echo ''; Skip to main content

Some claim the enneagram comes from ancient Christians, while others claim it’s from demons. Is the enneagram a gift from God or a Trojan horse of self-deception? Three stories of people who discover shocking truths about the enneagram that lead them to unexpected places.



#74: The Truth About the Enneagram

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Love Thy Neighborhood… Discipleship and missions for modern times.

JESSE EUBANKS: On January 7th, 2023, Jackie Hill Perry posted a series of stories on her Instagram page about the Enneagram. Perry’s a Bible teacher and author, and she leads large conferences around the world where women gather together for worship, prayer, and studying the Bible together. And when she posted these stories to her Instagram, she had over 800,000 followers. Perry shared that people have been warning her about the Enneagram.

JACKIE HILL PERRY CLIP: I was really skeptical and have been for some years when people were saying that the Enneagram was demonic. I do feel like sometimes people can be way too deep.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, she decided to take some time and look into it. 

JACKIE HILL PERRY CLIP: The Lord prompted me to study that thing for a good two days.

JESSE EUBANKS: For two days, Perry dug into the origins, validity, and application of the Enneagram. She listened to the critics. She looked at the evidence. She even considered her own experiences of how she heard it discussed among friends. And in the end, though she was once a fan of the Enneagram, Perry decided clearly that she had changed her mind.

JACKIE HILL PERRY CLIP: Evil. And it ain’t even funny. Like, it’s legitimately doctrines of demons, divination, witchcraft. And I just, I, I had no idea. No idea. 

JESSE EUBANKS: She actually felt so disturbed by her discoveries that she felt a responsibility to apologize publicly. 

JACKIE HILL PERRY CLIP: Like I had to tell the Lord sorry. Like, “I’m sorry that I was so ignorant, you know? And I’m sorry that I used my platform to promote evil.” That makes, that makes me sad that I was so ignorant to, to a false wisdom when the Scriptures and Jesus has actually been sufficient the entire time. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And here’s the thing – Perry is not alone in her concerns. 

AUDIO CLIPS: We need to raise a red flag about this… This isn’t a quick fix. This is old cultic… It’s super creepy. It’s like Ouija board type stuff… This is already in the church. Really does seem like this is a Trojan horse… From automatic writing, which is completely satanic. And that was it for me… Very similar to astrology… We just wanna apologize for getting people into it… In order to get it to evangelicals, pitch it as a personality test and they’ll really swallow this thing down…

JESSE EUBANKS: The Internet is covered with voices of people deeply concerned about the presence and influence of the Enneagram. So – is the Enneagram a gift from God given to help us or a tool from the devil sent to deceive us?


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

ANNA TRAN: And I’m Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Truth About the Enneagram.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: We’re gonna explore the Enneagram of personality – its complicated origins, its validity, and the way people are applying it to their lives, for better or worse. And while there are so many different things that people think about the Enneagram and angles that we could have explored, we’ve tried to narrow it down to the biggest issues that we as Christians need to be thinking about.

ANNA TRAN: Right, and our goal isn’t to make a fully comprehensive episode, but our goal is to make an episode that brings more clarity and nuance into the conversation. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, is the Enneagram a tool for self-discovery or a Trojan horse of self-deception? Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Over the last 20 years, personality assessments have exploded in growth, from Myers Briggs to DISC to the five love languages. Forbes estimates that the personality assessment industry is now worth a combined $2 billion. Apparently, we’re all trying to figure out who the heck we are. One of the relative newcomers to this industry is the Enneagram.

ANNA TRAN: Which I’ve also heard could be ancient.

JESSE EUBANKS: Or it could just be 50 years old.

ANNA TRAN: Is it coming from science, or is it from demons? 

JESSE EUBANKS: It may have been discovered in a book, or it might have come from some Christians in the fourth century. 

ANNA TRAN: What’s true is that it’s pretty confusing trying to pin down where it came from. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But what is for certain is that people have really strong feelings about its presence in the church and in the lives of Christians.

ANNA TRAN: Exactly. So, I think we need to start with the basics. Okay, Jesse, what is the Enneagram? 

JESSE EUBANKS: So the Enneagram is a system that describes patterns in how people interpret the world, manage their emotions, and pursue their desires. So visually it’s a circle divided into nine numbered spaces, each number representing nine personality types, interconnected by lines representing how each of those personalities responds in specific contexts. And if that sounds confusing, you may just wanna google that image. 

ANNA TRAN: This is also where the name “Enneagram” comes from. “Ennea” means nine, and “gram” means lines. So, let’s get back to this. Jesse, what’s so controversial about the Enneagram? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I think before we go there, let’s first take a look at what the Bible has to say about discerning the truth.

The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus delivering his famous Sermon on the Mount. We’re told the crowds gathered as Jesus delivered teaching after teaching. He taught on tons of topics during this long sermon, including how to pray, giving to the poor, and being slow to judge. But then in Matthew seven, Jesus warns his listeners that they need to know how to distinguish between true prophets and false prophets. 

ANNA TRAN: Jesus says this – “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?”

JESSE EUBANKS: “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” 

ANNA TRAN: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, what does this mean for the Enneagram? Is it the fruit of false prophets or true prophets? 

ANNA TRAN: Is it something to nurture or something to be thrown into the fire?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, and I think it’s worth saying a few things upfront. Anna and I are not exactly on the same page on this topic. I am clearly pro-Enneagram. I wrote a book about the Enneagram. I host another podcast about the Enneagram. So I firmly believe that it is a helpful tool for people. 

ANNA TRAN: Yep. And for me, I’m more skeptical about the Enneagram. You know, I have concerns about its origins as well as its validity, and a lot of times I don’t think the way it’s applied always helps people either. You know, I think it’s a topic that needs some examination, and I’m still trying to decide what place, if any, it should have in the life of a Christian.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so we’re gonna go on this journey together and we’re gonna see if anything shifts for either one of us. 

ANNA TRAN: Great. Love that idea.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so, where should we begin? 

ANNA TRAN: So I think we should start here. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: My name’s Michelle Nebel. I live in Owensboro, Kentucky. I’m an educator by training, my background’s in early childhood education, and now I’m at home with my kids.

ANNA TRAN: Michelle is also passionate about the volunteering roles she’s involved with, like addiction recovery programs, her church discipleship groups. Another thing to know about Michelle is that she’s always been an avid reader, and so one day when she’s in middle school –

MICHELLE NEBEL: I remember reading a book about the personality of birth order when I was in about seventh grade, and I was obsessed with that for a while.

ANNA TRAN: And her fascination with personality followed her into her twenties.

MICHELLE NEBEL: When I went to college at our orientation, like, they gave everybody the Myers Briggs test.

ANNA TRAN: The Myers Briggs is another personality assessment. Michelle said that while she was in college it would really help her understand her roommates.

