The Traditional Enneagram

Click here for The Stages of the Work


The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions, but the person who originally put the system together was Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo was born in Bolivia and raised there and in Peru, but as a young man, moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to learn from a school of inner work he had encountered. Thereafter, he journeyed in Asia gathering other knowledge before returning to South America to begin putting together a systematic approach to all he had learned.

After many years of developing his ideas, he created the Arica School as a vehicle for transmitting the knowledge that he had received, teaching in Chile in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, before moving to the United States where he still resides. In 1970, When Ichazo was still living in South America, a group of Americans, including noted psychologists and writers Claudio Naranjo and John Lilly, went to Arica, Chile to study with Ichazo and to experience firsthand the methods for attaining self-realization that he had developed.

This group spent several weeks with Ichazo, learning the basics of his system and engaged in the practices he taught them. The Arica school, like any serious system of inner work, is a vast, interwoven, and sometimes complex body of teachings on psychology, cosmology, metaphysics, spirituality, and so forth, combined with various practices to bring about transformations of human consciousness. (The authors are not affiliated with this school, and therefore cannot describe it with any justice, but those seeking to learn more about it can do so through Arica publications1).

Among the highlights for many of the participants was a system of teachings based on the ancient symbol of the Enneagram. The Enneagram symbol has roots in antiquity and can be traced back at least as far as the works of Pythagoras. 2 The symbol was reintroduced to the modern world by George Gurdjieff, the founder of a highly influential inner work school. Gurdjieff taught the symbol primarily through a series of sacred dances or movements, designed to give the participant a direct, felt sense of the meaning of symbol and the processes it represents. What Gurdjieff clearly did not teach was a system of types associated with the symbol. Gurdjieff did reveal to advanced students what he called their chief feature. The chief feature is the lynchpin of a person’s ego structure—the basic characteristic that defines them. Gurdjieff generally used colorful language to describe a person’s chief feature, often using the Sufi tradition of telling the person what kind of idiot they were. People could be round idiots, square idiots, subjective hopeless idiots, squirming idiots, and so forth. But Gurdjieff never taught anything about a system of understanding character related to the Enneagram symbol.

For these and other reasons, many early Enneagram enthusiasts have mistakenly attributed the system of the nine types to Gurdjieff or to the Sufis because of Gurdjieff’s use of some Sufi techniques. This has led to the widespread and erroneous belief that the Enneagram system has been handed down from the Sufis or from some other ancient school as an ongoing “oral tradition.” While it is true that Ichazo drew on his knowledge of a number of such traditions, the actual combination of those traditions connected with the Enneagram symbol is purely his creation. Thus, the “Traditional Enneagram” only goes back to the 1960’s when Ichazo was first teaching it, although the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists)—all traditions that stretch back into antiquity.

In Personality Types (11-26), we offered a more extensive history of the system, but here, we want to look at the basics of the Enneagram system developed by Ichazo. 3 For more information about the contributions and development of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, click here.

Ichazo actually taught Aricans a system of 108 Enneagrams (or “Enneagons,” in his terminology), but the Enneagram movement in America has been based on the first few, and primarily on four of them. These are called the Enneagram of the Passions, the Enneagram of the Virtues, the Enneagram of the Fixations, the Enneagram of the Holy Ideas.

To grasp the significance of these diagrams and the relationship between them, we must remember that the system was designed primarily to help elucidate the relationship between Essence and personality, or ego. In Ichazo’s own words:

“We have to distinguish between a man as he is in essence, and as he is in ego or personality. In essence, every person is perfect, fearless, and in a loving unity with the entire cosmos; there is no conflict within the person between head, heart, and stomach or between the person and others. Then something happens: the ego begins to develop, karma accumulates, there is a transition from objectivity to subjectivity; man falls from essence into personality.” (Interviews with Ichazo, page 9)

Thus, Ichazo saw the Enneagram as a way of examining specifics about the structure of the human soul and particularly about the ways in which actual soul qualities of Essence become distorted, or contracted into states of ego. In developing his Enneagram theories, he drew upon a recurrent theme in Western mystical and philosophical tradition—the idea of nine divine forms. This idea was discussed by Plato as the Divine Forms or Platonic Solids, qualities of existence that are essential, that cannot be broken down into constituent parts. This idea was further developed in the third century of our era by the Neo-Platonic philosophers, particularly Plotinus in his central work, The Enneads.

These ideas found their way from Greece and Asia Minor southward through Syria and eventually to Egypt. There, it was embraced by early Christian mystics known as the Desert Fathers who focused on studying the loss of the Divine Forms in ego consciousness. The particular ways in which these Divine forms became distorted came to be known as the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, pride, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, and sloth. How the original nine forms, in the course of their travels from Greece to Egypt over the course of a century, became reduced to seven deadly sins remains a mystery.

Another key influence Ichazo employed in developing these ideas comes from mystical Judaism, and particularly from the teachings of the Kabbala. Central to Kabbala is a diagram called Tree of Life (Etz Hayim in Hebrew). The Tree of Life is a said to be a map showing the particular patterns and laws by which God created the manifest universe. The diagram is composed of 10 spheres (Sefirot) connected by 22 paths in particular ways. Most significantly, Ichazo must have been aware of the Kabbalistic teaching that all human souls are “sparks” that arise out of these spheres or emanations from the Kabbalistic Tree. (The first sphere, Keter, is reserved for the Messiah, leaving nine other spheres for the rest of us.) In the traditional teachings of the Kabbala, for instance, each of the great patriarchs of the Bible were said to be embodiments of the different spheres of the Tree. 4 This teaching suggests that there are different kinds of souls—different emanations or facets of the Divine Unity.

Ichazo’s brilliant work was in discovering how these Divine Forms and their corresponding distortions connected with the Enneagram symbol and with the three Centers of human intelligence, Thinking, Feeling, and Instinct. He called the higher, essential qualities of the human mind the Holy Ideas, in accordance with western mystical tradition. Each Holy Idea also has a corresponding Virtue. The Virtues are essential qualities of the heart experienced by human beings when they are abiding in Essence. As a person loses awareness and presence, falling away from Essence into the trance of the personality, the loss of awareness of the Holy Idea becomes a person’s Ego-fixation, and the loss of contact with the Virtue causes the person’s characteristic Passion. While everyone has the capacity to embody all of the Holy Ideas and Virtues, one pair of them is central to the soul’s identity, so the loss if it is felt most acutely, and the person’s ego is most preoccupied with recreating it, although in a futile, self-defeating way. See the diagram below.


