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On the Enneagram

The problem with many popular interpretations of the enneagram is that they are not based on the source teaching, but simply the way the popular interpretors use this symbol to express their own ideas. The original teaching of the enneagram is much more exacting (and, consequently, much more powerful) in the way it is used.

A typical example of the it-is-what-I-think-it-is approach is mixing wiseacrings of modern "psychology" with the enneagram. Another way of putting this is that many fads that supposedly use the enneagram could just as well use any other nine-pointed figure. Or, for that matter, eight- or ten-pointed figures adjusted to fit. First of all, there must be a definite distinction between the three points where the triangle touches the circle and the six points where the inner-web touches the circle. These two groups of points are different in origin and meaning, and to speak about all nine points as aspects at the same level is an indication that the speaker does not know that significant information. It is necessary to realize that the three points are distinct, and that the six points include a seventh point, and to understand why the seventh point is not represented.

The enneagram symbolically integrates the two fundamentals of a complex universe: the threefoldness of relationship, and the sevenfoldness of sequence, or process.

With the enneagram each point has a characteristic and constant quality. This quality applies regardless of the scale under consideration. In human affairs, for example, each point has this quality relative to individual psychology, physical appearance, bodily development, even digestion. And the same qualities also apply to each point if the scale is the solar system or atomic structure. Each point has a purpose, a relative and necessary position that remains the same regardless of scale. Any teaching that does not recognize the individual quality of each of these points is not really using the enneagram and, instead of using the figure to lead to a harmonization of disparate facts, is instead misleading and introducing still another subjective theory.

The symbol will always be misused, but it is possible to decipher its real purpose as well.

So what is the esoteric teaching? What are the qualities of each point? And if told, would it not cease to be an esoteric teaching? Regarding the last question, the publication of esoteric teaching is not the same as the transmission of esoteric teaching, and the reading of esoteric ideas is not the same as understanding them. It is true that many people will believe that they understand the esoteric when they do not, and also that they will cause others to believe in them, but that will always be the case, and it has always been a fundamental test, and the first step, of coming to an esoteric teaching—discerning the difference between someone who knows and someone who thinks they know.

Esoteric vs. exoteric means inner vs. outer: Inner teaching vs. outer teaching. One of the the best ways to understand this is that an esoteric idea is personally understood, that is, it has become internalized, inner to oneself. There is no such thing as words or ideas by themselves that are esoteric, it is only those words and ideas that have become a part of oneself that are esoteric for oneself. Two people, on hearing the same idea expressed may assimilate it quite differently. For one it may be "Oh yes, that is like so-and-so." For another, the same expression may penetrate and stay and open up something new, or perhaps uncover something somehow already known. For that second person, it is esoteric.

Because understanding is based on connections, relationships, it is the nature of esoteric knowledge to be "more than the parts". That is, when such knowledge is assimilated, is understood, much else is understood besides, new connections or relationships become visible: one has moved a little way further toward unity and harmony, and a little further away from multiplicity and the confusion of tongues.

So what has all this to do with the enneagram? The enneagram represents multiple relationships that are integrated in such a way as to represent a self-perfecting whole. It does not represent us as we are, but instead, represents us as we could be. Clearly, if this is true, we must understand the symbol, we must see these relationships, in ourselves, and see where it might lead us. This is internalizing the enneagram, this is the way to an esoteric knowledge of the symbol.

We approach this by learning what the three parts of the symbol are: How they are constructed and how they are related.

We start with a circle:

(image of circle)

The circle represents the whole, the complete process. It is regarded as a process if followed around its circumference, and it is regarded as a phenomenon if regarded as a whole, or as a point.

Now we divide unity by three, and so add an equilateral triangle:

(image of circle containing triangle)

One is divided into three equal parts. When viewing the circle as a process, the three points of the triangle that touch the circle are the points at which something external provides what is necessary to continue the process. When viewing the symbol as an event, the triangle represents the three forces necessary for any phenomenon.

Now we divide unity by seven (1/7=.1428571...), and so add a six-pointed figure:

(image of enneagram)

This figure is derived by dividing unity by seven, which produces a repeating decimal that does not contain the numbers 9 (or 0), 3 and 6. The numbers not included are the points of the triangle previously obtained by dividing unity by three, and the new numbers are then assigned the obvious points they would occupy on the circle if all points are distributed evenly. When the new points are connected in the order of the repeating decimal (1428571...) they form an "inner web" that shows us the essential internal circulation of the cosmos.

The circle or its center represents, for the six points, the seventh point. And the six-pointed web crosses the triangle at 12 points. So: One, divided by three and one divided by seven produce two figures that intersect at 12 points and are contained in the one figure.

(image of enneagram with 12 points of intersection indicated)
Twelve are below
seven are above them
and three are above the seven.
From these three
He founded His abode
and all of them depend on One.
Sefer Yetzirah

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