The Enneagram

Healing & Meditation

A journey with the Enneagram from Oscar Ichazo’s original school to Osho’s Multiversity – an essay by Subhuti.


The workshop was almost over, but one woman posed a problem for me. I couldn’t figure her out. Over the past two days, I’d given detailed descriptions of the nine strategies that make up the Enneagram. But she refused to identify herself with any of them.

My best guess was Eight, known as The Boss, but her body-type wasn’t typical. She was thin and lacked that solid, round, physical ‘eightness’ which announces to the world, “Nobody pushes me around.”

She’d shrugged off most of my questions, so, ready to give up but still curious enough to make one last try, I ventured, “What is your relationship with authority?”

She didn’t hesitate for a second. “I am the authority,” she replied.

Lights went on in my brain. “You’re an Eight,” I said, with certainty.

Even though I first learned the Enneagram more than 30 years ago, it still delights me to help people discover their type. And I still remember the time in New York City, in 1974, when I learned my own type from Oscar Ichazo, the Bolivian mystic who developed the psychological dimension of the system.

We’d been given our types and I was sitting with other Sevens in a study group, conducted by a pleasant-looking woman in her mid-forties. She asked us to what degree we felt superior to other people.

Somebody said 60 percent, somebody else said 70 percent and so, of course, to top everyone, I casually offered, “Around eighty percent.”

She blessed us all a gentle smile of compassion and then gently delivered the death blow: “Actually, it’s the other way round. The degree to which you feel superior to others is, in reality, the degree to which you feel inferior.”

Oh my god….

It wasn’t just her words that shocked me. It was the sinking feeling in my stomach and the little voice, deep inside me, that whispered, “Yes, it’s true.”

Two years later, I was in Pune, taking sannyas from Osho, and fully expecting the Enneagram to disappear from my spiritual vocabulary.

In the world of sannyas, mind-stuff was out. Feelings… sex, anger, tears, any kind of emotional expression… were definitely in. “Get out of your head, swami!” was the mantra of the day for intellectuals like me.

Then Osho sent me to his Press Office, on the balcony of Lao Tzu House, to work with a guy from Montreal called Krishna Prem. He’s dead now, but at that time he was widely considered to be the most arrogant son-of-a-bitch on the planet.

At least, that’s how I saw him. Because, in a move of truly mystical perfection, Osho had sent the guy with the biggest inferiority complex in town to work with the man most likely to trigger it.

For four long years, day after day, Krishna Prem had his finger in my wound. It wasn’t intentional. He wasn’t nasty, in the sense of enjoying my suffering. In fact, in a biographical book published after his death – “Osho, India and Me” by Jack Allanach  – he is positively kind to me. But that didn’t make any difference to my discomfort.

Curiously enough, it was the Enneagram that helped. Why? Because it allowed me to understand what was happening to me. Instead of being in denial of my feeling of inferiority, I could recognize it and – sometimes at least – appreciate the fact that my ongoing ‘close encounter’ with Krishna Prem was the best way to cure it.

Now we fast forward from Pune One, through the Ranch to Pune Two. I was sitting in Mariam Canteen, meditatively chewing on a plateful of soya chunks, when someone handed me a book, saying “Maybe you’d find this interesting.”

The book was titled “Enneagram” and the author was Helen Palmer. Thus I learned that the Enneagram had broken out of its semi-secret status in Oscar Ichazo’s school and hit the mainstream of the US.

Ichazo was pissed. Not because Palmer had stolen his baby, but because of what she’d done to it.  He was a mystic who genuinely believed that if you see the ego clearly enough, through the window of your “ego-fixation point” – your Enneagram type – it will collapse and give way to the state of enlightenment.

Here, I have to say that Ichazo was wildly optimistic. The ego is the ultimate survival expert and although it hates to look at itself – as the Enneagram forces it to do – it doesn’t give up that easy. Like an old boxer knocked flat on the floor of the ring, it takes an eight-count, then staggers back to its feet for the next bruising round.

But still, Ichazo was, as I say, a mystic. Like Osho, he was working to help people see that the ego is the barrier. Palmer turned the whole thing into an American-style self-help manual: this is how your personality works, these are the sharp edges that can create problems in your life, this is how you can smooth them out… etc.

In other words, she created an ego-improvement manual, the exact opposite of what Ichazo was trying to achieve.

