"How Much of this Universe Have You Really Explored?"
August 3-6, 2000
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Burlingame, California

"A Direct Path to Our Personal Depths"
by Dr. Evelyn I. Challis

Dr. Evelyn I. Challis felt she needed to respond to a "lite" review of the conference that was done by Steve Rubenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle. Dr. Challis attended the whole conference rather than the quick sampling that Mr. Rubenstein performed. Read and enjoy.

The San Francisco Chronicle's staff writer Steve Rubenstein obviously had great fun ("Strength in Numbers at Enneagram Event," 8/4/2000) with his gleeful romp through the rooms of the Hyatt Regency, site of the recent Enneagram Conference. Sadly, the loss was the public's who, with the benefit of a more fulsome report, could've become truly informed and educated with regard to an ancient system of personality called the Enneagram. Isn't that what newspaper reporting is supposed to be about? (She said naively). At any rate, here is an attempt to fill in the holes left by Rubenstein's piece, which, if one didn't know any better, gave the distinct impression that he was describing the latest California 'woo-woo' craze. To the contrary, the International Enneagram Association's Conference 2000, August 3-6, drew over 400 people from more than 15 countries:

The Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) dates back more than 2,000 years to the Middle East, and the ancient brotherhood of the Sufi, a Muslim sect who could arguably be called the world's first psychologists. They passed on this typology (the nine qualities of the Divine) as part of their oral tradition. The Enneagram came to the West through the mystic teachings of the Russian George Ivanovich Gurdjieff in the 1920's and took hold in the United States in the 60's primarily through the seminal work of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo (the Arica Institute) in their development of the psychology of the types. So today we have "a distillation of teachings from several profound schools of spiritual wisdom, combined with insights from modern psychology. It is at once ancient and modern, representing a marvelous and dynamic synthesis of old and new. The likely sources of the system can be traced to early teachings in the Judeo (Jewish mystics and Kabalists)-Christian tradition and to early Greek philosophy." (Riso, 1996)

In the last few decades the enneagram has flourished and is currently accepted by much of academia: The Stanford University Medical School's psychiatry department co-sponsored an Enneagram Conference the summer of '94 which attracted 1400 people. The enneagram has drawn thousands of professionals to it and within these professional circles it is held in very high esteem for all of the usual scientific reasons: its validity, its reliability and its usefulness in forging a path for change from the unhealthier behaviors on the lower rungs of each type (neuroses and psychoses) to the healthier levels. For those with a more mystical or spiritual bent, the enneagram has the added gift of its being able to be used as a guide towards greater enlightenment and spiritual growth.

This Conference was a wonderful opportunity to sit at the feet of the current generation of masters in this continually developing field: Dr. Jerome P. Wagner, (clinical psychologist at the Counseling Center of Loyola University in Chicago, where he has been teaching graduate courses in the Enneagram for more than 15 years) led a panel discussion on the latest, validating enneagram research as well as leading a hilariously funny workshop on "Making Connections with our Shadow Selves." Dr. Wagner was one of the first to do formal research on the Enneagram's 'nine phenomenological world views and perspectives.' Today he offers an Enneagram Training and Certification Program at Loyola's Institute for Pastoral Studies.

Dr. David Daniels, (clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford Medical School) is a leading developer of the enneagram and he co-heads the Center for Enneagram Studies with Helen Palmer in Palo Alto, which offers professional training programs world-wide. Dr. Daniels, who would see the Enneagram typology as 'nine types of Being,' gave a wonderful workshop on "Will as Transformer: Power and Control" guiding us in identifying our unique way of using our will within the particulars of our type. He also wrote "The Essential Enneagram," which is based on the understandings and philosophy of Helen Palmer.

Helen Palmer developed the enneagram oral tradition based on Naranjo's earlier exploration of personality using interviewing techniques. She elucidate's each type's way of organizing their attention: one's attention focuses on some things in the environment and leaves others out. "In this way, we can all learn that we are just incomplete rather than right or wrong," she says. Her workshop "Type and Spiritual Freedom" was itself a spiritual experience and provided some beginning enlightenment into the hard work and practice of spiritual growth.

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, who have created together the RisoHudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) both gave a wonderfully informative and meaningful workshop on "Intimacy, Contact and Wholeness in Relationships." Mr. Riso, a former Jesuit, is co-fournder of the Enneagram Institute and has taught for more than 20 years, pioneering a revolutionary new approach to ego psychology through his "Levels of Development." I am most familiar with Mr. Riso's clear and understandable books, many co-written with Russ Hudson: "Personality Types," "Understanding the Enneagram," and their most recent work, "The Wisdom of the Enneagram," any one of which would serve as an introduction for any beginner. Hudson, one of the foremost scholars and innovative thinkers on the enneagram today, is also co-founder with Riso of the Enneagram Institute.

There were so many more: Peter O'Hanrahan from Berkeley on "Enneagram Subtypes--Instinct and Archetype," Thomas Condon from Oregon on "Using the Enneagram to Grow and Change," Katherine Chernick and David Fauvre from Menlo Park on the "Enneagram Instinctual Subtypes and Psychotherapy," and Elizabeth Wagele, who co-authored with Renee Baron, "The Enneagram Made Easy," a wonderfully readable and informative introduction to the enneagram, provided us with a lovely musical event on the last day: "The Enneagram of Music."

This conference was a terrific smorgasbord, from academic analyses and psychological insights to practical guides and hilarious fun and games, all pertaining to the basic theme of the nine enneagram types, which incidentally are: Perfectionist, Helper, Performer, Romantic, Observer, Questioner, Adventurer, Leader and Mediator. Far from using this typology to stereotype people with easy labels, which beginners often fall into doing, this very ancient system is best used for understanding the inexplicable in human behavior. Most of us can operate free of the biases of our type a lot of the time but as Helen Palmer says in her book, The Enneagram in Love and Work, when the pressure builds, the "bias of each type comes into play and tends to dominate our perceptions. Often we are blind to our own shortcomings and unconsciously try to compensate by finding someone else with the qualities that we are missing. The enneagram can guide us in our need to develop these qualities in ourselves." (Palmer, 1995)

While I am aware that Mr. Rubenstein's article on this Conference is about one-half as long as mine, I give anyone who is interested, permission to edit my article down by half and whatever is left can still be used as a more accurate representation of the Conference which both of us attended. Perhaps my headline should be: "The Enneagram Conference As In the Eye of the Beholder." Or better: "Unveiling our Inner Map of Reality." Or best: "A Direct Path to Our Personal Depths."


Reprinted from:
International Enneagram Association, What's New Section:
International Enneagram Association