” (al-jihād al-akbar) which was considered to be the highest form of spiritual warfare, one that takes place on the battlefield of the seeker’s heart. The following illustrates the mystical dimension of warfare and its imperative to traveling the spiritual path:

During the return march to Medina after the victories of Mecca and Hunayn the Prophet said to some of his Companions: ‘We have returned from the Lesser Holy War to the Greater Holy War.’ And when one of them asked: ‘What is the Greater Holy War, O Messenger of God?’ he answered: ‘The war against the soul.’ The soul of fallen man is divided against itself. Of its lowest aspect the Koran says: Verily the soul commandeth unto evil. The better part of it, that is the conscience, is named the ever-upbraiding soul; and it is this which wages the Greater Holy War, with the help of the Spirit, against the lower soul.

Spiritual warfare can be found throughout the plenary traditions and is not limited to Islam. It is interesting to note that His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama of Tibet (b. 1935) stated in an “Interfaith Summit on Happiness: Understanding and Promoting Happiness in Today’s Society” held on October 17th – 18th, 2010 at Emory University that: “The whole Buddhist practice is but the practice of Jihād.” Gautama Buddha (563-483) himself confirms the following in the Dhammapada: “One may conquer in battle a thousand times a thousand men, yet he is the best of conquerors who conquers himself.”

Within Christianity it may be exemplified with: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is significant that since the earliest times spiritual warfare has been made use of as can be seen within the Shamanic or primordial religion of the First Peoples:

The sun dancer and the Sun Dance itself will bless all of the tribe and all creation through the inner, spiritual warfare…. The warrior fights an enemy who is on the outside; the sun dancer wages a war on an enemy within himself. Each of us must fight a continuing battle to keep to the spiritual values that represent our traditional heritage. If we fail to be continually alert in our prayers and our attitudes and to use good sense in all that we do, then we will fail in our interior war. In olden days, this interior warfare had the support of the whole tribe, and our life itself helped to guide us in our personal struggle. Nowadays, we must follow the Sun Dance way all the more carefully, be-cause it contains the key to our sacred warfare.

A central obstacle in embarking or travelling the spiritual path is adherence to “right action” or morality as the distinct traditions informs us. It has been declared, to pursue Moksha, the Supreme Identity or Spiritual Realization without the practice of morality is fruitless: “Mental passion pursuing intellectual intuition is like the wind which blows out the light of a candle.” For this reason, to understand the Enneagram or any sacred psychology is to engage in a spiritual practice. We turn to a quintessential spiritual method that is capable of being practiced by all and is no less an antidote to the modern and postmodern malaise:

Listen to what I am about to say to you and do not forget it, do not take it lightly or let it go unheeded. In the course of the past fifty-five years or so, I have said to many a brother: every single man has any number of needs, but in reality all men need only one thing, which is truly to practice the remembrance of God; if they have acquired that, they will not want for anything, whether they possess it or do not possess it…. Without fail, without fail, be constant in your remembrance of your Lord, as He ordained, and cling to your religion with all your strength; God will open the eyes of your intelligence and enlighten your inmost conscience. Shaykh ad-Darqāwī, Letters of a Sufi Master, trans. Titus Burckhardt (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998), pp. 76-77.

A peculiar fate today awaits all things of a sacred order, as they end up being a product of Western consumption and this is no less the case with the Enneagram. The nine pointed symbol has been usurped to the point where it has been disfigured and no longer resembles its original purpose. As elusive as the Enneagram is, its proponents for the most part have stopped asking the fundamental question as to its origins, yet without knowing this, the Enneagram remains perpetually veiled in mystery. What this indicates at the innermost core of the contemporary psyche is the massive spiritual hunger and all of the ways that it tries to satiate itself through all and everything but that which can cure this condition.