Relationship between Higher Essence Qualities
and Ego Distortions

Thus, the Passions and Ego-fixations represent the ways that spiritual qualities become contracted into ego states. There are, according to Ichazo’s theory, nine main ways that we lose our center and become distorted in our thinking, feeling, and doing, and are thus the nine ways that we forget our connection with the Divine. (The Passions can also be thought of as our untamed animal nature before it is transformed by contact from higher influences—awareness and Grace.)

Because of this particular relationship between the higher qualities of the soul and their corresponding ego distortions, a person could, by using presence and awareness to recognize the pattern of their distortion—their characteristic passion and ego-fixation—come to recognize the quality of Essence that had been obscured. By remembering or contemplating the higher quality, balance could be restored, thus accelerating the person’s awareness of themselves as Essence. Knowing one’s “type” was a way to direct one’s inner work to facilitate the transformative process.

The Virtues, Passions, Holy Ideas, and Fixations

The Virtues describe the expansive, non-dual qualities of Essence experienced in a direct, felt way by a person abiding in their true nature. The Virtues are the natural expression of the awakened heart. We do not try to force ourselves to be “virtuous”—rather, as we relax and become more present and awake, seeing through the fear and desire of the ego self, these qualities naturally manifest themselves in the human soul.

“An essential individual will be in contact with these [Virtues] constantly, simply by living in his body. But the subjective individual, the ego, loses touch with these Virtues. Then the personality tries to compensate by developing passions.” (Interviews with Oscar Ichazo, page 19).

The Passions represent an underlying emotional response to reality created by the loss of contact with our Essential nature. As we saw in Chapter 1, we all inevitably lose contact with the ground of our Being, with our true identity as Spirit or Essence. The underlying hurt, shame, and grief that this loss entails are enormous, and our ego is compelled to come up with a particular way of emotionally coping with the loss. This temporarily effective, but ultimately misguided coping strategy is the Passion. But because the Passion is a distortion of an inherent, essential Virtue, recognizing the Passion can help us to restore the Virtue.5

In a related way, the Virtue of each type can also be seen as an antidote to its Passion and as a focal point for the type’s positive traits. By recalling the Virtue in a state of presence, the Passion can be gradually transformed. The restoration of the virtue and the transformation of the passion is an extremely important part of the spiritual use of the Enneagram.

The Holy Ideas represent specific non-dual perspectives of Essence—particular ways of knowing and recognizing the unity of Being. They are what naturally arises in a clear, quiet mind when a person is present and awake, seeing reality as it actually is. The loss of a Holy Idea leads to a particular ego-delusion about the self or reality, called the type’s Ego-fixation. Through the ego-fixation, the person is trying to restore the balance and freedom of the Holy Idea, but from the dualistic perspective of ego, cannot. Again, understanding the perspective of our type’s Holy Idea functions as an antidote to the ego-fixation. The non-dual perspective of our true nature is restored as we see through the particular delusions of our type.6


Oscar Ichazo’s Enneagram of the Virtues


Oscar Ichazo’s Enneagram of the Passions


Oscar Ichazo’s Enneagram of the Holy Ideas


Oscar Ichazo’s Enneagram of the Ego-Fixations

The descriptions that follow provide a brief commentary on each of the nine Virtues, Passions, Holy Ideas, and Fixations of the nine types. These descriptions are intended to be short and introductory, and represent our own understanding of these qualities. In some cases, we offer alternative names for the different qualities to help clarify the original name’s meaning. Please also note that the descriptions of the Holy Ideas and Virtues are of necessity somewhat impressionistic. This is because it is difficult to convey in words the sense of the non-dual perspectives of Essence.

Type Descriptions

Type One

Passion: Anger [Resentment]* Fixation: Resentment [Judging]*
Virtue: Serenity Holy Idea: Holy Perfection

Passion: Anger [Resentment]*
The passion of anger results from the loss of the virtue of Serenity. In understanding this passion, it is important to remember that the response of anger itself is not the problem. Anger occurs spontaneously when we feel that someone or something is threatening our integrity. It rises in our presence, lasts for a few moments, then passes. But when we are not present to our anger, we become frustrated and resentful. Over time, this simmering frustration becomes an underlying feeling that is always with us.

Because Ones resist fully expressing their anger, they are often unaware of its presence as a continual backdrop of smoldering resentment. Of course, not even the average One’s deeply ingrained habits of self-control can keep their anger down indefinitely. Sooner or later it is expressed, often inappropriately, and often with negative consequences for their relationships.

This resentful attitude toward life is also directly related to the One’s resistance to reality. The passion of anger causes chronic dissatisfaction with oneself and with reality. It causes us to feel that reality is not the way it ought to be. (“I don’t like the way things are. Things should be better. This should be done in a different way.”) Ones do not generally see themselves as angry; rather they see themselves as “under control,” as always striving to get things right.

Virtue: Serenity
When we are awake and present, it is natural for human beings to accept reality exactly as it is. We may be moved to action, we may help and support others as we see the need, but we accept the conditions that we are working with. This openness allows us to interact with the world more effectively and more compassionately. We do not feel separate from others, let alone better or worse than them. Such distinctions and evaluations are seen as meaningless. We are open and receptive, trusting that whatever wisdom we may need will arise in the moment.

Serenity is not only being open to others, of course: it is also being open and accepting of ourselves, exactly as we are too. We are comfortable with ourselves, with our bodies and with our feelings. We are deeply relaxed and allow the energies of life to flow through us without resisting them or trying to control them. In the virtue of serenity, there is no feeling of effort or of striving. We are soothed and soothing. We flow from one experience into the next, feeling calm and balanced, regardless of the ups and downs of life.

