Gurdjieff’s Enneagram

The enneagram has a captivating effect on many who encounter it. Gurdjieff first introduced it to his Russian students in the second decade of the 20th century. Since then, the image of the enneagram has spread around the world. It has inspired occultists, appeared in films, and, most recently, been reimagined as a way to chart personality types. Though fans of using the enneagram as a mystical Meyers-Briggs chart are not typically using the word “personality” in a way that Gurdjieff would agree with.

Gurdjieff told his students that the enneagram was an ancient symbol that predated Christianity. He wove a tale that placed its origin before the pyramids in a time before Egypt was covered by sand. This story has entranced many but it’s more likely that Gurdjieff relying on his deep understanding of causality and the interconnectedness of all things, imagined the enneagram entirely.

It’s understandable that he would give this symbol a fantastical back story. One has only to consider his audience. Gurdjieff was building toward something. He had a vision. To make his vision a reality, he needed people coming through the door. He needed bodies in chairs and nothing captures an audience’s attention like a good story.

Gurdjieff may have used a tall tale or two (or many) to fire up the imagination of his students. But he in no way exaggerated the power of the enneagram as a tool to help one better understand the transformation and change we observe both in the world around us and the one within.

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