Enneagram Contributions

While the ideas that inspired the creation of the modern Enneagram are ancient, going back at least as far as classical Greek philosophy, most of the material currently being taught about it, including the psychology of the nine Enneagram types, is the work of contemporary authors. For this reason, the Enneagram is not a set of laws etched in stone, but a work-in-progress. While there are many fundamental ideas that most Enneagram authors and teachers share, there are also significant differences. Sometimes these are of emphasis as many teachers have attempted to carve out their own particular niche in the field by having a “specialty” of some kind. At other times, the differences reflect diverse theories about the types themselves, or underlying philosophical biases.

As a result, there is no such thing as “the Enneagram”: the field is not unified, and there are a number of different approaches that have sprung up around the world. Thus, a great deal of confusion exists concerning the contributions made by different authors and teachers. Misconceptions about this have been somewhat understandable since the Enneagram was originally disseminated in the seventies by enthusiasts passing around photocopied notes from the Arica and Jesuit traditions. These notes were usually not attributed to anyone, and so it was extremely difficult to know who had authored them. As books began to be published, some clarity began to emerge, but even so, many assumed that everything about the Enneagram belonged to an ancient “oral tradition” from the Sufis and was therefore in the public domain. They believed that no one had done any original work in the field.

This is certainly not the case, and as the Enneagram becomes better known, it is all the more necessary to have a clearer idea of the origins of the various interpretations now in circulation. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for an independent, critical history of the Enneagram to be written for all of the claims and counterclaims to be adequately sorted out. Until someone undertakes to produce such a book, Enneagram writers have an obligation to inform their readers about which tradition they are working in, where they have obtained their material, how they have developed it, and what contributions they themselves have made.

While we do not intend to be all-inclusive here, we want to at least mention something about the modern development of the system, list our own contributions, and name a few of the other key contributors and theorists. For more information about the historical development, please see The Traditional Enneagram.

The first major figure in the Enneagram’s modern development is George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (c. 1872-1949). Gurdjieff was instrumental in bringing the Enneagram symbol to the awareness of modern people. Gurdjieff, and his best-known student, P. D. Ouspensky, taught a great deal about the Enneagram as a system for understanding cosmological processes, but they did not teach anything about the  Enneagram of types, or fixations. (For more on the origins and early history of the Enneagram, see the Revised Edition of Personality Types, 11-26, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 19-25.) Many of the philosophical ideas underlying the modern Enneagram, including the Centers and the Instincts, Essence and Personality, and the notion of self-observation, among many others, derive from Gurdjieff’s teachings.

There is little doubt that the father of the modern Enneagram of types is Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo’s contributions were central to the development of the system that most modern teachers of the Enneagram use. Ichazo was evidently the first to relate the nine divine qualities or aspects (found in Neoplatonism, Kabbalah, mystical Christianity, and other sources) to the Enneagram symbol. (See the above cited references as well as the Revised Edition of Understanding the Enneagram, 31-65.) Ichazo created separate Enneagrams for the Passions, the Fixations, the Virtues, and the Holy Ideas, among others. He also contributed the theory of the arrows, the theory of the wings, and related ideas about the three Instincts and the three Centers to the Enneagram. In one way or another, all modern Enneagram authors have built their work on Ichazo’s seminal insights.

The next important contributor to the modern Enneagram is Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo, who had been a student of Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, learned the Enneagram from Ichazo during an intensive self-realization program Ichazo offered in Arica, Chile in 1970. He returned from Chile that year and began teaching the basic ideas of the system to a small group in California. Naranjo used his background in psychiatry to further elaborate the alignment between the nine types described by Ichazo and other psychological categories he had learned, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) personality disorders, various defense mechanisms, and other personality theories. He developed additional ideas about the arrows, and presented further names and brief descriptions for the 27 combinations of Enneagram types and Instincts (“subtypes”). Naranjo was also the first to employ panels of exemplars as a way of demonstrating the validity of the Enneagram types to students.