Fixation: Resentment [Judging]*
Resentment and Judgment result from the loss of the Holy Idea of Perfection. Ones seem to have a vague memory of this world of perfection: they recall the feeling of knowing that reality is perfectly unfolding according to a Divine plan. Early in their lives, though, they became cut off from that feeling and became angry about it. On the deepest level, their response to life is “Why is everything all messed up? It wasn’t always like this! It doesn’t have to be this way!” Ones’ egos then become caught up in trying to recreate the sense of perfection that is actually a part of their Essence.

As a result, Ones become convinced that aspects of themselves and the world are somehow disordered, and they have deep convictions about how to restore a proper order to everything. Resentment causes them to strive to be perfect, but when they fail to find the perfection they seek, they become resentful of themselves and angry about their own apparent imperfection—thus sustaining their passion.

The key to unlocking this dilemma is recognizing how the ego activity of judging divides the self into judging and judged parts, thus destroying the unity of the self. It is only from unity, from a whole and complete contact with all of the self that we are able to embody and recognize perfection.

Holy Idea: Holy Perfection
Whenever we really show up fully in the here and now, the present moment is always perfect. We could be looking at a sunset, or paying bills, or speaking with our spouse, or watching a friend pass away. It does not matter what the specific experience is. When we are present and awake to the living reality of here and now, the experience always has an inherent rightness. We experience the unfolding of reality as perfection. We feel in our depths that the Divine Plan is unfolding exactly the way it needs to. There is nothing we can add to it or subtract from it.

In our ego minds, we can imagine all sorts of terrible things, past and future, and ask “what is so perfect about that? What is good about that tragedy happening?” From a certain perspective, the mass extinctions that have occurred on our planet could be seen as enormous tragedies, and yet, scientists tell us that if they had not occurred, it is unlikely that we as a species would have evolved. Even if we could have been alive at the time to complain about the unfairness of the dinosaurs dying out, we could not have foreseen the ultimate results of their disappearance. Of course, Holy Perfection does not mean that we ignore suffering or refuse to help when we can. As we have seen, the present and awake person of Essence is truly able to support others with compassion, wisdom, and strength. But Holy Perfection allows us to see that we cannot discern the big picture from our limited ego perspective. Only in presence can we perceive the unity, goodness, and perfection of this moment—of right now. And since right now is where we actually are, this realization is all we need.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Two

Passion: Pride Fixation: Flattery [Ingratiation]*
Virtue: Humility Holy Idea: Holy Will, Freedom

Passion: Pride
Pride is the caused by the loss of the virtue of humility. But pride is said to be the root of all evil and underlies all of the Capital Sins, so to distinguish it further, we can also call this vainglory. Vainglory is a pride in one’s own goodness, taking a special satisfaction in one’s own virtue, seeing oneself only as a loving, well-intentioned person. The passion is not the tendency to be generous and kind, but the compulsion to call attention to one’s generosity and kindness. This is “goodness” that calls attention to itself so that they will be admired for being selfless, praised for being humble, rewarded for being self-sacrificial, repaid for being generous, and so forth.

Another more subtle element to pride is the inability to admit that we are hurting, the unwillingness to acknowledge our own suffering and neediness. This part in each of us says “You’ve got problems, not me! I’m okay and I’m here to help you.” But in fact, all of us, and particularly Twos, are terrified that we will break down and people will see how sad and lonely we are much of the time. Not only does pride prevent us from allowing people to see that we are in pain, it also prevents us from letting people see that we need anything, or that we are really trying to get something from others. Pride can also be seen as a fundamental denial of the loss of contact with Essence—particularly the loss of contact with qualities of real love.

Virtue: Humility
When we are abiding in our true nature, our identity, does not require support from the approval of others or from our own self-regard. Humility is simply Being without self-reflecting. It is not self-disparagement as some of us have been taught, nor is it resisting satisfaction in our work or relationships. When we are really present and awake, issues about our identity and self-worth do not arise. Without attempting to be, we are humble.

This quality gives very healthy Twos the ability to love others disinterestedly, without any thought of self, of being thanked or repaid, or of even having the good regard and appreciation of the people they do things for. They strive to do good unselfishly, helping others for others’ sake, without even thoughts of self-congratulations for the effort. They simply see a need and respond (or not) spontaneously and freely.

Fixation: Flattery [Ingratiation]*
When we lose contact with the Holy Idea of Holy Will, the ego compensates by trying to make good things happen. Twos flatter people, serve other’s needs, and make others feel good about themselves so that they will get approval and appreciation. Like everybody else, Twos need to feel good about themselves, but because of the way that their egos are structured they cannot feel good about themselves without getting gratitude and love from others. As a result, Twos go out of their way to do good things for others in order to get positive feedback (flattery) about themselves. As a result, the minds of Twos become preoccupied with finding nice things to say or do so that they can feel good about themselves, convince themselves of their loving goodness, and have others confirm it. (“Mary Ann just couldn’t live without me.”) The ego-activity of flattery thus sustains the emotional stance of pride.

Thus, the Two’s general pattern becomes “giving in order to get.” They give to others with the secret hope that someone will notice how much they have done and give positive attention back to them in return. They meet others’ needs with the hope that their needs will also be fulfilled.

Holy Idea: Holy Will, Holy Freedom
The ego mind of the Two believes that their personal efforts are required to make good things happen, and that without their goodwill and tireless interventions, goodness will not flower. Thus, others’ need their help, support, praise, flattery, encouragement, and so forth. When we have the non-dual perspective of Holy Will, we recognize that there is only one Will, one unfolding reality, and that the ego only thinks that it is making things happen. We see that everything really is “in God’s hands,” not as a comforting belief, but as a palpable reality. The recognition of this truth releases the Two’s awareness from the compulsive need to help and support: they see that they can help or not help, but that their identity, their Beingness, does not depend on sustaining this activity. This brings Holy Freedom, freedom from the ego and from the compulsive need to prop the ego up by being “good.” We could also say that Holy Freedom describes the sense of exhilaration and openness that arise when we experience ourselves as part of the unfolding Divine Will.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Three

Passion: Deceit [Vanity]* Fixation: Vanity [Deceit]*
Virtue: Truthfulness (Authenticity) Holy Idea: Holy Law, Holy Hope

Passion: Deceit [Vanity]*
Deceit results from the loss of the virtue of Truthfulness and can be seen as the tendency to believe that one is the assumed self of personality and not Essence. Deceit entails presenting “images” of ourselves both to ourselves and to others as if they were the real thing. The sin of the Three is one of the more difficult ones to understand in our culture since it is so pervasive. When we talk about deceit, we are not necessarily talking about people lying to each other all the time in an overt way. We are talking about being inauthentic instead of being completely honest and real with someone. The more we examine deceit, the more we see how seldom we authentically express what we feel, what we think, or what our true intentions are. To do so, requires presence and connectedness with our hearts. If we are caught in the trance of our personalities, this is not possible. More often, we tend to behave in ways that we think will be acceptable to others.

