By Dr. Ronald V. Huggins

In her new book The Journey Home (2023), Christian enneagram teacher Meredith Boggs writes:

In my fifteen-plus years of learning, teaching, and writing about the Enneagram, I have yet to encounter one person who has converted to New Ageism, who started engaging in occult practices, or who walked away from the Christian faith for the mystical, metaphysical spiritual realm due to the Enneagram.[1]

I will argue to the contrary that the enneagram is so thoroughly entangled in New-Age thought and technique that using it and taking it seriously unavoidably involves engaging in occult practices and being converted to, or at least reoriented toward, New Ageism.

Todd Wilson, another recent Christian enneagram teacher, is one of the few to frankly admit that the “contemporary development [of the enneagram] is heavily indebted to occultist thinkers like George I. Gurdjieff, Óscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo.”[2]  Wilson, like most other Christian Enneagram teachers, continues to imagine that the enneagram is ancient and that it therefore predates its more recent occult entanglements.   In fact, however, the three names Wilson mentions are the primary inventors of the enneagram. Occult and New-Age gurus like Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo, often claim their teachings come from ancient traditions, secret brotherhoods, ascended masters, and the like, making it highly imprudent for Christian enneagram teachers to accept such claims uncritically.

Gurdjieff invented the enneagram symbol in the context of the late 19th/early 20th century occult revival which was later turned into the current personality profile in early New-Age circles.  This is why the enneagram has occult and New-Age concepts and practices baked into it, concepts, and practices that, sadly, virtually all Christian enneagram books from Christian publishers like Zondervan, InterVarsity Press, Baker Books, and Thomas Nelson embrace.


The Enneagram and Gurdjieff’s Doctrine of the Three Brains

One thing the current enneagram preserves that ought to have given Christian enneagram teachers pause is its scientifically reductionistic, unbiblical, occult/New-Age idea of the makeup of the human person, namely Gurdjieff’s doctrine of three brains.   Gurdjieff taught that worms have one brain (instinctual), sheep two (instinctual and emotional) and humans three (instinctual, emotional, and intellectual). Ichazo claimed that these three brains reside in separate parts of the body, the first in the head, the second near the heart, and the third “about four finger-widths below the navel.”[3]

When the three brains act in balanced harmony, we are perfect beings.  But when our brains start working independently, we become imbalanced. This is the enneagram’s Pelagian doctrine of the fall. According to Ichazo, when a child is born it is perfect essence in complete harmony with the universe, but by entering a family and world whose culture is shaped by an imbalance of the three brains it very soon “falls from essence into personality.”[4]  Naranjo spoke instead of our “real being” versus the “conditioned being with which we ordinarily identify,”[5]  likening it to psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott’s true-self/false-self distinction.

The enneagram of personality formalizes this by teaching that when such imbalances occur they usually take the form of one brain dominating the other two, a problem allegedly corrected through a process of self-adjustment, guided by the numerology of the enneagram (see further below).  This understanding continues to be embraced by most Christian enneagram teachers.  Now, however, the language of brains is replaced by centers, which are represented by three groups of three personality types each called triads: the head triad (types 5s, 6s, and 7s), heart triad (2s, 3s, 4s), and gut triad (8s, 9s,1s), anchored to the points of the diagram’s triangle at points 6, 3, and 9.  The three personalities in each triad are characterized by the over-dominance of their particular brain or center. If, for example, you are a 9, your instinctual brain, or gut tends to dominate.  If a 2 your emotional brain or heart dominates. And if a 7 your intellectual brain or head dominates. The terminology used in each of these cases of one of our brains being over dominant continues to be our false self, which needs to be brought into balance in order for us to be able to recover our true self.  The true-self, false-self terminology, as we said, entered New-Age enneagram teaching via psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott.  But the Cistercian Thomas Merton, who is more familiar to Christian circles, may have used it in print prior to Winnicott.[6]  Merton, however, could not have meant what the Christian enneagram teachers do in using it because he died in 1968 and the enneagram of personality was not invented until 1971.  A key problem here is that despite attempts to Christianize the enneagram, it remains essentially a program of spiritual advancement by self-adjustment, of bringing one’s three brains back into balance. This self-referentiality is reflected in the striking prominence of the words “You” “Yourself” or “Self” in the titles of Christian enneagram books, e.g., The Road Back to You, A Book Called You, Self to Lose Self to Find, The Story of You. Trying to impose the Christian gospel on top of the enneagram ultimately fails because it goes against the very grain of the enneagram’s native gospel of self-work by self-adjustment.

