Astrology and the Enneagram

The multi-dimensional nature of the human psyche is very much like a kaleidoscope whose myriad designs continuously shift into intersecting patterns of color and form. Similarly, intricate psychological patterns interface within our individual psyches at a subconscious level until through the light of self-reflection, we learn to recognize how they operate within us. The brighter the light, the clearer the patterns become, along with our ability to take new actions in order to release self-defeating behavior. The more we understand the workings of our inner lives, the more we actualize our outer lives, and our true potential as individuals, families and community members.

Many of us, who have dedicated ourselves to understanding the kaleidoscopic workings of the human psyche, naturally intuit that archetypal systems hold essential keys, not only for developing self-awareness, but also for practicing the ego reduction that is required for self-transcendence. Archetypal systems are universal languages that we, as astrologers, depth psychologists, and spiritual practitioners use to decipher the human psyche at a preconscious level. These languages help us to understand who we are before we receive our social identities from our families and cultural institutions. When we contemplate archetypal forms, we fully engage our right brains, and we see things all-at-once. Our left brains naturally relax, along with the lopsided tendency to think in exclusively analytical terms. Archetypal systems teach us to reflect beyond the boundaries of our lives, and in so doing, to develop greater balance and wholeness.

Of all the ancient archetypal systems such as the Runes, Tarot, and I Ching, Astrology, is probably the most widely known and practiced. Both Eastern and Western Astrology describe twelve archetypal signs, their accompanying house positions in the heavens, the planetary influences that govern them, and how this affects each of us, individually. As with the Tarot, the best use of astrology is not for purposes of "seeing the future," but rather for understanding how archetypal forces affect us all, for better, and for worse. The well-schooled astrologer can now reach large numbers of people of all ages and backgrounds, who, in these increasingly difficult and frightening times, want to know themselves more authentically, both psychologically and spiritually.

The roots of astrology clearly lie in the preliterate world, one ruled not by the alphabet, but by the goddess, Herself. Her language is built out of ancient archetypes, the building blocks of consciousness that naturally emerged into human awareness via the right brain. Whether we look at Mesopotamia, Egypt, or India, before 1700 BC, we see societies who were completely at home with lunar knowledge, the right-brained way of relating to the Universe via symbols, ideographs, natural events, and the heavens themselves.

In recent times, astrology has received an infusion of depth psychology, which has greatly added to both its credibility and popularity. High-level practitioners such as, Hajo Banzhaf, Steven Forrest, Jeffrey Wolf Green, Liz Greene, Anna Haebler, Robert Hand, Alan Oken, and Jan Spiller have raised astrology’s pedagogical bar much higher, making both its value and practice far more accessible to the average person. Many of these astrologers were schooled in traditional mainstream disciplines such as psychology, mathematics, and the humanities, and then took up astrology after they had completed their training. In addition, the modern discovery of the trans-Saturnian bodies — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — has added significantly to the art and science of this complex mythological form.

When we consider the study and practice of psychology in the 20th Century, for generations, giants in the field have pieced together a tremendous amount of empirical data about the human psyche. Through their clinical observations, they have pioneered a number of very important theories. Sigmund Freud, the grandfather of psychoanalysis, set a new direction for modern psychology with his theory of the unconscious. Karen Horney theorized that human behavior fell into aggressive, withdrawn and compliant classifications. Erick Erickson’s work revealed the theory of early childhood development. The DSM IV, the psychiatric diagnostic manual used in clinical practice, classifies human behavior into many disorders, or distinct forms of abnormal psychology.

As well established as these theories are in today’s society, they serve an entirely different purpose in the practice of psychology than those discoveries that are considered to be archetypal in nature. Most modern day psychological theories are essentially derived from a left-brained, "one-at-a-time" analytical perspective; a thinking process that amasses large quantities of empirical data, and arrives at specific determinations. Archetypal discoveries are essentially derived from a right-brained, "all-at-once" contemplative perspective; an intuitive process that naturally recognizes the underlying structures that inherently exist within a given person or organism.

In addition to the complex workings of Astrology, two more archetypal discoveries have made their way powerfully into human consciousness within the last century. The first is Carl Jung’s Four Functions of Consciousness, an eight parted system that describes two attitudes of consciousness, introversion and extroversion as they are experienced through four primary functions: sensing, feeling, thinking and intuiting. The second is the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram, and Greek for a nine-pointed star or model) a newly discovered system of nine character styles, and their dynamic interrelationships.