Over time, adjusting ourselves to professional, social, and personal demands becomes so automatic that we lose touch with our true nature. We become identified with a particular self image that we believe would be more acceptable than our authentic selves, and then must deceive ourselves about who we are and what we really want. Do we identify ourselves with our job? Our peer group? Our gender? There are all sorts of things that define who we are, but who are we really? Who is this person that is reading the words on this page right now?

Average Threes learned to develop their image and the perfection of their “package” rather than their authentic feelings and identity. Often, average Threes have become so accustomed to identifying with their performance, that they actually do not know who they really are or what they really want from life. They learn to reject their authentic identity and start to deceive themselves that the “improved and polished” picture of themselves is actually who they are. They develop a self image that they believe will be more acceptable and worthwhile, identify with it, and then expect others to support and applaud it.

While Threes are usually rewarded for this self abandonment, their real growth depends on them reconnecting with their deeper self—their true heart’s desire.

Virtue: Truthfulness (Authenticity)
When we are abiding in our true nature, our Essential identity, we speak and act with complete truthfulness: we see that any untruthfulness causes us to detach from our true nature. We experience our heart’s desire, and realize that the most important thing in life is to be ourselves, deeply and completely. We understand that nothing else will satisfy us, no matter how many accomplishments we pile up. Further, a person embodying real authenticity sees no reason for deception, feeling the profound connection with others, indeed, with all of reality, makes anything other than simple truth seem absurd.

When healthy Threes understand that their value is not based on any particular achievement, they are able to experience their depths of their own hearts in ways that liberate them from the roles they believe they must play in order to be acceptable. They are able to be, but are do not lose their ability to make the most of themselves. Their identity is based on a direct experience of themselves in the living moment, not on a narcissistic, inflated notion of themselves. Truly being themselves enables Threes to love others simply and genuinely. The preciousness of truth and of their true identity is also recognized as the preciousness of everyone and everything.

Fixation: Vanity [Deceit]*
When we are not in contact with a more authentic experience of ourselves, we must invest our energies in cultivating our persona—making it valuable to compensate for our loss of Essential value and identity. Thus, vanity is the ego-activity of trying to make the personality feel real and valuable. Clearly, if we deceive ourselves into believing that we are the personality, then we must apply all of our efforts to doing whatever we believe will make the personality more valuable, important, attractive, brilliant, and worthwhile. We will tend to regard meditating and doing deep psychological work to reveal the falseness of the ego and its agenda as a waste of time, or even threatening.

Vanity causes us to invested our energies in building up our self image. We become concerned with doing and being whatever we believe will make us feel more worthwhile, such as having a successful career, presenting ourselves favorably, attending good schools, achieving goals, building up our resume, winning awards. We become lost in the roles that we play in life, and then must make the role valuable instead of recognizing the real value of our true nature.

Holy Idea: Holy Law, Holy Hope
This Holy Idea has to do with correcting the ego’s false perception that it is the source of doing and functioning—that the ego is accomplishing something. From the non-dual perspective of Essence, everything is one: there is only one complete and total reality that is here in each moment. Right now, if we sense our experience of this moment, we can perceive that all that we can experience is a unity, a oneness. Only our mental activity defines objects and divides our experience into different categories.

If we stay present, however, observing this unity of experience, we will come to see that it changes from moment to moment—it unfolds. Thus, Essential reality is not static, but a dynamic unfolding of reality moment by moment. The ego mind thinks that we are animate objects interacting with other animate and inanimate objects in a background of space. The perception of Holy Law is quite different: it is perceiving the dynamic, living unity of everything as an unfolding process. There can be no independent doing or accomplishment because everything is happening together. The whole flow of reality is one enormous creative dance, so who is it that is doing? Furthermore, in presence, we understand that the unfolding of the universe is benign, always developing and optimizing. This perception gives us confidence to rest in being (Holy Hope) and allows our ego minds to cease their endless agendas and projects. In a profound, direct way, we understand that God is doing a good job.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Four

Passion: Envy Fixation: Melancholy [Fantasizing]*
Virtue: Equanimity (Emotional Balance) Holy Idea: Holy Origin

Passion: Envy
Envy results from the loss of contact with the virtue of Equanimity, and leads to the feeling that something is missing in us. We are not sure what it is, but other people seem to be happier, better off than us. Rather than investigate the source of our unease, in the throes of envy, we focus on comparing ourselves with others, believing that they possess qualities that we do not have, that others have had better childhoods, parents, or luck than us. Other people are somehow more alive and more whole. Other people seem to be having more productive lives and careers and wonderful marriages, but envy leads us to believe that these things are not possible for us. (“No one understands my suffering.”) In short, envy sees in others qualities that we would like to have for our own self-completion, but perpetuates the sense of inner lack without dealing with the root problem.

The problem is that Fours identify with their woundedness, with their sense of inner deficiency, and then make a lifestyle out of their suffering. In fact, Fours are perceiving something true: the ego is false, based on suffering, and ultimately deficient. But rather than stay with this direct awareness in a way that would transform them, Fours get caught up in emotional reactions and beliefs about this deficiency, and construct their identity out of it. Thus, the ego self is sustained by identifying with the feeling of inner lack, and by making up stories about its origin. Envy also alienates us from others and from life. It causes us to feel like outsiders who never belong anywhere, while imagining that others do and disliking them for it. The result is a constant emotional storminess and reactivity which obscures our ability to perceive our true identity or value, or that of anything else.