The Enneagram’s Occult Numerology


A second concern for Christians is that both the number of personalities indicated by the enneagram (9) and the relation between them are determined by occult numerology. Gurdjieff invented the enneagram symbol to feature 142847, a number that was thought to be of great significance by occultists of his day.  In Christian enneagram books this number continues to underpin their claim that each personality has stress and security points. These points represent two particular personalities other than one’s own with which one is uniquely connected via the perpetual flow of cosmic energies mapped by 142857.   When under stress we supposedly start acting like one of these other personalities in a bad way, but when we feel secure, we start acting like the other in a good way.  You can find the numbers of your stress and security types by following the sets of arrows on the enneagram diagram (fig. 1), one of which cycles around its bat-like hexagram, tracing out the sequence 1-4-2-8-5-7. … and the other the central triangle following the sequence 9-6-3….   Your stress and security numbers are simply those coming before and after your number in whichever sequence it happens to fall.  So, for example, if you are an 8 your security point is 2 and your stress point 5 (1-4-2-8-5-7).  If a 6, your security number is 9 and your stress point 3 (9-6-3). Whenever a Christian author presents stress and security points as something real, which they invariably do, they are in effect expressing faith in the validity of the occult numerology as a basis for grasping the interrelations of personalities.  Let me explain.

Even before Gurdjieff the sequence 142857 was featured in occult numerology. In 1899, for example, Willis F. Whitehead, Supreme Grand Vizier of the Ancient Order of the Oriental Magi and founder of the Royal Adept Mystics, wrote concerning 142857 that the combination of the Infinite Principles of Power, Goodness, and Justice…constantly expresses this number. Every motion is a part of its infinite movement, and every form is a part of its infinite shape. It is the number of eternal Evolution of the Infinite Cosmos…142857 not only represents COSMIC LAW, infinite Motion and Eternal Evolution, but it also represents a future perfect civilization…the Kingdom of Divine Goodness on Earth.”[7]  The importance of this number to occultists was based on its having certain peculiar features. For example, the quotient of 1 ÷ 7 is the endlessly repeating 0.142857142857…. Similarly, when one multiplies 142857 by 1-6 each product retains the same numbers in the same sequence except that they shift progressively to the right with the ones at the end moving to the front.  The pattern is finally broken, however, with 7 x 142857 = 999,999.  Also, if you distributed 142857 evenly around a circle or hexagram (Star of David) the pairs of numbers opposite one another each added up to 9.  A number of occult writers therefore produced diagrams surrounded by 142857 with 9 in the center.  An elaborate example is Olney Richmond’s 1893 Mystic Star Tarot which featured numbered playing cards (fig. 2).[8]  Gurdjieff’s symbol similarly features 142857 around his own strange hexagram.  But, taking his cue from S. Karrpe’s Étude sur les origines de la nature du Zohar (1901),[9] he also expands his figure with a triangle to include nine points by placing 9 on top with pairs of numbers on either side which, when joined, represent  multiples of nine: 8+1 = 9 (81 = 9 x 9), 7+2 = 9 (9 x 8 = 72), 6+3 = 9 (9 x 7 = 63), 5+4 = 9 (9 x 6 = 54).

For Gurdjieff the enneagram represented “perpetual motion,” an “eternally returning and uninterruptedly flowing process…The separate points… symbolize the steps of the process.”[10]  “Each completed whole, each cosmos, each organism, each plant, is an enneagram.”[11] Not all enneagrams however included the triangle, but all have the 142857 hexagon.[12]  Gurdjieff claimed it represented the two fundamental laws “which govern all processes both in the world and in man.”[13] These he identified as the law of seven and the law of three,  mapped by 142857 and 963 respectively, and claimed that the enneagram was the “fundamental hieroglyph of a universal language. “All knowledge,” he said, “can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted….”[14]

When later followers of Gurdjieff attempted to read personalities through the enneagram, they naturally saw them as a sequence of nine interrelated configurations emerging from the stream of cosmic energies, or, as Gurdjieffian Rodney Collin put it in connection with his own attempt at an enneagram of personality that also included the planets, the “cosmic circulation of mankind.”[15] The same is true of the current enneagram, which was invented by Naranjo in 1971, where each personality is related first to the flow of 142857 and 963 of the inner diagrams (stress and security points), then according to their placement in the number sequence around the circle as a whole (wings) In each case the individual personality is viewed as a blending of the ones that came before and after.[16]  Where the individual personalities ought to be placed in relation to the enneagram’s numerology rests entirely upon where Claudio Naranjo, building on the work of Oscar Ichazo, thought they should go. Naranjo is on record as saying he undertook this task with the aid of another occult practice called automatic writing, [17] which the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines as “writing produced without conscious intention as if of telepathic or spiritualistic origin.”