Both of these archetypal systems contain a well-developed psychological dimension, and a doorway to personal transcendence through a process of self-reflection and individuation. Karl Jung’s Four Functions of Consciousness has been identified as an archetypal discovery by all but the most analytical of psychologists. In a copyright infringement suit brought in 1992 by one of the principal 20th century architects of the Enneagram movement against a former student turned author/teacher, the 2nd United States Court of Appeals found "the Enneagram to be a discovery, and unalterable fact of nature and therefore not entitled to copyright protection." This court’s finding clearly establishes credibility for the Enneagram being a discovery, which implies its validity as an archetypal system.

Although resonate with one another in their humanistic design, there is no correlation between these two systems, as the Jungian system describes what should properly be understood as human personality, and the Enneagram describes human character and its dynamics. Metaphorically speaking, the best way to understand the difference between them is to remember that the Enneagram describes the "worker," or the kinds of people that we are, while the Jungian describes the "kind of work" that is done, or how we organize our talents and abilities. It is widely believed that had the Enneagram been discovered at the time of Freud, modern psychology, as we know it, would have developed along very different lines.

As an archetypal system, the Enneagram reveals the collective mythos that lies beneath the psychological theories of the founders of Western psychology. It is in fact a graphic "blueprint" of our psychological infrastructure. Each of the nine styles is to our individual psychological make-up as DNA is to our genetic structure. Depending upon the relative maturity of each individual, his or her infrastructure will reveal a full range of behavior from the virtually enlightened to the pathological. Well-established correlations have been established between the DSMIV and the pathological side of each of the nine character styles.

Although all nine Enneagram styles contain psychological and spiritual components, they are fundamentally archetypal in nature, which means that they exist as a prior pattern within our basic human nature. As such, they are also "pre-wired" before we receive our social identities from our families and society. In very tangible ways, they influence how those identities are formed and lived-out. Simply put, the Enneagram creates a cohesive synthesis between the archetypal and psychological dimensions of human nature.

Historically, the roots of the Enneagram tend to be obscure, as no texts or oral traditions stand up to real scrutiny. The Enneagram symbol that we see today may have its roots with Pythagoras. The oldest known image appears on a monastery lintel of the Saurmouni Brotherhood, which is located in what is now modern day Afghanistan. Present day Sufi’s repudiate the New Age idea that the Enneagram is part of their tradition. George Gurdjieff a Russian teacher of esoteric knowledge (1879-1949) used the Enneagram to explain the inherent laws involved in the creation and unfolding of numerous structures in nature. We, the authors of this article met students who were raised in Gurdjieff schools in France. They testified to us that the Enneagram was used primarily in the arts, especially dance, and music, and only used in a very elementary manner as the psychological system we now recognize and practice.

The profiles and depth psychology of today’s Enneagram find their origins in the work of Oscar Ichazo, a Peruvian mystic. He claimed in the 1960’s to have received the core instruction from an archangel while in trance. His work, while seminal, has been improved greatly, both by his students and the authors who have come after him, such as Helen Palmer, and Don Riso. We believe that two essential reasons exist for why the Astrology community would benefit from greater contact with the Enneagram and vice versa.

The first reason lies in the way in which the Enneagram is presently being applied in many psychological and pastoral counseling circles. As we stated earlier, both Astrology and the Enneagram are archetypal, right brained languages that provide us with tremendous insight into universal patterns of human behavior. Our prevailing cultural paradigm is technical and left brained, and tends to look askance at archetypal wisdom in general, and Astrology in particular. Astrologers are often ridiculed for their adherence to fundamental archetypal principles that have guided their craft and our understanding of human nature for millennia. To their credit, they would not reduce astrological wisdom to a filleted form of psychology by allowing a left brained bias to enter into their considerations.

Yet, due to the fact that many of the early Enneagram authors have come out of decidedly Catholic and/or psychoanalytic backgrounds, a strong tendency exists in the Enneagram community to do just that; to view the nine character styles through a decidedly sinful (fallen), or pathological (fixated) lens, instead of recognizing each of them as a profound form of archetypal instruction. Teachers and counselors who view each of the nine Enneagram "types" through a decidedly left-brained perspective tend to reduce them to something significantly less than what they are. Instead of a potent unfolding of the psycho/spiritual process that assumes a person is essentially whole, supports them to examine their shadow issues, and restores them via a well defined spiritual practice to realize the light within, each individual’s archetypal style is identified merely as an "obstacle" to their spiritual progress. What assumptions perpetuate this unfortunate bias?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the conventional, Western Judeo/Christian mind-set believes that human nature is basically flawed, or sinful, and also perceives that the Enneagram is best used as a tool to remind people that they are essentially "fallen" and "fixated." In contrast to the West, Eastern traditions perceive human nature as essentially good. Maya, karma, and ignorance are conditions that merely obscure an original nature that is already whole. Practitioners of Eastern traditions would tend to view the Enneagram character styles as containers of recurring human experience, in other words, archetypal styles that depict a full range of human behavior, good, bad, and everything in between.