Virtue: Equanimity (Emotional Balance)
When we abide in presence, it is natural for us as human beings to feel expansive and open in our hearts. We are touched and affected by our experiences, often in profound ways, but we are not lost or swept away by our emotional reactions. We are compassionately connected with truth, and this supports us in our ability to remain present even to potentially painful experiences or realizations. Equanimity gives us tremendous support for our soul’s capacity to be touched and transformed by the events of our lives, both grand and subtle. This gives healthy Fours the ability to embrace life without being so “storm-tossed” by every feeling. Even negative experiences can be made into something positive, and they find peace in knowing that the soul is able to transform every experience into something worthwhile and valuable.

Fixation: Melancholy [Fantasizing]*
We might also call this fixation Fantasizing, because it is describes the ways that Fours use their imaginations to keep their intense, envious feelings going. The mental activity of average Fours fixates on thoughts that stir up feelings of longing, of bittersweet romance, of loss, and other melancholy feelings. Unfortunately, this activity also blinds Fours to many aspects of objective reality and obscures their true nature. In its more extreme form, this fixation plays itself out as a constant inner commentary on one’s one inadequacies and on how others have let one down. It causes Fours to feel that they have been particularly victimized. (“Not only am I hurt—I’m hurt worse than anyone else! No one has suffered as much as I have!”) This fixation causes us to become extremely self-consciousness, and profoundly cut off from the source of our identity.

Holy Idea: Holy Origin
Because our ego mind is profoundly cut off from the ground of Being, it needs constant support and reinforcement, otherwise its inherent unreality will be revealed. The Four’s ego agenda is to sustain a particular identity, to be an individual, and the ego goes about that impossible task in the best way it knows how. But when the ego activity slows down and rests, we become aware of Being itself as the source and origin of our true identity. This is not a concept or a belief, but a direct experience of our identity as Essence. We do not, and cannot, do anything to be ourselves. The more we try to become a particular image or idea of ourselves, the more we lose the immediate contact with the rich, delightful contact with our true self as Being. We see that we are not separate from anything, that our true nature partakes of the whole of reality: that all parts of the universe are manifesting a tremendous creative intelligence, and that the self is an aspect of that creative flow, and cannot be otherwise. We understand that the source of everything is the core of our true identity—that it is creating and sustaining the self always. The recognition of this brings a feeling of exquisite delight in simply resting in and being one’s true identity.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Five

Passion: Avarice Fixation: Stinginess [Retention]*
Virtue: Detachment [Nonattachment]* Holy Idea: Holy Omniscience, Holy Transparency

Passion: Avarice
The meaning of the word “avarice” is often misunderstood as it applies to type Five. Avarice is usually associated with greed, or the desire to accumulate worldly possessions; however, avarice does not necessarily express itself in materialistic ways. Avarice began to manifest in us when, as small children, we lost contact with our essential natures, and consequently felt small, tiny, and helpless in a vast, uncaring universe. This left all of us, and Fives especially, terrified of life and doubting our ability to function in the world. Thus, Avarice leads Fives to feel that they must retreat from reality or defend against it, while trying to restore the feeling that they are capable and competent to deal with this overwhelming situation. It leads to an emotional attitude of rejection and detachment—a turning away from the world as if one were not part of it. Avarice causes us to feel as though the universe has rejected us, so we better find a way to make do with our wits and with a minimal of support and resources.

Avarice is often confused, with Gluttony, the Passion of type Seven. Gluttony seeks to fill the emptiness of the false self up with experiences and ideas from “outside.” Avarice is also based on a sense of inner impoverishment, but copes by withholding the self, by shrinking back from contact, and by clutching at the little we think we already have because we are afraid of losing it. The ego self feels empty, rejected, and without nourishing sustenance, so it hoards whatever it feels it has. Avarice is trying to retain in the self the resources and knowledge the ego believes it needs to function in the world.

Thus, Avarice in Fives is most often expressed as a kind of collector mentality, collecting more and more knowledge, reading more and more books, continually preparing themselves so that they will be able to go out into the world with confidence.

Virtue: Detachment [Nonattachment]*
Although Ichazo’s original name for the Virtue at point Five is Detachment, we prefer the term Nonattachment to distinguish it from the emotional detachment caused by schizoid withdrawal—the rejection of one’s feelings and need for nurturing. Non-Attachment contains no hint of rejection; in fact, it requires a radical acceptance of reality. It is the quality described by the familiar spiritual injunction to “be in the world but not of it.” When we are present and abiding in our true natures, we do not cling to anything, inner or outer. Particularly, we no longer need to cling to the endless activity of the mind as a source of identity and orientation to the world. We feel at one with the unfolding universe and as if we contain it within us at the same time. Everything touches and transforms us, yet there is nothing that we need to attach our identity to; our existence is not based on anything, not our thoughts, not our feelings, not our body, not our perceptions. Everything arises and disappears in a state of profound stillness and peace.

This state of non-attachment also gives us a profound compassion for all living things because we see their transient nature. When there is no need to attach ourselves to any view, it is easy to be compassionate and forgivng (“Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner”—”To understand all is to forgive all”).

Fixation: Stinginess [Retention]*
Stinginess refers to the ego mind’s tendency to hold onto experiences and information in an effort to build up knowledge and power and to maintain a familiar orientation with reality. It is as if the mind were stockpiling resources to prepare for some future catastrophe. Thus, Fives spend their time gathering information, skills, and resources to “build themselves up,” as if they were creating a separate space in which to prepare themselves to re-enter reality.

The problem is that identifying with the mind this way detaches us from the support of our Being and from feeling connected with the world. Further, if Fives are continually thinking that they need more and more information or skill before they can really live, it is going to be very difficult to get their lives started, and it is also going to be frightening to give, to be generous with one’s self. It is as if Fives are thinking “There is not enough of me even for me. If others want things from me, there won’t be anything left. I need time to build myself up.” However, no amount of studying, learning, or hoarding makes them feel any more ready to deal with their lives.

Holy Idea: Holy Omniscience, Holy Transparency
Holy Omniscience is a direct apprehension of the knowing-ness, the awake-ness of Essence. Essence experiences reality through our organism, through our senses and perceptions. Looked at from this perspective, the human being is like a sense organ for the Divine awareness. The universe knows itself through us. When we are present and abiding in our true nature, our minds become clear, and we know the immense, brilliant intelligence of Essence that is the basis for our limited, ego minds.

