Michael Sciretti Jr. has spent years teaching about, and guiding students through, the Enneagram, an ancient practice that inspires spiritual growth through personality typing.
And Sciretti, who is a Baptist, said he has also learned how important it is that guides thoroughly know their audiences before delving into process with their students.
“Some people are going to be really attracted to it and others from more of a Biblicist world view will view it with suspicion,” said Sciretti, a teacher with The Epiphany Institute of Spirituality, which offers workshops and courses on contemplative Christian practices.
“Sometimes you need to be careful in the introduction,” he said.
Religion News Service recently reported that interest in the Enneagram is not only ancient, but spiking among Christians — even theologically conservative ones.
Co-authors of a new book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, addressed a conference about the personality system Sept. 29 in Chicago.
Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, RNS reported, came to the Enneagram in very different ways. Crown arrived at it years after being warned by a professor that it was astrology. Stabile jumped right in after reading Richard Rohr’s 2001 book The Enneagram: A Christian perspective.
A web site about the Enneagram said the roots of the practice are disputed. Some claim it dates back 4,000 years to the geometry of the Pythagoreans, while others trace it to esoteric Judaism.
“In fact, some trace the Enneagram to a fourth-century Christian monk and ascetic named Evagrius,” RNS reported. Sufism is credited by yet others.
The system arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s where it became a spiritual formation practice first among Catholics, the news service said.
Push-back in some settings
The Enneagram identifies nine personality types, such as perfectionist, individualist, investigator, enthusiast and peacemaker. Each category is numbered and represented by a nine-pointed geometric symbol.
An individual’s Enneagram type, and their strengths and weaknesses, is arrived at by self-examination.
But the great strength of the Enneagram, Sciretti said, is that it doesn’t stop at those types.
“What I like about the Enneagram versus other personality indicators is that it works from the assumption that we are not simply our personality type,” he said. The system assumes “we are personality as well as essence.”
The implication is that a practitioner can grow beyond her or his character defects when aided by the knowledge gained in the Enneagram, he said.
“The Enneagram is a tool to talk about … a process of transformation, not just identification with a personality type,” Sciretti said.
That’s why it can be such a powerful tool to Christians already hungry for growing in their spiritual lives, he said.
“To me as a teacher, that’s appealing because I can give people some specific ways to be awake and present.”
And it seems a wider number of Christians are seeking the heightened spiritual states made possible through the Enneagram.
Cron said the Enneagram has become acceptable even to Evangelicals, RNS reported.
Sciretti said he has seen that too, but added it’s still possible to experience push back in some settings.
“It depends on the community of faith you’re moving in,” he said.