Monday, April 07, 2014

Attributes of God and the Enneagram

Much of what I have been reading recently has reminded me that EVERYTHING that is good and true is of God. That includes theories, books, songs, art (etc) which are created or invented by atheists or those of other faiths. God made us all, and gave us different talents and abilities, and there is something of God in everyone, whether or not they acknowledge it.

(There is a corollary to this, concerning that which is not good or true, even if created by devout Christian believers... but I am not going there. Not today, anyway)

The Enneagram is a system of understanding people's personalities at a deep level, with patterns of growth for each of them. It's used by some in the Catholic Church, and has significant spiritual insights. Unsurprisingly it also has its critics, mostly those who dislike the fact that it's used in Sufi tradition, and may have some Pagan origins. The symbol itself tends to look a bit suspect at first glance, but an Ennegram is simply a nine-pointed star, and is used as a visual representation of the nine main groups of people as described by the Enneagram.

I don't enquire as to the belief system of those who built my computer, or my kitchen appliances; I don't reject chairs and tables because they undoubtedly had some of their origins and development amongst Pagan cultures. If something is good and right, then it is, at least to some extent, of God.

I've read several books about the Enneagram, some of them specifically from a Christian perspective. It's not as simple to grasp as the more popular Myers-Briggs system, as there are no dichotomies; to make it more complicated, the root of each Enneagram type is our deepest besetting sin, and many of us really don't want to acknowledge what's at our roots. So we learn to behave like other people, and often relate strongly to another type until we are honest enough with ourselves to peel away the outer layers and look at what's in our hearts.

Online tests are notoriously inaccurate in their results; there are many which attempt to pinpoint Enneagram types, but I think probably the least bad is the Eclectic Energies test. Unfortunately, I don't really like the rest of that site, or the descriptions. But if you find your most likely type (or types), then the 9 Types site has a pretty good set of descriptions of each of them, although inevitably nobody will fit 100% with any, and many will relate to three or four of them, at least to some extent.

I can still relate quite strongly to five out of the nine types, even though I'm certain now, after many years of study and discussion, that my actual type is the Nine.

All of which is introductory to something I read recently in the book 'Enneagram II' by Richard Rohr. He mentions that we don't just have a self-image and besetting sin that fits with our type, but we also tend to have specific views of God that tie in with our Enneagram types. And while each of them has some truth, they are very limiting, and can lead to a false view of who God is.

That led me to think in a new way about the different names and attributes of God which are sometimes mentioned in hymns, songs and prayers. Sometimes these pass me by - I know intellectually that they are all true, but I mentally shrug.. to me, God is always present, always loving - which is true. But not the whole truth, apparently. It was quite chastening to read that the false image of God for type Nines is: "...a quiet, constant, unquestioned Presence...".  

I wanted to insist that this was true, and far more significant than the God-image for the other types... and yet it began to make sense as I read on, with the recommendation to believe in a more active God who might ask me to do something, might want me to experience great joy, or even righteous anger. 

So now, when people - or songs - mention different names or attributes of God, I'm mentally assigning them to one or more of the nine Enneagram types. And suddenly I can see the value of these different aspects of God.

As a very brief summary of positive traits and images:

  • Type One is the perfectionist, always wanting to do what's right in everyone's eyes. Ones will tend to relate primarily to God as the Judge, as all-seeing and holy. 
  • Type Two is the Helper, meeting people's needs, usually generous and warm-hearted. Twos will tend to relate primarily to God as Love, as the one who provides for us. 
  • Type Three is the Achiever, full of energy and self-confidence, determined to get things done. Threes will tend to relate primarily to God as Creator, who gets things done.
  • Type Four is the Romantic, the classic artistic temperament, able to see and create great beauty in life. Fours will tend to relate primarily to God as Artist, and reach out to him in darkness. 
  • Type Five is the Observer, the detached and usually intelligent researcher. Fives tend to relate primarily to God as the 'Logos', the all-knowing supreme intelligence.
  • Type Six is the Questioner, who is totally loyal and committed, concerned about many things. Sixes tend to relate primarily to God as Refuge or Rock, as the one who offers security and salvation.
  • Type Seven is the Adventurer, full of energy and optimism, often a risk-taker. Sevens will tend to relate primarily to God as Light and Life, as the giver of joy. 
  • Type Eight is the Asserter, who stands up for the weak, and leads with courage. Eights will tend to relate primarily to God as King, as all-powerful and mighty.
  • Type Nine is the Peacemaker, who seeks harmony and sees all points of view. Nines will tend to relate primarily to God as omnipresent, showing mercy and giving peace. 
Caricatures, undoubtedly. The Enneagram is so much more, and can't be summarised properly, even in a much longer article, as it has immense depth.

But still. It made me ponder. 

No comments: