The Enneagram: A private Session With the World’s Greatest Psychologist is a time-honoured way of understanding personality types and human behavior. It is both ancient and modern. Developed over 1500 years by Sufi and Christian mystics, it was revised and extensively expanded in the 20th century by the disciplines and insights of Western psychology.
It identifies nine types of personality, nine ways of being, describes how they interrelate and is widely used today as a perceptive guide to self-understanding.
In this original and thought-provoking book ‘Enneagram’ unveils her insights in the form of letters to and from enquirers. These finely-drawn portraits of the nine faces of humanity will not only give you a deeper understanding of who you are, but will also guide you through the complex inner world of others.
About the author
Simon Parke was a priest in the Church of England for 20 years and is now a freelance writer. His books include The Journey Home, One-Minute Mindfulness and Solitude: Recovering the power of alone. Simon runs, leads retreats, meets with people looking for a new way in their life and follows the beautiful game with more passion than is helpful.
Who am I?
Your psychologist introduces himself
Greetings, dear friend! My name is Enneagram and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to this, your private session. Perhaps you know me or perhaps you don’t. This doesn’t matter for my wish is not that you know me but that you know yourself. To this end, in the coming pages I will describe you with some accuracy. It’s a gift I have.
I’ll also describe myself with a chapter on my history. It’s important I’m honest about this. How can I ask you to be honest to yourself if I am not similarly so? Some healers rather enjoy the grand cloak of ‘magic, mystery and authority’ but you will not find me among them. All I hold in my hand is a mirror for you to look into. Hopefully you’ll find the magic, mystery and authority in your self.
I’m a psychologist but as to what kind, you must decide for yourself. Were you to ask me, I’d say I’m a traditional psychologist in that I don’t separate the psyche (soul) from psychology as some have latterly attempted. I don’t believe we can talk adequately of humans without reference to the soul.
I’m traditional also in my interest in things beyond appearance, opinion and conditioning; in things beyond ego, illusion and intellect. I’ll suggest there is more to the human race than these three giants of psychological study and that it’s only beyond such things that you will find yourself.
Am I the greatest psychologist? That’s not for me to say and I have no interest in the answer. I’ve learned far too much from far too many to be able to set myself apart in this way. Consider those who have gone before me and tell me who was best: Buddha? Lao Tzu? Huang-Po? Socrates? Plato? Jesus? St Augustine? Hildegard of Bingen? Rumi? Hafiz? Julian of Norwich? Shakespeare? St Ignatius? Goethe? Nietzsche? Gurdjieff? Tolstoy? Freud? Sartre? Jung? Horney? Rogers? Krishnamurti? Almaas? They’re all great in their way and you may wish to add to the list.
Where do I stand amid such genius? Perhaps my particular gift is this: I understand and describe human difference. Outwardly, our lives appear rather similar and people often talk and act as if we are. Inwardly, however, we live our lives in very different ways with quite different perceptions of reality. We’re the same, yet quite different. In this private session, I will describe your difference; the inner forces particular to you.
Along the way, we’ll ask the question: Who are you? And here’s one way of considering this:
The public self is the part of you known to your self and others.
The blind self is the part of you known by others, but not by you.
The secret self is the part of you known to you, but not by others.
The unconscious self is the part known by neither your self nor others.
Like a butterfly amongst the summer flowers, I will touch on all these areas.
There is a wonderful happiness in becoming transparent to our selves. Once our particular and odd ways are admitted, acknowledged and accepted we move much more freely in the world. We move from being compulsive people to contemplative people.
Where to start? When people come to see me, they often say: ‘I don’t know where to start.’ I tend to reply, ‘Start wherever you like’ and then we’re underway. So let me start with a comment you hear every day:
‘Well, of course, I spotted their agenda straight away.’
Have you heard that said? Have you said it yourself? There is something of the amateur psychologist in all of us and we imagine ourselves clever at spotting the hidden agendas of others. ‘They don’t fool me - not for a moment!’ we say.
This session, however, is concerned not with the agendas of others but with our own; and surprisingly, people are often blind to their own. People imagine they know themselves but I rarely find this to be true. In fact, people seem able to live in their bodies for many years with little clue as to who it is that lives there. They are the walking unconscious waiting to wake up.
How do those words sound? Much hangs on your reaction – not least, our continued relationship in this session. Yet it’s my belief that we do not know ourselves; that most of our suffering, we organise ourselves and that most of our happiness, we abort, before it can be born. This is an unhelpful way to live for as Socrates said, ‘Once we know ourselves, we may learn to care for ourselves but otherwise, we never shall.’
We need to learn to care for ourselves from insight rather than ego and this is why the brave set out on the adventure of self-truth.
Let’s imagine for a moment. Imagine an explorer day dreaming of being at home when in truth, they have many miles still to travel. They sit in a cold swamp and imagine themselves on a warm sofa. Are they wise in this? Are they happy? It’s respite, perhaps but a fool’s respite. It’s a pleasant state but a vulnerable one – vulnerable for being unreal.
