Why Catholics Should Avoid the Enneagram
The Enneagram is gaining popularity. It seems like everyone from celebrities to Instagram influencers are chatting about their whether they’re fours or fives, and how their Enneagram impacts their personal growth.
But before you take the test and find out your Enneagram type, let’s take a quick look at the origins of this personality assessment and whether you should interact with it as a Catholic single.
Just what is the Enneagram?
The Enneagram is a popular system of personality types. The personality assessments lives up to its name. “Ennea” means “nine” in Greek, and “gram” means “line drawing.” The enneagram is a circle with nine points. Inside the circle, two shapes connect the nine points.
The enneagram categorizes people into nine different types. These include:
- Type 1: The Reformer is a rational, idealistic type who is purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic
- Type 2: The Helper is a caring, interpersonal type who is demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive
- Type 3: The Achiever is a success orientated, pragmatic type who is adaptive, excelling, driven, and image conscious
- Type 4: The Individualist is a sensitive, withdrawn type who is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental
- Type 5: The Investigator is an intense, cerebral type who is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated
- Type 6: The Loyalist is a committed, security oriented type who is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious
- Type 7: The Enthusiast is a busy, fun loving type who is spontaneous, versatile, distracted, and scattered
- Type 8: The Challenger is a powerful, dominating type who is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational
- Type 9: The Peacemaker is an easygoing, self-effacing type who is receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent
According to The Narrative Enneagram, each type has a different pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting that arises from their worldview.
Where did the Enneagram come from?
Some contribute the Enneagram to the Kabbalists, Sufi mystics, Pythagoreans, Chaldeans, or a number of other ancient groups.
However, the first time the Enneagram was found in writing was in the work of P.D. Ouspensky, who was a Russian occultist. He attributed the Enneagram to the writings of his teacher, Georges Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff argued that the Enneagram was a symbol of the cosmos.
However, the Enneagram wasn’t connected to personality theory until Oscar Ichazo came along. Ichazo claimed to discover the personality type while in some kind of ecstatic state or trance under the influence of some spirit or angelic being.
Ichazo’s student, Claudio Naranjo connected the nine points of the Enneagram to nine different personality types. Naranjo spread the Enneagram to different Catholic communities. Some prominent Catholics who promoted (or continue to promote) the Enneagram include Jesuit Don Riso, Franciscan friar Richard Rohr, and Benedictine sister Suzanne Zuercher.
Why should Catholics be wary of the enneagram?
There’s nothing wrong with taking a personality test or two. After all, it’s fun to learn about your personality. So what’s wrong with the Enneagram?
“The problem with enneagram theories is that they tend to depart from the field of basic personality study and veer into spirituality,” explains Father Charles Grondin. “These theories are often presented as a path towards enlightenment and ‘higher states of being.’ It is incompatible with Catholicism because these spiritual ‘insights’ are derived from esoteric and non-Christian belief systems.”
In 2003, the Vatican pointed out the conflicts between the Catholic faith and the enneagram.
“Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian,” Christian Reflection on the New ages reads.
“An example of this can be seen in the enneagram, the nine-type tool for character analysis, which when used as a means of spiritual growth introduces an ambiguity in the doctrine and the life of the Christian faith,” the document explains.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine also issued a statement critiquing the Enneagram personality test.
“Those who are looking for an aid for personal and psychological development should be aware that enneagram teaching lacks a scientific foundation for its assertion and that the enneagram is of questionable value as a scientific tool for the understanding of human psychology. Moreover, Christians who are looking for an aid for spiritual growth should be aware that the enneagram has its origins in a non-Christian worldview and remains connected to a complex of philosophical and religious ideas that do not accord with Christian belief,” their statement read.
In fact, Pope Francis recognizes that “it can be misused and lead to excessive introspection if not deployed within a solid spiritual framework” (Austen Ivereigh), and Pope St John Paul II stated that it is in “conflict with all that is essentially Christian.”
Some alternatives to discover your personality type
Wanting to know more about your personality isn’t a bad desire at all. It’s great to get to know yourself better, and understanding personality types and how they interact might help you understand your attractions better, too!
Our personality plays an essential role in how we see the world and feel attracted to certain people. Knowing about and understanding our personality type are definitely important factors for self-development. By being aware of our strengths and recognizing those personality traits that we need to work on, we can improve our interpersonal relationships.
If you want to discover more about personality psychology, and find some wholesome alternatives to the enneagram, check our our definitive guide to personality types! But most importantly, don’t forget that your true identity is found in the fact that you’re a beloved daughter or son of God. He calls you beloved, regardless of what personality test you take!
Chloe Langr is a very short stay-at-home-wife, whose growth has probably been stunted by the inhumane amounts of coffee she regularly consumes. When she is not buried in a growing stack of books, she can be found spending time with her husband, geeking out over Theology of the Body, or podcasting. You can find more about her on her blog "Old Fashioned Girl."