Despite the major seminal discoveries and contributions of Ichazo and Naranjo, the Enneagram remained in a somewhat ambiguous state in the early 1970s. One reason for this was that, after a short time, Ichazo and Naranjo broke off relations. Nonetheless, Naranjo evidently received permission from Ichazo to teach the Enneagram to his own students. With the exception of A.H. Almaas and his student Sandra Maitri, a new Enneagram author, no major Enneagram teacher has ever been a student of either Ichazo or Naranjo. All major Enneagram teachers have brought their backgrounds and expertise to the Enneagram and all have developed the system in different ways. But none can claim a “transmission” directly either from Ichazo or Naranjo.

However, someone who did study with Naranjo was the Jesuit priest Robert Ochs who transmitted some of Naranjo’s interpretation to other Jesuit priests and seminarians around North America. They in turn made use of it for spiritual counseling and added their insights to the steadily growing and constantly changing core of material. The “Jesuit tradition” is thus an offshoot of Naranjo’s teaching, and both are offshoots of the original “Arica tradition” although they are both somewhat different from it.

Don Riso encountered the Jesuit tradition of the Enneagram in Toronto in 1973 as a Jesuit seminarian. The publicly available material then consisted of nine one-page impressionistic descriptions of the personality types along with several pages of Enneagrams labeled with the names of the ego Fixations, the Passions, the Virtues, the Traps, and other material that had been transmitted more or less intact from the Arica tradition. The Jesuit tradition had also added a number of ideas of its own, some of which made sense-some of which did not. Thus, even in the early seventies, confusion was setting in (and more was to follow) as claims began to be made about what constituted the “authentic teaching.”

Rather than concern himself with questions of pedigree, Don decided to focus on clarifying and developing the materials he had received. He took nothing for granted and nothing “on faith,” feeling that if something did not make sense or did not correspond to real people in the real world, it should not be retained. He also felt that important elements for a full psychological account of the types were missing, such as a description of the healthy side of each type.

On September 2, 1975, he began full-time work on the Enneagram, interpreting the Jesuit tradition in the light of Freud, Jung, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and other modern psychologists. He has been working full-time to develop and expand the system ever since. Within two years, he had made much progress, including the crucial discovery of the Levels of Development.

Don recalls: “In the end, my ignorance of what was possible protected me from feeling the full impact of what I had undertaken until I was a few years into my work and realized how vast the task was. But by then I had committed myself to the project and had made several discoveries that allowed me to add fresh material and organize it in a new way. For instance, it is likely that, if I had not discovered the Levels of Development in July,1977, it would have been impossible for me to carry on. But once I had made it, the discovery carried me forward. I am grateful that it did.” (Discovering Your Personality Type, 113)

Don continued to work on clarifying and expanding the descriptions of the types-and the system as a whole-for the next 12 years from 1975 until the publication of Personality Types in 1987. This book was the second Enneagram book to be published (the first was The Enneagram by Beesing, O’Leary, and Nogosek). The modern Enneagram as it is currently known around the world would not have been possible without Don’s contributions to the field.

Many other authors have used his work either as a primary source or as a model for their own work. Don helped to bring the Enneagram out of the secrecy of the Arica tradition, he furthered Naranjo’s psychological investigations, and with Russ Hudson, reemphasized the importance of the spiritual context of the Enneagram. He also established the use of detailed descriptions and testable formulations thereby helping to take the Enneagram out of the realm of simple self-reportage and into the realm of psychology and objective science. Among his contributions to the modern Enneagram are:

  1. The complete systematic description of each of the nine personality types. Don clarified and elaborated on the impressionistic sketches from the Jesuit tradition to create detailed descriptions of approximately 10,000 words for each type found in the original edition of Personality Types (1987). (There are longer versions in the revised edition of Personality Types, published in 1996.) These also include his short profiles and descriptions now widely in circulation which are often taken as basic Enneagram material.
  2. The discovery of the nine Levels of Development within each personality type, and how they are structured into healthy, average, and unhealthy areas of functioning. The Levels of Development are an important contribution not only to the Enneagram but to the study of personality. Serious work or applications of the system (such as designing an Enneagram questionnaire or using the Enneagram for therapy or business applications) are of limited effectiveness without taking the Levels into account. Don also worked out the internal symmetries between the Levels, and gave the 81 descriptive titles to each Level (“The Inspired Creator,” “The Self-Aware Intuitive,” etc. for personality type Four, and so forth, for all the types).
  3. The elucidation of the full range of traits for each type, adding hundreds of observations per type to the existing sketches in the Jesuit material. Of special note, Don discovered and described the healthy aspects of each type, thus overcoming one of the main criticisms of the early interpretations, namely, that they were too negative. At Level 1 for each type, he worked out the highest psychological qualities for the types which were subsequently refined by Russ Hudson (below).
  4. Specifying the Basic Fear and the Basic Desire, the twin foundations of each type’s motivations. He demonstrated how the behaviors for each type grow out of the underlying motivations at each Level. Don also worked out how the effects of these primary motivations continue to be felt in the subsequent secondary motivations (fears and desires) at each Level of Development for each type.
  5. The explanation of the Direction of Integration and Direction of Disintegration for each type, thus clarifying the dynamic, predictive quality to the Enneagram. He sorted out the relationships between the types connected by the arrows by finding the precise language to describe these movements for the first time.
  6. Numerous additions to the terminology used to describe the types (“Directions of Integration and Disintegration,” “basic type,” “primary” and “secondary” types, “characteristic temptation,” “saving grace,” “missing piece,” and much other terminology now in circulation). Similarly, he produced positive descriptive names for the types as a whole that would be easier for people to recognize rather than retain Ichazo’s names for each fixation. For example, Don named type One The Reformer instead of Ichazo’s Ego-Resentment, The Helper for the Two instead of Ego-Flattery, The Peacemaker for the Nine instead of Ego-Indolence, and so forth.
  7. The wings of each type. Don was the first to work out the descriptions of and rationale for the wings of each type, including the irregular relationship of the wing(s) to the basic type (that is, that some are in conflict with the basic type while others reinforce the basic type). Also, he accounted for the dynamics of the wings—how they integrate and evolve, as does the basic personality type.
  8. The invention of the Psychic Structure models for each type. The Psychic Structures are visual models that illuminate the psychological activities that occur at each Level of Development for each type. Riso-Hudson students have commonly reported that the Psychic Structures are extraordinarily helpful for clarifying what is going on in each type and why. The Psychic Structures are also extremely helpful for those who learn visually.
  9. The full list of defense mechanisms associated with each personality type, building on and elaborating Naranjo’s initial observations. The large number of defense mechanisms found in psychoanalytic psychology can be organized and clarified by using the Levels of Development. This material has been published in the revised, second edition of Understanding the Enneagram (2000), although much of Don’s work on the defense mechanisms has yet to be published.
  10. Building on the work of Naranjo, Don went into greater detail about how the personality types of the Enneagram (properly delineated) correspond with the psychiatric personality disorders as well as other classification systems (Freud, Jung, Horney, Fromm, the DSM-III(R) and DSM-IV, as well as the Myers-Briggs typology.

Don’s work on the Enneagram continues, and his contributions have been further refined and clarified in his collaboration with Russ Hudson.

Russ Hudson had been working in the Gurdjieff tradition for a number of years and had completed a degree in East Asian Studies from Columbia University when he met Don in 1988 after reading Personality Types. They had numerous discussions about Enneagram theory in relation to spiritual practice that ultimately led to Russ joining The Enneagram Institute in 1991. Russ was already a member of the Gurdjieff Foundation for 11 years when Don also joined in 1990. They are the only major Enneagram teachers who have actually been members of the Gurdjieff Work as well as of the Ridhwan School (Diamond Heart Approach) of A. H. Almaas. Since joining The Enneagram Institute, Russ has contributed a number of significant ideas to the body of Enneagram theory, developed its relevance to Inner Work, and deepened and clarified much of the work that Don Riso had begun.