MICHELLE NEBEL: My suitemates and the girls in my sorority. Like we all used that as sort of a shorthand to help us understand a whole lot about each other with just a few syllables.

ANNA TRAN: And Michelle – she loved all of this. It really gave her a glimpse into the deeper lives of the people around her. So, fast forward to 2018 because this is where our story really starts. Michelle is living in Kentucky now, and one day she’s doing yard work and she’s listening to a Christian podcast. And as they’re talking, she suddenly hears them discussing a new personality tool that she’s never heard of – a thing called the Enneagram. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: And it perked my ears up. 

ANNA TRAN: And just like the middle school girl who really loved birth order theory and the college freshman who loved Myers Briggs, she is really into it. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: I was hooked by the idea that it combined personality but spun it through this Christian lens, a Christian framework.

ANNA TRAN: She’s hearing details like loops of self-defeat, nine ways people get lost, nine ways people find their true self and to God. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: Lots of light bulbs going off where I thought, “I think that makes sense about this person or that person and a little bit myself too.” 

ANNA TRAN: And this was so wild for her. Two of the things she’s most fascinated with are colliding. So, the minute the podcast episode finishes –

MICHELLE NEBEL: I rushed inside to Amazon and added it to cart. As soon as I read it, I am instantly started rereading it, this time with like my highlighters and my sticky page flags and underlining things. 

ANNA TRAN: So, as soon as she finished reading the book, Michelle dives right into more and more Enneagram content. She looks things up online.

MICHELLE NEBEL: Just tons of YouTube videos and podcasts. 

ANNA TRAN: She bought, read, and marked up a bunch of other Enneagram books.

MICHELLE NEBEL: The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr. 

ANNA TRAN: And this included, of course, the book that a lot of people probably have heard of.

MICHELLE NEBEL: The Road Back To You by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.

ANNA TRAN: And after doing all this research and reading, listening to podcasts, and going through workbooks, she finally discovers what her Enneagram type is.

MICHELLE NEBEL: I was pretty sure that I was a Six. 

ANNA TRAN: So Type Six is often referred to as The Loyalist, and fear is something that often drives them. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: I had always been a fairly anxious person, and I had tried to sort of attack that anxiety from a lot of different angles, trying to figure out if it was, you know – is it just a brain chemistry thing? Is it just something I need to pray about more? 

ANNA TRAN: Michelle was finding that what she was reading was making a lot of sense to her. She was really captivated by her findings, and she actually found the Enneagram so helpful for her that she convinced a lot of the women in her church small group to read an Enneagram book together. So, they did. And just like the Myers-Briggs had been a helpful shorthand for her in college, now her church small group had a similar shorthand. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: You know, somebody would do something and we’d say, “Oh, she’s just being such a Three today,” and it became part of the, you know, the sense of belonging that you get in a group when everybody kind of has something in common. That became part of the, the lingua franca of that little group. 

ANNA TRAN: She would bring up the Enneagram in casual conversations with acquaintances.

MICHELLE NEBEL: I was the person who could mention it sitting, waiting for the dentist appointment or in line at the post office. 

ANNA TRAN: Michelle also told me that she would apply the Enneagram to her faith. She would take the results and recommendations from the tests related to her anxiety and fear, and then she would go to the Bible. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: Okay, let me look up all the Scripture that talks about anxiety and fear, and let me, let me start praying through those things. At the time, really believed that this was something that God was gonna use to transform me and to make me more like Jesus.

ANNA TRAN: And the truth is that Michelle really felt that it was helping her and her entire community grow in their faith in Jesus. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: I came across the idea somewhere that each of the nine types reflects one of God’s characteristics and also shows sort of that shadow side because we’re fallen. I loved that idea because I do so deeply believe that we’re all created in God’s image, so it was something that was really personal. I was seeing it as a, as a very spiritual tool. 

ANNA TRAN: Throughout 2018, 2019, and the beginning of 2020, Michelle is still really into the Enneagram. She keeps a short stack of Enneagram books on her bedside table. But, in 2020, things are about to drastically change. So of course, the pandemic hits, and Michelle, like a lot of us, is stuck in isolation. But Michelle actually decides to use the time to reconnect with her younger brother, and they start talking on the phone multiple times a week. It’s during one of those phone conversations that her brother says to her, “Hey Michelle, did you know -“

MICHELLE NEBEL: ” – that supposedly the idea for the Enneagram came from some, like, demon named Metatron?” And I remember cracking the joke, “That’s a transformer. Like, what are you talking about? That’s ridiculous.” And he was like, “No, really. I heard it on this podcast called Cultish.”

ANNA TRAN: So Cultish is a podcast that helps people understand cults from a Christian perspective. It’s actually the same podcast that Jackie Hill Perry referenced when she made her remarks about the Enneagram.

JESSE EUBANKS: So how does Michelle respond to this idea? 

ANNA TRAN: Well, her brother continues to tell her about what he heard, and then Michelle tells him –

MICHELLE NEBEL: “Well, I think you’re crazy about this Enneagram idea. Everything I’ve ever read says that it has this ancient origin. It has to do with the Desert Fathers. It’s always been Christian in nature. You’re crazy.”

JESSE EUBANKS: So she’s not buying it. 

ANNA TRAN: Nope, not at all. They finish their conversation, she hangs up the phone, and then Michelle immediately goes over to her bookshelf and pulls out a bunch of her Enneagram books and reads the history in each one of them, and it’s the same thing over and over again.

MICHELLE NEBEL: Every one of the books that I owned either attributed it to sort of the Desert Fathers of Christianity or to sort of an ancient unknown origin, but that it had been rediscovered. 

ANNA TRAN: She didn’t read a single thing about Metatron or demons, so –

MICHELLE NEBEL: I kind of put that idea to bed for a little bit. 

ANNA TRAN: Michelle – she feels satisfied. She thinks her brother has the story all wrong. But the truth is, is that even though she doesn’t realize it yet, this is like the start of her journey away from the Enneagram. It’s like the dominoes have already begun to tip.

JESSE EUBANKS: Like the first Domino’s already tipped. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Pushed over. So in the weeks following, you know, Michelle actually continues to listen to the Cultish podcast. She has her own separate fascination with cults, and she’s just like listening to other topics they cover. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: And one day they interviewed a woman named Doreen Virtue, and I really appreciated her story. It was very fascinating. Had nothing to do with the Enneagram.

ANNA TRAN: And then one Saturday night as her family is watching a football game –

MICHELLE NEBEL: And I was sitting on the couch beside them. And as I was watching, uh, a different video, YouTube suggested something with Doreen Virtue, and I thought, “Oh, I know that name. I heard her on the Cultish show.” So I clicked through to listen to that with my headphones, and she was interviewing another woman named Marcia.