It is to Bakhtiar’s efforts alone that have led contemporaries back to the spiritual roots of the Enneagram or the Presence of God (wajh Allah), which reside beyond the codification of personality types and the psycho-logical order. In the efforts to clarify the traditional Enneagram with that of the modern Enneagram, it is imperative to emphasize that at its root is the confusion of levels. The modern Enneagram of personality types misses the mark with regard to the transcendent nature of Personality in divinis. In Bakhtiar’s commitment to traditional Sufism and the universality of the spiritual traditions, she has brought a tremendous gift to contemporary seekers, psychologists and therapists alike, as they now have the tools to discern the integral psychology and foremost integral spirituality underscoring the traditional Enneagram. It might take some time for those within this compromised milieu to fully comprehend Bakhtiar’s contribution, but her work will unquestionably serve those who seek answers to the deepest question of—“Who am I?”—as the spiritual path is the process of the Divine seeking the Divine as echoed in the words of the Prophet: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.”

The Sufi Enneagram Interview of Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar Ph.D.

While traditional psychology is a part of the religious tradition, it was most clearly expressed in the Greek philosophical tradition. There emphasis is on the four virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice and the vices being too much or too little of these virtues. As these virtues were expressed in the Islamic tradition, the self was described as a circle with a center point which creates the circle and without which there would be no circle. The circle is then described as being divided into three parts (brain, heart, gut) and the circumference as having too much or tool little of a virtue which causes an imbalance in the self. This gives 6 points (the line of the spirit or change moving through the 6 points).

It was when I got to the 13th century and the work of Nasir al-Din Tusi that the 6 points became 9. He was a Muslim Neo-Platonist and said that in addition to too much or too little of a virtue, which are quantitative descriptions, there can also be a complete lack of a quality of a virtue. This then was the Enneagram that Gurdjieff had described.

The center point represents zero for the Sufi, the one who has lost all ego-centricity, the person who is able to hold Wisdom (Reason), Temperance and Courage (the Passions) in moderation becoming a fair and Just person as long as someone else confirms that fairness and justice has ensued. For the Sufi this is the point at which the self is now ready to enter through the center, the zero point, leave the world of reason behind – being morally healed, being balanced – and enter the world of intuition. It is a great struggle (jihad al-akbar) to have attained balance in most situations (in the Sufi view none of us are perfect; only God is Perfect) and the reward is to be able to enter into the world of intuition with the assurance that one will not be tossed back out to the circumference if one has been relatively victorious in the greater struggle. Once through the center, one has to leave everything of the world of reason behind because as Rumi says, “To take reason into the world of intuition is like taking a lit candle (reason) into the noon day desert sun (intuition).” It is the world of direct experience and true knowledge (gnosis).

There are several very important differences with the Enneagram as it is being developed today. First of all, there is no reference to the center point in present day enneagram groups. Secondly, there is no way to heal and leave the circumference of the circle. It is like an eternal treadmill. Thirdly, by forming groups of 3s, 4s, 5s, etc. where people get together and discuss how they make decisions, etc. one is reinforcing the negative, the vices – so there is no way to spiritually grow. As long as I am attached to being a 3 or a 4 or a 5 or any of the numbers from 1 to 9, I will not heal; I will not grow; I will never enter the world of intuition because these numbers and my attachment to any one of them is but a veil which covers me from the Divine Source. There may be brief flashes of intuition and understanding of mysteries, but it is limited and I will continue to return to the circumference of the circle.

What do you mean by the phrases ‘moral healing’ and ‘spiritual chivalry’?

Dr. Bakhtiar: Moral healing is to become a balanced person, centered in fairness and justice by having one’s reason and passions held in moderation in all situations in which one finds one’s self. This concept is the basis for spiritual chivalry, Nasir al-Din Tusi being one of the major exponents of it through his book on ethics. Spiritual chivalry is the first stage of Sufism. It can be attained with or without a spiritual master while it is after this stage that one must have a spiritual master when one is ready to enter the world of intuition. God has provided us with all the equipment we need to become centered. It is our nurturing process which fails to give us the necessary motivation to pursue the greater struggle.