And we are that explorer, dreaming our own little dreams. If you wish to wake from your dream, however, I’ll wake you and place in your explorer’s hands a map to guide you home. And it’ll be the best of homecomings because it’ll be real – that is, entirely truthful to the person you are.
Others put these things better than I and so let me turn to the words of the 20th century poet T.S. Eliot in ‘The Four Quartets’:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive at the place where we started
And know the place for the first time.
If that exploration appeals then this will be is a private session you will appreciate.
One thing I am aware of: being a truth mirror can make you unpopular. Tell someone the truth about themselves and they can become angry; you’re threatening their perception of themselves, their self-image and that is a cherished item.
Our self-image is an illusion of course but an illusion we like to maintain as a way of ordering our inner world. For this reason, self-knowledge is something many run from.
I can still hear the woman who had worked with the starving. She was furious at the idea:
‘Psychology? Self-knowledge?’ she muttered. ‘The starving don’t have time for psychology and so neither do I. What’s important is that they’re fed!’
We all run from ourselves in different ways and sometimes our running has the appearance of virtue. We may say the starving don’t mind who gives them bread and on a level, this is true. But on a deeper level, we take ourselves wherever we go and most of the healing we bring to harsh situations does not flow from what we carry in our hands or speak with our lips but who we are in ourselves. Self-knowledge is concerned with being good as we do good; it is for those who wish to bless crisis rather than hide behind it. The world is full of those who wish to be a light to the world without first being a light to them selves.
I hear also the terror of the religious man:
‘Psychology? Self-knowledge?’ he says. ‘Why waste time talking about ourselves when we should be talking about God!’
We all run from ourselves in different ways and sometimes sanctuary is a religious cocoon. Yet how surprising that a religious man should decry psychology! In many ways, it was religion that taught it to the world. For tell me: how can someone unknowing of them selves know anyone else - let alone God? At the root of our philosophical and religious heritage, from both East and West, is the call to ‘know your self’. I don’t ask you to believe one thing or another; what you believe is your concern. But I do ask you to know the person who is making the choices.
I also hear the criticism of the cynic:
‘Psychology? Self-knowledge?’ they say. ‘It’s just another fad for those with more money than sense. What’s there to know which I don’t already?’
We all run from ourselves in different ways and some escape into despair, closing down on themselves and the human adventure. They’ve listened to more nonsense in their lives than they care to remember and have no desire for more.
But the only listening in this session is to your self. Close down on anything but do not close down on yourself.
We need to look after our psychology. We judge what’s important in life and what we value in life from our particular psychology. This is why it’s vital for us to understand it rather than run from it: our psychology is quietly deciding and determining everything we think, feel and do.
Good psychologists give you the tools to excavate your inner light and awareness of the obstacles you might find. The rest is up to you.
People come to me for guidance and much of this book will be a description of such encounters. You will meet many people in these pages. In particular, and this I promise, I’ll describe an encounter with you. And it’s when you’ve found yourself known that all else will fall into place; when you feel known, the enneagram journey will move from your head to your heart.
Have you ever been truly known by another? Or wondered to your self: who am I?
It’s a question that resonates down the corridors of our existence and makes us restless for the truth. In our psychological quest, however, we’ll beware both of gurus who promise too much and those who promise too little. Some gurus whisper in your ear a perfect tomorrow. They promise much more for us than they are in themselves which should always make us suspicious. ‘Be the change you want to see,’ as Mahatma Gandhi said.
Equally, we must beware of those who promise too little; who sell our humanity too short. There are un-guessed meanings beyond the curtain of our experience and in truth, we can at times resemble nothing so much as a pauper who lives unknowingly on a gold mine. This journey is for those who seek better views and are prepared to climb hills to find them.
A session with me is not all a bed of roses. If you seek someone who will say only nice things, then you’ve knocked on the wrong door. I can appear harsh for I weep at the inner contortions which destroy you daily. I will expose and name these contortions and refuse to collude with your redundant self-image.
In a market which clusters excitedly around the avoidance of pain and unreal idealism, such an approach may not be good for sales. But it’s good for you and overall, I laugh more than I weep for I also name your virtues, delight in your possibilities and well know that everything needed for growth, is already yours.
There is much light in you to be gathered; much more than you imagine.
Who will you find in these pages? You will find everyone who has ever lived, past, present, future. Here you’ll find every Prime Minister, Pope, President and parent; every conman, murderer and tyrant; every boss, sporting hero and celebrity; every sister, brother, teacher and friend. It’s fascinating to bring fresh eyes to such people. Most of all, however, you’ll find yourself. And it’s a homecoming you richly deserve.
So let the journey begin. I start by explaining my symbol which will be a signpost to help us get our bearings. I’ll then speak of my own history and after that, we turn to you. Your private session has started.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published March 2012
Size: 229 x 152 mm