ANNA TRAN: So the woman was Marcia Montenegro. Marcia used to practice Zen Buddhism, astrology, and was a New Ager before she became a Christian. Marcia runs an organization called Christian Answers for the New Age, and Marcia has deep concerns about the Enneagram.

MICHELLE NEBEL: And she was saying things like, “This has occultic origins, I believe this is demonic in origin.”

ANNA TRAN: And Marcia wasn’t just making these claims out of thin air. She actually shows up with evidence. And Michelle – she sees this video from 2010 of a man named Claudio Naranjo.

MICHELLE NEBEL: Using automatic writing to receive the Enneatypes. 

ANNA TRAN: Naranjo was one of the architects of the Enneagram, and in the video he’s just been asked the question, “Where did the Enneagram come from?” 

CLAUDIO NARANJO CLIP: So that came from my own observations, but mostly from automatic writing. It came – 

Automatic writing? 

Yeah. It came to me through automatic writing. 

What did? 

Uh, the, the specific information. 

And it’s Enneatypes?…

MICHELLE NEBEL: They described how the other person who was really influential in its early years, Ichazo, had supposedly consulted with what he called a spirit guide named Metatron and that this spirit guide is the one who had revealed this to him.

ANNA TRAN: And there she’s referencing another architect of the Enneagram, a guy named Oscar Ichazo, who, like Claudio Naranjo, was also a New Age mystic. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so, like, it turns out that Metatron wasn’t a reference to a Transformer after all. 


MICHELLE NEBEL: I, I felt like I was, you know, watching a train wreck where I didn’t believe it and I kind of didn’t wanna watch it but I couldn’t look away.

ANNA TRAN: And, in an instant, her mind had changed. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: It just pierced me to the heart, and I left the football game room and went into my bedroom to be by myself because I was just in tears. 

ANNA TRAN: And like Jackie Hill Perry, Michelle felt grief and remorse for involvement with the Enneagram. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: I was just heartbroken. I had really weeks of grief for the number of people I’d led into it.

ANNA TRAN: Other than the conversation that she had with her brother, Michelle is like hearing this information for the first time in detail, and she was also hearing this from other Christians. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: It, it just really came across that these people genuinely cared about the well-being of people who were following the Enneagram and believing it.

ANNA TRAN: And this leads Michelle to do something pretty bold. The next afternoon, she goes to her bookshelf –

MICHELLE NEBEL: And so I took everything – I took all the books, all the notes from, you know, the copious notes and journals. 

ANNA TRAN: She gathers them up. She walks outside.

MICHELLE NEBEL: Took all of that stuff to our fire pit and sat outside, and it was, it was a gray, kind of chilly day in the fall. 

ANNA TRAN: She starts a fire and throws them in.

MICHELLE NEBEL: But I also remember feeling like, as each minute ticked by and more of those pages crumpled up and curled and turned into ash, feeling a little bit lighter. For me, that was a really important step in walking away from the stuff.

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, wow. It’s a, I mean, it’s like a deep conviction for her then. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, she felt deceived. So, she unfollowed all the major Enneagram authors, teachers, speakers. She went to her friends and shared her regret about using the Enneagram. 

MICHELLE NEBEL: I found it really hard to simply preach the gospel sitting in the dentist office, but I would bring up the Enneagram, tell ’em what books to buy and what podcast to listen to and all about all the nine types. And that just broke my heart. It made me realize that my, my affections and my thoughts had been so focused and so stirred towards something wrong. I had really allowed it to even displace the, the primary affection that I should have had for, for Jesus and for his Word.

ANNA TRAN: So Michelle’s story I think illustrates the journey a lot of people have been on with the Enneagram. At first it was like a key to unlocking hidden parts of ourselves, but it was also sold to many of us on the idea that its origins were Christian and that its worldview was also Christian. But, as Michelle found out, that isn’t the case at all.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, I think she’s right, but I also totally think she’s wrong. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, well, tell me why you think that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, it is just more complicated than that, and we’re gonna explore that when we come back. When we return – the strange, bizarre, mysterious origins of the Enneagram unraveled. We’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Truth About the Enneagram.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: We just heard the story of Michelle Nebel, who, though once an Enneagram enthusiast, immediately parted ways with the Enneagram after learning about key aspects of its troubling origins. 

ANNA TRAN: Stories of demonic influence, New Ageism, and the occult troubled her enough that she felt convicted to burn all of her Enneagram resources. So that leaves us with these giant questions about the Enneagram.

JESSE EUBANKS: Like – where did it come from? 

ANNA TRAN: Is it evil? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Is it helping people or hurting them? 

ANNA TRAN: And should Christians use the Enneagram? 

JESSE EUBANKS: And to explore these questions, we turn to this guy. 

TYLER ZACH: I’m Tyler Zach. I am a author and Enneagram coach. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This is Tyler Zach. He’s a former pastor, and the reason that I turned to him is because he’s become somewhat of an expert on the history of the Enneagram. But he first became interested in the Enneagram because he realized that he had this really strong discomfort with emotions and that it was actually showing up in the way that he was caring for other people.

TYLER ZACH: I remember a girl came to me and said she was, couldn’t get outta bed most days, that she was struggling with severe depression. And I like googled, you know, “Psalms for depression” and like Psalm 42 came up and I was like, “Oh, read Psalm 42.” You know, I, it just shows how unhealthy I was. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So in retrospect, Tyler actually realized that his lack of self-awareness contributed to how emotionally unhealthy he was. Not only was this affecting his ministry as a pastor, but it also caused some really deep hurt and pain in his marriage.

TYLER ZACH: Looking back, if I would’ve had the Enneagram in premarital, you know, sessions before I got married, it would’ve, I think, helped prevent some of that. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so Tyler felt similar to how Michelle felt at first. He found like a key to understanding his relational style.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, you know, like a way to see his patterns and actually be able to address them. You know, he identified as an Enneagram Type Three, and, you know, these folks are really efficient, they’re productive, but they do also tend to resist emotions, they can prefer to keep things very pragmatic, and it helped explain a lot of things for him. So, needless to say, he was in. Tyler was an Enneagram believer. 

TYLER ZACH: I was, you know, sharing it with everyone right away. I found it to be so profoundly helpful in my life and in my relationships. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But then eventually Tyler actually smacked up against the same video Michelle had – the video of Claudio Naranjo claiming that the Enneagram had come from something he called automatic writing.

CLAUDIO NARANJO CLIP: Automatic writing?

Yeah. It came to me through automatic writing.

What did? 

Uh, the, the specific information. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And Tyler was shocked. 

TYLER ZACH: It kind of sent chills down my body a little bit, and I thought, “Man, am I getting into the wrong thing here? Is this dangerous?”