Ichazo took her to court and, as I recall, Palmer won all the way to the US Supreme Court, where Ichazo finally triumphed. All he wanted was a statement, printed at the front of Palmer’s book, saying her manual had nothing to do with his work. You can see it there, even today.

Meanwhile, back in Pune, Osho had opened up his Multiversity group program to include more psychological methods, and suddenly I was being invited to lead an Enneagram workshop.

I’d forgotten just about everything, but fortunately Yogendra, a Type One Perfectionist, had kept all of his meticulously-recorded notes from Ichazo’s school. Together, we re-explored the world of ego fixation.

It didn’t last long. Yogendra, being a responsible One, had more important work to do, and me, being an irresponsible Seven, soon got bored with giving workshops and went into theater. But the value of the Enneagram had been reawakened in me.

From then on, as a kind of hobby, I’d spontaneously invite a group of friends and acquaintances to my apartment and spend the evening eating pizza and playing ‘spot-your-type’ with them.

I gave up the time-consuming process of using questionnaires, and instead developed an intuitive style of my own. As my experience grew, I reduced the three-day workshop into a three-hour evening entertainment — typical Seven thing to do – and could pretty much nail everyone in the process.

Lately, though, I’ve been giving two-and-three-day workshops again. Having reduced the Enneagram to it essence, I now enjoy taking more time, adding depth and sensitivity to the basic challenge of discovering people’s type.

By the way, the term ‘personality type’ isn’t really accurate, because, as you surely know, everyone’s personality is different. The best description is “chief defense strategy,” because, in childhood, we choose one of these nine strategies to help us survive the trials and traumas of growing up.

I need to warn you: there is a remarkable amount of misunderstanding about the Enneagram. It’s amazing how many wrong diagnoses there are. Sixes walk around thinking they’re Eights, Eights think they’re Twos, Twos think they’re Nines… and Nines think they’re all the types rolled into one.

Why? Because, like I said, the ego doesn’t want to see itself. It doesn’t want to stand naked in the light of awareness.

Some people say, “I’m not interested in the Enneagram because I don’t want to be a number.”

To which I smile and say, “Sorry, too late! You chose your number several decades ago. What we’re doing now is trying to get rid of it.”

And how, by the way, do we do that?

Well, fortunately, that’s not my business. That’s Osho’s business. Seeing the Enneagram as a map of the ego, there are nine diseases and one cure. Yes, you guessed… meditation.

The strategy we chose has become a deep habit. It takes over when we’re insecure, or in stress, because – like the inner child – it doesn’t understand that we have grown up and can now take care of ourselves. It continues to control our behavior, making us, in effect, robots.

If, as conscious beings, we are sufficiently aware to catch the mechanism as it takes over, we are free. We have kicked the habit. We have choice.

But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Why? Because when we’re under stress, the last thing we want to do is take a step back and look at what we’re doing.

Imagine: your girlfriend just dumped you for another guy, you’re feeling suicidal, and your best friend says, “Aren’t you behaving like a typical Four?” You’d probably want to push him under a bus.

About the lines: as you can see within the Enneagram symbol, every number is linked to two others by internal lines. One line leads to a security point, rising above the strategy; the other leads to a stress point, where you tend to go when the strategy breaks down.

If this seems complicated, it is, so my advice is to forget it. Believe me, if you can actually catch yourself in your strategy, as it happens, that’s 95 percent of the Enneagram’s value, right there.

About the ‘Wings’: on the circle of the symbol, every number sits between two others. The Two sits between the One and Three… and so on. But, unlike our feathered friends, you only have one ‘Wing.’ So, for example, as a Two, you ‘Wing’ either to the One or the Three, taking on some of the flavour of that type.

One more thing: sometimes, people say to me, “I used to be a Five, but now I’m a Three.”

Sorry, that doesn’t happen. Your strategy never changes. Once chosen, you’re married for life. The only way out is… well… enlightenment. So be compassionate towards yourself, accept the strategy you’ve got, and know that, as long as ‘you’ are around, it’s going to be with you.

SubhutiSubhuti is a writer and a journalist. He has worked as a political reporter in the British Houses of Parliament and created ‘The Rajneesh Times’ newspaper in Oregon. He has also written several musicals and plays, and is currently working as a ghost writer. He has been a sannyasin for 34 years. Subhuti gives workshops about the Enneagram all over the world. More articles by this author on Osho News

Related article
The Enneagram: Types – Enneagram type descriptions, childhood environments, problem areas and sentences which characterize each type – by Subhuti

Comments are closed.