This clarification of the mind also results in the clarification of boundaries: we “see through” boundaries, recognizing them as arbitrary inventions of the mind. In reality, everything is distinguishable, but a oneness. We can discriminate color, texture, form, and movement, but do not see these phenomena as separate objects. Rather, we see both the endlessly transforming manifestation of reality as well as its underlying depths. We ourselves feel completely transparent—everything passes through us, nothing “sticks” in our consciousness. We perceive reality with a penetrating, brilliant clarity that does not require the exertions of the ego mind to understand.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Six

Passion: Fear [Anxiety]* Fixation: Cowardice [Worrying]*
Virtue: Courage Holy Idea: Holy Faith

Passion: Fear [Anxiety]*
Fear is the feeling that arises when we feel unsupported and without guidance. When we feel unsupported, we feel unable to move into the next moment with assurance and confidence. We believe that something terrible that happened in the past might happen again in the future. In a sense, fear is always based on some kind of imagined future—we are not afraid of something that concluded yesterday because we know the outcome. And this reveals a second point: fear is also a response to not knowing what is going to happen. Whenever we are unsure of our fate, we can become fearful to the degree that we also feel unsupported.

The truth is, however, that we are never certain of what will happen next. “Not knowing” is a fundamental condition of our individual existence. We can plan and try to predict and prepare, as type Six does, but in the end, a single twist of fate can undo all of our defenses against the future.

While “not knowing” is fundamental, feeling unsupported and without guidance is not, and this is really the basis of the Six’s fear. Lack of contact with inner guidance leaves Sixes anxious and unsure of how to make decisions, avoid danger, and move forward in life. Further, much of type Six’s fears are not based on reality, but on things that might happen. This constant background of anxiety drives Sixes to organize and systematize their environment as much as possible so that it will be predictable and thus less threatening, but this activity does not ultimately reduce their fear.

Virtue: Courage
The virtue of courage might also be called fearlessness because it truly is the absence of fear. This is absolutely different than defying fear or behaving aggressively to toughen oneself up (counterphobia). True courage arises in the heart when a person is present and deeply grounded in the moment. When we are abiding in our true nature, tremendous support and inner strength naturally arise every time they are needed. Courage draws upon the Essential qualities of Strength and Will, such that we feel like we are held up by a tremendous, supportive solidity. We experience directly the enormous capacities of our Essential nature such that we can totally accept not-knowing the outcome of things. Here and now, we are more than fine—we are solid, real, vital, and imbedded in the unfolding Will of the Divine.

Fixation: Cowardice [Worrying]*
We have found the term “Cowardice” for the fixation of type Six one of the less satisfying ones, because cowardice can be seen as a simple caving in to fear. But if we examine the way that the activity of the ego mind supports fear and anxiety, then the broader meaning of this term is revealed.

Basically, cowardice is a failure of confidence in our ability to know, to receive inner guidance. In Enneagram terms, it is the loss of the Holy Idea of Faith. Thus, we might also call the fixation self-doubt.

Sixes (and the Six in us) respond to this lack by trying to hedge their bets against life: they want to create stability and “social security.” Unfortunately, cowardice also causes Sixes tend to undermine whatever security they create by second-guessing themselves and doubting their own decisions. “Where can I get support? Where will I find security? What is a safe bet in life? Is that person really my friend? I know they said they are, but will they be there to help me out when the chips are down? Is this job going to be there in six months? If I invest in this, will I lose all my money?”

Holy Idea: Holy Faith
Real faith has nothing to do with beliefs, or with trying to convince oneself that a certain belief is true. The faith we are talking about here is a recognition of the actual support of presence and Being that is available right now. It is the recognition that Essence, our true nature is real and cannot be lost. Essence really exists. Reality it is supporting us and we are part of it. We do not have to make support happen because it is already here. From this viewpoint, we see that it does not matter whether we believe in it or not any more than it matters whether or not we believe in the sky. Essence is a felt, experienced reality.

Thus, Holy Faith gives us an unshakable confidence in the inherent goodness of life and of the universe. Even when things seem to be going wrong to the ego’s perspective, in presence, we recognize that things are we are supported and that our true nature cannot be harmed. Holy Faith gives us the inner freedom to respond spontaneously to whatever emerges in the moment because we are not bound by beliefs, doubts, and learned procedures. We are guided in each moment to optimal action.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Seven

Passion: Gluttony Fixation: Planning [Anticipation]*
Virtue: Sobriety Holy Idea: Holy Wisdom, Holy Work, Holy Plan

Passion: Gluttony
Gluttony results from the loss of the virtue of Sobriety. The original meaning of the sin of gluttony is stuffing one’s self, overeating and overindulging in food and drink. On a psychological and spiritual level, it is the belief that all good and desirable things exist outside of myself in the world, and that I need to get those things for myself. It arises from a deep feeling of inner emptiness that the ego tries to suppress. Gluttony denies the inner deficiency of the go self, creating a false sense of abundance and excitement that masks the underlying frustration and pain driving this Passion.

The gluttony of the Seven is the belief that one can fill up the emptiness with exciting experiences. “If I can just keep having good experiences, I will not feel bad or be anxious.” Sevens fear that they are not going to get what they need to feel secure and happy. “No one is going to support me or take care of me, so I have to go out and get what I want myself.” Gluttony in Sevens also refers to the tendency to take all experiences too far, to become excessive in every area of life. Sevens do not make a sufficient distinction between “wants” and “needs” and attempt to fulfill all of their wants as if they were legitimate needs. The tragedy is that the more they attempt to fill themselves with things and experiences (some sort of external sustenance for the self), the more Sevens become incapable of finding the happiness they seek.

Virtue: Sobriety
When we are present and abiding in our true nature, we feel awake, sober, and in clear contact with our immediate experience. The affect is bracing, but bracing like a crisp morning, or like a refreshing breeze. We see the real world in exquisite detail, and feel a quiet satisfaction, quite distinct from the giddy, hyped up excitement of gluttony. Everything is wonderful, everything is moving, but we are not swept away in our enthusiasms: we are fully here. Further, the pleasure we take in existence is not dependent on any particular external source, much less the anticipation of a particular experience. We feel clear and open such that every movement registers in our consciousness with subtle delight.