JESSE EUBANKS: He was really disturbed by what he was hearing, and he was like, “I need some answers to this.”

TYLER ZACH: That propelled me to do more research, to say, “Okay, I need to do some more research if I’m gonna continue to use the Enneagram, gonna continue to teach it and use it, because as a pastor especially I’m gonna be held to a higher standard and so I need to do my work.”

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Tyler went down the rabbit hole, and it turns out that this rabbit hole – it was a whole lot deeper and a whole lot weirder than he had imagined. And all this research – it ended up taking a lot longer than he thought it would. 

TYLER ZACH: That’s where I anchored myself for probably two years. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Were you surprised by some of the things you found? 

TYLER ZACH: Oh yeah. I was utterly shocked at some of the findings. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, so, shocked. What did he find? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, he found a lot. Uh, I think that we should probably break this down into bite-size pieces, and it’s probably easiest to do this in chronological order. So, question number one – is the Enneagram ancient or modern? 

TYLER ZACH: Popular authors that claim that the Enneagram is ancient and that it started with Pythagoras and then moved to (indistinct)

JESSE EUBANKS: So immediately Tyler showcases how well he knows his stuff. He traces every single ingredient of the Enneagram one at a time. So, the idea of mathematical balance in nature – that’s Pythagoras in 500 B.C. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Vices – that’s the fourth century Desert Fathers. Circle with nine points that outlines vices and their corresponding virtues – that’s thirteenth century theologian Ramon Lull.

ANNA TRAN: I think I’m tracking. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, and if all this sounds like historical gibberish to you, that is okay. The point is that Tyler discovered that the Enneagram was made up of ingredients, a lot of them being ancient, and some of those ingredients are from Christians. 

ANNA TRAN: So it is both ancient and Christian then. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, Tyler discovered the ingredients, but what he never discovered was anything that resembled the Enneagram as we know it today.

TYLER ZACH: There is no evidence of the Enneagram system that we have today being passed down from generation to generation.

JESSE EUBANKS: Until the twentieth century. 

ANNA TRAN: So, it’s modern then, right? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, it seems so. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so the Enneagram is modern. Where then did the idea of it being ancient come from?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so we have to fast forward all the way to the twentieth century, and there are three guys that we need to talk about.

TYLER ZACH: George Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo. And so when we talk about Enneagram history, we typically start with George Gurdjieff. And Gurdjieff was an Armenian philosopher, a mystic who was said to be an Eastern Orthodox esoteric Christian. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so Tyler told me that in the early twentieth century there’s this mystic named George Gurdjieff and he starts looking for a way to understand all of the universe. He becomes convinced that there is intentional design to the world and that if he could only find the key he could make sense of it – and not just like one aspect of the universe. He thinks he can understand all of it. He thinks that there must be a key that he could lay over any scenario and bring order to it, and the key that he finds is the symbol that we now associate with the Enneagram. There’s actually a scene from a movie depicting the moment that Gurdjieff and his followers discovered it.

AUDIO CLIPS: Here, the most ancient of all the secret schools was founded in Babylon in the year 2500 B.C. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So in the scene, Gurdjieff has just discovered this scroll. He’s on this big journey. His followers have brought it to him and he unrolls it and there on the parchment paper is this mysterious symbol in front of him and it’s all lit by flaming torches on the walls. It’s like very dramatic. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, wow. That’s like some Indiana Jones stuff. So that actually happened?

JESSE EUBANKS: Actually, no. (laugh) So, so like this is all Hollywood stuff. His own students actually aren’t sure where he found the symbol. There are still a ton of rumors about where he found it. Some say that, “Oh, he found it in Sufi literature,” but Tyler said that his students actually looked everywhere for its origin, including in Sufi works, including in occultic works, but even they reported they just couldn’t figure out where he got the symbol from. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so it’s a mystery then where the symbol came from. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, totally. I mean, at this point, any theory you hear about where it came from, it seems to be just straight up speculation. And Tyler said that it’s important to remember Gurdjieff was not working on ideas about personality.

TYLER ZACH: So for Gurdjieff, the Enneagram symbol was a means of explaining all universal truths. So in other words, it was not a system of personality types, but a blueprint or template for how the world works. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And again, like this is some pretty mind-bending stuff, but what you need to know is that Gurdjieff’s use of the symbol would become important down the line because later in the 1940s a 12-year-old boy in Chile named Oscar Ichazo inherits his grandfather’s library. And guess what he finds inside one of those books? 

ANNA TRAN: Does he find like some sort of symbol?

JESSE EUBANKS: He finds this symbol that is shockingly similar to Gurdjieff’s symbol. And just to be clear, like it’s still not exactly the symbol that we associate with the modern Enneagram right now, but like it is the thing that everything gets built on. Well, that little boy grows up, and cue the meditation music because that kid, Oscar Ichazo, grows up to become a New Age guru and he’s not just like swallowing what the New Age movement is serving up. He is one of the cooks. It’s Bolivia, South America, 1960s. Tyler said that Ichazo starts the Arica School, which describes itself as, quote, “a body of techniques for cosmic consciousness raising and an ideology to relate to the world in an awakened way.” 

ANNA TRAN: Ooh, so they’re like South American hippies. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Totally. And Ichazo’s got followers. You know, they’re exploring deep questions like, “What is the supreme good of humanity?” and “What is the truth that gives meaning and value to human life?” And in his pursuit to answer these questions, Ichazo develops something that he calls protoanalysis. 

ANNA TRAN: Whoa, super big word. 

TYLER ZACH: Which was his phrase for the work of applying personality insights to the Enneagram symbol.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Ichazo described nine ways in which a person’s ego becomes fixated at an early stage of life. Essentially, he was saying that as kids we get hooked on how we see ourselves, what emotions we experience most often, what desires tend to drive us. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, so this almost sounds like psychology. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, for sure. I mean, the idea in general of personality and personality theory – that was still an emerging thing. 

TYLER ZACH: So he borrowed Gurdjieff’s diagram and said, “Yeah, I can turn this into a, a personality system.”

ANNA TRAN: And so this was the Enneagram. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Or at least version 1.0. I mean, the deal is this – like, Ichazo was doing a lot of thinking that is very like psychological and he was really concerned about the impact of ego on each of our humanity.

TYLER ZACH: Ichazo taught that the Enneagram was an ego reduction tool. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so Tyler says that Ichazo starts taking all of his ideas about personality theory and he begins organizing them using this Enneagram symbol. What mental fixations do people have? What traps do they tend to fall into? What virtues could counteract their vices? And he mixes together his ideas about religion, psychology, philosophy, and eventually he ends up with 108 different applications of the Enneagram symbol. And he ends up teaching these things at his Arica School – you know, this New Age center in South America. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so it’s like not totally just about personality, but it’s like mixing different things with religion, psychology, philosophy, and all of that.


