What is the Enneagram?
The word Enneagram comes from Greek and means “nine-sided.” The Enneagram of Character Fixation is a way of identifying nine different egoic masks. These nine masks of ego are clustered into three primary classifications, depending on which “body” houses the identification. When the identification arises in the physical body, the fixation is anger-based. When the identification arises in the mental body, the fixation is fear-based. When the identification is in the emotional body, the fixation is shame-based hysteria. These three primary fixations are all based in fear: fear of anger, fear of love, and fear of fear.
Within each of the three basic classifications – anger, hysteria, and fear — there are three different versions. There are three anger points, three hysteric or “image” points, and three fear points, which make up the nine basic types.
There is a living intelligence in all people that seeks ultimately to discover its source and true identity. The teaching of the self- realized saint, Ramana Maharshi, is to plunge inside to discover who you really are.
The method of self-inquiry is to look within to find out what the I is made of. You can start by seeing what you have falsely identified as yourself. When all of your thoughts, mental stories, emotions, and body sensations are directly investigated, they are seen to be not who you are. They are all ever-changing, while you are what does not disappear or change. You are the consciousness that gives rise to all perception and experience.
The realization of oneself as pure consciousness cannot be learned, studied, or believed. It must be directly experienced and intelligently investigated to discover it for yourself. In the plunge within, the I that is plunging, the same I that is reading this page, is discovered to be merely an idea.
Everyone wants to be happy. This is a universal component of the human condition, and may seem so self-evident that it does not bear noting. Even those who intensely hate themselves or do violence to others can trace the drive back to the deepest unfulfilled desire for happiness.
Why is it that so few are truly happy? If it is true that our nature is happiness and bliss, why has it been so rare for people to realize this about themselves and to live their lives in gratitude and love? How can the desire for happiness manifest as ignorance, greed, and violence? The Enneagram offers an answer to this puzzle and points to the solution.
This inconceivable gateway of great liberation is in everyone.
It has never been blocked; it has never been defective.
Buddhas and Chan Masters have appeared in the world
and provided expedient methods, with many different devices,
using illusory medicine to cure illusory disease.
– Chan Master Yuansou
Passing through the gateway of liberation is the entrance to happiness, bliss, and the knowledge of one’s true identity. In the past, it has been the rarest of events. This gateway of liberation is in everyone. It is the fulfillment of our human potential to pass through the gateway. The human species is still evolving. It is a race against time. Will we evolve to the next stage of our potential unfolding or will we destroy the Earth’s ability to sustain us before we get there?
The ones who have awakened to their true nature as happiness and bliss were the forerunners, the harbingers of things to come. Now it is possible, not for just a few great souls but for everyone to awaken to his or her true nature. The seeds are being cast to the winds. The great gateway of liberation is open and all may pass through.
In our time, the Enneagram has appeared as an illusory medicine to cure an illusory disease. The disease is the egoic idea of separation. The cure is to look in the wisdom mirror of the Enneagram to see past all false identification to the truth of being.
The personal entity, which identifies its existence with life in the physical body and calls itself “I,” is the ego.
The physical body, which is inherently inert, has no ego sense. The Self, which is pure consciousness, has no ego sense.
Between these two, there mysteriously arises the ego sense, which is the “I” thought.
This ego, or separate personal identity, is at the root of all suffering in life. Therefore, it is to be destroyed by any means possible. This is Liberation or Enlightenment or Self-realization.
– Ramana Maharshi
My teacher, Sri Poonjaji, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, had a wonderful story he often told about waves. The waves are continually racing toward the shore where they roll, crash, and then slide back to regroup, and roll and crash again. Each wave has its own unique moment and movement, its own size and roll, and seems different from all other waves.
One day a little wave became curious as it saw a big, old wave coming from far away. The little wave approached the big wave and said, “You seem like a big, old, wise wave. You have traveled so far and seen so much. Maybe you can tell me, is there such a thing as an ocean?”
The old wave smiled and said, “Well, I have heard of the ocean, but I haven’t actually seen it.”
