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The Origins Of The Enneagram Personality Test Are Far More Mystical Than You Might Expect

Updated March 8, 2021 5.6k views10 items

Do you know your Enneagram Personality Type? The Enneagram personality test in its modern form has been around since the 1970s - it's a quiz that determines which of the nine Enneagram personalities the test-taker is. But the Enneagram test isn't a new system that modern psychology created in a vacuum.

While the origins of the symbol aren't concrete, the ancient circular symbol has existed for thousands of years and has been studied by Pythagoreans of Ancient Greece, philosophers of Korea, and European thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Enneagram has been tied to both psychology and the occult, and it is even used by some of the world's largest companies to determine the skills of potential employees.

  • The Enneagram Test Consists Of A 10-Minute Quiz That Assigns One Of Nine Personality Types

    In its most basic form, the Enneagram test sorts people into nine different categories or subgroups. Users answer a set of questions about their personality and traits, and they rate certain ideologies or mindsets on a scale ranging from "This is something I never do" to "This is always me/accurate."

    Based on these answers, the test-taker is then given their dominant personality type. The nine potential types are as follows:

    1. The Reformer ("Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic")
    2. The Helper ("Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive")
    3. The Achiever ("Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious")
    4. The Individualist ("Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental")
    5. The Investigator ("Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated")
    6. The Loyalist ("Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious")
    7. The Enthusiast ("Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered")
    8. The Challenger ("Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational")
    9. The Peacemaker ("Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent")

    While many people may hold onto their "main" type, this isn't the most accurate or holistic way to look at an Enneagram Test score. In order to truly delve into a personality type, other factors must be taken into consideration.

  • The Enneagram Website Claims Their System Is Based On Numerous ‘Ancient Wisdom Traditions’

    The exact origins of the Enneagram Test are often debated, as the numerology-based personality test likely has roots in numerous ancient traditions. Some say the idea or symbol of the Enneagram came into being thanks to the Ancient Greeks who studied mystical mathematics and numerology. Later proponents of the Enneagram combined these ancient beliefs with another tradition of antiquity: the Kabbalah Tree of Life, which also features nine "spheres" from which humans' personalities "spark."

    According to the Enneagram Institute, other historians give Sufi mysticism some credit in the formation of the modern Enneagram system, although the Institute claims this didn't come to influence the test until Bolivian thinker Óscar Ichazo integrated this and other ancient Asian influences into his perspective on the human psyche.

  • The Enneagram Symbol Can Be Traced Back As Far As Pythagoras

    Pythagoras (c. 571-c. 497 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and mathematician. He's mostly known for the Pythagorean Theorem, which states that the square of a right triangle's hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the triangle's two other sides squared, or a^2 + b^2 = c^2.

    Although little is confirmed about Pythagoras's life or interest in numerology, some historians believe the Enneagram first gained popularity with the Pythagoreans around 2000 BCE.

    According to legends, Pythagoras learned of the Enneagram symbol while studying in Egypt. He is said to have either designed or adopted the symbol while in Heliopolis, the Egyptian city that was the center for Ennead worship, or worship of the nine Ancient Eygptian deities. The symbol then disseminated throughout Greek philosophy and mathematics circles, especially with the Pythagoreans, who believed in reincarnation and that numbers were a certain type of innate "truth."

  • Photo: Janet Flanner-Solita Solano Papers / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Man Who Brought The Symbol To The West Was Allegedly ‘Shrouded In Mystery’

    George Gurdjieff, or G.I. George, was a mystic and spiritual teacher. He was born somewhere between 1866 and 1877, and as a child, he took an early interest in everything occult and mysterious.

    In his autobiographyMeetings with Remarkable Men, he recalls his travels as a young adult, working his way through Europe and Asia. He would perform odd jobs - both legal and otherwise - to aid his spiritual studies. Gurdijieff claims that during these travels, he met with a Sufi who introduced him to the Sarmouni monastery in central Turkestan, where he learned the ways of mysticism, magic, and the Enneagram.

    He then brought his teachings to Paris, France, in the 1930s, and his complex dive into the human condition was referred to as "The Work."

    In one of his writings, he told the translator: 

    "Prosecutor", everything must be written in good French. These are abstract things. But if you can remember everything, it will be useful for everyone. I am the author of Beelzebub, neither more nor less. If I find material for myself in what you write, I will be able to do new things with it. Many things for the future humanity depend on you. And it is true, all joking aside.