Some Enneagram authors have claimed that the roots of the Enneagram can be traced back to the Christian monk Evagrius as well as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the Fourth Century. It’s hard to know for sure because there isn’t a lot of clear evidence, but here’s a very brief overview of what we do know about Enneagram history:
The first mention of the Enneagram was by Russian Philosopher P. D. Ouspensky, who attributed it to his teacher Greek American Philosopher Georges I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff considered the Enneagram a symbol of the cosmos (oneness) but made no connection with it to personality types. It’s been said that he learned the Enneagram from a group of Sufis (Muslim mystics) he encountered. One theory is that the numerology origins of the Enneagram came from them.
Bolivia-born Óscar Ichazo sought to connect the Enneagram to personality. Chilean-born psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo, one of Ichazo’s students, said that Ichazo is the one who passed along information to him on what we know as the “centers” (head, heart, and body). But Naranjo was the first to connect the Enneagram to nine basic personality types (Enneatypes) according to a June 2010 interview.
In 1970, Naranjo brought a group of 50 students to Chile from the Esalen institute in California in order to learn the Enneagram from Ichazo. When Narajno returned he began to teach the Enneagram to people such as Helen Palmer and Fr. Robert Ochs. It was because Fr. Ochs taught the Enneagram to the Jesuit School of Theology that Franciscan Richard Rohr encountered it. Rohr was told by his spiritual director that laypeople could not handle the Enneagram with care and wisdom and was entreated not to pass it on. But after several years, Rohr was personally convicted by the Enneagram’s work in his life, so he decided to break the silence so that others could have the same experience. (Fryling, Alice. Mirror for the Soul)
Jesuit Don Riso was also taught the Enneagram after it spread through Catholic communities and in 1997 co-founded the widely known Enneagram Institute.
Suzanne Stabile, from the United Methodist tradition, was a student of Fr. Rohr and began teaching the Enneagram herself, where she taught psychologist and Episcopal priest, Ian Cron. Eventually, these two co-wrote the widely popular primer The Road Back To You, which has been given credit for launching the Enneagram into Protestant and Evangelical circles.
The primary takeaway here is that the Enneagram has roots across several traditions within the Christian faith, as well as many psychologists and other like-minded thinkers and teachers.
Some of this history was adapted from Joe Carter’s article on the Gospel Coalition entitled The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About the Enneagram.