With the Enneagram you can discover how you have believed yourself to be a wave, separate from the ocean of consciousness. Once you have clearly recognized the structure of mind, you then have a choice. You can either continue to believe yourself to be a limited “me,” or you can begin to fully examine the false belief that who you are is bound by time and form. In order to choose the latter, a desire must arise within the ego for the transcendence of ego. There must arise a burning desire for freedom, truth, or God.
With conscious surrender of limited identification comes a great relaxation. There is an unwillingness to continue playing a self-destructive mental game. When the game of suffering stops, there is vast realization. What is discovered to be underneath all identification is the ocean of supreme bliss and peace. This is the beginning.
The Structure of Ego
Every organism has a personality. We see it in dogs, cats, and horses. It has even been discovered and reported in studies of ants. Personality is the most peripheral and superficial ring of the structure of ego. It is made up of patterns of either conditioned or genetic predispositions, which encounter environmental or social circumstances.
Personality involves the activities of the three bodies of manifestation — the mental body, emotional body, and physical body. “My thoughts,” “my feelings,” and “my behaviors” are the three realms of manifestation in which people identify themselves.
The goal of most traditional therapy is to give you a more functional ego. Egoic identification requires the continual maintenance of a personal story. The story of me is made by stringing together distinguishing moments of arising phenomena and giving them a thread of continuity by taking it all personally.
Therapy is often about changing the quality of the story that you tell yourself. The therapist is often a sympathetic coach who teaches you how to do the story differently.
You can change your personal story. If you have a negative internal dialogue, it is definitely better to have a positive internal dialogue. Changing your story can be valuable at a certain stage. It can be important to know that you are not stuck in a particular story. If therapy stops on the level of personality, you will keep coming back to the same old issues, picking them up again and again, in similar circumstances, with a new cast of people playing the same old characters.
Often people come to therapy or workshops because they want to have more courage, get rid of fear, learn to be more self- accepting, or forgive their parents. All of that is working within the realm of personality change. The great trap in working on your personality and your circumstances is that the question of who has a personality, who is doing the work, never gets addressed.
Personalized story-telling is a form of self-hypnosis. It is a “trance induction” that consciousness puts itself into as it describes the world, reacts to the world, and develops personal opinions and beliefs about the way the world should be.
If you are spiritually ripe, you are not satisfied with just a better personality or a better life. You are hungry for something deeper. There is a longing to return home, a longing for true peace, freedom, and love. Fundamentally and ultimately, the personality is neither the problem nor the solution.
The Enneagram is not a system of personality, as it is so often presented, but rather a definition of character fixation. The same character fixation can manifest across a full range of personalities. Jack Nicholson and Slobodan Milosevic have the same character fixation but different personalities.
Character fixation is a level deeper than personality. This is where the knot of ego resides. All thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the personality arise from this core identification. Character fixation can also be seen as the central strategy for survival of the body. It is at this level that the false sense of “me,” which is the root of all unhappiness, can be recognized and transcended.
Character fixation is the egoic masking of true character. True character resides at the level of soul. It is the expression of the developed qualities of the soul’s essence. True character is developed when one is willing to sacrifice personal pleasure or safety for something more important, to stand for what is known to be true in the face of the fears and rationalizations of the character fixation.
Working directly on true character never develops it. This would be a form of selfishness. True character is exposed and strengthened in acts of selflessness. The great challenge is to recognize and expose the character fixation’s imitation of both true character and the essential qualities of soul.
Character fixation also helps to keep the sense of me safely unexamined by providing a positive image to identify with, whether overtly or secretly. Each fixation has an “idealization,” an internalized story that makes it seem good and right and covers what is really going on.
Ignoring true being is the root of all suffering. Out of this ignorance, fear and doubt arise: fear for the survival of the body, and doubt as to one’s own competence in dealing with a dangerous world. Also arising are the desires and needs of the body. Love is veiled by the desire for love and the fear of being hurt. This leads to emotional armoring. In the perception that there are requirements for getting love, “selling out” occurs.
This is the human condition: ignorance, doubt and fear, emotional armoring, the felt need for love, and performing in order to get love. This is a normal life; not a natural life, but a normal one.
This article is based on an extract from Eli Jaxon-Bear’s book The Enneagram of Liberation – From Fixation to Freedom.
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