Sobriety also brings with it a sense of gratitude, a deep and abiding joy in the miracle of life. Very healthy Sevens are grateful for everything they have. Life is a gift, full of wonders, and they realize that they have more than their share of blessings and are grateful for them. Every experience that falls on a sober, receptive consciousness, can fill us with joy.

Fixation: Planning [Anticipation]*
Ichazo called this type Ego-Plan, referring to Sevens’ tendency to fill their minds with exciting future projects. When we lose contact with the Holy Idea of the Holy Plan, the ego mind starts trying to make sure that our future experiences will be optimal. In this respect, we can see how the fixation is related to the loss of Faith in type Six. We do not trust that our needs will be provided for. Until we really feel the truth of this, the ego will continue to scheme and strategize to make sure that we get want we think we need, while missing the actual treasures that are here.

Another appropriate name for this type might be Ego-Anticipation because Sevens are always anticipating, always looking forward to the next moment. They are often eager for new experiences, filling up their schedules, and trying to keep their options open, but this keeps them two steps ahead of themselves. They are very future-orientated and as a result they have difficulty staying focussed on the here and now. Spiritually, this tendency can manifest as

Looking forward to mysterious, exotic experiences. Sevens often feel that they have some sacred purpose in life, but are afraid they will miss it. They will not be at the right place at the right time. (“Maybe in that coffee shop, a Spiritual Master is waiting to reveal to me that I am the student he has been waiting for. Maybe I am the chosen one….”) Of course, a great deal of New Age literature does little to help people discern the problem with this fantasy. As long as we are waiting for the magic to begin, we inevitably miss the magic that is right here, right now.

Holy Idea: Holy Wisdom, Holy Work, Holy Plan
Recognizing that, in this very moment, the Divine Plan is unfolding perfectly, is Holy Wisdom. When we are present, we see that there really is a Divine Plan, and that it is happening right now. The ego’s desires to steer reality in preferred directions is seen through: we know that in this moment, we are having the optimal experience for our souls to have.

We start to understand that consciously participating in the miraculous unfolding of reality is the Holy Work, and it is the greatest source of satisfaction that we can have. Satisfaction is not to be found in having a particular experience. Rather, it is the quality of our awareness and presence in any experience that gives it its satisfying quality. Knowing in our souls that we are part of the Holy Plan fills the heart with joy. We do not need to plan or anticipate or figure out where we are going or how we are getting there. The pleasure is in the journey itself. We do not necessarily know our destination, but we know that the closer we get, the more our heart is illuminated.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Eight

Passion: Lust [Forcefulness]* Fixation: Vengeance [Objectification]*
Virtue: Innocence Holy Idea: Holy Truth

Passion: Lust [Forcefulness]*
The passion of lust is not primarily sexual lust, but might better be understood as an addiction to intensity. This lustful intensity arises in response to the loss of the virtue of Innocence. When we are gripped by the passion of Lust, we do not want to have a discussion, we want to have a DISCUSSION, or even an argument. When we are relaxed, open, and present, we feel a natural vitality and experience our inner space and freedom directly. Eights attempt to gain this sense of aliveness and freedom through the intensity of their interactions with the environment and with others. Getting “worked up” makes them feel strong and real. But to the extent that Eights are blocked from relaxation and Presence, they will need to be “worked up” all the time.

Thus, lustful Eights are not interested in lukewarm responses to life, and especially do not want weak responses to themselves. “If you are going to go for it, go for it.” The more insecure Eights are, however, the greater their need for intensity, excess, struggle, and control. The need to assert themselves can turn into the desire to dominate their environment and the people in it. Ironically, when we have succumbed to the passion of lust, we are quite out of control. The objects of our lust, positive or negative, dominate and control us.

Virtue: Innocence
We think of innocence in connection with children, and indeed, there is something about the open wonder at existence we can see in children that characterizes this Virtue. Innocence is being fully, deeply human: it is simplicity itself. When we are present and awake, we behave without artifice or manipulation. Our responses to life and to other people are completely sincere, direct, and heartfelt. We are completely unselfconscious because we experience a profound communion with the natural world. The universe feels intimate, like it was made for us.

Innocence awakens in Eights a largeness of heart that allows them to feel deeply benevolent toward themselves, others, and the world. Their magnanimity is seen in their gentleness, self-restraint, forbearance, mercy, benevolence, and protection of others.

Fixation: Vengeance [Objectification]*
Vengeance is the ego’s response to the loss of the Holy Idea of Holy Truth. Like Fours, Eights are aware that something is missing, something has been lost. But also like Fours, Eights’ egos react to the loss rather than really understanding the deeper truth of it. Eights react by feeling that someone must be responsible for this catastrophe. They feel cut off, hurt, as if they had been rejected by God—thrown out of paradise for a crime they did not know that they committed—and they are angry about it. Thus, Eights come to feel subconsciously that the world is somehow against them, and that they must fight to have the space to exist. Once caught in this fixation, we tend to see everything as a struggle, as something to be overcome. Nothing will be easy, and we are going to have to push to get what we need.

Of course, the vengeance is often directed at other people. Eights want to fight for what they see as justice, but from the fixated perspective, justice often means retribution. (“If you hurt me, I’ll hurt you back.” “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”) It is not difficult to see how much the ego’s desire for retribution plays itself out in popular culture, and more disturbingly, in the events that fill the news every day.

Holy Idea: Holy Truth
Holy Truth is the simplest of the Holy Ideas, but perhaps the most difficult to grasp without a direct experience of it. The Holy Truth is simply that All is One. There is only one reality, one existence that is here happening right now. All of the different levels of existence, all of the endless manifestations, light and darkness, surface and depth, Being and non-Being are all part of one unfathomable reality that collectively is the Truth. Everything is exactly what it is and everything is an aspect of the one, indivisible Reality.