ANNA TRAN: Okay. So, how does the Enneagram come to America then? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, well, Ichazo’s teachings – they become really popular. And, in fact, they become popular enough that he actually starts attracting people from all over the world, including America. And this is where our third player, Claudio Naranjo, finally enters the scene.

TYLER ZACH: Along comes Claudio Naranjo. He was a Chilean psychiatrist. He graduated as a medical doctor in 1959.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, Naranjo – he’s from Chile but later comes to the United States to research psychiatry. Lemme just say on the onset – like, this guy was both weird and brilliant. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay. What do you mean? 

JESSE EUBANKS: So this is the guy that made the automatic writing comment and it’s easy to just brush him off as some like New Age whack job, but he’s a lot more complicated than that. You know, for one, Tyler said that not only was he a medical doctor, but he was also a pretty well studied guy. 

TYLER ZACH: And then in 1962, Naranjo was at Harvard as a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Center of Studies of Personality and Emerson Hall. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, okay. Harvard. Wow. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And then shortly after –

TYLER ZACH: Naranjo was invited to Berkeley, California for a year and a half to participate in the activities of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research, and he was on the cutting edge of a lot of personality research being done there in the mid-to-late 1900s. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So, while, you know, definitely this guy ultimately goes to weird places in, in his career, including, you know, overseeing using psychedelic drugs for therapy purposes, becoming a leader in the New Age movement, we also need to recognize he studied a ton of personality theory.

ANNA TRAN: Okay. So even with all like the drugs and weird stuff, he was like a professional in this field. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Absolutely. Okay, so fast forward a bit. It’s 1970. Tyler says that Naranjo’s only son dies in an accident and in his grief Naranjo decides that he wants to go down to Chile to spend time with a teacher that he’d heard about, a guy named Oscar Ichazo. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, that’s the second guy we talked about. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Exactly. And Naranjo is amazed by what he finds, like he loves Ichazo’s teaching. And in fact, he’s so amazed by what he finds that he comes back to the U.S., he grabs 54 people from his circle of New Age buddies, and they all head right back down to Chile again.

TYLER ZACH: And this group of Americans would be responsible for going public with the Enneagram in the decades to come. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so the Enneagram comes to America.

JESSE EUBANKS: Totally. And once he’s back here, Naranjo takes Ichazo’s ideas about ego and personality and Naranjo pulls it all together and he upgrades the Enneagram from the 1.0 version of 108 diagrams into the Enneagram 2.0 – the single, synthesized system that we know today. 

TYLER ZACH: So he took Ichazo’s ego types and then developed them into personality types like Enneatype One, Enneatype Two, because for Ichazo, he didn’t believe that each of the points were actually personality types. He thought that everyone needed to explore all nine points on his Enneagram. Naranjo is the very first one to actually say, “No, you can actually be an Enneatype One or an Enneatype Two.” So he developed it into the Enneagram of personality.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, and so this is the moment, right? This is the moment where now all of a sudden we have Enneagram Type One and Two and Three and Four. We’re now talking about something that resembles the Enneagram that we know today. 

ANNA TRAN: Got it. Okay.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so I feel like this is probably also the time that we need to like back up and just acknowledge the whole like Metatron thing and the automatic writing thing.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Perfect. So what’s up with that Metatron thing?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so Tyler said that the story is that Oscar Ichazo would get high on mescaline and have visions of an entity called Metatron, and this one is wild because Tyler actually discovered a clear thread that he could pull all the way back to the source. Like, where did this story come from? Well, Tyler actually started to figure that out. 


JESSE EUBANKS: You know, when Jackie Hill Perry made her comments about the Enneagram, she, and along with a ton of other like YouTube folks and people that are really skeptical about the Enneagram, they all referenced this article by the National Catholic Reporter back from 2001. But here’s the deal – you go read that, and that actually references the first edition of Richard Rohr’s Enneagram book from 1991. And in that book, Rohr makes the claim that Ichazo would get high and have visions of an archangel. But here’s the catch – he doesn’t actually cite any evidence for this. 

ANNA TRAN: So Rohr doesn’t have like a footnote that he references?

JESSE EUBANKS: No, it’s really weird. It’s in quotes, like he’s quoting somebody or something, but there’s actually no citation. There’s no evidence. And what’s even weirder is that when this book is republished into a second edition later, that all gets deleted. It’s gone. 

ANNA TRAN: That’s, that’s kind of sketchy to me. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And so it’s possible that what Rohr is referencing is this newspaper article that came out in 1975 that was about Ichazo. And in that article, the authors of that article, the journalists, they tell this story about mescaline and Metatron. But again, it doesn’t offer any evidence for why they’re making that claim. It’s just sort of this single passing reference without context. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so that means like today people who are making this like claim about Metatron and like him getting high off mescaline and stuff, they’re like basing it off of Rohr’s book and like this newspaper article, and neither of which provide any evidence.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, and here’s what’s really interesting. You know, it becomes clear later that Oscar Ichazo – he hates this. He claims that the Metatron thing was made up by journalists to discredit his work. Uh, in 1991, he wrote a really long letter to his supporters that touches on this. And in the letter he says, very matter of fact, that he doesn’t have visions of an archangel named Metatron or any other spiritual entities. And in the letter he clearly resents people who share this story as being gossipers who are lying about him.

ANNA TRAN: Well, with Richard Rohr and like the newspaper article, it’s crazy how like these claims started from poor writing. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I mean, basically. I mean, you’re talking almost 50 years later and this story still sort of haunts everything related to the Enneagram and, uh, and a lot of people, you know – again, they’re citing things, but it’s a feedback loop.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, I think for me that closes up the Metatron stuff. Let’s go to this automatic writing comment. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So Naranjo is the one who said that he got the Enneagram through automatic writing. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And Christians have speculated that automatic writing means that his hands and his mind were guided by evil spirits.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I’ve heard people talk about something related to spirit contacts and stuff. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, but there’s actually two reasons why that might not be true. So first, Tyler actually went directly to Naranjo’s students for clarification, and they told him –

TYLER ZACH: In personal correspondence that he used the metaphor of automatic writing based on the free association part of the definition, like not the spirits or psychic forces. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Two of his students have actually gone on record saying that Naranjo had used the same language before and that it was his way of saying that the content flowed out of him easily because of his years of study. They said that he’s been misrepresented. And, listen, I, I don’t wanna be naive. Is it possible that he appealed to some false higher power for guidance? Maybe. But if that evil spirit did give it to him, all I can say is, like, it must have been reading history books because the second reason that this might not be true is because Tyler Zach’s research proves that the ingredients from the Enneagram did not fall out of the sky. They did not just sort of suddenly appear like, uh, you know, the Ten Commandments being given to Moses on Mount Sinai. All of the ingredients of the Enneagram can be traced back to their sources one element at a time. And so in his writings, like you see Naranjo quoting from antiquity as well as from his peers.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so it’s like the ingredients are all there, but it kind of gets a little muddied when Naranjo starts talking about automatic writing. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, exactly. It’s almost like, you know, he’s using the same language that Christians might use but with a totally different dictionary. But here’s the other thing. Okay, so you know all those stories about the Enneagram being ancient? 

