Summary: Enneagram as a method of spiritual growth.
More than anything, reading about the Enneagram makes me realize that I probably discount other people entirely too much. Or at the very least do not take into account the different ways that people process the world around them.
I am still a bit skeptical about the Enneagram. This is my second book and I think I both understood more about the basic ideas of the Enneagram and that I understood more about how it works as a system. I am not sure I will every become a devotee. But I do see some value in the descriptions. And like any personality system, the help is in the revelation, not in the proscription. In other words, to the extent that the ideas of the Enneagram are helpful to helping you understand yourself or others and give voice to your own understanding of yourself, it is helpful. But the Enneagram is not helpful if it is used to proscribe how others (or yourself) will act.
After having finished Mirror for the Soul and thought more about the Enneagram, mostly positively, I do think that part of my issue with the it as a concept is wondering how much the the individualism, which is part of our current world and culture, is being encouraged here. We are individuals. We experience the world individually. But at different points in time, cultural emphasized the responsibility to the whole more than it does now. And I wonder how much of our current fascination with personality is unhealthy. It isn’t that I reject that individual personality is real. Or that I don’t think that trauma, abuse, or flourishing as an individual impacts us as an individual to impact the world around us. But I wonder about how much, at least for some of us, self awareness becomes an idol itself. To Alice Fryling’s credit, there is a discussion about the Enneagram as idolatry (by which she means self absorption as idolatry).
Mirror for the Soul addressed a number of my concerns about the Enneagram. On the whole I think it is a better book than The Sacred Enneagram, although that might be about Mirror for the Soul being the second book that I read as much as it is about it being a better book. The most helpful part of the Sacred Enneagram was exploring how different Enneagram types approach prayer differently. The Mirror for the Soul had a good discussion of the True and the False self, which I had been well introduced to through Richard Rohr’s writing. But also was significantly focused, not just on helping the reader understand the Enneagram abstractly, but how understanding the Enneagram can be helpful to spiritual growth.
The Enneagram as a personality system I think is helpful because it is focused not just on the positives or negatives of a personality trait, but on how a personality trait has positive and negative aspects. It is not surprising to me that Rohr is so associated with the Enneagram, because one of his early books, Why Be Catholic, took a similar tack and focused on aspects of the Catholic church that drew him in, but also pointed out how those positive also were some of its biggest weaknesses.
Understanding that we are created as finite beings that are intended to be incomplete matters to the Enneagram. Not that it is an inherently Christian system, but that it does fit into an understanding of Christian anthropology that suggests that we are individuals within a body. While are a complete person without others, we are not fully complete outside of community in the variety of ways that community presents itself to us.
The Mirror for the Soul is particularly good at showing how different types need one another, even if they don’t always want one another.