Most capable astrologers would agree with the Eastern interpretation, as they tend to look at an entire range of behavior when they reflect upon the many interconnecting aspects of an astrological chart. When considering a specific sign, they reflect upon both positive and negative aspects, as with, for example, Sagittarius: on the high side, the "philosopher king," and on the low side, the ‘hypocrite," or the "Pharisee," or in the case of the sign Cancer: on the high side, the "poet," or the "nurturer," and on the low side, the "smothering mother," or the "eternal child." With both of these archetypes, we see a full range of possible behavior.

A wise astrologer will counsel his or her client to draw upon the high or positive side of the archetype as a means of owning and releasing the negative. The way to the light is through the shadow. Members of the Enneagram community would benefit greatly from dialoguing with their astrologer friends and acquainting themselves with the basics of what having an archetypal perspective really means. In this way, they would naturally find their right brains engaging, and their left brains relaxing, which for many of them, seem to be working overtime.

This being said, the second reason why we believe that these two communities would benefit from greater association is far more compelling, and best illustrated by returning to our kaleidoscope metaphor. The various patterns that we see in a kaleidoscope correspond to the various archetypal influences of Astrology, and the Enneagram that exist within our individual psyches. Just as with a kaleidoscope pattern, we must learn to discriminate among the various colors and shapes if we are to see an entire pattern for what it is, we must also learn to consciously sort out and separate our various Astrology and Enneagram patterns if we are to see the bigger picture of our inner life and how it operates. The following example clarifies what we mean by this.

One of our clients came to us in order to ascertain which Enneagram pattern or as we refer to them, archetypal relational style was hers. After taking her through the typing process, we determined that she was probably a Seven, which in our work we refer to as the Visionary Generalist. Over a period of several weeks, as we continued working with her, we had moments where we wondered if we had typed her properly. When they are at their best, the Enneagram Seven is appreciative, versatile, and spontaneous; when they are feeling stressed, or at their worst, they can be addictive, childish, and fraudulent. On a more average day, they are optimistic, acquisitive, and impulsive. Although we definitely saw glimmers of these behaviors in her, there seemed to be a pattern in her that dampened the easily observable buoyancy and enthusiasm that we commonly see in Sevens. Being lay astrologers, we decided to take a look at her Astrology chart to see if there was something that might be "muddying up" the Enneagram picture that we had of her.

Sure enough, something was there: her Mars in the 12th house square her Saturn in the 3rd, created the tendency for her to have a harsh and austere disposition, and for her actions to be continually frustrated, which would lead her to be resentful and negative, and even callous at times. The more we reflected upon this particular aspect, the more we saw how this particular influence tended to reduce or negate the natural optimism, enthusiasm and adventurous qualities of her Visionary Generalist nature. In recognizing the unique kaleidoscopic nature of how her Astrological and Enneagram tendencies fit together, we were able to counsel her much more effectively.

In our own cases, we have a similar story that has to do with how our "Pluto wounds," as defined by Jeffrey Wolf Green in his groundbreaking book, Pluto, the Evolutionary Journey of the Soul have interacted with our Enneagram patterns. After reading his book, we determined the sign and house positions of Pluto in our charts. Then, we began to sort out which part of our inner kaleidoscope belonged to our Pluto wound, and which belonged to our respective Enneagram patterns. What we discovered was that the more we could see one, the easier it became to see the other, and vice versa. We both had very challenging issues to face regarding both our Enneagram styles, and our Pluto wounds. Had we not been able to discriminate between them, working with them would have been far more difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, we would like to extend an invitation to the Astrological community, to learn more about the Enneagram. The main benefit we believe Astrologers would receive from such collaboration would be the ability to provide their clients with archetypal information that informs them directly about themselves. This, in turn will prepare their clients to reflect even more effectively upon their Astrological reading, the psychic dimensions of which require an arguably more fine-tuned awareness.

An Enneagram reading has a concrete quality to it that provides new clients with a kind of "traction" in consciousness that is immediate. People who are new to self-reflection get an instant reward, a sense of confidence about their ability to absorb archetypal wisdom, and apply it to their everyday lives. This does not mean that Astrological wisdom is any less relevant for the average person. If anything, the conscious traction that emerges when we first recognize our Enneagram styles frees our attention, which makes our Astrological reading even more focused, and distinct, like the newly emerging patterns in a kaleidoscope. In this regard, we all have a great deal to share, and learn from one another.


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