ANNA TRAN: Sure. Yeah. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, Michelle found them in her books. You know, book after book after book is saying it came from antiquity. Well, here’s the thing – Claudio Naranjo actually claims that he just created that story. 

ANNA TRAN: What? So he made it up? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so like in the same interview where he talks about automatic writing, he also seems to confess that he lied to everyone about its origin as well.

CLAUDIO NARANJO CLIP: And I was remembering a recommendation of Oscar Wilde, who said, “If you want an idea of yours to become famous, attribute it to a famous person.” 

That’s right. 

So I was more interested in (unclear) So at, uh, at the conference, I told them I had made up this tale that all this came from millennia ago and that this information came from… 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, I see. So if people thought it was ancient wisdom, maybe they’d accept it and use it.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. I mean, that’s what he claimed. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, but how did this end up in the church? How did it go from like being a New Age movement in the ’70s to the Enneagram boom in the 2010s? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, well, through Naranjo. 

TYLER ZACH: So from 1971 to 1973, Naranjo taught two groups.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so Tyler says that there’s these two groups that come to learn from Naranjo. And in these groups – you know, this includes New Age seekers, psychologists, Jesuit priests – and whereas Ichazo and Naranjo tried to merge psychology, classic religion, New Ageism, when each of these camps get their hands on it, it slowly starts to slide back into its divided parts. So over the following years, you know, the New Age folks, they start integrating astrology, the psychologists, they start adding in more psych theory and they dump the religious language. And then of course like the Christians, they begin to integrate Jesus and the Bible, and then they eventually dump a lot of – or in some cases all of – the New Ageism. And even then, even if these different camps are using the same words, they don’t mean the same thing. So for example, if each of these folks say “true self,” they had different definitions for what they meant by that. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so like each camp used the Enneagram while rejecting elements that were incompatible with their worldview.

JESSE EUBANKS: Exactly, and that all leads up to the Enneagram boom in the Protestant church in 2017. You know, but for a lot of Christians, the bottom line is this – the discovery of the New Age beliefs of Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and Naranjo, they make the Enneagram permanently incompatible with Christian faith. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I can kind of get that. And on top of that, all these books are repeatedly claiming that it was an ancient Christian tool. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Totally. I mean, I think that a lot of people felt betrayed and foolish when they discovered that it actually was not just this ancient Christian thing. You know, I certainly did, and, and it definitely caused me to back up for a moment.

ANNA TRAN: And that I think opens up a pretty big question. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and I think that this question is the dividing line between the pro-Enneagram community and the anti-Enneagram community. It seems to all come down to one simple question, which we’re going to ask when we return. Stay with us. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Truth About the Enneagram.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: We just journeyed through the bizarre creation of the Enneagram. It involved ancient Christian theology and New Age mystics and left the Enneagram sitting at our doorstep where we have to decide what to do with it. And before the break we said that we think we have uncovered the dividing line, the big question that splits Christians apart regarding the Enneagram. 

ANNA TRAN: But before we talk about that, I think it might be helpful to share the inverse of Michelle’s story. Okay, Jesse, remember, Michelle went from an Enneagram enthusiast to an Enneagram skeptic, but that’s not gonna be the case here.

LINDSEY LEWIS: I was definitely not an instant believer.

ANNA TRAN: So, some of you may recognize that voice. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yep. That’s Lindsey Lewis, my co-host on The EnneaCast and a staff member here at Love Thy Neighborhood. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. And even though many of you may know Lindsey now as someone who appreciates the Enneagram, that’s not where her story started. So, back in 2017, Lindsey and her family were living in France. They were serving as missionaries, and like a lot of modern missionaries, they were directed to do a lot of personality tests as part of their training to really help increase their self-awareness. But for Lindsey, those tests had the opposite effect.

LINDSEY LEWIS: Really muddied the waters.

ANNA TRAN: The tests didn’t bring self-clarity. They really didn’t help the dynamics on her team either. They were just one more thing on top of the hardships of being a missionary.

LINDSEY LEWIS: So it created a lot of confusion for me on top of we were learning French, we were living without a car, et cetera, et cetera. 

ANNA TRAN: And it was while she was living in France that she started to notice all of her American friends start posting about a new thing they discovered called the Enneagram.

LINDSEY LEWIS: When I saw people posting on Facebook, “Five! Eight! Seven!” I was pretty mega eye roll. I just thought, “Ugh, Americans, they have all the time in the world with their cars and their fast food.”

ANNA TRAN: But then Lindsey’s world unraveled suddenly. In a matter of months, her family’s whole life flipped upside down and she found herself back in the United States. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: It was unexpected. It was, um, a lot of health crisis for our family. And so here I was back in Texas in a coffee shop, no friends, no job. 

ANNA TRAN: And it was at this moment that Lindsey found a particular book sitting in front of her.

LINDSEY LEWIS: Somebody had given me an advanced copy of The Road Back To You.

ANNA TRAN: But she’s suspicious because she’s heard that it’s not from a Christian source. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: And that is completely against everything I would ever want to be involved. You know, like I said, I was just a missionary where we saw lots of darkness and so I wasn’t even tempted to read it.

ANNA TRAN: And so her first instinct is to dismiss it, but then –

LINDSEY LEWIS: I just had this thought – “Um, I’ve been a Christian for 30 years. Do you think there’s a possibility that I could actually read a book and discern whether it was evil or not?”

ANNA TRAN: Her whole life she had typically avoided anything that other people told her wasn’t Christian or was immoral. If they told her to be afraid of it, she was. But that day she decided that maybe she needed to find out for herself. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: So I cracked it open and I started to read and I was like, “This is like a story. This person is just writing stories about people. How can this be so dangerous?”

ANNA TRAN: And as she came to the first chapter describing the Type Eight, Lindsey found herself sitting in that coffee shop suddenly crying.

LINDSEY LEWIS: It was like she was describing this person in my life as if they were standing in front of me, and I shed a tear because it was a person in my life that I had really struggled to understand and relate with. 

ANNA TRAN: She said the book brought healing to a relationship that had been fractured for years. She finished a chapter and actually met up with that person and apologized for misjudging them and misunderstanding them. It was a big turning point in their relationship. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: And so once that happened, I was pretty sold. You know, I still did read with major caution. I would pray before I read the book because I was so nervous about there being anything, you know, evil in it. 