As astrology posits a connection between our lives and the movement of the planets and stars, so the enneagram posits a connection between our lives and the flow of the numerology that drives both the movement of the planets and stars as well as our lives. We can see this in the fact that the first stab at an enneagram of personality by Rodney Collin in the 1950s linked both the planets and our personalities to 142857.  Similarly, even before Gurdjieff, Olney Richmond’s Mystic Star Tarot also linked 142857 to both the planets and the constellations (see fig. 2). Taking away the numerology removes the entire foundation upon which the edifice of the enneagram was built.  Without it all the claims about there being nine personalities as opposed to four or twelve or seventeen, or stress and security points, or wings, everything, turns out to be simply nothing.  Christian enneagram teachers who’ve gotten vague glimpses of the enneagram’s occult roots often justify themselves by saying that God can redeem anything.  But given that the numerological connections underpinning the major features of the enneagram are really is , nothing, and that the connections they assert are therefore also nothing, they might want to rethink that excuse.

[1] Meredith Boggs, The Journey Home: A Biblical Guide to Using the Enneagram to Deepen Your Faith and Relationships (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books), 9-10.

[2] Todd Wilson, The Enneagram Goes to Church: Leadership, Worship, and Congregational Life (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2021), 16.

[3] John  C. Lilly and Joseph E. Hart, “The Arica Training,” in Transpersonal Psychologies (ed. Charles C. Tart; New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 332.

[4] Sam Keen, “‘We Have No Desire to Strengthen the Ego or Make it Happy’: A Conversation about Ego Destruction with Oscar Ichazo,” Psychology Today (July 1973): 67.

[5] Claudio Naranjo, Ennea-Type Structures: Self Analysis for the Seeker (A Gateway Consciousness Classic; Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB,  1990), 2.

[6] Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation (Our Lady of Gethsemene Monastery, KY /Norfolk, CT: A New Directions Book, 1949), e.g., 26-29, 33-34; Donald W. Winnicott, “Ego distortion in terms of true and false self” (1960), in idem, The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development (New York: International Universities Press, 1965), 140–53.

[7] Willis F. Whitehead, The Mystic Thesaurus, or, Initiation in the Theoretical and Practical Secrets of Astral Truth and Occult Art (Chicago, IL: Willis F. Whitehead, 1899), 48-49.

[8] Olney H. Richmond, The Mystic Test Book, or the Magic of the Cards (Chicago, IL: The Temple Publishing, 1893), 25.

[9] P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950 [1949]), 287; S. Karrpe, Étude sur les origines de la nature du Zohar (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1901), 201.

[10] P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, 294, 288.

[11] Ibid., 293.

[12] Ibid. This does not really follow because once the triangle is removed the figure is no longer an enneagram, but a hexagram.

[13] Ibid., 122.

[14] Ibid., 294.

[15] Rodney Collin, The Theory of Celestial Influence: Man, the Universe, and Cosmic Mystery (London: Stuart and Watkins, 1968 [1954]), 223.

[16] Naranjo writes: “the lines connecting points 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 likewise indicate psychoynamic relations, so that each passion may be understood as grounded in the previous one….” (Naranjo, Ennea-Type Structures, 10-11).  Naranjo is also the originator of the idea of wings, based in part on Ichazo’s teaching that “jeder Punkt im Enneagramm als eine Synthese der beiden angrenzenden Punkte verstanden werden kann” (“each point in the Enneagram can be understood as a synthesis of the two adjacent points”)  (OM C. Parkin & Boris Fitttkau, “Interview mit Claudio Naranjo über das Enneagramm,” ( artikel/interview-mit-claudio-naranjo-ueber-das-enneagramm). Christopher L. Heuertz, the Christian enneagram teacher who is best informed about its New-Age roots, and perhaps the most sympathetic toward those roots describes the enneagram as a “curated color wheel.” (Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth [fwd. Richard Rohr; afw. Ryan O’Neal: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017], 105).

[17] Naranjo credits automatic writing in a July 17, 2010, interview with his friend and publisher E. J. Gold, “The Origin of the Enneagram – Claudio Naranjo speaks – June [sic] 2010” ( [esp. 1:20-4:08]).



Ronald V. Huggins received his doctorate in Biblical Studies from the Wycliffe College, the University of Toronto. He taught at Moody Bible Institute Northwest, Salt Lake Theological Seminary, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he also served as managing editor of the Midwestern Journal of Theology. His academic publications have featured a range of subjects including ancient Judaism, biblical studies, patristics, church history, art history, the history of psychology, and comparative religions. He is also the author of the biography Lighthouse: Jerald and Sandra Tanner: Despised and Critics of Mormonism (2022).