When we perceive Holy Truth, we no longer perceive of ourselves or others as objects, as things moving around against a background. In this living moment, the objects and the background, the dancer and the dance, the stars and the space that holds them are all of one substance, one ultimate Truth, one ultimate Reality. The experience of this is immediate and non-conceptual. We feel the Truth in our very cells. When we know the Holy Truth, all sense of separateness, alienation, fear, and desire ends. We feel our unity with the One and realize that it has never been otherwise. In this knowledge is liberation and profound inner peace.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term

Type Nine

Passion: Sloth [Disengagement]* Fixation: Indolence [Daydreaming]*
Virtue: Action Holy Idea: Holy Love

Passion: Sloth [Disengagement]*
In this context, the passion of sloth results from the loss of the virtue of Action. It is a resistance to being deeply affected by or engaged with the world, to being present and putting out the energy to be fully here, fully feeling and responding. While sloth may manifest as laziness and lack of energy, the deeper meaning refers to the Nine’s habit of giving little attention to their own development. Nines often feel that many things are “too much trouble,” so they procrastinate or ignore obligations as long as possible. Ultimately, sloth refers to the wish to “go to sleep” to one’s life, to not arise as an independent person, taking one’s rightful place in the scheme of things. Some Nines are fond of saying that they “go with the flow,” but in truth, they are hoping that everything will flow around them and let them be.

In the part of the psyche represented by type Nine, there is a tendency to say “Not now, I will get to that problem later. It’s going to be upsetting. I’ll just let it go. Ignore it.” Nines want to stay in an internal zone where they feel safe, peaceful, comfortable, and will not be disturbed by anything. They want to avoid anything that will upset their inner tranquillity. It takes a lot of energy to resist being affected by aspects of reality, and this often causes us to lack energy for self-awareness or self-remembering.

Ironically, many Nines are actually interested in spiritual work because on some level they remember the blissful feeling of unity that lies beyond ego consciousness. The problem is that sloth causes them to dream of that unity, to fantasize about it, or to live by some kind of philosophy related to a belief in it. But all of this is quite different from doing the inner work necessary to make the unity a real, embodied experience in the world. Sloth keeps us visualizing white light, contemplating high-minded philosophies and yogas, and going through the paces of our spiritual practices, but definitely not contacting the deficiency at the core of our egos—the emptiness from which our true nature can re-emerge into full manifestation.

Virtue: Action
The virtue of Action does not refer to doing things physically; rather it is an embrace of the dynamism of reality. To live in presence is to be affected and transformed constantly. Everything in reality grows and changes, and our soul is no different. Self-realization is not some cushy, pleasant stasis that we retire to—a significant part of it entails surrendering our familiar identity to the dynamism of true nature. Somehow, we all believe that we can improve and become transformed without changing the comfortable and familiar parts of ourselves. But a person who is present and awake sees that the self is being reshaped and transformed every moment.

As a result, the virtue of Action empowers us to participate dynamically in our lives. We are moved to help others achieve peace, harmony, and an awareness of the dynamic unity of existence. Nines who have awakened to the virtue of Action play a powerful, active role in creating a healing and harmonious environment for themselves and others. Simply put, this virtue gives us the capacity to live fully and dynamically in each moment of our lives.

Fixation: Indolence [Daydreaming]*
The loss of the Holy Idea of Holy Love results in the ego-fixation of indolence. It is a style of attention that causes us to avoid deep contact with our interiority. We might be aware of others or of the environment, but we are not aware of what is happening in our presence. Even if we are able to be present to some degree, indolence causes us to be present without content. Of course, as we become more entranced by this fixation, we also lose any meaningful awareness of others too.

Because of the loss of Holy Love, the self feels lost and centerless, but indolence causes us to cover over the wound of that loss by withdraw from it into the “safety” of our imaginations. We may deal with it by adopting comforting philosophies, or by focusing on and idealizing others. We learn to disengage our attention from the core of ourselves so we will not feel the suffering caused by our loss of contact with Essential love, the very core of ourselves.

Thus, Nines become the masters of dissociation, of mentally “checking out” when situations threaten to uncover the primal loss of contact with Holy Love. In their imaginations they create an imitation of the real feelings of wholeness and benevolence that arise in presence and real contact with experience. This inner feeling of peace is then defended against the actual dynamic processes of reality—thus, indolence serves to perpetuate sloth. When Nines retreat into their inner reality, they deal with other peoples’ demands, either by agreeing to them or deflecting them. They want to minimize the chances of getting into conflicts or disagreements with others because this would upset their inner peace. On the surface, Nines seem quite easy going, agreeable, and adaptable. They are friendly and do not seem to mind going along with the wishes of others, but on a deeper level, Nines do not want to be made to change, or to be other than who and what they are already comfortable with.

Holy Idea: Holy Love
Holy Love is the recognition that all is one and that the oneness is ultimately benevolent and supportive. From this perspective we truly experience the well-known spiritual assertion that everything actually is made from Divine Love. When we truly know this, we relax our ego activity and trust Being to support us. It is almost unfathomable to the ego mind that not only could we be loved by the Divine, but that we are actually made of that love. The knowledge lets us move through our lives with deep compassion, nobility, and unshakable inner peace.

We can also see how Holy Love relates to the virtue of Action, because love itself has a dynamic affect on our souls. What transforms our lives more powerfully than love? What transforms our sense of ourselves more profoundly? Love is not static: it is living, dynamic force that melts down all barriers and boundaries, constantly working to restore our awareness to its pristine unity with Truth. In Holy Love, our sense of separateness dissolves, and we know ourselves as arising from the brilliant light of Divine Love that creates and sustains the universe.

*Riso-Hudson change of traditional term


  1. We particularly recommend Interviews with Oscar Ichazo, Arica Press, 1982. It gives readers a feel for Ichazo’s overall philosophy and explains in simple language his orientation and use of Enneagrams, or “Enneagons,” as he calls them.
  2. Ichazo has called the Enneagram the “Ninth Seal of Pythagoras,” see Goldberg, 1993.
  3. We do not claim to be representatives of Ichazo’s teachings, but rather wish to offer our own interpretation of a few of them based on our own work with the system over the last few decades.
  4. See Adam and the Kabbalistic Tree, by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Weiser 1974. On page he provides the relationship between the sefirot and the patriarchs. See also Howard Addison’s The Enneagram and Kabbala, Jewish Lights Press, 1998.
  5. For a more extensive discussion of the Passions, see Character and Neurosis, Claudio Naranjo, Gateways, 1994.
  6. For a full treatment of the Holy Ideas, see Facets of Unity, A.H. Almaas, Diamond Books, 1998.

From Chapter 2, Understanding the Enneagram (2000), 31-65