ANNA TRAN: And over the next couple weeks, she kept reading.

LINDSEY LEWIS: And I got to the end and I closed it and it was – I pretty much became a believer. 

ANNA TRAN: And here’s the thing – Lindsey has a ton of life experience. She’s been through college and seminary. She’s served as a missionary overseas. She’s taught the Bible extensively. But she said that even with all that knowledge, she still struggled with her relationships with people.

LINDSEY LEWIS: I loved people and I was trying my best, but I was really lacking clear vision of how the world was working, why people were acting like they were, and an open-heartedness to receive them as they were. 

ANNA TRAN: And she says that the Enneagram was an additional tool that helped her. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: Jesus is the way? Okay, yes. You know, I, it wasn’t hard for me, but like I said, I, you know, I was kind of in this bubble and I was really missing those tools. So all of a sudden it was like I had the guidebook and I could actually be who I wanted to be, which was loving and kind and compassionate, understanding, resilient. 

ANNA TRAN: And Lindsey says she’s not giving all the credit just to the Enneagram.

LINDSEY LEWIS: Not because of the Enneagram alone, but because the Enneagram came into contact with what was already a heart that desired to be like Jesus, desired to love, you know, the woman with the bleeding disorder and the woman caught in adultery and the little children and the lepers. Like I already had that heart, but it just, I just wasn’t getting it.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, and I think this is really interesting because at some level this idea of like not getting it and being willing to learn more about others – that has to do with curiosity. And that’s something that I think is super valuable. And like, Jesse, I’ve shared with you that I worry a lot of times that the Enneagram is super reductionistic and it makes us less curious about other people. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But what is happening here is, like, for Lindsey she’s saying that the Enneagram actually helped her to become more curious about people. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, for sure. And she says that the Enneagram – it, like, made her realize that there’s more to people than just like issues of obedience and disobedience and that becoming curious about people’s personalities and stories also made her view of Jesus begin to shift.

LINDSEY LEWIS: I had such a harsh view of who Jesus was, and I, I still struggle to feel love and compassion from God. Like that’s just not the view I grew up seeing him as – “Do everything just the way he would have me do it so he would never have to reprimand me.” You know, very much like you would think with a earthly father.

ANNA TRAN: And now she sees Jesus differently. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: When I think of Jesus, I just see his loving face, you know, and how much he had compassion on people who were quote unquote “dirty” and like untouchable, unlovable, choosing the wrong thing. 

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s almost like that once she realized that she could be kind and curious about others that she realized that, oh, Jesus is also kind and curious towards her as well.

ANNA TRAN: Right. And for Lindsey, she doesn’t feel threatened at all by the Enneagram and doesn’t think Christians need to be either. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: The Enneagram doesn’t give us any, like, revelation about God and what God says to us. We only know those things because we already knew what was true about God. And so I think as long as we’re holding those, that tension of, “This is so much superior, so much better, and this is a little tool that’s helpful, a refining tool like a chisel,” you know, then I think we’re okay.

JESSE EUBANKS: And all these details about its origins and how it’s being put to use, it’s really created three camps of people – the pro-Enneagram community –

ANNA TRAN: – the anti-Enneagram community –

JESSE EUBANKS: – and then a whole crowd of people in the middle who just are not sure. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, and it’s like, while some people might have strong feelings about how the Enneagram’s used, that’s not really the primary thing that divides Christians.

JESSE EUBANKS: The strongest reactions come down to a whole other question.

ANNA TRAN: And this is it. The biggest question that separates Christians is – is the Enneagram a religious practice and a worldview –

JESSE EUBANKS: Or is the Enneagram a theory of personality? Because depending on how you answer that question, you’ll tend to go one way or the other with it. I mean, consider for a moment the language that is often used by the anti-Enneagram community. 

AUDIO CLIPS: It’s an occultic tool… Friends, today there’s a teaching that’s influencing the churches and pop culture, and this teaching can send you to hell… Did God redeem witchcraft?… Christians should avoid the Enneagram as a fruitless work of darkness… An object that was formulated off of contact with familiar spirits… Just stop doing witchcraft stuff… You’re not hearing about sin and repentance and grace in Christ within that Enneagram worldview…

ANNA TRAN: Words like demonic, occultic, sinful – they carry a heavy moral and spiritual weight to them. So if it’s viewed as a religious practice or worldview, then it’s seen as something that is in direct opposition to the gospel.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, but, here, on the flip side, I mean, consider this. So in an Enneagram group that I’m in on Facebook, I put up a poll asking people to complete this sentence – “The Enneagram is more like A. a theory of personality, B. a tool for growth, C. a religious practice or worldview, or D. other.” 97 people responded, and check this out – 84 percent said a theory of personality or a tool for growth, while only 1 percent of respondents said a religious practice or worldview. So here’s what that means. I mean, that means only one person out of 97 people cited the Enneagram as primarily religious. People who use the Enneagram do not see it as a religious practice but as a tool and theory of personality. 

ANNA TRAN: So it’s like one side says, “This is a scientific psychology system,” and then the other side says, “No, this is like the Book of Mormon.”


ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I guess the question is like – which one is it? Theory of personality, or is it religious worldview? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, yeah, if you’re asking me, I think that it is a theory of personality, but I do understand that there are people that push it into a worldview. They do allow it to become sort of a defining way by which they see the world. But at the same time, I think that the vast majority of Christians – I don’t know a single Christian that would look at the Enneagram and say, “Oh, yeah. The Enneagram replaces my need for Jesus, replaces my need for the Bible, replaces my need for the gospel.” I don’t know any Christian that would ever attest to that. So, yeah, for you, is it more like a theory of personality or does it seem more like a religious worldview? 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I think for me, I’m still kind of unsure on that. It’s like I can see how it’s used as a system to explain things, but then I also feel like there’s a lot of Christians who tend to functionally use the Enneagram as a worldview even if they don’t believe that it’s the substitute for the gospel. So I think for me, hearing all of, like, the history about how it came from people who really participated in the New Age, it’s hard to take it as something that could be helpful. It seems more deceptive from the onset. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, yes, I get that and no. Okay, John Wesley, who founded Methodism, developed a thing that we call the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and his working premise was that truth is derived from four sources – scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, scripture, tradition, reason, experience. Got it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And he contended that Christians, we need all four of these in order to ground ourselves in truth. And I think the thing that often comes up when we come to this kind of conversation is the tendency to make truth about only one of these four things. In culture, maybe somebody will say, “Uh, oh, we’re only gonna make it about personal experiences, and we’re gonna throw out the other three.” But I think that Christians make the mistake of saying “Bible only,” and what they mean by that is Bible’s the only knowledge we need. Well, Bible does not necessarily help me with open heart surgery. It does not necessarily help me understand, uh, things related to growing up in the home of an alcoholic. Like there are elements that other parts of these quadrilaterals can offer us. And so in order for us to live in reality and to stay grounded in truth, we need all four ingredients. We need scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. And so I think in that way – is the Enneagram Christian? No. Is it 100 percent false? Well, also, no. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so you’re kind of saying like it’s a mix of both and it’s like really complicated?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, I think what I’m trying to get at is the idea that all truth is God’s truth. You know, there is only truth and there are lies. And if something’s true, it doesn’t matter what the source is. You know, if a serial killer quotes John 3:16, I don’t toss that verse out because of who said it. If a cult leader tells me that being generous to others is better than being greedy, it doesn’t become less true just because they were saying it for the wrong reasons. So we shouldn’t reject something simply because we disagree with aspects of its origins. I, I just think that’s dangerously simplistic. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I think in some ways it sounds like you’re suggesting that the Enneagram is like part of God’s common grace?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. I think so. So, what do we do with all of this? 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so whether you affirm the Enneagram or denounce it or find yourself somewhere in between, Lindsey offered a couple thoughts for both ends of the spectrum. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: If you’re pro-Enneagram, that doesn’t mean all things must be Enneagram. You know, that if we have people in our lives who are very uncomfortable with it or even hateful about it, that’s okay. We can let it go. It doesn’t have to be for everyone. We can just, like I said, tuck it away as a tool that we use in the privacy of our brain and our heart and, and try to meet that person and be curious about that person and what’s going on with them, with, with their anger, with their fear. Be curious about it.

