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  • Writer's pictureJanean Tinsley

The Enneagram: Sacred or Sacrilege?

I hate being wrong. Admit it, you do, too. Being wrong just feels like an injury somehow. And the worst part of being wrong is having to admit being wrong. Ugh! As hard as it is, I can admit it. I was wrong.

Many of you are familiar with the enneagram. I have even written about it in my blogs. I have used it for clients in counseling as they struggled to find their identity. I have read many books about it and have listened to a number of podcasts on the subject. I really believed in the process. And then God opened my eyes this week to just how wrong I have been about this spiritually dangerous idea.

Before I get into they “why”, let me explain how I came to be an enneagram proponent. Four years ago, I began my ordination residency program in the United Methodist Church. As residents, we were required to read a number of different books. One was Richard Rohr’s Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. I had never heard of the enneagram at that time so I didn’t think too much of it until I started reading it. In all transparency, I remember thinking how something didn’t feel right about the enneagram. But I chalked that up to the fact that I despise labels. I thought it was just another label for people to place upon themselves that would take the place of their true identity in Christ. But the more I read, the more intrigued I became. In the residency program, we used our enneagram number to develop our relationships and understand who we were. Between that and the Myers-Briggs personality test we also had to undergo, I was nothing more than four letters and a number.

At that time, it didn’t occur to me that the church could be pushing something that was dangerous. At least not in this case. The history that Rohr gave was innocent. It’s just a personality test. And besides, it was Richard Rohr (I later came to understand that Rohr does not believe in basic Christian principles, therefore, he cannot give a Christian perspective). As time went on, more and more people began talking about the enneagram – people that I know are deeply devoted to God. I became completely at ease with it and even recommended it. About three weeks ago, while conversing with another apologist, the seeds of doubt were once again planted within my soul. This person was adamantly condemning the enneagram. She was so forceful and so convincing that the conversation left me convicted to research it in depth. Lord, have mercy, I just didn’t know!

The history of the enneagram is not based on Christian principles at all. It actually comes from the occult despite what Rohr and others have to say. Pioneered by mystic George Gurdjieff, he claimed the original enneagram was given to him by secret groups. His belief was that human beings are unable to see a true reality without “an awakening of consciousness.” (Montenegro, 2011)

Gurdjieff also taught that everyone has an essence, which is the “material of which the universe is made. Essence is divine– the particle of god in our subconscious called Conscience.” (Mitch Pacwa, online) This doctrine of essence, which has continued as a primary part of the enneagram, is clearly pantheism (the belief that everything is god). Remember, as Christians we believe we are creations of God, not divine beings equal to God.

Gurdjieff’s students took the enneagram and ran with it. Oscar Ichazo altered the enneagram a bit claiming that he had “received instructions from a higher entity called Metatron” and was guided by an interior master. The enneagram was embraced by the occult and new age movements because it’s original teachers believed and taught that this was a gnostic path to one’s own self.

In the early 1990s, Richard Rohr wrote his book about the enneagram. Ironically, when the book first came out it was called Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey. Rohr actually stated in the preface of his original version that the enneagram “was not originally Christian”. But Rohr changed his title to lull unsuspecting Christians into believing that this New Age, occult practice would bring people into a deeper presence with God. Rohr’s popularity catapulted the enneagram into the progressive church and, unfortunately, unsuspecting orthodox churches as well. And although Rohr claims his book is written from a Christian perspective, he teaches doctrines that directly oppose Jesus Christ and the scriptures. “One needs to know that Rohr denies the biblical doctrines on man, sin, creation, salvation, and God. Richard Rohr also teaches a false Jesus/Christ. Rohr makes a distinction between Jesus and Christ by saying Jesus was not the ‘Universal Christ,’ who is ‘bigger’ than Jesus.” (Veinot, et al., p. 26)

You may be thinking, “I still don’t see why the enneagram is so bad.” I thought that too when I first began hearing about the dark beginnings of the practice. You must understand the true nature of its purpose – to have a spiritual awakening of oneself. And not just in the broad sense of the word. The purpose is to see oneself and Self (with a capital S). In other words, the enneagram attempts to open your mind to the idea that you are divine. You are holy. You are the center of your world. The creators of the enneagram believed that most people are “asleep” and need to be “awakened” to a greater sense of self which enables them to find the real person in the midst of the various egos they have.

“This ‘Fourth Way,’ as it is called, is the path of self-transformation. Seekers are encouraged to begin each morning concentrating on putting the ‘self’ into each part of their bodies. … The purpose of such exercises is to shatter the illusion that reactions and intentions are a choice of free will. The next goal is obtaining ‘objective consciousness,’ by which a person finally discovers their true self. Human effort thus enables us to ‘save’ his own soul.” (Veinot, et al., p. 62)

That should be enough to stop any true Christian from ever approaching the enneagram again. The very idea that we can save our own soul is beyond frightening. It removes Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made on our behalf for our eternal redemption. It also removes the Holy Spirit as our only counsel. And that is a grave sin because they are discrediting the very nature of our triune God. “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:29)

You may still be saying you don’t think it’s that bad. Well, let me offer you this illustration. In Genesis, we are introduced to the world in the form of a perfect man or perfect woman. They live in a perfect garden with all they could ever want. Joy surrounds them and God is pleased. Unfortunately for Adam and Eve, the serpent is not pleased at all. He seeks to destroy their relationship with one another and ultimately with God. And he does so by one simple way — he tells them, “You should be as God.” (Genesis 3:5) Y’all, herein lies this problem. When we seek any way other than through God to have fulfillment, we are breaking the first Commandment. We are denying God implicitly without doing so explicitly.

“Employing the cunning of the serpent in the garden, {the false teacher} may subtly suggest a slight alteration to ‘what God said’ that doesn’t unduly upset his or her target audience … until they have separated from God … and they don’t even realize it. But little by little, brick-by-brick, the false teacher turns the truth of God upside down.” (Veinot, et al., p. 33)

Friends, the enneagram and teachers like Richard Rohr encourage you to put yourself above all else — including God Almighty. You are encouraged to find meaning within yourself, putting yourself as the center of your sphere. And equally alarming, you are then taught that any sin in your life is merely the result of your true Self and therefore entirely out of your control. Rohr said, “Christ is another word for everything.” (Rohr, online) Christ is NOT another word for everything. We are not holy. We are sinners. And the only hope we have is found, not within our self but in God. Our salvation came the moment Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, defeated death.

So, for every person I have previously influenced regarding the use of the enneagram, I am deeply sorry. I seek your forgiveness and, through His unfailing grace, I am grateful for God’s forgiveness, as well. As a therapist, I do believe it’s important to know what makes a person tick. I do believe we have unique personality traits that drive our thoughts and actions. But I also believe that Jesus Christ is our hope. While diagrams, charts, stars, and cards might seem like an easy avenue to answers, there is a price to be paid when doing so. Thank God, for second chances and unfailing grace!


Montenegro, Marcia. “The Enneagram GPS: The Gnostic Path to Self.” Christian Answers for a New Age (March 2011), posted online. (Accessed October 3, 2020)

Mitch Pacwa, SJ. “Tell Me Who I am, O Enneagram.” CRI Journal (Fall 1991), posted online June 9, 2009. (Accessed October 5, 2020)

Rohr, Richard and Andreas Ebert (trans. Peter Heinegg). Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing) 1992.

Veinot, Don; Joy Veinot; and Marcia Montenegro. Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret. (Wonder Lake, IL: MCOI Publishing LLC) 2020.

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