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The Enneagram: recipe for apostasy?

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 Contents - Dec 1999AD2000 December 1999 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Christianity: a new millennium's challenges - Michael Gilchrist
Stress Christianity's uniqueness says Pope - Father Bernardo Cerveller
News: The Church Around the World
Church art and architecture: 'sacramental role' is central - Msgr M. Francis Mannion
Catholic Church Life Survey's shock findings - AD2000 Report
The Enneagram: recipe for apostasy? - Rick Kephart
'Woman and Man' document poses challenges - Frank Mobbs
The Holy City: recent impressions of old and new Jerusalem - Desmond Piggin
History: The Crusades: separating myth from reality - Zenit News Service
On the Highway to Heaven: Wagga priest's trucking apostolate - Fr Thomas Casanova
Reflection: Christmas: John Paul II's thoughts on the eve of the Jubilee - Pope John Paul II

A recent edition of Melbourne's 'Sunday Herald-Sun' magazine included an article on what it described as "a new psychological tool" - the Enneagram System. In fact, the Enneagram has been doing the rounds of Catholic dioceses and parishes in Australia since the 1970s. However, as the following article explains, the Enneagram is difficult to reconcile with Christianity and therefore of doubtful benefit to Catholics.

The author is an American Catholic writer who provides programs for home-schooling students on the Internet.

The Enneagram was adapted from the beliefs of a Muslim sect, known as the Sufis, though not made up by the Sufis themselves. It was first introduced to the West by a Russian, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, who sought to use it to foretell the future, and it later gained acceptance among some Catholics. The Enneagram as we have it now was adapted to modern psychology by a Chilean psychologist in the 1970s.

Sufis believe they possess certain supernatural powers (akin to witchcraft) to be used for the sake of the "design", defined as God's plan for mankind, the direction God wishes human evolution to take. Only the Sufi masters are said to be privy to this secret design; the Sufis being Gnostics in the sense they believe in esoteric knowledge. They believe they must safeguard this hidden design or pattern; whenever human beings anywhere in the world do something which harms the design, they must use their supernatural powers to put things right.

There is also a vague connection between the Sufis and Freemasonry, because of the similarity of symbolism used by a 9th century Sufi, Dhul Nun, who was associated with the Order of the Bannayin (Builders), and modern Masonic symbolism.

The Sufis believe the "design" (naqsh) is hidden underneath appearances, which are false. They must see through outward appearances to find the truth, the reality, under them, where the design can be found. This especially includes looking beneath their own appearances. They must come to know their "real selves" and only then they can know "reality". To know reality, and then act on it, is the ultimate goal of the Sufi religion.

The Enneagram (from the Greek word ennea for nine) is a system of assigning a number from 1 to 9 to oneself and every human being. This number is said to reveal the hidden motivation for everything a person does. Intelligence is given three "centres": thought, emotion, and instinct. Mainly because of the environment, the three centres are always imbalanced. The result of this imbalance is that a person's "true self" is always hidden beneath a "false self". The Enneagram is supposed to enable a person to gain knowledge of his true self.

Discovering one's "true self" and the real motives for everything one does, concealed as the Sufis believe they are beneath false appearances, is vital to the Sufi religion; it is not part of Christianity. On the other hand, goodness and holiness, to know, love, and serve God on Earth and be happy with Him forever in Heaven, are the proper goals of the Christian, and these are not goals for the Sufi. If evil must be done for the sake of the design, that is not a problem for them. They believe the end always justifies the means: it makes no difference at all whether human evolution is set right through good or through evil actions.

New definitions

In promoting the Enneagram, an effort is made to take Sufi objectives, their kind of self-knowledge and knowledge of others, for the sake of promoting Christian objectives. But it is the opposite that happens: Christian goals are used for the sake of promoting the aims of the Sufi religion.

Catholics using the Enneagram talk about things like saints and sin and faith and "fruits of the spirit". Using these words makes it sound legitimate. But they are only adapting these terms to the Enneagram, by giving them different definitions.

The word "saint" is used in the Sufi religion, but can have an entirely different meaning. It has nothing whatever to do with holiness. A Sufi "saint" (wali) is a person who is illuminated to reality. This is the word used in the Enneagram (even by Catholics): a "saint" is a person who overcomes his false self and knows and acts according to his true self.

The word "sin" is used a lot, but with a new definition. Sin is not a deliberate transgression of God's law. The word is redefined into personality traits that separate people from God or their real selves. Sin is the sinister motivation everybody has for everything they do, a part of human personality. It must be accepted and brought under control. The number assigned to a person by the Enneagram indicates what his/her one "root sin" is and will always be.

"Original Sin" has nothing to do with Adam and Eve. Their "Original Sin" is a psychological condition, meaning that a person is never at any time in his life undamaged or free, but is always exposed to harmful forces. It describes the conditions in the environment which cause the imbalance among the three intelligence centres.

"Prayer" is talked about as part of the Enneagram, but its definition of prayer has nothing to do with God: prayer is absorbing elements from the environment into oneself, or projecting oneself into the environment, or delving into nothingness. "Redemption" in the Enneagram has nothing whatever to do with Christ. It is the same as maturity, which is what they call freedom from one's "false self" to one's "true self". This true self is also called the "soul", another redefined word. Even "Heaven" is given a new definition: it is only a symbol for the perfection of freedom from one's false self to one's true self.

Taking these and other words from our religion and changing their meanings can give things - even an entirely different religion - the outward appearance of being Catholic.

Some people are satisfied that something is good just because they hear a Christian vocabulary being used. That makes the slip into apostasy very gentle and painless.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 12 No 11 (December 1999 - January 2000), p. 8

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