ANNA TRAN: But she also had an appeal for those who dislike the Enneagram. 

LINDSEY LEWIS: Why the hate? Like why the extreme anger? You know, if I am choosing to use this tool, um, and you disagree with it, it’s really hard for me to receive that when it comes from a fire hydrant of what can feel like fear mongering, you know, creating fears that are not completely evident in the moment.

ANNA TRAN: Lindsey actually reminded me that this type of topic was something that the Apostle Paul also had to deal with when the early church was questioning what to do about meat that was being sacrificed to idols.

LINDSEY LEWIS: Paul just says, “Actually, it’s just food that was wrongly presented to this piece of gold. And so if you can eat it with a clean conscience, eat it. But, if you can’t, don’t.” And I think that really applies here of if you’re using it in a way that you – and you’re evaluating, you’re being intentional about saying, “Am I becoming more like Christ, or am I becoming more selfish? Am I obsessed with myself and learning about myself, or am I really trying to push myself to be more like Jesus in community with others?” If not, or it might not be the tool for you today, just put it away. Or if you just can’t get over the fear you have about, “What if? You know, what if it does have trace evil to it?” it’s okay to not partake. But again, what Paul is really encouraging again and again in this early church, this merging of Jews and Gentiles who all had the spirit of the living God within them, was to be kind to each other, to love one another, to put the other before yourself, and so I think that’s a dance that we have to learn to do within the Christian Enneagram.

JESSE EUBANKS: And I think that this brings us all the way back to Matthew seven. Jesus said the way to tell false prophets and true prophets apart is by their fruit – what evidence do we see displayed in this person’s life? And this makes me think of the Apostle Paul’s words about the fruit of the spirit. Paul tells us that the evidence that God is present in our lives is by the equal growth of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And whether the Enneagram is a small part of each of our journey to let the Holy Spirit grow more of this in our life or not, all Christians are called to produce that fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, who’s at work in our lives, saving us through the gospel and reminding us of who we are in Christ.

Oh, and one more thing. So Tyler actually took all of his findings and developed it into a course called The Real History of the Enneagram. You can find out more about his course by going to Again, that’s There are so many more details that we just did not have time to cover in this episode, but Tyler goes into way more depth, including why Naranjo may have had other motivations for lying about the Enneagram’s origins. You can also go into our show notes and click the link there. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, Jesse, I actually asked Michelle if she’d be interested in going through Tyler’s course after I interviewed her. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And did she? 

ANNA TRAN: Yep. And Tyler sent her a link, and she did the whole thing. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And did it change her mind? 

ANNA TRAN: Well, she said it actually resolved some of her concerns on some of the specifics of the origins, but ultimately –

MICHELLE NEBEL: Overall, when I look at the balance sheet, there’s still enough negative that I’m still not comfortable, um, using the Enneagram or endorsing it to friends.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, I mean, I appreciate her willingness to consider his findings. So, if you’re listening, it is a really helpful course no matter where you find yourself on the pro to anti-Enneagram spectrum. Go check it out. Again, 

ANNA TRAN: So at the beginning of the episode, Jesse and I said that we were gonna go on this journey and this journey was gonna be about whether or not we were gonna change our minds about the Enneagram. Here we are at the end of this journey and turns out that they have. Both of our opinions have changed in a few different ways. So we actually recorded a whole follow up conversation to this episode and that conversation is exclusive for our Patreon supporters and that’ll be up in the next few days. So check it out at 

JESSE EUBANKS: Also, if you are looking for Enneagram resources from a Christian perspective or you just wanna know how to build better relationships, go check out our brand new company that we just launched. All the funding comes back to help Love Thy Neighborhood. You can learn more about that over at That is Go there, get your free resources, and learn more about the Enneagram from a Christian perspective.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our interviewees – Michelle Nebel, Tyler Zach, and Lindsey Lewis. 

ANNA TRAN: Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is me, Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This episode was written by me, Jesse Eubanks, along with Anna Tran, who is also our producer and editor and who the other day told me she has very strong feelings about The Hobbit being split into three separate movies.

LINDSEY LEWIS: I was pretty mega eye roll. 

ANNA TRAN: Music is from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, and Murphy DX. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This show is brought to you by Love Thy Neighborhood. If you want a hands-on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. Love Thy Neighborhood offers summer and year long missions internships for young adults ages 18 to 30. Bring social change with the gospel by working with an innovative nonprofit and serving your urban neighbors. 

ANNA TRAN: Experience community like never before as you live and do ministry with other Christian young adults. Grow in your faith by walking in the life and lifestyle of Jesus and being part of a vibrant, healthy church. Apply now at 

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


Connect with Michelle:

Connect with Tyler:

Connect with Lindsey:

Tyler’s history course on the Enneagram:

Enneagram resources from a Christian Perspective: 


Videos and podcasts referenced in this episode

Jackie Hill Perry full video

Cultish Podcast episode

Full video Michelle saw with Doreen Virtue

Full video of Claudio Naranjo’s automatic writing comment


Special thank you to our interviewees Michelle Nebel, Tyler Zach, and Lindsey Lewis.

Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is Anna Tran.

This episode was written by Jesse Eubanks and Anna Tran.

Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor.

Music for this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions, Lee Rosevere, and Podington Bear.