  1. As a member of the Gurdjieff Work for 14 years, Russ was in a unique position to see the similarities and differences between this approach to human nature and that of Ichazo’s Enneagram. Since 1991, Russ has made important connections between the Enneagram of type and traditional Gurdjieffian ideas, including developing and clarifying distinctions between the three Centers as manifestations of Essence and the personality-driven manifestations of them. Russ brought many ideas about how spiritual practices could be potentiated by the Enneagram.
  2. In a related area, Russ did extensive original work on understanding the “Imbalances of the Centers” for each type which is the foundation for why the Enneagram produces nine distinct personality types. He also invented a new notation for talking about them, and developed practices using specific knowledge about the types to help individuals come to Presence. These contributions made explicit how the Enneagram as a system has relevance to Inner Work and personal transformation.
  3. Russ researched, described, and developed a coherent understanding of the three Instincts (self-preservation, sexual, and social), building on the seminal ideas of Ichazo and Naranjo. He has written extensive descriptions of the Instincts as well as of the 27 combinations of Enneagram type and Instinct-dubbing the combinations the “Instinctual Variants.” For example, Russ’s names for the three Instincts for type Two are “Entitlement” (self-preservation), “Craving Intimacy” (sexual), and “Everybody’s Friend” (social).
  4. Russ did extensive work to refine Don’s Levels of Development and the Psychic Structures, discovering new dimensions and implications of these psychodynamic models. For example, he delineated the specific movement in the Direction of Disintegration for the type at each Level as given in the Revised Edition of Personality Types. He also clarified the logic of the Psychic Structure models, making them consistent within themselves and across type. Russ was instrumental in developing the logic of how the Psychic Structures shifted from one state to another. He recognized that the superego was the critical factor in the growth or deterioration of each type.
  5. Russ has developed the idea of the “Marching Orders” or “superego messages” for each type, a point which was crucial for understanding the dynamics of the Psychic Structures (above). Russ also built on Don’s theories of the “Childhood Origins,” looking at the developmental patterns of each type in the light of object relations theory and of Margaret Mahler’s theories of ego development.
  6. Using the Levels of Development as a conceptual yardstick, Russ worked with Don to construct and test the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) from its origin to its current Version 2.5. He led the ongoing refinement of the RHETI over a period of three years when this test was in its early stages of development. (The RHETI is the most popular Enneagram based test, selling 1000s of copies and available in many other languages.) Foreign language translations are available in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Chinese, and Korean.) Russ also helped develop the QUEST-TAS questionnaire that employed two new formats for Enneagram personality type testing.
  7. Russ has introduced a much more specific and complete understanding of the different overall themes of the three Centers of the Enneagram. For instance, he pointed out the central importance of “autonomy” and “resistance” issues for the types of Instinctual Triad, as well as “identity” and “self-worth” issues for the types of the Feeling Triad, and so forth. He has also uncovered many other related issues for each Triad, as published in The Wisdom of the Enneagram and as taught more extensively in Riso-Hudson Workshops and Trainings.
  8. Russ discovered the rationale for Don’s Harmonic Groups, explaining how these types are alike and uncovering the issues that relate them. This work has proved to be important for understanding the dynamics of relationships between Enneagram types.
  9. Russ has taken a special interest in developing the spiritual context of the Enneagram not only regarding the Gurdjieff Work but also in regard to the Diamond Heart Approach (the work of A. H. Almaas). He has been one of the most significant contributors to showing the relevance of the Enneagram to Buddhist, Kabbalistic, and Fourth Way schools. He is also responsible for the most complete history of the development of the Enneagram to date.

There have also been a number of other significant contributors to the modern Enneagram. They include A.H. Almaas, Rene Baron, Maria Beesing, Tom Condon, David Daniels, Theodorre Donson, Kathy Hurley, Margaret Frings Keyes, Sandra Maitri, Robert Nogosek, Patrick O’Leary, Helen Palmer, Richard Rohr, Clarence Thompson, Elisabeth Wagele, and Jerry Wagner. This listing is not complete—new contributions are continually being made—but these are among the most important people who have shaped the field.

Beyond these authors, many people, including a large number of our students, continue to develop applications of the Enneagram in psychotherapy, business, the arts, education, coaching, and counseling. The Enneagram is still in its early stages of development, so it is likely that we will see many innovations and applications in the coming years.