The enneagram is a personality test that has gone through many incarnations while maintaining its inherent flaws. The original was part of the Fourth Way, a
thieving reworking of Buddhist ideas created by George Gurdjieff in the 19th Century. Gurdjieff also incorporated Christian mysticism and, owing to his fixation on the numbers three and seven, featured them prominently in the enneagram. Besides the test, ennegram also refers to the image that is used to read the results.
This image features nine points around the edge of a circle. These points are connected by two lines: One connects points 1-4-2-8-5 and 7, while the other connects points 3, 6, and 9. Gurdjieff ascribed numerological meaning to all this, but that has been dropped by modern practitioners. Still, the circle and connecting lines are maintained because it hints at ancient wisdom. Some add colors and symbols to maximize mysticism.
The enneagram is used in one of three ways in personality tests today. In one utilization, it has adopted psychological terms and is presented as a straightforward test. Other than a few employers, its only users are enneagram businesses. Another form is a New Age feel good version. Finally, we have the type that purports to find out what is wrong with you.
According to the enneagram hypotheses, there are nine personality types. These distinctions are either good or bad, depending on which school of thought one subscribes to. They are either a vice to eradicate or a positive energy to be encouraged. Almost everyone has these nine descriptors to some degree, so it’s easy to shoehorn people into whatever category the test results indicate they belong in.
The idea that the personality types are faults to be worked on is championed mainly by Oscar Ichazo. He reworked the Catholic Church’s Seven Deadly Sins, then added fear and deceit to get up to the requisite nine enneagram points. He claims each of us is born with an essence that conflicts with our personality. As our personality is a large part of our essence, this would seem a most foul pickle indeed. No worries, since customers can purchase Ichazo’s system and overcome this. The system’s use of malleable terms also guarantees that there will always be more improvement needed and more solutions sought and bought.
There is value in self-reflection and learning what one’s strengths and weaknesses are, but the enneagram is a poor vehicle. Most test results resemble horoscopes, spewing out advice that could apply to anybody.
Another issue is that, like most personality tests, it ascribes just one allegedly dominant trait to a person. A person is revealed to be an achiever, investigator, loyalist, or some other distinction. This ignores the complexity of people.
One enneagram business issues this pronouncement for those who have finished testing: “Does this fit you? If it does not, go back over the test, rethink some of your answers, and see if you come up with your style.” In other words, if it doesn’t match, change your answers and cram that square essence peg into that round enneagram hole. The only limit of the enneagram is the imagination of those working with it.
Another site had the following breakdown of test results, which I will paraphrase.
If the test shows you have one primary personality trait: It works!
If three traits are lumped at the top: It still works. You just need to figure out which of the three is the most dominant. Lucky for you, we have subsequent tests to discover this.
If it’s a nine-way jumble: There are two possibilities. It’s either because you are a spiritual seeker who has honed all nine traits, or it’s because gave wrong answers since you have yet to discover yourself. So you’re either too self-aware or not near self-aware enough. Either way, we’ve got books and charts to fix this.
This site also informs us that, “Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what your basic type is,” rendering the entire exercise meaningless.